Over the last few years I have spoken with a number of executives, including several CIOs, who found themselves newly unemployed. Many of them go through three emotional cycles early in their journey.
One of the first emotions one sees is anger coupled with confusion. “They have made a terrible mistake” one newly terminated business development VP told me. He couldn’t imagine how the company could get by without him. After we talked about his own experiences letting people go and how a great deal of thought goes into these decisions his anger turned to despair, the second emotion that sets in when you come to realize that the company will in fact continue to function without you.
Sadly, too many people get trapped here and sink into a paralyzing depression. I have found that recognizing this and working through it quickly is essential if you are to reach the third emotion, which is best described as hope. Here one begins to realize that there is nothing wrong with them and they chalk up the job loss as a great learning experience and become excited about the opportunity for a new challenge. In retrospect, many people will tell you that getting fired turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to them.
This timeless quote from Machiavelli sums up the world of many CIOs. Look at any of the many studies, research papers, opinion pieces and consultant reports on what makes a successful CIO and the ability to lead transformational change will likely appear among the most important “must haves” for success.
Peyton Manning had a great 2013 season. The 37 year old quarterback, after missing the entire 2011 season because of neck surgery, was figured by many sports pundits to be finished. He proved them wrong. In 2013 he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the fifth time. He broke Tom Brady’s record for the most touchdown passes for the first three games of a season (12). He didn’t throw an interception until game 5 and in game 16 he broke Brady’s record for the most touchdown passes in a season (51).
Gerstner, when asked about his vision for IBM famously replied, "The last thing IBM needs is a vision." He understood that he first needed to stop the bleeding, then move forward with curing the underlying disease. Having both Gates and Ballmer around may prove to be more hindrance than help when it comes to curing the disease. If Nadella decides that their baby is ugly, will they be willing to listen? I would like to be the second fly!
Thanks for your comments. You are certainly correct, there is a little of each of these in all of us. When I was in college I took a course in abnormal psychology. At the beginning of the course the professor cautioned us that as we began to study various psychopathologies we would see some of the abnormal behaviors in ourselves. “Don’t worry,” he told us, “You are probably not crazy, just human,” All of us have a tendency to complain, be egotistical and all of the others from time to time. We are human. The problems arise when these behaviors become the primary focus of our interactions with others.
Anyone who has managed people for any length of time is painfully familiar with the term “high maintenance employee.” If you haven’t had to deal with any of these folks you are either very lucky or just haven’t been in the management business long enough. I have had quite a few of these and they can be frustrating to manage and, if you let them, they can suck the life out of you and consume large chunks of your day.