From the Jackal
I had to meet with a zoo animal today (Part One)
Unfortunately a necessary but least favorite part of my job. This animal has two master’s degrees and has worked for two large, known technology companies based in Silicon Valley. This animal has not been with our company too long, less than six months, and they have a high level job with responsibility for a large marquee company that is an important customer. They are struggling in our company as we are mid-size company that does not offer many places to hide on the Serengeti. My experience is that in big companies are stomping grounds where there are more places to hide. Yes big companies have a full range of animals from dysfunctional workaholics, to people just looking for a paycheck and petting zoo animals. The bottom line in our company is there are not as many places to hide.
Animals and Handlers
Simply put this Zoo animal was not successful and this put a strain on their relationship with their leader. By all objective data the leader is well respected technically and as a leader. Frankly there is no evidence that the problem is the leader. But none the less this animal no longer obeyed its handler.
Preparing to Rank the Prey
So I get to mediate and figure out what is going on and what action steps can be taken. Sometimes I have to work additionally with the handler and the animal. To prepare I met the handler, reviewed the documentation and some emails to get some feedback and I reviewed the resume of the animal before we met. Based my preparation I outlined five specific questions that are direct, maybe blunt, but fair. Outcome oriented business stuff. In addition, I reviewed the zoo animal hierarchy as part of the preparation. See Ranking Category posting: http://siliconvalleywarrior.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/new-ranking/
What would you think a Zoo Animal would say in this meeting?
Well I never was able to ask my questions. Actually I didn’t need them at all and I wasted the time I used in preparing. A Zoo animal deflects and rarely takes responsibility. This particular one stood on his professional record at the previous big companies where he was employed. Note in big companies there are a lot of rocks, trees and caves to hide. I was given lofty rhetoric that I struggled to understand how it applied in this situation. If it was a philosophical debate with a friend and a fine Cabernet I might have enjoyed it. This was about not getting work completed for a large and important customer. Also at work I like to be in the present and rely on outcomes and value in business. Also in the Silicon Valley it is an “at will”, works for hire habitat. But I still wanted to be careful as I have learned from the Silicon Valley Warrior warned: 1-Zoo animals will bite from time to time, 2-Farm animals could kick or bite, and 3-a petting Zoo animal may try to eat your sweater.
The Good and Bad News
I was safe this was a pure petting zoo animal, below beta. Unfortunately I have to have a follow up meeting. To be safe I want to make sure this animal is well fed so we are going to lunch.
To be continued…