Creative Leadership

Transitioning Your Organization for Growth – The Toughest Choice a Leader Has to Make

Most people never noticed that as one of the fastest growing companies in America was accelerating, its leader stepped down.  Nope – it wasn’t because of a mistake or mismanagement.  The Chief Operating Officer  of Groupon was considered an excellent and well-liked leader.  He stepped down because of one reason – he realized that although he’d done a brilliant job of helping launch the company, he wasn’t the guy to take it big.  Talk about a “teachable moment.”

As the company was poised for the big time – the culmination of everything he’d been working for – he had the strength and courage to admit someone else would be better for the next level of growth.  One of my biggest challenges in consulting organizations is helping them transition from the “mom and pop” stage to the national or global stage.

Very often, when organizations are beginning, everyone jumps in to help – spouses, kids, uncle Roy, neighbors, best friends.  But at some point in growth, the organization reaches a point where it’s bigger than uncle Roy can handle.   The problem is – because of misguided loyalty, family relationships, friendship, whatever – the leadership refuses to make the hard choices about getting the right help in the right positions.

For Rob Solomon at Groupon, my hat’s off.  He understood they needed a different type of leader to take the company to the next level.  He’s stepping down with enormous credibility – and no shame or humiliation.  I just wish others would listen to this rare example of truly selfless leadership.

Think about it.  How many companies, non-profits, churches, ministries, and other organizations are suffering because people in key positions are there because of loyalty and not because of competence?

Without naming names – anyone out there identify?

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  1. It’s definitely a tough call, and in this case a courageous one. There are not only issues with founders of businesses and organizations, but there are often issues with some long time employees. Oftentimes the people who helped start the organization don’t have the skills to lead and manage in a new season of growth, or when cultural changes require a massive shift in business philosophy and style.

    I’ve seen some remarkable founders, family, and staff who were able to make the shift. But there are many who can’t or won’t make the changes needed and thereby limit the organization to a certain size and level of impact. There’s nothing wrong with staying small, but it can be frustrating for everyone if you talk a strategy of growth but won’t make the changes necessary to get there.

    Some people want to grow, but…

    some people merely want to have grown.

    Rob Solomon wants to grow. Congrats to him for having the inner security to make the courageous decision to step aside.

  2. Phil, I can absolutely relate from the standoint of working in an organization that blew past that crossroads several years ago, at least, and still is moving full speed in the wrong direction. The goals of the organization are not global or national even, but the perception that growth equals God’s blessing and a ‘we know what we’re doing, maintain control at all costs’ mindset is a deadly combination. It kills Godly creativity, ruins morale and dishonors the efforts of those employees who sincerely want to make a meaningful contribution to the organization. The problem is, “Uncle Roy” would first have to admit that the needs are much greater than he is qualified or capable of handling. He would have to stop micromanaging. He would need to let the qualified individuals in the organization do their jobs and give them the freedom to fail in their efforts occasionally. In other words, he would need to forgo his pride and ego, acknowledge his fears and be honest in recognizing his limitations and where his abilities end. Every day that doesn’t happen the organization moves farther away from where it should or could be. The sad reality is Uncle Roy either really believes everything is just fine, or, if he has even an inkling of how things really are, his insecurities keep him from admitting it and working toward a solution. Either way, everyone loses.

  3. Oooohhhh, YES I CAN!!!! My employment is the PERFECT example of what you just said… and everyday I pray “God help me to keep my mouth shut!”

  4. That is very interesting. Yup, that’s exactly how I refer to it, the Mom and Pop stage…been there done that. Learning to go beyond. Thanks for this post!

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