Harry the Patriarch

During the past 25 years Harry had built a successful trucking business. The company had grown from four employees and three trucks to 150 employees and a fleet of more than 100 vehicles. Harry was nearing 50 and wanted to slow down a bit. Most of his management team had been promoted from within, typically starting behind the wheel of a truck or in an entry-level office job.

As founder and CEO, Harry had been the focus of the business for 25 years: making the decisions, guiding and building the team, regularly driving trucks just to remember where he came from, and otherwise acting as the center of the universe. He expected his long-time, dedicated employees to now make more decisions and take more initiative. Unfortunately, his “at the center of everything” approach for so many years meant his managers had little ability and willingness to step up to their new role; they hadn’t been properly prepared. Harry had great difficulty letting go and was visibly impatient when his managers didn’t immediately rise to the challenge. The management team expected Harry to stay around and be “daddy” for a lot longer so they wouldn’t have to make tough decisions.

Lessons Learned

As an organization grows and expands, the role each person plays is likely to change too. Harry and the managers had mismatched expectations. Harry failed to understand that his expectations for sudden independent decision making were unrealistic given his history of having to be at the center of everything. The managers didn’t understand why their usual expectations suddenly weren’t being met.

What would you have done in Harry’s situation?

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