I get anxious stares from my seminar attendees when I say, “If you are not in a steady state conversation with your boss, you do not have a relationship with him or her.”  I go on to say, “If there is no relationship, then there is no trust, and you will either fail or not achieve your highest potential.”  I’m trying to get their attention to the all-important role of conversations in their life and career success.  These comments are echoed by Leanne Atwater and me in our new book, Applied Leadership Development:  Nine Elements of Leadership Mastery, scheduled for release on December 14th.

In our book, we link the work of conversation gurus Susan Scott and Kim Krisco with the insights of neuroscientist Paul Zak.  We conclude that a leader’s job is to manage conversations with people and through these conversations vital relationships are formed and nurtured.  Trust emerges from the relationships as people observe behaviors that are consistent with their expectations.  In turn, trust has been proven to be the leading indicator of success in just about any situation.  So, between and among people, if there are no conversations, there’s no relationship, and there’s no trust—failure is just a matter of time.

This week Chris Viehbacher, the highly successful CEO of French pharmaceuticals giant, Sanofi, was abruptly ousted by the board.   By all accounts Viehbacher was a high-performing CEO during his six-year tenure with the company.  Under his stewardship, the company’s share price more than doubled, market presence broadened internationally, particularly in the US where sales make up roughly 30% of revenue, and the pipeline of new products strengthened.

Why would a board fire a star CEO like Viehbacher?  From various news reports of what led up to this week’s action, we can conclude that it’s all about the quality and frequency of conversations between the CEO and the board of directors, i.e., his bosses.  Here are some of the statements made about the board’s justification for its action:

  • … because of his management style and poor relationship with the board

  • … lack of communication … from a solitary, secret CEO

  • … there was not an exchange of ideas with the board

  • … there was a lack of trust; the relationship was not close enough

Observers never truly know why actions like these occur in boardrooms.  In this case, all indications are that it’s was all about the conversations.  Are you talking to your boss?

Read more about Sanofi’s board action 

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