I’m Good With People, But I Don’t Want To Have To Carry The Responsibility Of Day-to-Day Management And Accountability Of My Team (Lesson 3)

A company I recently consulted were an up-and-coming business in the FinTech space. The two founding directors knew each other well and knew they would work well together. During the first few years of the business, things grew well, albeit chaotically, which is a common pattern for startups.  As the business matured, staff numbers increased, client relationships matured and technology moved on, the company’s complexity changed exponentially. So much so that further growth became a real challenge.

When I was called in to help, the Executive Leadership Team consisted of a Chief Marketing Officer, a Chief of Sales, a Chief of Settlements and a Chief of Finance.

Each of those department were working furiously towards their own aims and objectives, but they had become silos. Coordination between them was virtually non-existent.

Within each silo there were vastly different levels of employee engagement. Some departments were experiencing significantly high employee turnover, largely because of employee burnout.

These challenges were exacerbated not just by burnout; it was often the case that teams had to make up for the shortfall of resources due to employee turnover, i.e., to cover transition time for replacements and their getting up to speed. The icing on the cake was that I discovered a systemic challenge when it came to people planning.

It was clear to me that the company was under incredible pressure. At some point in the near future, it was going to implode and possibly go into an irreversible decline toward oblivion, if something wasn’t done.

So the meetings began. Each of the Executive Leaders would defend their work and how they could deliver despite the immense pressure. However, with each of them in the same room, it became abundantly clear that the relationships between them had become increasingly toxic.

Having assessed the situation, it was time to step in. The Founding Directors recognised that something had to happen. Incredibly, they overlooked the one Chief role that they needed to complement their skills and fill a gap amongst the senior team. 

That gap was a Chief Operations Officer, who could knit all the threads together and align the business.

Having recognised that there was a missing piece to the puzzle, it was now time to find that piece. It was no easy feat: to find a senior person who could work in such a fast-paced company and address all these key issues. Not to mention turning the toxic tide.

Fortunately, the company was truly committed to finding the right person and we were fortunate to locate that someone, who was able to start within four months.

Between the time of the brief and the time the new COO started, things had worsened at the company and were almost at breaking point.

To say we hired a superstar would be a huge understatement. With his highly advanced

people and strategic skills, the COO was given full rein to pull things together.

Within the first month, the morale of the company had improved simply by ensuring that all departments really understood the business plan and how their part was integral to making the plan a reality.

From there, the COO worked with his colleagues and their key staff to ensure clearer job descriptions and ensure that very clear KPIs were in place from the top-down.

He put in place systems that ensured better communication across departments and a regular feedback system where the company could quickly decipher where service delivery was working well and where it was under strain.

Fast forward a year, and the COO led a phenomenal turnaround, to the point where the company is set to break all of its own records and looks set to move into an exciting growth phase.

For my part, I have to applaud the two Founders who were mature enough to step back and give space to the COO to get in and fix what they did not have the skills nor experience or discipline to do.