Talking About Fight Club

team dynamicsManagement Team Quarterly Meeting Agenda:

  • Warehouse workflow
  • Holiday schedules and hours for next week
  • Annual performance review deadlines
  • ERP system maintenance
  • Monthly sales results

CEO: Thanks for coming to the meeting today, guys. We have a lot to cover, so let’s get rolling. We’ve got Sue joining us today— she’s a management consultant who is helping me work through some strategic issues. Welcome, Sue. Steve, why don’t you get started and give us an update on any changes you have to the warehouse workflow.

Steve: Yep. OK, well, it’s looking like we are going to be able to handle the increase in capacity that’s forecasted for next week.

Mike will step in and cover Peter’s fulfillment duties until we can backfill that position. I’ve also got some new packing materials to experiment with, but I will probably wait until after the holidays to do that.

Accounting Manager: Is Peter on vacation?

CEO: Let’s move on. How about holiday schedules? Who is going to be out between Christmas and New Year’s?

Marketing Manager: What happened to Peter?

CEO: I’ll pass around the calendar; if you guys can jot down the dates you’ll be out, I’ll have Stephanie put them in the group calendar.

Consultant: Excuse me? What’s going on here? Who is Peter? Where is Peter? And why are we both talking and not talking about Peter?

CEO (voice in head): Oh my God, I have to stop this conversation right now. They don’t need to know that I fired Peter. It’s none of their business. If Peter finds out I told people that I fired him, he’s going to sue us. Everyone will think I’m an asshole. Peter was a nice guy. No one can know. How can I explain my way out of this? He quit? He disappeared? This is a nightmare.


Imagine being on a senior management team and having the fact that an employee had been terminated purposely withheld from you. Can you think of any logical or rational reason why a manager would do that? Neither could we. Now imagine being an employee—at any level—coming into your job one day and finding the person who had been sitting at the desk or station next to you for a couple of years suddenly gone. And nobody is talking about it.

There’s been no announcement of his or her departure, there is no reason for his or her absence—it’s as if the person got raptured! Just up and disappeared. Can you think of any reason on Earth why it would make sense to sow this kind of mystery and mistrust around an employee’s departure? Neither could we. But this is a true story, and it happens more often than you’d think.

The first rule of management is to talk about management. That means talking about employee performance and disciplinary measures and being honest and transparent with your leadership team and staff about departures and other not-so-pleasant news. Transparency is the buzzword of the decade, and it’s easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. So, let’s clear up a few things (pun intended):

Transparency works because it builds TRUST, and trust only works when it’s based on the TRUTH.

We parted ways with John today as we did not feel that he was the best fit for the position.

John’s last day with us was Monday. We wish him all the best in finding a new role that better suits his skill set.

John’s last day was today, and we’ll be looking to fill the position within the next two weeks. Please join us in wishing him all the best in the future.

These are all perfectly acceptable and respectful ways of saying, “We had to fire John.” But saying nothing at all, or fabricating some story, because you fear telling your organization that he was terminated is a huge mistake. Saying nothing is flat-out lying and creates unfair mystery and intrigue. Covering up the termination also doesn’t allow you to send a message to your organization that says, “YES, if you don’t do your job and perform to our standards, you will lose your job. That’s how jobs work!”

Remember, as leaders, we are the adults in the room. If you can’t adhere to the basic tenets of a healthy and high-functioning management team, then you need to take a close look at your leadership style and the makeup of your leadership team. We believe that there are at least eight core things that should be discussed regularly and with total transparency among a leadership team:

  1. Leadership and championship of the mission, vision, values, and purpose:

Are you all in alignment with these? From your vantage point, can you see anything happening within the company that isn’t? Discuss and hold each other accountable.

  1. Respect for the organizational chart.
  2. Following the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) structure:

Is everyone in alignment with how the organizational chart works and what the protocols and authorities are? Does everyone understand their roles and the roles of others on the RACI chart? Both of these documents, along with job descriptions at the individual level, should be reviewed and discussed regularly.

  1. Complete and immediate transparency:

Are there any sensitive issues that we need to discuss privately before communicating to the staff? What is our strategy for communicating sensitive issues to the staff? Are we being transparent with each other and holding each other accountable for transparency among our staff?

  1. Unity and consensus in decision making:

Have we communicated and debated critical decision-making among the management team prior to the decision being made? Do we have consensus on strategy? We may differ on tactics but must have consensus on strategy and confirm regularly that we do.

  1. Discipline and time commitment:

Are we, as a team, committed to each other, and have we made time for actually managing as a team?

  1. Triads and the buddy system:

Does anyone feel like they are on an island? If so, why? And what will we do about it?

  1. Financial visibility:

Lastly, does everyone on the leadership team know how we are doing financially? Do they know what role they and their team play in building value and profitability for the organization? (We’ll talk more about this last point in our next book, How (NOT) to Create a Winning Strategy.)

The first rule of a good management team is to talk about management with your team. Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many teams talk about everything except management. Have the conversation with your team and use the above checklist to make sure you’re transparent and aligned.

To purchase a copy of How (NOT) to Build a Great Team click here.