Attached

30-12-2015
A Dandelion blowing seeds in the wind.

A Dandelion blowing seeds in the wind.

Some feedback stays with you longer than a minute, an hour, a day or even a week. Some feedback even has the potential to become a life mantra. I received that kind of feedback towards the end of a programme I was running with two dear colleagues in White Plains, New York on Friday morning 11 March 2011. I was apologising for not being fully present with our programme. I had just received pictures of my second son Joseph that morning and I felt displaced. Just wanted to be with my family and move to Kenia to meet him. My colleagues turned my frame of mind on its head saying I was at my best: ‘less attached and still committed’. That phrase became a life mantra, partly because I had experienced that before, partly because it was reassuring and never expressed that timely and that well.

The richness of great feedback is that you can pass on the wisdom. We worked on a post merger integration process a while ago. Successful 40.000 global company met, dated and married within four months with a blossoming 200+ people start up e-commerce company. Maybe you can imagine the many pitfalls when large meets small, when fast meets slow and when entrepreneurism meets process. They had set themselves aggressive deadlines for integration from the start. They felt they were aligned from the start and did not need to get to know each other better: “let us not waste time and get down to business”. Until the strategy planning process (MTP) fell like a thick blanket of mist over the e-commerce company. The entrepreneurs were asked to fill out endless excel and power point requests about figures they were never trying to gestimate as their business was so unpredictable and volatile. Until the CEO for the region decided that Argentina and Chili would be out of scope for the next MTP cycle as it required too heavy investments and it was too high risk. Until the first resignations were handed in as other e-commerce companies in the region were keen to take over the scarce top e commerce talent.

“They are killing my baby”, the founder said dramatically when I first spoke to him. They are taking away all perspective on growth in the way we were used to, when we were independent. He had thought through the decision to sell the company well. It was harder, for him to feel through the decision he was making at the time. Now he needed to change his attitude if he wanted to keep contributing, which he was keen on. He wanted the company to succeed as part of the new global parent. We jointly explored what it would mean to be ‘less attached, but still committed’. “My baby is not dying”, he told me four months later. “It is growing up faster than I ever expected”.