My colleague Deb Brown is launching her own blog today. It's called Stand-up Executive, can be found at www.standupexecutive.com and, like Repman, will be dramatically different from the plethora of PR blogs that either opine on the news of the day, tell you what you already know or hype the agency's latest survey.
Deb's blog will explore the amazing ways in which some forward-looking executives are using comedy and humor to differentiate themselves, display their own vulnerability and, critically, enhance morale and productivity within their organization. Like me, though, Deb will be just as quick to share examples of the old school, top down, slash-and-burn a**holes who still sit in the corner office of many Fortune 1000 organizations.
In tomorrow's Stand-up executive blog, for example, Deb will examine the surprisingly large numbers of psychopaths who also happen to run major organizations. (A recent survey revealed there are more diagnosed psychopaths in the C-suite than there are in psychiatric wards. Why am I not surprised?).
I worked for the mother of all psychopaths. Or, should I say the father? The CEO, who I'll call Al in the interests of confidentiality, was a massive, former NFL lineman who physically, mentally and psychologically intimidated people, and got his jollies by doing so.
While you could set your watch by the number of outbursts Al would have on any given day, my favorites included:
- The firm's annual international partners meeting circa 1988. I was responsible for the event logistics and various speeches. The CEO stayed up late the night before inspecting my handiwork and not going to bed until he was convinced everything was perfect. So, imagine my surprise the next morning when, one by one, he began berating the poor performances of each region's partners. He ranted at the Brits and hurled croissants at the French. (I kid you not. He'd specifically asked me to have croissants set at his head table). But, this psychopath saved his best performance for the final delegation: the Mexican partners. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he shouted, "And you f*cking Mexicans. You a**holes haven't won a damn thing since The Alamo!'
- The next example occurred when he pulled me into his office and had me dial the head of our London PR firm. My CEO wanted to know why we weren't generating more publicity. I connected to Nigel and asked him to hold. (Al was signing papers his secretary had just brought in). Not knowing Nigel was listening to every word, Al screamed over to me, “I hate the f*cking Brits. They always expect us to save their asses and this a**hole is no different.” I frantically waved my arms at Al to let him know the phone line was live. The CEO suddenly realized Nigel had heard every word. “You there, Nigel?” asked Al. “Yes, Al. I heard you,” stammered Nigel. Al laughed out loud and said, “Good, now get us some f*ucking clips or you're gone!”
- Another incident concerned this blogger. I had been kicking ass, but hadn't received a raise in two years. So, I confidently strolled into Al's office and asked for one. His subsequent explosion could be heard as far away as St. Louis. At the end of a good, 15-minute long tirade, Al told me I wasn't worth half my salary and should be ashamed every morning I looked in the mirror. Needless to say, there was no pay raise.
This particular psychopathic CEO was never purposely funny, but his lack of formal schooling led to a few hilarious, if unintended, gaffes. Once, when reviewing a newly-published sales brochure, Al asked me the distribution strategy. “We'll be sending it en masse to all audiences simultaneously, Al,” I responded with a smile. He nodded cautiously. “So, who gets it when?' He queried. I repeated my answer. That's when he blew his top, slammed down his hand and screamed, “Who the hell is this guy, Moss, and why does he get special treatment?”
Psychopaths are a breed apart.
For more insights on the intentionally and unintentionally funny CEOs in our midst (and the critical role comedy can play in communicating truth, changing organizational culture and enhancing authenticity, check out Deb's blog). FYI, it'll be distributed en masse.