Skip to main content
leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Whenever a new CEO is brought in, the entire executive team is in jeopardy. Funny, most people think that an executive position is secure. In fact, the opposite is true. The most vulnerable place to be in a time of leadership change is in an executive office.

The new CEO always wants to make their mark; the place they typically start is with the strategic plan and organization structure.

In a turbulent period for telecom companies, I survived three new CEOs in as many years. I went through three rounds of new leadership turmoil and managed to stay alive.

It didn't happen by accident. I had a plan to stay relevant and unique and to not do anything stupid that would put my long-term opportunities in jeopardy.

I have shared two chapters of my personal leadership story with my readers over the past several months; this is a third.

Telus Corp., a national Canadian telecom player, was born in 1999 out of a merger between two Western telcos and the hunt for a CEO to lead the new company was on.

After a few months of intensive search a CEO was selected. He set about to quickly create a new strategy for the organization using the existing executive team to do it. Quite a challenge when you consider that each one of us knew that our future was at stake in terms of the quality of our individual contributions to the strategy creation process.

After an extensive review process we finally defined a future that the new guy was excited about. "We will unleash the power of the Internet" was declared with the priority of placing the data world ahead of traditional voice services.

Structure follows strategy, so the next step was to define the organization structure that would best allocate resources to deliver our strategy. The CEO was again pumped with what we came up with.

I was solidly behind the shift to the data world and leveraging Internet opportunities, but I was less than impressed with the organization structure he proposed. It was a structure I had "lived with" in my previous life and could see the pluses and minuses.

When asked whether I could support the proposed structure, I asked for time to consider it before declaring my position.

One of my peers virtually condemned it and with his "outside voice" declared his non-support; he left the company soon thereafter.

A previous president once told me "Roy, if your boss puts forward what you consider to be a 'dumb idea', you only have two choices: one, support it and try to make it work; or two, leave."

I took the former position and worked hard to see the new structure succeed. It did, and is in place to this day. And the strategy that we developed is alive and well.

My role in the new organization: executive vice-president and chief marketing officer. I suspect there was a reward factor at play in my appointment; I was definitely okay with it. Score one for trusting the capabilities of the leader and focusing on executing his vision as opposed to advancing your own personal agenda.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead, dedicated to helping organizations and individuals stand out from the competitive herd.