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what will you do about your boy?

I grew up in media industries just as they began to globalize and pretty much swam with the global current… spending most of my career inhabiting imaginary spaces between regional-global directors and CEOs. Sometimes I’ve found myself caught between the regional powers that be, who have been tasked with driving growth that exceeds global or regional GDP growth rates, and their country CEO’s who are (sometimes) seen as bottlenecks to achieving this. Formulating strategic plans driven from the ground level (consumer insight), meant sometimes being faced with the animosity of a disgruntled CEO, who transforms into the bane of a regional director’s existence. I was just a messenger, but a well-protected one. In international streams, regional level accountabilities make disgruntled CEOs a necessary hurdle to overcome. From fields to factories to distribution channels and office staff — an established business losing pace in high growth markets mean eventual job losses across the board, in countries where there often aren’t safety nets for employees. These are seen as real consequences, even when emerging market declines are unlikely to affect the share price of a large multinational.

These situations have (thankfully) been the anomaly, though. I’ve found most CEOs to be inviting of those who can help elevate the calibre of their talent and streamline local strategy.

In contrast, I have never come across a Canadian CEO/ GM/ MD, where the mere idea of me did not irritate their sensibilities before I’ve even met them. The common thread here is the level of necessity — rarely am I involved unless a leg of the 3-legged stool leadership sits on is at risk of collapsing. Friction arises. Leadership begins throwing their weight around. Boards begin flailing about. Most seem unwilling/ ill-equipped to contain their boy. In the resulting fallout, I’ve seen non-profits crumble and declare bankruptcy within the year, a big agency (very publicly) lose the largest account in the country within months, and a global team relocated to another country after an embarrassing situation. Rarely is the Canadian leadership in question removed or contained, and job losses are rarely seen as a consequence or collateral damage. They are an afterthought.

With a publicly listed company, it’s unlikely I am the only one who wants to know the answer to the question… if push comes to shove, what will you do about your boy?

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