CEO Point Blank
CEO Point Blank
You are Hired to be Fired
I've been fired a few times, as you can probably imagine. It's rarely fun and there is always some drama around the event. But rest assured, you do come out on the other side about 99 percent whole. My biggest issue with getting fired was actually not about the end, but the beginning: I was always hot to get going and since I loved challenges and turnarounds, I was so eager to get into the action that I was taken advantage of.
I'm not looking for any sympathy. It was always my own fault, and due to my own stupidity as it happened more than once. I would sign anything to get going and in many cases, boards do not have great counsel who really want to take the time to work through any issues you might have. They typically will delay an agreement or they wander around for a bit and then present you with the same agreement your predecessor signed, which may not necessarily suit your needs.
CEOs, like football coaches, don't retire. They always get fired. That may be an overstatement and I will get a bunch of hate mail from those characters that have been a CEO at the same place for a hundred years or something. So I will qualify it a bit. For those of us unafraid to lead change in aging institutions, who must grapple with people in key positions who have tenure all their own, and are willing to take on the challenge of financial deficits and uncooperative teams, know this: in the end, we go out as we came in. We get fired. Everyone loves us on the way in because we're going to fix things up and make their future more secure. But once you do that, and in the process begin to demand productivity and accountability, you're just a pain in the ass to people and they are not afraid to speak up about it.
First piece of advice. Wait. No matter how anxious you are to jump in and get started, wait until you're operating under a contract that protects your interests now and in the future. The first point you compromise on is the one they will nail you on every time. I've seen really senior guys get nailed on a simple expense account issue. Remember, Al Capone didn't get hit for the countless number of heinous crimes he committed; he got nailed for tax evasion.
So what do you look for? How do you know what you need? There are many things to consider and I strongly suggest you get yourself a great human resources attorney to help you. You want someone who works on the other side of the corporate line-the kind of attorney who, in other circumstances, might be asking you some tough questions. This doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg if you're prepared when you walk into his or her office.
By the way, in these kinds of situations, I far prefer and recommend you hire an ass kicking female attorney as in almost all the human resources litigation fracas I've been in, opposing counsel invariably is female. They seem to talk the talk better and also, in the majority of cases, they are talking to corporate human resources which, in my experience, is predominately where you find female executives.
Being prepared for meetings with counsel means knowing what you'd like to have in your agreement that speaks to any concerns you might have. I encourage you to write it down and do not start creating the wheel when counsel hits the time clock to start. Attorneys are great listeners because when they are listening to you, they are making money, and attorneys always follow the money. They will let you talk all day if you want to as long as the meter's running. Make the ticking meter count and prepare yourself, including for the time it takes to communicate your desires. There is no story telling necessary to communicate facts. Also don't lose a major point here: Every CEO should have personal counsel that stays with you throughout your career. He or she should understand your motives, your idiosyncrasies, your style and should help you in crafting an employ