You don’t have to wait till the budget is over spent, the savings not delivered, a critical inspection report, performance targets missed or a negative and highly personalised local media campaign against the “cuts”. The simplest way to get rid of a director is to undermine the individual because once members have lost confidence in them the end is near. The easiest way to do this is for the chief executive to remove their support and distance themselves.
In a politically sensitive environment like local government at a time of budget cuts, service reductions and redundancies there is a frequent need to brief the chief executive and leading politicians to ensure they are not caught unaware. It is therefore important to have ready accesses to these individuals. So what do you do when your requests to get 20 minutes with the chief exec are meet with “he is very busy”, “in meetings all day”, “has asked not to be interrupted”. First you check out if your colleagues on the senior management team are experiencing the same problem. Joe says she has a regular one and a half hour slot in the diary every month. She is new and inexperienced so may be that’s why she is offered this level of support. Graham has been around for years he says he just rings up the chief execs PA and says can he have half an hour sometime over the next couple of days. You ask Dave the treasure and deputy chief exec, even though you know it will get back to the chief exec. Dave says he sees the chief every morning first thing for half an hour to catch up and discuss any issues.
So why do I find myself sitting outside the chief executive’s office waiting for the meeting to finish in order to dash in and request a quick word before the next meeting starts? I find it demeaning sitting here –I know he knows I am out here. It is a huge waste of my time despite my attempts to use my Black Berry to catch up with my emails. My senior staff are frustrated because I should be at a meeting with them and I have no idea how long I will be sat here.
Even when I grab my few minutes I know it will be unsatisfactory because I will be trying to brief on a complex situation whilst the chief exec looks at his watch. But I need him to know what is happening and what I propose to do otherwise I risk been hung out to dry if anything goes wrong or the media decide to make a meal of it. I can’t afford to give the chief exec the opportunity of portraying me as a loose cannon and risk members losing confidence in me.