Psychology Today: Here To Help




COMPANY:  Third Generation family business.  The Board consists of 9 cousins/inlaws.  There is a Hatfields vs McCoy conflict that is creating strategic paralysis, but the Board won’t bring in outside Directors.  The Hatfield faction got enough votes to fire Roy McCoy, CEO of the business.  Roy had been CEO for 23 years.

INTERVENTION:  The Board retained Stybel Peabody to conduct an external search for the next CEO.  This search included interviewing Mark McCoy (VP Sales) and Harry Hatfield (VP Finance) for the position.  Neither individual was recommended for the CEO role by Stybel Peabody.  A non-family executive was chosen to become the first non-family CEO for this business.

After the selection, Stybel Peabody worked with the corporate Board on how the Board could work with the new CEO.  The Board would not consider an Executive Committee.  But it did agree to appoint the leader of the Hatfield faction and the leader of the McCoy faction to act as liaison between the Board and the new CEO.  The leaders of the Hatfield faction would serve as Chairman of the Board during odd calendar years.  And the leader of the McCoy faction would serve as Chairman of the Board during even calendar years.  In this way the continuity of the business as a family run business would be maintained. 

All Board issues would first pass through this new liaison. 

The Board agreed to bring in one external member of the Board.

Tom President is the new CEO.  Working with him and the

Liaison group, the following program was developed.  “The First Hundred Days: rapidly linking the leader with the job” leverages our understanding of the company plus our being outside consultants.


  1. Aggressively remove “Buyers Remorse.”

Basic Theme:  “My mission from the Board is to keep Company a viable, profitable family business if that is the wish of the Board.  The goal is to build on what the last CEO has accomplished.  And when it is time for me to leave, my mission is to have a member of the family become CEO.”

Repeat the Basic Theme over and over again to anyone and everyone.

Honor the contributions of the last CEO.  Get him a great looking plaque, have a nice party.  Invite customers, suppliers, etc.  Bring in some people who might spoof him and videotape it.  For creative ideas, call movie and theater director Michael Allosso.  508-358-7896. 

The CEO will say he doesn’t want the party.  Don’t believe him!!

Line up the Board: involve the Liaison Group in the Initial Going-In Mandate.  The Going In Mandate becomes the framework for the CEO Board evaluation and how the bonus will be determined.

What is to be improved and what is the timeframe?

      What kind of performance would result in maximum bonus?

      What kind of performance would result in average bonus?

What is to be preserved?  (culture/values)

What is to avoided at all costs?  What products or people are untouchable?  Is Mark a sacred cow that can’t be touched?  Is the plant location a sacred cow that can’t be touched? 

What class of decisions can I make and inform the Board after the fact?

What class of decisions can I make but should and get Board input before decisions are made?

What class of decisions are really Board decisions?

Once there is verbal agreement, write up your understanding in the form of a memo. Give the liaison group copies.  Keep your copy.  

Ask the liaison group to keep an open mind to your coming back to them in sixty days to again review the Going In Mandate based on what you have learned over the last 60 days.

2.Dealing with Mark and Harry

Go to their offices individually.  Start with Harry first.  You want to get Harry’s honest reactions, uncolored by Mark’s reaction.

Don’t have them go to your office.  The office still will be perceived as “The Previous CEO’s Office” for a while. 

Repeat The Basic Theme.  Stress your sincerity in accomplishing The Basic Theme. 

As proof of your sincerity, suggest something concrete to position them to improve their ability to contribute to the company’s future.  Tell them you think them capable of higher-level contributions, etc.  You want them to think about what they need to get to that higher level. 


For Mark I recommend the Harvard Business School’s AMP Program or the Harvard Business School’s “Families in Business: from generation to generation.”

“Families in Business’ is $6,500 and takes place in November.  That time frame is good.

For more information, go to:

HARRY:  With Harry, I would recommend that the company underwrite his admission into the Financial Executives International and to attend one national conference a year. I would recommend the CFO National Summit sponsored by FEI.

