What is this thing called 9Stucks?
9Stucks is a dynamic business diagnostic tool. It identifies nine distinct yet interrelated business challenges that cause a company to underperform.

Emotional Venting in a Stuck Company. Episode 1: Leadership

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”— Ernest Hemingway

When you are trying to figure out why a company is underperforming, where do you begin? What should be your starting point?

You can learn a tremendous amount right away by simply talking with, and listening to, the company’s people — the CEO, the management team, the employees, the investors, the Board, and other key shareholders.

Although that sounds obvious or even trite, it’s just common sense.  Listening carefully to what people are saying, absorbing it, and twirling it around a bit is a necessary prelude to delving deep into data.  If a company is stuck, emotions may squelch thoughtful, deliberate action, especially if the stuck situation has been going on for some time.

During CEO coaching, people of stuck companies talk and I hear three big themes:

  • concerns about LEADERSHIP
  • angst and arrogance about EXTERNAL FORCES
  • confusion about OPERATIONS

Episode 1 illustrates the emotional reactions of a stuck company’s key people about leadership – the unfiltered, raw, spill your guts variety. Their voices express what they live everyday.

Episode 2 will be the angst caused by External Forces; Episode 3 will reveal confusion about Internal Ops.

Consider this one emotional exchange…

Brother A: My brother’s head in the sand attitude is going to strangle this company!
Brother B: My brother’s outlandish growth ideas will destroy all we have worked for.

Where do you go with that opening salvo? The real story was someplace in betweenand that’s the essential point here.

While it is important to listen closely, it’s also just as important to look beyond what you hear and bring in other data points before making rash judgements about how to fix the situation.

The ‘emotional’ 9Stucks are Ditch, Moment and Slow Lane.  I call these three the emotional set because they deal with leadership, governance, the team, culture and strategy.

Listen to what’s been said already…here’s a peek at my notes from initial client meetings:


Ditch means: “There is a significant, persistent problem within the organization’s leadership ranks.”


Moment means: “The organization lacks a) strategic or operational planning processes, b) know-how to get it done, or c) both. Focus is on the here and now…there is no long term outlook.”


Slow Lane

Slow Lane means: “The team is weak, the organizational structure is cumbersome and the overall culture is negative.”
These quotes illustrate an outpouring of emotion from people expressing their own ‘hot buttons’.  It would be easy to take these comments at face value and go act on them. However, implementing a knee jerk reaction can miss the real underlying issues and not solve the company’s actual problems.
How are your listening skills?  
Do any of the quotes above sound familiar?