Jane Doe the CEO Gets Committed

Published on by Lisa Gates.

Artwork © C. WaldronThis "Jane Doe the CEO" segment focuses on commitment and models "Diagnostic Questions," a core skill of negotiation (as well as mediation and coaching). Jane runs a small web marketing company with 12 employees. She began the second half of 2010 with a bold goal of biking to work, retaining her small staff, doing more with less, increasing social media and technology adoption for her clients, and doubling revenue.


JANE: With all the downsizing we did I'm really worried about everyone's wellbeing. I'm worried they'll get so stressed out they'll quit.

LG: What's the worrying tell you?

JANE: It tells me that our financial goals might be preposterous given our staffing structure and the big bad economy.

LG: What are you really committed to?

JANE: We've already voiced our commitments. We've put it in writing. We're committed to doubling last year's revenues. That and biking to work!

LG: Is that preposterous or bold?

JANE: Perhaps a little of both.

LG: Are you committed to your commitment?

JANE: I have to be. I can't retract our initiative after all that planning. Everyone was so fired up. I just don't know how we're going to pull it off.

LG: So what's in between your commitment and the worry about "how"?

JANE: That I'll blow it. I'll put air in their sails without a rudder. That I actually don't have all the answers. It's new territory. We're reinventing, making use of new technology to deliver our work.

LG: Your beliefs are showing again.

JANE: Geez, they're like barnacles.

LG: Yes. What's your biggest deep down fear here?

JANE: That I'm an imposter. A fraud. And everyone will find out. But I always feel this way before I begin something difficult.

LG: You might add "difficult" to your list of beliefs.

JANE: Yes, I do think this change is going to be difficult.

LG: If you were to act on your beliefs that you're a fraud and it's difficult, what do you think your results will look like?

JANE: Pretty predictable. Grey. Average. Ho hum. Could even break us. But this is all just a game of semantics. Figments of my imagination.

LG: Right. And your "figments" cause you to take actions on their behalf. Pretty powerful figments you have. So you create a financial goal, one you say could break you. Are you committed to that?

JANE: NO! Of course not.

LG: But you must be. It's what you're speaking into being here.

JANE: I'm not committed to flat, grey, boring and broken. Not for a minute.

LG: Okay. So let's go back unwind this a bit and go back to the HOW question. If you didn't know how to drive, but you were committed to learning by Friday, what would you do?

JANE: Oh this is kind of silly, but I'll go with it. I'd take a class. No. That's too slow. I'd ask my friend Andy to take me out to an empty lot somewhere and give me a few lessons. I'd study the handbook a bit. I'd probably have to take driving lessons. Take the test. Stuff like that.

LG: Did you need to know HOW before you committed to learning to drive?

JANE: No. But this is different. People are depending on me.

LG: I know. I get your dilemma. But when you explained how you'd learn to drive, did you notice how many other people were involved in the process?

JANE: Yes, Andy, and the driving instructor. And the people who administer the test. I get where you're going. They all had an expertise. Experience. Authority.

LG: So...if you extrapolate that to your company...

JANE: Yes. I actually do know some of the things we need to do. What I don't know how to do is re-organize the talent we have. Caitlin is dynamite brainstorming buzz and special promotions, but she's our project coordinator. Sam is a fabulous business manager, but he's really a closet copywriter and so talented. Angela sucks at writing press releases, but she loathes delegating it to someone who isn't vested in the client relationship.

LG: I'm assuming your assessments match your staff's self assessments?

JANE: Good point.

LG: What would you want your boss to do if you were the employee in this situation?

JANE: I'd want her to ask me for my ideas and stay at the table with me until we're exhausted. I'd want her to ask me what I loved to do, what I'm really dying to do, and let me do that.

LG: Wow.

JANE: Yeah, wow.

LG: So what are you really committed to?

JANE: Oh, yes. Okay, I'm committed to reorganizing our talent according to everyone's strengths. Then we'll take a look at where the holes are and figure it out from there. I can't believe I just said that.

LG: Believe? Would you rather run with the "reorganization" belief or the "I'm breaking it" belief?

JANE: I see it. I see it.

LG: Phenomenal. What kind of impact do you think your new commitment will have on your annual revenue?

JANE: It has to be good. But really, even if we stayed level or heaven forbid, went backwards, it would be an amazing adventure.

LG: You just got committed to something bigger. Bigger than yourself certainly. What do you make of that?

JANE: I'm thinking that getting stuck on HOW limits vision. It also limits very both practical and creative solutions.

LG: Very nice. What else?

JANE: I'm thinking that a fraud doesn't show up as a leader, or an example for other companies to emulate.

LG: Brilliant. Your commitment just got even bigger.

JANE: Yeah. I'm committed to being the kind of company people want to emulate...even in a recession.

LG: Beautiful. Thanks for doing all the heavy lifting.

JANE: Thank you, but I'm hardly finished.

LG: What's your first step?

JANE: Well...let's see. I think I'd like to work with Sam on a rough restaffing plan. Then meet with everyone individually.

LG: What if you reversed the order? Go into the meetings open minded, not knowing the precise HOW, and willing to be surprised?

JANE: Actually, I think we need to start with a group meeting and brainstorm, then break into smaller groups once everyone gets we've heard, listened, and included their wishes and interests enough to move forward.

LG: Excellent.

JANE: Yes. And I just got something. I HAVE been the one doing all the heavy lifting. But more importantly, I've been leaving the people I value most out of the process. That's definitely not who I am.

LG: And who are you?

JANE: I'm a collaborator. Top core value, hands down.

LG: Nice. Last question to circle back to your original fear about stressing people out so much that they'll quit. Will this commitment and the actions that flow from it mitigate that possibility?

JANE: Yes. I really think it will.


Leadership Bad Economy, Commitment, Jane Doe the CEO, diagnostic questions

Published on by Lisa Gates.