Slipperless #2

By: Sloan Storm



“Well, Gabe, I don’t understand… Aren’t you the one who told me to ‘‘have balls’?”

“Yes, but you have to walk a fine line when you’re dealing with other people, Fiona. Not everyone responds to pressure the same way, and your personality can be difficult.”

“Difficult?” I scoffed. “I’m getting the results you wanted, faster than you thought possible. I don’t understand what the problem is.”

“The problem is that they’re people, not robots. If you’re not careful, this heavy handed approach could backfire. If you lose the team altogether, you’re gonna lose your promotion also. You need to understand that.”

I chewed the inside of my lip as I stole a quick glance around the lab. Curious onlookers turned away as I caught them in the act. I leaned over my workstation and lowered the sound of my voice as I tried to understand what Gabe was getting at.

“Where is all of this coming from, Gabe? Who’s told you this?”

“It doesn’t matter, Fiona,” he said, interrupting me. “I’m not saying you need to do anything different except improve your communication with the group.”

I shook my head, looking away from him in disgust. This didn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. Either he wanted results or he didn’t. Deep down, I really had no desire to fix anything, with anyone. The most important thing was finishing the job I’d been assigned in the shortest time frame possible. That said, as I looked up at Gabe once more I realized I’d have to do something to address his concerns or risk angering him.

“I don’t know how to do what you want just yet. I’ll work on it. I understand what you’re trying to say.”

“Do you?”

“Yes.”

“Okay then, I hope so,” he said, as he turned to leave. “I’ll expect improvement from you on this point. Remember, you’re in management now, Fiona. It’s time to start acting like it.”



GABE

Things were a little less stable than I’d like to see them at this point and frankly, Fiona was frustrating me a bit. We were in a delicate phase. If Fiona could guide the team through the rest of the work without a complete implosion, we might just be able to demonstrate the viability of the Link Protocol to my investors. The only issue right now was getting it done.

Ironically, in the midst of her mismanagement woes, Fiona proposed a novel idea with respect to the Link Protocol. It wasn’t something any of us had considered before and the more I realized what it would mean in terms of raising capital, the more I began to understand I’d need Fiona involved at a higher level. That presented me with a couple of dilemmas.

The first of these was Fiona herself. What assets she had in terms of her lab genius greatly outstripped any ability she had to effectively communicate them. And when it came to making the case with investors, I’d need to have her involved. The second troublesome aspect was selling the notion of her helping me to my senior management team. And none was a bigger challenge to that than my Chief Financial Officer, Don Cabot.

Now I considered myself a decent salesman. It’s not just anyone who can take a company from zero to tens of billions in market capitalization in less than ten years. Even so, getting Don on board with this plan would be difficult, at best. And so, I’d invited him to my office after hours one evening. As a hedge, I plied him with a bit of my finest scotch and delivered the best soft sell I could on Fiona’s behalf. I finished a sip of the smoky-flavored liquor and set my rocks glass down on the table with a decisive thump.

“Don,” I began, as I eased myself away from the conference table, leaning back in my seat in the process. “I think I’d like to have Fiona do the presentation as it relates to this.”

A man with nearly three decades in the biotech trenches, Don froze in place as my suggestion settled in. He blinked a number of times in rapid succession, six or seven by my count, before he pieced together enough reasoning to form a coherent response.

“That’s… a shit idea, Gabe. You can’t be serious.”

One of the most important things you can do as the leader of any organization, whether it’s a multi-billion dollar biotech firm or a Boy Scout troop, is surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. It’s a must. Because no matter how many times you’ve been in a situation where the outcome seems like a foregone conclusion, you need someone there with the courage to call ‘bullshit’ on a plan of action, if it is one.

Now, I’m not just looking for people who shoot down every idea. No company would get far if the senior management spent its time behaving like frightened turtles. All that’s really needed are people who know the business and can see through all the nonsense that comes with it. Lucky for me, Don was just such a man. And so whenever he voiced a concern, I felt compelled to consider his input carefully, if nothing else.

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