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Few weeks ago, I came across this booked titled The Five Temptations of a CEO I haven’t read the complete book, yet.  By the way, although the book title is about The CEO, it is equally applicable to anyone in people management role. I want to share my own experience with the advice related to the second temptation.

The book is a Fable about a stressed CEO, and the advice he gets from mysterious stranger, in deserted midnight commuter rail (BART). Without going into other details, let to come back to second temptation. which states “Choosing popularity over accountability“.

The mysterious stranger talks to the protagonist about his own father who, in his opinion, was a great people manager. He mentions that his father never fired very few people in his long career. But he always got the results and never accepted sub par performance.

The CEO has recently fired one of his senior marketing person for not meeting the objectives, and is unable to understand how can you not fire people in a very long career, and still get the results. The stranger tells him that the key is accountability. The low performers left on their own, without having to be fired !!!



In my own context, I had to face a similar situation in not so distant past. The person was put of performance improvement plan. The goals were average compared to rest of the team, but was possibly stretched goals for this person. Both of us used to have regular meetings discussing the goals, and results. We did this for more than a quarter. Finally this person gave up, and left the organization. As a manager, I did not feel guilty since I knew, we had given plenty of time, opportunities and feedback.

In the fable, the CEO fired his (almost) friend senior marketing manager without providing enough feedback, opportunities and time. When the stranger asks if the person getting fired knew what was coming, the CEO doesn’t have a good answer, because he succumbed to the second temptation. Rather than providing unpleasant but direct feedback, he chose to be popular not possibly saying only nice things, and then when the marketing person did not meet the targets, the CEO fired him.

The right thing to do would have been to provide early warnings, direct feedback. Set clear expectations, and then hold the person accountable. Now if he doesn’t perform, fire him by all means. But in doing so, there is a chance that your subordinate may not like you for unfavorable feedback. This is where you have to do the right thing by choosing accountability over popularity.

If you are interested in quick summary of the temptations, go here.

Photo by banyuhay


Written by Mandar Vaze

September 6, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Posted in Professional

Tagged with ,

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