Annual dues are $435 per year.  I can introduce Harry to the President-Elect of FEI and get Harry involved at a Committee level.

The goal is to develop a network of CFOs who are more senior than he is.  Harry needs more external perspective at this point in his career. 

In two years, you might tell him you are open to championing his admission to the Harvard Business School AMP Program or a similar program at Wharton, Amos Tuck, or Stanford.

I think Harry will be very pleased with this gesture.  I think he would take advantage of it.

With respect to Mark, I think he may not follow up.

 It doesn’t matter if he takes advantage of your gesture or not.

The key issue is to back up The Basic Theme with a concrete program to show the Board you mean what you say.

If Mark does nothing with your overture, you strengthen your hand with the Board if you and Mark come to loggerheads six months later.


Does the Company have a publicity function?  If not, I can draft a press release to go to alumni news group at Cornell University, The Harvard Business School, The Boston Globe, The Boston Business Journal and your local newspaper.  The same notice should also go to the following trade publications:  x, y, and z.


Other CEOs are good for bouncing ideas in a confidential setting.   

The Executive Committee  (  Contact Gordon White at 617 699-5995.  Gordon was a non-family CEO of a third generation family business.




Executives facing the corporate ax have come to expect a number of palliatives to blunt the initial pain of job loss: one-on-one career counseling, resume editing, and the use of company equipment, among others. Not nearly as well known but growing is a nontraditional form of retained search help. "Assimilation" consulting provides downsized execs that were high in a company's pecking order with several months of counseling -- -- at their former employer's expense -- on successfully settling into a new job.

Stybel Peabody Associates added what it calls its "First One Hundred Days" assimilation-counseling program to its standard retained search package last year.  

"VALUE-ADDED."  Why would an employer go this far for people it no longer wants -- even, in some cases, ensuring they do well at a competitor? One reason may simply be that retained search companies have persuaded them to do so with clever marketing. Assimilation counseling has been around for years, but it really began to catch fire about three years ago, says Michael Giuffrida, executive director of the Association of Career Management Consulting Firms International, a trade group in Washington, D.C. A roaring job market had lessened the need for career services, forcing companies in the competitive retained search business to find ways to distinguish themselves. Assimilation consulting seemed a good "valued-added," Giuffrida says.
The services differ in such details as the duration of the counseling. But in general, the retained search company pairs the executive with a coach, often a business veteran who has executive-level experience. The coach doles out advice on such matters as sizing up an unfamiliar corporate culture and prioritizing assignments, and also helps solve problems that emerge on the new job.

GOOD ADVICE.  "It was very helpful," says the president and COO of a Boston-area technology startup who used Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire's retained search services after he lost a top job at a larger company last year. The man, who asked not to be identified, says that after he joined the new company, he would speak to his coach, Stybel Peabody President Laurence J. Stybel, for about a half hour every week or so on the phone or over breakfast. The executive says he received good initial advice: Stybel urged him to ask for a clear understanding from his bosses -- the board of directors and company investors -- about their expectations for him. The result, he says, was a frank discussion about projects and employees they considered untouchable.

Stybel's guidance also came in handy when the new CEO needed to decide whether to fire several executives whose performance he considered only average. If he handed out pink slips at once, he risked scaring off about-to-be-snagged investors who would be concerned about holes in management. He weighed the pros and cons with Stybel, and decided to keep the executives -- and won the financing.

Assimilation counseling "gives you a better opportunity to understand what the road in front of you looks like and to help you steer the car down the middle of the road," says this COO. Better that, former employers no doubt reason, than causing yet another wreck on the career highway.

By Pamela Mendels in New York

THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS: a programmatic approach to rapidly increasing new leader effectiveness

Classic retained search is a transactional sale.  It stops once the newly hired executive crosses the threshold of the door of his/her new office. 

The better search consultants may call up to inquire, “How is It Going?” 

