A few days ago, I was coaching a CEO who is struggling with a key new employee who is the founder of a company the CEO has just acquired. This employee appears to have good motives and integrity but he is disrupting the business by encouraging other departmental leaders to follow his strategies rather than the ones that have been outlined by the CEO.
On the surface this appears to be a clear case of insubordination. What this situation really represents is an opportunity for the CEO to demonstrate his leadership, strategic direction and his people-focused approach to the business. It is an opportunity to influence and inspire his departmental leaders and to coach and develop the founder/employee.
This founder lacks the emotional intelligence to recognize the impact of what he is doing. The CEO believes this employee wants the business to grow and recognizes that the acquisition of his company is the way to get there. The problem is the employee wants to continue to play the role of CEO even though he is leading a stand-alone department. He doesn’t know how to stay in his lane as a leader nor does he understand how disruptive his behavior is to the CEO and other departmental leaders.
So what has the CEO done so far? He decided his first course of action with this employee would be to explain the shifts in the business strategy and explain the why and drivers behind them. Additionally the CEO is encouraging and discussing the issues with the departmental leaders to acknowledge that he is aware of the issues, to instill confidence in their ability to execute their functions and to reinforce the corporate strategies. By being transparent and demonstrating knowledge of the situation, the CEO is building trust with his leaders.
The CEO is very adept at understanding human behavior. He recognized a personality trait of the employee; he is a people-person who is working alone but enjoys talking to people and sharing ideas. So the CEO is expediting the growth of this employee’s department. By growing his department, this employee will have the opportunity to impact and influence his department.
As an executive coach I challenged the CEO with assessing the 1:1 meetings he has had and will have with the employee. Are the conversations candid and direct? Has he explained the impact the employee’s behavior is having on the other departmental leaders? Does the employee understand the importance of staying in his lane? Does the employee realize he is contradicting the CEO and providing inappropriate direction to the other leaders? By asking these questions the CEO will address the issues caused by this employee and be able to assess both the emotional intelligence and motives of the employee.
The CEO clearly knows that this employee will have to cease these behaviors or he will be terminated. At the same time, he recognizes the possibility that he can salvage a key employee who is vested in the success of the business.
Leading a disruptive employee is a challenge that most leaders face or will face. The question is how much time do you give someone to change the behavior. As you consider this type of situation, remember to be candid and direct with the disruptive employee. A leader must quickly assess if the employee can change his behavior or if disciplinary action needs to be taken. Your reputation and the respect of your team will be impacted by how you handle a disruptive employee.
If you would like to learn more about how to manage disruptive employees, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.