Monday, October 21, 2013

Nice Farewell Dinner, But Where’s My Plaque?

It’s not if your CEO exits some day, but when.

Whether your current CEO is your ministry’s founder with years of faithful service, or just one of a parade of capable CEOs who will serve your organization (5, 10 or 15 years perhaps), CEOs all have one thing in common—unique and differing expectations on how the board says goodbye when that time comes.

Board members also have unique and differing expectations on how to honor an exiting CEO, sometimes based on the circumstances of the departure.  But even in the best of situations, whether for retirement (“Job well done!”) or by God’s sovereign call on the CEO to serve at another ministry (“We’ll miss you—but we bless you!”), I frequently hear from departing CEOs that the farewell event or process rarely rings the bell.

So what’s the problem? Are CEOs’ expectations too high? Is it an ego thing?  Are some board members tone deaf?

Perhaps men and women on those boards have not experienced memorable farewells themselves. “Thanks, Charlie! Here’s a watch. Dessert will be served after we watch this commemorative video my junior high kid put together.”

Once, when debriefing an annual “360” review of their CEO, I asked the executive committee members if they knew the preferred love language of their CEO. They laughed—but then took it very seriously and later discerned how their CEO could sense on-going love and affirmation from the board.  

You’ve likely read Gary Chapman’s books on the five love languages, which include: 1) Words of affirmation, 2) Acts of service, 3) Receiving gifts, 4) Quality time, and 5) Physical touch.

My hunch: a CEO who was less than thrilled with his or her send-off was probably honored in some way by the board, but just with the wrong love language. 

Example: some years back, a retiring CEO with a long and appreciated tenure was duly honored at a large gathering. Glowing tributes filled the program. Yet, months later, he confided to me, 
“John, they didn’t give me a plaque.
Can you believe it? There was no plaque!”

I felt empathy for this faithful solider.  He didn’t serve the cause of Christ to get a plaque, but for him, a plaque would have been the perfect love language.

QUESTION: What is your CEO’s love language—and how do you regularly express appreciation to him or her?

1 comment:

  1. Very true John. This is not something we think about with CEO's. But good recognition needs to hit the mark.