The ‘Working’ Dead: Zombie Executives
Zombie employment sneaks up on seemingly healthy executives in innocuous ways. Like “walkers” on the popular TV series The Walking Dead, what starts out quietly under the radar can grow insidiously, eventually wreaking havoc if not decisively beheaded.
In almost 20 years of recruiting management teams for venture capital backed cyber security companies I’ve inevitably encountered a number of zombie executives. It’s scary to witness incipient management team necrosis, and I’ve seen it happen in a variety of circumstances. To extend the Zombie metaphor while offering a bit of retrospection, here are a couple of the real biggies:
Ricktatorship: remember that episode…? “Let’s get one thing straight… if you’re staying, this isn’t a democracy anymore”… Well, like Sheriff Rick Grimes in that episode of the Walking Dead, too many leaders fail to recruit and nourish a collaborative, balanced team, and then find themselves making unilateral decisions that disenfranchise key employees. Damaged morale spreads like a virus.
Staffing strategically: a failure to recruit systemically against a well thought out and carefully implemented staffing plan is like ringing the dinner bell to invite the zombies in… just a few at first, but then watch out! Planning in advance to recruit talent that can scale before the weak links in the fence break actually devours less energy, and empowers e-staff to help their boss in crisis times – a total win/win, and of paramount importance in maintaining “walker free” employment hygiene.
Post M&A Necrosis: often entrepreneurial founders stay too long at the acquiring company, where remaining at a big company rips into their creative nature, eating away at the innovative thinking that that made them successful in the first place, and turning them into … wait for it… The Working Dead!
Zombie “startups” … don’t even get me started on this topic (okay, maybe in a future post…)