As I lead my two CEO peer groups I learn as much as my members, whether it is in a one-to-one executive coaching session or in our all day monthly meeting. Here is an example.

In a recent one-to-one my member was sharing his financials with me and venting that his profitability had been severely impacted by his parent company. Out of the blue, without warning, they had set up a separate leasing company, taken all his equipment off his books and put it into the new leasing company and were charging him a fee to lease back the equipment that his branch used to own, much of which had already been depreciated. In addition, they had set up a management company and were now charging each branch a monthly management fee. Both of these charges had had a significant financial impact on his profitability and, more importantly to him and the other General Managers, their annual bonuses, which virtually disappeared.

Communication lesson #1…If you are leading a company it is IMPORTANT that you let your people know significant changes like this are coming. Before hand and not after the fact. Why? So they can prepare, both operation-wise and psychologically. So they can let their employees know. To maintain credibility with your key execs. But most importantly, to avoid rumors, people making things up. You should have heard the stories my member was telling himself  around why they were doing this. He was making things up because he had not been told anything by corporate so what else is there for someone to do but to guess what is behind their behavior.

Because he was so worked up I suggested he bring it up at his group’s monthly meeting which was next week. He agreed.

During last week’s meeting we processed his issue as one of several during the day. I felt it would be beneficial to him since the majority of my members are CEOs and I knew they would have a different perspective on the topic than he would as a General Manager. Boy, was this a valuable discussion!

First he was asked if he had had any conversations with anyone at corporate. Since he is on a first name basis with the CEO this was a logical first question. He had not. In fact, he had not talked to any of his contacts there.

Without disclosing the entire discussion and the confidentiality associated with it, probably the most telling revelation that resulted from talking this out was that it appeared the company may be setting themselves up to be acquired. Much of what I mentioned above and other things that came out in the hour long discussion lead the majority of the group to see this as possibly an estate planning strategy that will allow the company to be purchased in whole or in parts.  At least that is what of a number of my members were thinking.  Eventually the truth will come out.

Communication lesson #2 – If you do not know the whole story, whether it is similar to the one above or just with an employee or relative that has done something that surprises you, please don’t waste time worrying about what you think is going on (your story). Go to the source, have a candid conversation and find out the real story. A much better use of your time than stressing over something that will most likely turn out to be untrue.

My member’s commitment to his peer group…call one of the leaders at his corporate office and find out the real story and report back to us at the next meeting.

Consider Reading This

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. The author explores the history of innovation over centuries from their creation by hobbyists, amateurs and entrepreneurs. How a Hollywood movie star helped invent the technology used in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; how someone invented the phonograph before Edison; how pendulum clocks helped trigger the industrial revolution; and how clean water made it possible to manufacture computer chips are all revealed in Johnson’s book.