Ask Candid Keith…..

Dear Candid Keith:
What’s up with these baby boomer business owners’ whose pampered kids play by a looser set of rules than the rest of us? It’s infuriating!!

Don’t they know how tired we are of carrying their water? We work harder and longer. We show up on time and contribute more than they’ll ever deliver. Furthermore, we complain less and look after the business interests while they’re off on fancy vacations to Tahoe, Paris or wherever.
Badly Burnt Out in Austin!

Dear Burnt Out in Austin:
News Flash! Skip and Buffy do march to a different beat. They aren’t your average employees on any level. Not even close! In fact, they are often only a heart beat away from becoming the business owners – your boss! So take heed.

Perhaps now is an opportunity to perform a quick upgrade to your emotional hard drive and insert a new solid state perspective. One that’s state of the art and more sensitive to the trials and tribulations of being a family member in a family owned company. Consider who bears the brunt of every investment decision in your average high tech family business? Both the owners and their kids are impacted by the associated stress.

To further help you empathize with the challenge of being an offspring in a family business, let’s examine the definition of work in the context of a typical entrepreneurial lifestyle. .

For instance, if your boss and her kids are sitting around the dining table on a Sunday afternoon, you might be surprised by the conversation they’re holding. Instead of discussing the upcoming ball game, they may be debating how to negotiate with the bank given the faulty balance sheets generated by the company’s errant ERP system. Is that work or dinner? It never ends.

So here’s a tip that may help you avoid the high cost of an unnecessary career move.

Be among the first to help Junior accomplish a major business objective that’s near the top of your owner’s to-do list. Give the owner’s son or daughter the credit and everyone in the family will notice your team spirit. Count on it! Step in and help out a struggling family member with a challenge they’re facing that’s not a big deal for you. Offer to tutor a grandson or granddaughter in math or science if that’s a strength of yours. In other words, think strategically about how you can add the most value to the family. Who knows? The next time we correspond you may be signing your letter “Recently Promoted in Austin!”

Dear Candid Keith:
How would you encourage an employee who is barely performing his job to work harder?

If he doesn’t improve soon, we may have to replace him and we’re already short-handed.
Down on the Boy

Dear Down on the Boy:
Lift your eyes off his tail lights and start looking for his replacement today. There is only a 50% chance (at best) that he will improve no matter what you do or say. Our recommendation is simple. Draw a line in the sand and work towards it. Here’s how.

Determine the cost and timeline you anticipate for finding his replacement? Be realistic and add a 25% buffer to be safe. If you decide the search will take a week, a month or a quarter, that becomes your line in the sand to insert into your next conversation with your problem child.

Explain to this underperformer that you see a great deal more potential for him to excel than he is currently demonstrating. Share your desire to help him achieve success in his current role. Lay out the timeline that you have determined is realistic for him to prove his value to the team. Explain that you will also be considering your alternatives in the meantime.

Finally, shorten up the feedback loops on his progress reports. If you have been providing feedback to him every couple of weeks, begin to check in once a week. If you would typically coach him weekly, begin measuring his progress every two days and offer clearly spoken recommendations. Applaud every successful move he makes and if he turns the corner make a point to provide him with recognition. On the other hand, keep interviewing candidates to replace him. In the process of doing so, you will find a good employee. Hopefully, it will turn out to be your current team member. Best wishes!

Dear Candid Keith:
Is it true that you were recently quoted in Newsmax Magazine as stating that women CEOs are better suited for these volatile times than men? If so, what are you some kind of sellout??
Hot Under the Collar

Dear Hot One,
Cool down! No, I’m not a sellout, a turncoat or any other disparaging name you might want to label me. I was simply making the point that in these highly technical times, we have a tendency to look for our leaders among the most technically astute. My suggestion is that we become especially attuned to the importance of great working relationships during this high tech / low touch era.

This opens the door to considering CEO candidates from either gender who demonstrate a strong ability to manage strategic relationships with employees, customers and alliance partners. The real question is do you have the right person leading your company to optimize your potential. Thanks for helping us clarify our position!

Want an unbiased opinion on a precarious leadership dilemma?

Keith Martino is head of CMI, a global consultancy founded in 1999 that customizes leadership and sales development initiatives. After more than 20 years and numerous awards at FedEx, Xerox and Baxter Healthcare, Martino and his team provide world-class counsel and proven training workshops that produce consistently superior results. Questions, send e-mail to

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