At a recent CEO Roundtable meeting, Suzanne raised an issue concerning her new senior manager.  To date, all of her reports have been less mature and less experienced and she knows how to manage them.  But this new guy is different, and she considers him, in many ways, a peer.  She has been extremely pleased with his performance and he seems to be living up to her expectations and making life easier for her. 

But.  She recently sat in on a meeting with his team and witnessed some behavior that reminded her of the culture of the “old” version of the company that she has been trying to change since she bought it.

Since she has been working hard to make this shift in culture, she admitted that she was extra sensitive to the issue.  She didn’t want to “end the honeymoon” with her new hire by chastising him for doing something she didn’t like.

She got some great advice about how she address the issue and then Victoria started talking about her pajamas. 

She told Suzanne about how annoyed she had been with herself, just the week before, for shrinking her favorite pajamas in the wash.  She had slept uncomfortably, squirming and struggling to stretch them back to their original comfort but resolved that they would never be the same.  The next morning, as she finished folding the laundry, she found, stuck to her husband’s sweater, her favorite pajamas.  In an instant, it became clear what had happened.  The pajamas she had slept in had been her daughter’s!

Victoria had done what we all do so often.  As managers, we have to make quick assessments, often without much data and form a view of reality to inform action.  She had been so sure of her conclusions that she couldn’t entertain the thought that the real issue might have escaped her.  Her point was clear: Things aren’t always what they seem to be.  Her suggestion to Suzanne was that she might first understand what her new manager was trying to accomplish when he did what Suzanne was reacting to and be sure she understood the reality of the situation from his point of view.  Then she could discuss how that fit in with the culture shift she was looking for. 

From pajamas to leadership.