This incident happened with one of my clients – a high-profile communication technology company. As part of their online program, they were going to write a company blog. The first contributors we selected, are people who manage the main divisions, VPs actually. All very knowledgeable and appreciated experts in their field, all very busy, not all of them used to writing for external publications.
In order to ease the buy-in and help them proceed, we conducted several training sessions. They all arrived to all meetings – including the CEO. He wanted to write too and, he writes very well. Crankiness was expected, it showed up, nevertheless they were very attentive, willing and did their homework. Still, something was difficult; it felt like swimming in some heavy solvent with not much joy.
Eventually, I told them exactly that and wanted to know if any of them has an idea about why this was happening. There was silence in the room for about 15 seconds. Then one of the VPs looked across the table at the CEO, and quietly said to him, “It’s your fault. You push us to perfectionism. In technology it can work, not in writing. I feel I’m afraid to do wrong when the standard is – perfect”.
Again silence. After 10 seconds the CEO, calmly said, “are you serious? is that the way you feel?” the other guy replied, “yes”. The CEO looked at all the people sitting around the table and said, “I’m listening. Tell me more.”
They did. It was one of the most surprising conversations I’ve heard in a business context, and although unique, it felt so natural and easy. That’s the way things are actually supposed to be if everybody realizes they want to proceed. I’ve checked their blog not long ago – they have 25 contributors from within the company now. That’s a CEO employees can tell.