Of course there is, it’s me!
The first time I got fired I thought that everyone should get fired once in their life—it is an opportunity for growth. But now that I have been fired for a 4th time, I am not sure that I am learning its lessons.
So, the first time I got fired, it wasn’t for doing a bad job. I was promoted to be the divisional CEO of a listed company, which was a bit of a poisoned chalice, because the division had never made money before, and was a perennial loser. I turned it around. Some painful changes were made, difficult decisions, but it went from loss-making to profitability for the first time. I must have been golden boy, right?
Wrong. As part of this process, I bumped up against one of the founders of the company and was sure that he was a big part of the problem. In theory, he reported to me, but really he just did whatever he wanted, whenever, even if a group of people had agreed on a different course of action. He was out of control. Whether he was or not was neither here nor there, because I just wanted to fire him—and finding some kind of accommodation with him felt impossible because he did whatever he liked, poked his nose into whatever he liked, and it felt at times like having him around was one step forward, two steps back. So, I tried to get rid of him, and the next day I was delivering my goodbye speech. At least I got to give one.
It was interesting as I negotiated my exit with the Chief Counsel, a former ally but now sitting across the table. He said, “everything you wanted to do should happen, will happen, you just made your moves too soon.”
The next time I got fired was also after a turnaround. I had taken a national business from two consecutive declining years in sales and profits against a backdrop of industry growth. The company was filled with dead energy, but we got it moving, and drove the company to outperform in its industry over several years. It was so good that the parent company decided to sell the business and achieved a record sale price. The private equity firm that bought the business was all sunshine and honeymoons when the deal happened and for a few months after. But then, wham, fired almost overnight.
This time, like last time I could feel it coming. It was a bit like watching a slow-mo train wreck, only this played out over a month rather than a day. In this case, it was because I did whatever I wanted. I opened branches, moved branches, fired people, hired people, did what I felt needed doing in consultation with my team, but not with the new owners. I could be forgiven for thinking that’s what CEO’s do. I just did and informed afterwards. The results were good. But they didn’t like the cowboy spirit. No PE firm wants someone who they think they can’t control. Wham.
The next time I got fired I had barely time to settle into the job. In this case, I was hired to build a new business, to take a listed company in an entirely new direction by going out and buying companies. The Founder/CEO had turned the corporate office into a bit of a cult. I’ve never been one to hang around corporate, preferring to be out in the muck and grit of the field, especially in these grubby industries [and no, the irony is not lost on me].
I set out to get things done, and there was excitement, but the more buzz there was, the less support I got from the CEO. I spoke to the CFO and shared my frustration. The CEO was not making decisions and moving forward on things he had asked me to do that I was landing on his desk. He was not comfortable having another “sun king” in the building. It appeared as if he felt that if I was successful in doing what he had asked me to do, even though I was working for him, it would somehow undermine him. My wife warned me of this. She told me to stroke his ego. I didn’t do it. I lasted a few months. What did he say when he fired me? He put it on me. “You’re frustrated. You don’t want to be here.” Thanks for telling me how I feel.
With a typical career and focus on making money I reached a point where I wanted to do something different—to give back. To find a life in service. Probably not surprising. There are so many sectors and areas where voluntary work is needed and appreciated. An experienced executive, with a broad range of skills and experiences, can be useful in so many ways. But somehow, and my gosh, we are talking a voluntary organisation—unpaid [oh, and it is true when they don’t pay, they don’t value you as much]—I managed to trip over my own feet.
This time it took me a year to meet a grizzly end. What’s going on? There has to be a pattern, has to be a common thread. There is. It’s me.
Being good at a job has to do with much more than competence. It has to do with relational finesse. This is a key weakness. I don’t spend the time greasing the wheels, making everyone feel good, I get so obsessed with getting on with things. I can see and taste the future before too strongly, and I struggle to wait for everyone else to catch up. Listening isn’t enough, but adapting and changing in anticipation is, but I don’t think I am doing this enough. There can be no perverse pride in this—because to be effective takes a whole package.
Two things are working against me—and these are not excuses, just facts. The first is a level of personal intensity which may or may not have something to do with ADD…I am like a dog after a bone and don’t think about much else—that’s a real blind spot. I can work myself into a corner and have a hard time climbing out. The second is that I have a too-high tolerance for complexity. That’s fine for solo endeavours, but when other people are involved, it can create confusion. Combine these two things with crazy energy levels and you can see how quickly things can go off the rails. It drives people around me crazy. Inspired and excited, maybe, for a while, then just exhausted before being fed up, then wham. Out I go.
In a not-so absurd way, BDSM is perfect to help overcome these issues. BDSM helps me be focussed and intentional. It is very grounding—just the opposite of the flightiness associated with complexity. BDSM is certainly about listening too, regardless of which side of the slash you are on. And of course, in a dynamic, you can’t just do what you like…especially if you are a sub…it just doesn’t work that way.
So, here I am holding the can again, wondering how come I am not learning the lessons of BDSM fast enough to prevent me from ultimately defenestrating myself…because I would have to be a fool to not notice what’s happening.
I’ll let you know if I ever find out.