BE IN THE KNOW

September 12 2013

Leadership: There's No Off Switch

By Carolyn Clark

leadership lessons

When you’re the boss, you’re always on - you’re fooling yourself if you don’t think your team, your peers and your stakeholders judge every utterance and email.

While bosses are human and are not expected to be without flaws, it is critical that they be self-aware when facing down challenges and the whole world is listening.

How so, you may ask? You remember AOL… [yes, they are still around even though you don’t use them for dial-up anymore] they own this little big thing called Patch. Patch for the uninformed is basically a national, local news provider/network – if I want the breaking news for Frankfort, IL – I go to Patch – the Chicago Tribune is unlikely to cover the Frankfort beat.

Let’s get to the “always on” point.  On Thursday, August 8th, during AOL's Q2 earnings call, CEO Tim Armstrong told Wall Street analysts that Patch would shrink from 900 to 600 websites. Yowzer. I’m sure upon hearing this news every Patch employee looked around and wondered, “Will I still have a job tomorrow?”  The next day Armstrong hosted a conference call for 1,000 or so employees, with the aim of rally his troops. The opposite occurred and everyone was listening and apparently recording. 

The recording here, obtained by media business blog Romenesko, capture’s Armstrong speaking to his team in a motivating, CEO kind of way. The first 2 minutes are a take no prisoners, we’re still going to succeed rant. Then suddenly Armstrong begins talking to someone in his teleconferencing room, tells them they are fired and to get out – he then returns his focus to motivating the 1,000+/- troops on the call.

I wonder how many AOL/Patch employees went to task updating and polishing their resumes that night? I wonder how many of those call participants will still work at Patch a year from now? The fallout could be huge - in dollars, human capital, and public and shareholder opinion. If you are a leader, be it for one or many, remember you are always on. If you don’t like it, stop leading. 

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