Many of us have seen this from afar; some of us from close at hand. The CEO is getting close to retirement and has set a course for the organization of just “drifting off into the sunset.” This syndrome happens when the strategic leader and driver of the credit union has decided to retire but takes the course avoiding anything that would be seen as risky or difficult for the CEO. The consequences of this leadership void are the flattening of progress for the organization, and this result is unacceptable in today’s disruptive business climate.
What are the consequences?
The CEO models acceptable behaviors and work ethic. Once the leader becomes a risk or extreme effort adverse, the entire organization follows.
- Attitudes shift from job excitement to cruise control effort; doing what needs to get done but not seeking improvements, efficiencies, or better methods.
- Productivity begins to deteriorate.
- Highly motivated and high performing employees seek a new work environment creating a brain drain.
- Job satisfaction disappears.
- The ability of the organization to effectively compete erodes.
- The organizational culture becomes one of showing up versus contributing.
How is this syndrome prevented?
It starts with the Board. As the one employee the board oversees, it is important that this syndrome is recognized. If the directors feel like the CEO is started to coast, they have a couple of courses of action to take:
- Establish performance measures with the CEO to ensure the effort equals the compensation.
- Promote an organizational driver to the role of President, The CEO now only a CEO and the President “runs the company.”
- Restructure the organization’s strategic planning process that creates a vision for the future credit union, and defines specific strategies that run the credit union and specific strategies to change the credit union. Blue Ocean thinking is essential in this process.
- Give the current CEO a severance package and help her/him move on with their retirement.
The second is, as the existing CEO, recognizing you are at this drifting stage of your career. To test this, ask yourself these questions:
- Is your planning and goal setting for the organization driven by your planned retirement date?
- Do you find yourself increasing more change resistant?
- Do you avoid making plans that are going to demand a greater effort and commitment from you or your staff?
- Do you invest more time in thinking about your retired future than your credit union’s future?
- Do you dismiss or resist dreaming big for the future of your credit union?
- Are you afraid or hesitant to take on a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal?)
- Do you notice a lack of excitement during staff or all-staff meetings?
- Do you see fewer ideas being percolated up for decisions?
- Do you feel stressed when a report indicates a concern about your credit union’s ability to compete or keep up with the competition.
A necessary skill for any leader, especially the CEO, is to recognize when to step away from the helm and let others take the organization to a new level. It should be every leader’s job to not just leave the organization at a better place than when they stepped in, but to set the stage for the next leader to move it beyond your wildest dreams.
Where are you in the leadership continuum – inspiring or drifting?