• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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The Leadership Question: How do I exit my organisation?

We need our Moses to lead us out of Egypt

Hello Dr Sobande,

I pray you get to read my mail and give a response to my leadership question.

I work with a fintech startup where I manage the strategy and business development team. When I joined the company, I was very elated because it seemed the owners have the right values, and they deeply care about their workers. As time goes on, though, the business is fast growing, and competition has heightened but none of the strategic objectives have been actualized. However, at every management meeting of the company, our strategic targets change and we all feel like we are in a game of pinball.

Sadly, because of the economic crisis in the country, our competitors are laying off their workers in droves. In between, our company is attracting many investors and high-profile performers from our competitors who bring their favourite team members with them, so there is a very weird cultural dynamics in the company now. We’ve got the founding members of staff, the old guards, the new bees, etc. All the new groups seem to think they are special and are downright irreverent to the founding members. It is quite unfortunate that no effort has been made to integrate the old guards with the new bees. Despite everyone gathering at a recent in-person team building retreat, nothing was done about integrating the teams, the retreat was poorly planned and a colossal waste of time and money.

So, what and who exactly are you loyal to now? I also love optimism. As a social entrepreneur myself, I can tell you that optimism is critical until it blocks out reality, at which point it becomes toxic

Recently, my leader, whom I loved and who was a great manager of people, suddenly resigned from the company. The reason for this decision was not made clear. However, my new line manager came from a competitor. He can’t remember my name and is making it obvious that he wants to replace me with one of his minions. He keeps cancelling our performance review meetings, and gratefully my team keeps hitting its numbers, so he can’t really fault me. Yet, I can’t help feeling like my days are numbered in the company.

Again, none of the promises the company made to us at the beginning have been fulfilled. A lot of the attraction during the recruitment process was having equity in the company, but now it feels like the ship is going down, with the culture now toxic I can’t see that it will be worth much.

My dilemma is that I am ripped between the loyalty I felt when I joined the company and being disillusioned with the leadership of the company. I am pained to walk away from the equity we were promised, but I don’t know if I can continue to work for the company.

What’s your take on this?

Ghost

Read also: The leadership question: How can I connect with difficult team members?

Dear Ghost,

Thank you for the mail. I will surely post this.

Interestingly, startups are infamously complicated. The competition in your industry is particularly fierce as companies try to attract members and retain them. The overwhelming tone of your letter is disappointment and frustration. I know disappointment is one of the most unpleasant emotions and can be very hard to face head on. But burying it by putting your head in the sand won’t save you. However, I have a few thoughts for you, and you aren’t going to like any of them.

I think you need to honour your own intuition that the top leadership has lost its way. Where are the values that were discussed at the beginning? Are they in writing somewhere? Are they being used to onboard the new people? Are they being used to manage leadership performance? If not, they are an idea that was never executed and might as well never have existed.

Do you have a written contract to confirm that you have an equity or was it a verbal promise? If you don’t have anything in writing, I hate to say it, but you’ve got nothing. And even if it were in writing, if you really think the ship is going down, part of nothing is nothing.

Now, this new line manager situation. If it is okay with you to work for a leader who doesn’t seem to care about you, it is your choice. But, again, you have a very strong intuition that it is only a matter of time before you are ousted.

I am a big fan of loyalty, but it sounds like the vision that captured your heart is gone and the people that built that loyalty have already left. So, what and who exactly are you loyal to now? I also love optimism. As a social entrepreneur myself, I can tell you that optimism is critical until it blocks out reality, at which point it becomes toxic.

It really sounds like you know what you need to do but don’t want to admit it to yourself. No one would blame you for feeling torn. You have all those initial relationships, and you worked hard through the first couple of startup phases. No one wants to walk away from what felt like an investment.

There is a lot of opportunity out there. I highly recommend you go find leaders worthy of your loyalty, your work ethic, and your hard-won experience.

Cheering you on,

Dr. Toye Sobande