Greetings Jim,

I am responding to your call to share my experience in putting up with the moose (see “When Personal Candor Doesn’t Fit the Culture” from May 2008).

Recently, my CEO found the time of his convenience to summon us all for a management retreat. Heads of business units from different parts of the world had to scramble in on one week notice.

The first day was meant to learn about teamwork. Two people were flown all the way from Australia to show us how we can become better leaders by learning about HORSE psychology and how to get the horse to follow us without offering any extrinsic rewards. I am not sure about how the others felt, but I am still puzzling over how it correlates to our work environment.

The real moose-on- the-table problem was on the second day. We got to hear about historical performance and what business units and the company went through in 2007. Sad to say, none of the business unit heads found the candor to ask for a glimpse of the future direction and commitment to an action plan. I didn’t know what to make of the entire episode.

I guess it happens around the world. Top management is not comfortable talking of strategy and providing focused implementation. I just read an article by Robert Kaplan, who authored Strategy Focused Organization where he said less than 50 percent of companies have a strategic plan in place. So we shouldn’t be surprised that operational and individual performances are not aligned.

As a publicly listed company I wonder how does this not come under the scrutiny of external auditors and statutory regulations of good corporate governance? How can a business or any organization operate without a blueprint for action? Are we progressing or regressing in this age of abundance with performance management tools? What are the key performance indicators for corporate leaders? Coming form a military background, I am really puzzled with how organizations continue to operate without connecting the people with purpose and direction of where they are heading.

Regards, “Joe”

Hi “Joe”

Thanks very much for sharing your experience. It’s a familiar story.

The horse psychology exercise is a great example of highly questionable approaches to leadership development. Way too many trainers and consultants use approaches like you’ve described that may be entertaining, but are often pointless and impractical. Maybe yours was a case of horse-on-the-table!

The problem you’ve outlined with senior management not planning effectively and/or clearly communicating their plans is way too common. Stock analysts and organization effectiveness experts are paying more attention to the impact of senior leaders pivotal role in organizational performance. For example, Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood have linked “leadership brand” with a company’s results. Find about some of their work and new Leadership Brand book at

Recently a Breaking Through the Bull workshop participant blurted out, “shouldn’t senior management be addressing the moose issues and providing the leadership you’ve been discussing.” My answer was of course they should. But many don’t.

So that leaves everyone else with three choices; 1. Live with the status quo (too often while criticizing, condemning, and complaining); 2. Quit; or 3. Provide strong leadership within your own team or area while practicing upward leadership. Way too many managers and professionals working under ineffective senior managers stay in their unhappy situations, don’t strengthen their own leadership, and choose to become a victim of ineffective senior leaders. You can read my article on upward leadership or managing your boss at