What CEOs See, and Don’t See

From 37 floors up, Sarajevo is beautiful, nestled in the mountains with a river running through it. You can spot the quaint, almost Turkish, old town immediately adjacent to the grand palaces built while the city was a fashionable spot in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The diversity continues to impress with minarets, an Eastern Orthodox church, a Cathedral, and a Synagogue all within blocks of each other.

Zoom in to street level and the evidence of fighting amongst those factions during the 1990s is obvious. Bullet scars still mar prominent buildings right downtown. Mortar blooms still mark the pavement. Ravaged buildings are still awaiting repair or demolition. But from the tower, only those who know where to look can spot the damage.

As I marveled at the “airbrushing” provided by distance, I thought about how CEOs often see their businesses. About how their distance prevents them either from seeing or believing the reality facing those dealing with daily problems. The waste and frustration. The bureaucracy and disclarity that are crushing productivity.

A recent HBR study examined bureaucracy in organizations of varying size. While lower level employees saw bureaucracy as firmly entrenched and a significant impediment to productivity, especially in larger organizations, CEOs were far less likely to see a problem.

I get messages from those lower level employees every week. They are desperate for my help, but unable to convince those with power that a problem exists.

Once I sit down with CEOs and we develop a trusting relationship, most come down from the stratosphere long enough to admit things may not be going as well as they would like. Unfortunately, too few do that often enough. And even the ones who do, often fail to take action.

  • Get out of your office.
  • Find out what is really going on in your organization.
  • If you can’t do it yourself, get outside help.
  • Find a trusted advisor to help you deal with the complexity so you can take effective action with confidence.

Most important of all, don’t wait. I hate it when leaders wait too long, especially when I eventually find them unemployed and hoping I can help connect them to a new job. It happens more often than you think.

Do you have any idea to what extent disclarity and bureaucracy are hurting your employees and profits? Give me a call. Let’s talk. Maybe I can be of service. 617-939-9654.

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