Leaders Get Honest Feedback Too Late in their Careers (PART ONE)

Terry (fictitious name of a real executive) was a 53 year old executive in a large international energy company and had been head of Treasury for the past five years.   He was seen as having executive officer potential, i.e. future CFO in his case, by the firm’s top team and his name was one of 11 executives that my associate and I were asked to assess and build a development plan for.   After a comprehensive assessment process that included 360⁰ feedback using the company’s customized strategic executive leadership competency model, select psychometric instruments, an in-depth character/personality interview and a “Day in the Life’ executive simulation, we provided our observations and informed perspective about the executive office potential  for those we were assessing.  

When Terry’s name came up for review with the top team  we covered off his strengths and vulnerabilities but concluded that in our view, if Terry were to be promoted to CFO there were some pretty significant flaws that would seriously hinder success in that role.   Further these were traits that were “hard-wired” and thus not developable in the runway he had left in his career. This was difficult for the top team members to swallow as Terry had been brilliant in Treasury and they were hoping he might be the successor to the current CFO.  Nonetheless, it was clear to us he would not be able to manage the complexity and more importantly lead the people (a particularly glaring fatal flaw we noted) of a large and more diverse organization about to go through major change.  As an honest objective dialogue ensued amongst the top team, everyone who knew Terry and had seen him in action began to agree and confirm our findings, albeit reluctantly.  This was not about hi-jacking Terry’s career but rather to save both Terry and the company some disappointment and tough decisions later on.  The top team later decided to take him off the CFO successor list and re-design his role to improve his effectiveness and success –the exact right thing to do in his case.  However, now my associate and I had to conduct a two-hour feedback session with Terry himself and that was the real eye opener.  More on this in the next blog… so tune in.

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