One of my Greatest Leadership Failures
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

In 2007, the company I was running started a season of significant growth. Realizing that I needed a stronger inner circle, I hired a young woman who had all the skills I was looking for. She had about eight years of experience, was energetic, and full of great ideas. Every task I gave her she embraced and even took those tasks to another level. I felt she had the capacity to run the company in my absence.

Things were going along very well until I started to notice attendance issues. She started coming in late from time to time. When this issue persisted, I had a conversation about changing her start time, and the reply was simple and pointed, “It just isn’t that important for me to come in on time.” As you can imagine, I was livid. How dare she be so bold? Who does she think she is? As far as I was concerned, the die was cast and I needed to make a plan to replace her. In my mind, this was an open and shut case. The good worker had turned bad, and I had to do the prudent thing and replace her. Over the next several months I found a replacement, and she was gone. There was nothing I could have done differently. Just one of those things, or so I thought.

After she left I was cleaning out her cubical and found a note tucked into her daily planner which read “don’t give them your opinion; they don’t want to hear it.” Over the next several days, I kept thinking about that note. What would have caused her to write it? More importantly, what had I done to cause her to believe that? The business was running well, others were praising my leadership, and I was blinded by success and completely unaware of how she perceived me. My emotional intelligence was almost nonexistent. There were signs that I was losing the connection, but I missed them. I saw the signs as an employee who didn’t care, rather than me failing as a leader.  I had failed the company and the employee. Who knows what potential was lost due to my pride and lack of awareness.

Recently I was able to reconnect with the young women via email and apologize for missing the signals. I was able to right the wrong, but the damage was done and the bud that was about to blossom, blossomed somewhere else.

Join Marisa and I on The Next Page podcast as we take a deeper dive into this email. If you have a question you’d like addressed on the podcast, be sure to send them to Marisa at [email protected]