Things have somehow settled after the return of the high-level visitors. Last week, the CEO called a “debrief meeting” to review our feedback on the session and what he thinks should be the next steps.
He went around the table asking managers, “What are your views on the visitors?” Most of the managers said, “I think they were impressed with what we were doing and gave some useful insights.”
I could recall what one of the visitors said as we were having drinks. He said, “It seems that your CEO has been giving us an inaccurate view of things, most of your plans and forecasts are rubbish — they need to be changed.” Ken also told me that of his head office buddies had told him that they were not “impressed by what we shared, especially since we are already in the last quarter of the year.”
I was, therefore, not sure whether the managers around the table were being honest or they were just trying to please the boss. I knew that the boss would soon ask for my view, so I decided to take Ken’s cue. Ken also shocked me for he waxed lyrical about the visit. I could not believe my ears when he said, “the visitors noted our hard work in tough circumstances. My view is that we should not rest on our laurels just yet”. The other managers gave a nervous laugh as one of them said, “Ken is always the naysayer.” I realised that I had to be careful about what I said. If my sentiments were too similar to Ken’s I would be labelled early in the day as a naysayer too if I was too positive, I would be seen as a sycophant. I decided to play it safe and went for the learning line. I said, “For me, it was a learning experience to see how the leadership of this company thinks and what they expect of us.” The CEO said, “good, but as a newbie, you might have picked up the thing that we seasoned people could have missed.” Ken, who was seated next to me banged my feet under the table — I guess that was his way to warn me about my response. I calmly looked at the CEO and said, “I think they liked that we are on track with our strategy but they want us to close our end of year targets”.
This answer seemed to appease the boss as he fished out his notebook and said, “My overall assessment is that though we sold them a good story, they did not quite buy it.”
The CEO went on to list about 10 issues he felt were the problem. All of the managers were taking copious notes as if none of them had been present during the visitors meeting. The CEO turned to me and said, “I want you to start a dashboard on all these issues, all managers will share their progress feedback at every meeting.” This was not what I expected, for now, I was going to be seen as the CEO’s watchdog — how do I always end up in this position.
The rest of the meeting was general housekeeping about the end of year activities-including the end of year party. I was stunned to hear that we plan to spend more than Sh6 million on our end of year party.
Ken followed me to my office after the meeting and said: “I am not sure whether to cheer you on or to pray for you”. I said: “What do you mean?” He said: “The boss must have figured that his big boys were not impressed. He is trying to cover his behind by giving you that dashboard assignment. You had better do it well so that he shines.” I said: “Well I will just state the facts.” Ken laughed and said, “The reluctance you noticed in the managers earlier is because our boss does not like hearing bad news — so whatever you do, don’t tell him the bad news.” This is surely going to be tough.