February 21, 2022

It's Still a Tiger

Most are familiar with the tragic story of the devastating onstage attack by a tiger during a Siegfried & Roy show at the Mirage in Las Vegas.  The attack left Roy crippled for the rest of his life.  

As with any tragedy, there are often multiple views as to what happened and why, but I don't think there is disagreement that Roy veered off the script.  Was it a loss of focus? Was it carelessness or undue confidence as a result of a long of history of non-incidents?  We'll likely never know.

For many, the relationship with one's boss can be fraught.  And there are many articles out there about how to "manage" and improve this critical relationship.

Believe it or not, this short article is for those who actually have a great relationship with their boss.  

The two of you might have worked together for a long time, maybe even across multiple jobs or companies.  You feel empowered to speak the truth to him/her and she/he seems candid with you.  You have each other's backs.  S/he might have rewarded you with multiple promotions.  Heck, you might even occasionally socialize together outside of work, perhaps even with your families.

I was working with a client recently who has this exact kind of relationship with his boss.  He was hired several years before by the CEO and still has a great relationship with him.  Recently a layer has been added, and though my client no longer reports to the CEO, the CEO still has 1-1's with him, is a public supporter, and confides in him regularly.

An incident occurred that left my client feeling very disappointed.  He tried to address the situation with his new boss, but got nowhere with it.  He was considering leaning on his good relationship with the CEO and bringing it up to him "in no uncertain terms" in the hopes the CEO might intercede and rectify the situation.

I commented that I did not know the depth of their relationship, nor the history, and offered that his planned conversation might work out just fine.  

But I decided to also reminded him of the story of Siegfried & Roy and told him, whatever he decides to do, never forget the CEO "is still a tiger."

Like it or not, you are constantly being judged and evaluated by your boss.  Are you supporting the company agenda?  Role modeling the values?  Leading and communicating effectively?  Building the team?  Stretching far enough?  Pushing hard enough?  Bringing stakeholders along?

You can spin this negatively, lamenting about how you are always under the microscope.  Or you can spin it positively, believing that the critical gaze is there to see if you are ready to handle more and whether you are ready for promotion.

However you choose to spin it, continuous scrutiny and evaluation are realities.  

My client wasn't convinced that caution was warranted.  He kept wanting to tell me about how well he and the CEO got along, their history, and the trust between them.  I decided to momentarily defer.

Later in the conversation, he was talking about his own team and some of the unspoken judgments he had about them.  When I asked him to listen to the force of his evaluative comments, a wave of awareness passed over his face like one of those light bulbs popping above the head of a comic book character.

For CEOs and founders, their first duty is to the ship, not to you, no matter what kind of relationship you have with them.

The best bosses are constantly looking to balance the needs of the broadest possible group of stakeholders. You are just one of those stakeholders.

This is especially true if your boss is the GM/CEO and doubly true if your boss is the founder.  For a founder, the company is their progeny.  They are willing to bleed for it and they are looking around at others to see if others are as committed and company-first as they are.

For CEOs and founders, their first duty is to the ship, not to you, no matter what kind of relationship you have with them.  

It does not matter how long you have known each other, nor how much trust and history there has been, nor whether your kids played together.  They are going to do what is in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders, as they should.

If you have a great relationship with your boss by all means relish it.  It is relatively rare and something you should be grateful for.

But you would still be wise to remind yourself...s/he's still a tiger, capable of tiger like reactions and tiger like consequences...and comport yourself accordingly.

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