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Toxic Work Culture Series: When Should a Leader Change the Executive Team?

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

On Monday, CPR introduced leaders' three options when considering the organization's culture. Today's post is dedicated to the second option of eliminating the entire leadership team. As a new or ongoing leader, it is essential to note that change does not necessarily mean removing the entire Executive team; instead, it is time to investigate who and what works well and who or what is no longer beneficial or profitable for the organization. While removing all leadership members is rare, "clean house" is still a viable option under unique circumstances. Unless you are faced with unique circumstances, CPR recommends seeking to identify members of the Executive team who can assist the leader in navigating the new terrain.

Leadership requires integrity and character. Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. As a leader, doing the right thing must include a period of reflection. The leader must assess the current work environment by conducting a S.W.O.T analysis, slowly taking steps to eliminate waste, revamp roles, change policies and procedures, and ultimately fire executives responsible for blocking progress. This does not occur in a day or week; this process is ongoing until the leader achieves its optimum stage within the organization.

A Forbes 2011 article titled "Preparing to Fire an Executive" provided essential information on steps to firing an Executive. This article provides insight and thought-provoking questions for the leader's reflection as a small business leader. According to the article, there are four main steps to firing an Executive. Today's blog focuses on the 1st step, the Root Cause Analysis, during the SWOT analysis assessment phase discussed above. This article underscores the importance of determining why you or your predecessor hired the wrong person for your company. Below summarizes challenging discussions a leader must undertake to make the best decision for the organization ultimately. Discussions include the following:

  • You or your predecessor did a poor job defining the position in the first place – If you don’t know what you want, you will be very unlikely to get it. CEOs often hire executives based on an abstract notion of what they think the executive should look and feel like. This often leads to the executive not bringing the essential qualities to the table.

  • You or your predecessor hired for lack of weakness rather than strength – This is especially common when you run a consensus-based hiring process. The group will often find the candidate’s weaknesses, but they won’t place a high enough value on the areas where you need the executive to be world-class. As a result, you hire an executive with no sharp weaknesses but who is mediocre where you need her to be great. If you don’t have world-class strengths where you need them, you won’t be a world-class company.

  • You or your predecessor hired for scale too soon – The most consistently bad advice that venture capitalists and executive recruiters give CEOs is to hire someone “bigger” than required. “Think about the next 3 to 5 years and how you will be a large company” is how terrible advice usually sounds. It’s great to hire people who can run a large-scale organization if you have one. It’s also great to hire people who know how to grow an organization quickly if you are ready to grow your organization quickly. However, if you don’t or are not, you need someone who can do the job for the next 18 months. If you hire someone who will be great in 18 months but will be poor for the next 18 months, the company will reject her before she ever gets a chance to show her stuff.

  • You or your predecessor hired for the generic position – There is no such thing as a great CEO, a great head of marketing, or a great head of sales. There is only a great head of sales for your company for the next 12-24 months. That position is not the same as the same position at Microsoft or Facebook. Don’t look for the candidate out of central casting. This is not a movie.

  • The executive had the wrong kind of ambition –There are two types of career ambition, one can have ambition for the company, and the other is an ambition for oneself. If an executive has the wrong kind of ambition, then despite her skills, the company may reject her.

  • You failed to integrate the executive – Bringing a new person into your company in an important role is challenging. Other employees will be quick to judge, her expectations may differ from yours, and the job may be largely undefined. Be sure to review and imp.

Making tough decisions is never easy. As a new leader or securing your role as a new leader within your company, you must reflect, analyze, assess, then make an informed decision, including firing members of your Executive. This process may take a few weeks into a few months, so do not rush it. The bottom line, it does not pay to remove the entire Executive team at this juncture. Be patient and proceed with caution. It will be worth the risk.

Warm Regards,


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