Jack Griffin's breathtakingly brief stint as CEO of Time Inc. is yet another example of the wrong person being in charge of the wrong place at the wrong time.
Griffin was cherry-picked from Meredith Publishing's magazine division to be a change agent and was the very first CEO in Time's storied history to come from outside the company. He lasted all of six months.
The reasons why are obvious in hindsight. According to reports, Griffin's brusque management style rubbed the establishment the wrong way. Several high-ranking executives bolted almost immediately. Others resented some of Griffin's seemingly insensitive words and actions. To wit:
– He retained strategy consultants to help identify what was broken. Old-timers saw that as an indication Griffin wasn't up to the job.
– He insisted his name appear at the top of every Time publication's masthead. (Even this egocentric blogger would never contemplate such hubris.)
– A devout Catholic, he likened Time Inc. to the Vatican as a way of illustrating its prestige and might. (That analogy might have worked well during the Spanish Inquisition, but certainly not now.)
– In his first town hall meeting, he joked that he “…finally worked at a company where he could read the magazines,” a remark that offended many women since his erstwhile employers publishes such titles as Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal.
As someone once said, success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Griffin is taking the fall for a mistake that should be pinned squarely on the shoulders of the board of directors. They hired him. They misread his talents and management style as well as the culture of the organization. But, the board stays put while Griffin licks his wounds and decides how best to invest his handsome severance.
The real loser in this charade is Time's already-battered image. In an era when magazines are struggling mightily to stay afloat, it's critical to find a leader who listens and learns before acting. That said, desperate times call for desperate measures. So, if any readers know of a CEO who can turn around a set of floundering magazines while not offending the firmly-entrenched establishment, please alert the Time Warner board of directors. Something tells me they can use all the help they can get.