Nov 2, 2008

Posted by in Uncategorized | Comments Off on It’s About the Process Not Necessarily the Result

It’s About the Process Not Necessarily the Result

 As the election of our next commander in chief is upon us here in the US, I think it apropos to discuss my own experience with the election process. A few weeks ago I had the honor of being elected to be the next (and fourth) President of MDI, the men’s’ organization I have been involved with for some time. The operative word here is elected, not selected. Actually, I had originally been selected to be the next guy but that process hit a speed bump when the Chair of the MDI Board felt that it was the Board’s responsibility to ensure that the next man was in fact the best available man for the job.

         Now that seems logical but in truth it rarely happens that way. In most corporations the outgoing CEO has his successor picked and the board is asked to rubber stamp the selection. Most CEO’s are adroit enough to realize the import of that decision and they go outside the organization while looking within for their successor. However, in recent memory there have been many instances of the corporate reigns being handed to a “team player” who had served the outgoing CEO well. That misguided sense of loyalty has often had disastrous results. I think there is a real difference in the skills set between being an invaluable number two and in being an effective leader. But that is a discussion for another time. For me, for right now I want to talk about what it meant to be elected rather than just responding to the “it’s your time” tap on the shoulder.

      Initially I was angered. I felt like I had earned the right to take over leadership of the organization and I felt the outgoing President should have been given deference for the choice he made with counsel of his operations team. However, after the process, I feel the exact opposite. I think I’d feel that way even if I’d lost.

          The process worked like this. A team of about nine men got together and put together a checklist of attributes and experience that they felt the MDI President should have. They went through our 1000 plus membership list and came up a list of over 100 candidates who met those basic qualifications. Then the committee, lead by Len Guida (who really should consider going into the executive recruitment business) reached out to each of these men, told them about the process and asked if they were interested. For many men the response was, “I had never thought about it before.” For others it was “why me.” For a few more it was “thanks but no thanks.” From those initial conversations a list of 35 men emerged. The top 16 candidates were then interviewed by sub-committees with questions designed to uncover their vision, their reasons for wanting the job, and any obstacles that might conceivably come between them and being able to be successful in the job. Those candidates were graded and the top three were presented to the board for consideration. The thee of us were then intrviewwed by the full board as well as the operations team, in seperate interviews durin ou annual leaderaship meeting. The questions were and promptd a lot of introspection for me. After some deliberation, I wa advised that I had been unanimously selected.

     There are four things that, in my mind, made this process brilliant. The first is that it engaged the elders in the organization with a meaningful role to play in the ongoing viability of what we do. For anyone who has ever been at the top of the food chain in any organization, finding your place in that organization after you step down can be difficult. Often times men leave and move on to other entitesbecause they get frustrated by their inability to contribute in a meaningful way. For two months this process brought those men off the bench. It also allowed the organization to remind many of these men that their prior contributions were held in high regard and not forgotten.

    The second thing is it engaged the entire organization. Men were talking about the process. I got phone calls from men I hadn’t spoken to in years who heard I was up for the post and wanted to wish me well. More importantly it made the notion of any man serving as president an accessible idea. Men have since asked themselves, “why not me?”. The third reason is some what related. The two other men who were selected along with me had not been on anyone’s radar prior to the search. When I heard that Bob Irwin and Charles Gjers were the other candidates, I actually felt relieved because I knew that either man would do an exemplary job as the next President and I would have no problem supporting them. My being chosen semed less urgent to me. They were two men with markedly different backgrounds and skills sets from me. It shifted the notion that there was some special criteria that men needed to satisfy to do the job and it also put into question how important “experience” really was. While experience is a valued commodity it need not be the determining factor.

   Which brings us to the fourth reason: Through the process the board and operations team had to come to terms with “why Spierer?” They didn’t get to fall back on the easy answer of “he earned it” or “because that’s who Rich – the outgoing President – chose.” They all had to grapple with the question of whether I was the right man to have the job now. I had the chance to lay my expected challenges on the table and to address why I might not be the best man for the job as well as putting forth my vision and proposed agenda. I think that full disclosure will be critical my success. I was asked some hard questions and felt free to provide answers that came from my heart and say what I felt rather than what I thought I should say. There is definitely a freedom to that. I do not think that I have to go into the job with a facade of who I should be. They elected me, for who I am. Notwithstanding the fact they might not have liked everything I had to say. I am heading into the job confident rather than cautious because I acknowledged that I will inevitably stumble now and then and everyone was given some insight into why that might occur. I am driven by the excitement of having been elected over two men I respect highly who could have easily done the job rather than feeling burdened because I took the job because there was no one else to do it.

       So at the end I feel that the real success wasthe process and what it has done to energize the organization by both acknowledging the efforts of the men who have laid the foundation for what we do and for inspiring the next generation of leaders to take ownership of what we do now and can do in the future.

If only I could say the same thing about the current process we have in place to pick our next commander in chief. But I’ll wait until Wednesday to comment on that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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