The Stump in the Swamp

When I worked as a consultant, I frequently found myself having conversations with team members who reported to the agency founder that would go something like this:

Team Member: If my boss would only do these three things differently, what a difference it would make… [Then I’d listen to a long explanation about ways the founder was getting in the way of the agency’s growth]

Me: Let’s pretend for a minute that he’s not going to change…

Because that was the reality, the founder was the boss, and they made the rules. For the team to say, “You need to be different,” was like pushing a rope; it wouldn’t happen!

Instead, I would talk to the team members about how they could respond differently to the founder and change their behavior or attitude to get a different result.

So when I heard David Baker say this on a recent episode of 2Bobs, it made me laugh out loud:

I always feel like the principals are stumps in the swamp. If I’m in a boat, I’ve got to move around them. There’s nothing I could do about it. They’re just there. Whatever my recommendations are, it’s like, well, in my deepest secret heart, I’d like fire these principals, but I can’t. I’m going to have to navigate around them, and that’s how it is. ~ David C Baker on 2Bobs

He talks about how you, as the founder, can put yourself on a performance improvement plan. You can give yourself a performance review – take off your “President” hat and put on your “Investor” hat, and ask yourself, “As an investor in this agency, how do I feel about how this management team is doing? Are they earning me a good return on my investment? Are they well-positioned for what’s coming?” (Listen to the whole episode here.)

So in light of the conversation we’ve been having about your choices for improving your agency performance, I want to ask you, “Do you want to be the stump in the swamp?” or do you want to lead your agency into a new future?

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