It had been an odd group of events, to say minimal. Out of nowhere, Apple iOS software chief Scott Forestall was abruptly ousted. And just a couple weeks later, Microsoft Windows czar Steve Sinofsky was similarly gone, although the state word was that he resigned. You say tomato, I say tom-ah-to. Same difference.
The reason why? Both senior executives were as abrasive and divisive because they were brilliant and talented. It wasn’t an individual incident that caused their demise, but instead chronic conflicts with peers, as well as perhaps even their CEOs, that rendered these highly accomplished leaders toxic with their respective organizations.
Although this happened back 2012, I vividly remember a number of the stories and thinking to myself, “unacceptable.”
There have been reports of a two-day executive offsite where, rather than presenting the status of his critical Windows 8 development effort, Sinofsky stood up, referred his peers and CEO Steve Ballmer to his blog, answered some questions, and left a day early. In every my years as a senior executive, I’ve never seen anyone take action so brazenly disrespectful. Never.
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The problem at Apple was a whole lot worse. A long-standing feud between Forestall and design chief Jony Ive had escalated to the stage where both executives couldn’t even sit in the same room with one another. Obviously, a company can’t function effectively when key members of its management team won’t even talk, aside from interact.
I wish I possibly could say that such conflicts are rare, however in the organization world, I’m afraid they’re fairly common. What’s unusual is these two situations were permitted to fester for such a long time —to the stage where they truly became publicly known and there is no solution left but to stop on a top-notch executive. And without a doubt, CEOs never make those kinds of decisions lightly.
This can be a point in the story where I’m likely to let you know that I’ve been involved with similar feuds over the decades, but we were always mature enough to figure things out before they reached the idea of no return. Unless of course I told you that, I’d be lying. While I did so manage to be friends with most and outlast others, some conflicts did end badly.
Possibly the strangest situation led to both folks, two senior veeps, resigning on a single day. Not solely because we couldn’t go along, actually, but that definitely played a job. For the reason that particular case, however, it had been the CEO’s failure to draw clear lines of responsibility that created a dysfunctional overlap that never must have happened. C’est la vie.
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The truth is, it’s easy to sit in judgement when supposed adults can’t appear to put themselves in each other’s shoes and figure things out for the higher good, as we’ve all been taught to accomplish… especially those in leadership positions. People often lament, “Why can’t most of us just go along?” Enjoy it or not, we can’t “all just go along” because that’s not how it operates in real life.
Once you bring highly accomplished, respected and opinionated executives with diverse backgrounds, personalities and leadership styles together, there are bound to be conditions that transcend the most common conflicts over product features or marketing ways of become personal.
Having experienced that situation often, I can let you know from experience that it’s not necessarily the case that people put our very own egos prior to the greater mission of the business, as you may expect.
On the other hand, it’s because we care so deeply about the reason that we’re ready to put our very own jobs at risk and fight for what we have confidence in our hearts to be the proper decision. And sometimes, we let our passions get the better folks. That, I’m afraid, is when things usually go south.
It’s a very important factor to state that calmer minds should prevail, however when it involves human relationships, some differences are simply just irreconcilable, as everybody knows from the high divorce rate.
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Therefore the the next time you read some naive advice on how best to control your feelings and think happy thoughts from an emotional intelligence advocate who hasn’t worked a day in the true business community or felt passionately about a genuine product or cause in his life, make an effort to remember a very important fac