What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office

Michael Hugos, Principal, Center for Systems Innovation | 8/28/2013 | 66 comments

Michael Hugos
Yesterday, I wrote about the political battle that was raging inside my company over the fact that the CEO was stepping down, and what I was thinking as I had been called into his office.

I arrived at the boss's office and the door was open. He was seated behind his desk writing on a notepad in front of him. I knocked and he looked up. He asked me to come in, have a seat, and close the door behind me.

I sat in one of the two chairs in front of his desk and he looked at me and started what was clearly a prepared speech. He told me I wasn't being fired. It was just that I was being asked for my resignation. I heard the phrase, "Your vision does not mesh with our plans." I knew the answer to my questions. I knew who would be the new CEO. And I knew I had to move on.

It was fall outside and next to the CEO's office was a pine tree. Through a picture window behind the CEO's desk I watched a bird land on a bough near the window. It was a bird that migrates south for the winter. I had seen birds like this one flying south in years before. I thought it was pretty late in the season and figured that bird had to get a move on right about then. I heard the CEO going on about whatever he was going on about. It did not matter what he was saying. The issues had been decided.

It had been a great job in many respects for several years, but it had been getting worse and worse for the last few years. Although the salary was nice, I was running out of any other reasons to stay. And doing things for the money alone has never worked well for me in the long run. It was time to do something new.

Then he stopped and leaned across the desk and asked me if I had any questions. There are no questions in meetings like this. There is noting to say and nobody is going to change their mind about anything anyway.

I said no, I didn't have any questions. I told him, "Thank you for sharing that with me." He pushed a prepared resignation letter across the desk toward me and asked me to sign it. He told me I didn't have to stick around. It was Friday. I could just sign the letter and go home. I could come back later to clean out my office.

Signing things at moments like this is usually a bad idea, so I took the letter and said I'd look it over. I got up and left his office. No senior executive job lasts forever.

A wise person later explained for me the meaning of such events: "You stand there on the dock and know you have to go, but your boat is so small and the sea is so large." Then she paused and smiled and said, "So sometimes you have to be pushed off the dock to get going."

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Susan Nunziata   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   9/11/2013 3:50:08 PM
Re: Your vision does not mesh with our plans
@JPoe: I know, isn't that just about the worst? It took my friend years to get over that. In fact, I'm not sure he's ever really recovered his trust in corporations.

As Michael's blog shows us, sometimes these things are a blessing in diguise, as we re-evaluate what we really want out of our careers. That said, if they're handled so harshly they could truly damage a person's ability to have confidence in any future career path.  
Susan Nunziata   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   9/11/2013 3:47:38 PM
Re: Your vision does not mesh with our plans
@JPoe: Glad I could be of assistance.

Marif   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   9/4/2013 11:07:49 AM
Re: Don't let the door hit you
@SunitaT: I agree the rejection is also the part of the experience and this should be taken in a positive way so that you can aim to improve yourself for the next challenge. And I have seen that as much as you grow in experience, the challenges get tougher. So if you are out of the shock of the first challenge doesn't mean that you will not be affected by the next one. So one have to be prepare and prepare for bad things while expecting good ones.
SteveJ   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   9/2/2013 9:24:01 PM
Re: Don't let the door hit you...
@Broadway, the post mention the CEO was (asked to by the board?) stepping down. If it was a public company it would certainly been public information. We often see new CEOs bring in their own management team (including CIO), hence the "vision" thing.
Broadway   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   8/31/2013 1:33:47 PM
Re: Don't let the door hit you...
@sara, a good indicator would be companies mentioning it in their annual reports and SEC submissions, like 10ks and such. I am no expert but i can't remember ever seeing hiring practices mentioned.
sherly_mendoza   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   8/31/2013 12:43:59 PM
What I Learned...
"So sometimes you have to be pushed off the dock to get going."...What happened may not be what you wanted or expected, but it does signal a new beginning. I know it's difficult to do, but situations like this teach us to dwell more on the positive side of things. Thus, you should keep in mind that some other good things will come your way, and that there's a reason for what happened. Then you start moving and doing your best to improve. You need something a little earth-shaking in order to wake up and get things going. Who Knows? Maybe your new beginning will signal the start of something bigger and better.
SunitaT   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   8/31/2013 11:46:42 AM
Re: Don't let the door hit you
We all know how big organizations work and we all know how selfish they are. An organization will do whatever it has to do for it to be successful regardless on how it affects the careers of its employees. This is however something that all employees are trained about. When it's your time to go, you should try and understand why. Rejection will only make it more complicated and stress you out for no good reason.
JPoe   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   8/31/2013 10:29:27 AM
Re: Your vision does not mesh with our plans
Discovering you're on the way out because HR has already posted an ad seeking your replacement. That happened to a friend of mine. Really.

It's one thing to lose a gig; it's another to lose it like that. I'd be insecure and scarred for life, following that kind of drama.
JPoe   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   8/31/2013 10:27:37 AM
Re: Your vision does not mesh with our plans

I can see this becoming the new breakup line for personal relationships too: "I'm sorry, dear,  I've decided to leave you. Your vision does not mesh with my plans."

Awesome. I now have an exit plan for the next relationship. Good eye
JPoe   What I Learned... the Last Time the CEO Called Me Into His Office   8/31/2013 10:24:04 AM
Re: Retrospect

Good call: I try not to go into meetings with anyone. Ever. And yet, I spend about  30% of my time in meetings. I must be doing something wrong.
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