Our clients retain us because they are seeking competent leadership for their unique needs.  Search is only part of that process.

We have an integrated suite of programs we offer client companies under the heading of THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS:

Rapidly Linking the Leader with the Job.

Rapidly Linking the Leader with the Team.

Rapidly Linking the Leader with the Enterprise.

As part of our retained search work, we offer Rapidly Linking the Leader with the Team.  There is no additional charge when it is part of a retained search agreement.  It can be provided as a separate feature, independent of the search.

The other two modules can be purchased separately.

The framework behind Rapidly Linking the Leader with the Job is explained in our recent speech to the Financial Executives International.

That speech is called “Framed to Fail: how companies mis-structure new assignments and what you can do about it.”



Laurence J. Stybel, Ed.D. & Maryanne Peabody
Sixty State Street, S. 700

Boston, MA 02109

Tel. 617-371-2990




A Speech Given to the Financial Executives International National Conference, February 2002.



You have just been hired OR you’ve just hired someone from outside OR you have just promoted someone internally.

You want to build an initial framework for later success.

Key issues we will discuss include:

§         Looking at talent acquisition and talent departure as part of an assignment cycle framework.

§         What are the Difference Between Symmetrical and Asymmetrical assignment cycles?

§         What are the most productive things you can do in the first five days of a new assignment.

§         What is a Going-In Mandate? 

§         How do you Negotiate a Going-In Mandate and Why Would you Renegotiate it 20 Days Later?



For nearly 23 years, STYBEL PEABODY Has provided senior executive retained search services.

We are like pathologists with labs in a corner of the basement. 

Cadavers come down the elevator to us.  We do our pathology work in secret.   By this I mean we might be the only people who actually get a chance to talk to departing executives, bosses, and colleagues.  We discuss our findings with no one.  .

We develop a picture of what happened, when it happened, and why it happened.

We are also like the pathologist in the basement who finds that no doctor upstairs is interested in coming down to the basement to ask, “how did these patients die in the first place and how can we avoid this happening in the future?

We want to discuss what we have learned from our work in the basement pathology lab.


The retained search industry and the retained search industry treat the hiring of talent and the removal of talent as discrete transactions.

By transaction I mean that the symbolic event of the executive crossing the threshold of the door to his/her new office symbolizes that the service is over for both retained search and full service retained search.

What happens once the executive crosses that threshold is not their concern.

On the other hand, for us this is just when the fun begins.

The retained search and retained search industries are not being shortsighted.  They are merely responsive to the wishes of their corporate clients. 

We argue that there really is something called the senior executive assignment cycle.  To arbitrarily chop up these events into separate transactions can be expensively wrong, given costs of senior executive mis-hires.

Let me give you one example.

Professor Rakesh Khurana of the Harvard Business School examined the validity of treating departure events and arrival events as separate transactions.

Data from the Fortune 200 firms were reviewed from 1978 until 1993.

Professor Khurana examined three variables.

Variable number one was CEO Departure.  Departure was either Natural or Forced.

Natural Departure was defined as a press announcement stating that the CEO was retiring or resigning to join another company.

Forced Departure was defined as a press announcement stating that the CEO was resigning for personal reasons or to go into consulting or some other vague reason. 

Variable number two was CEO Arrival.  Internal promotions were defined as executives who had been with the organization more than 12 months before their selection.  External promotions were defined as executives who had been with the organization from zero to 11 months before their selection.

Variable number three was an outcome measurement.  This outcome measurement was defined as the annual operating return for the firm—that’s operating income before taxes, royalties, dividends, depreciation, etc.  Annual Operating Return is the number least subject to managerial manipulation.

There was an industry-adjusted basis for coding.

The company information was then tabulated over a 15-year period.


The 200 firms studied had 221 CEO turnovers during the 15-year period of observation.  Insider appointments were made 85% of the time.

Professor Khurana concluded that looking at the insider-outsider distinction might be meaningless without explicitly taking into account the conditions surrounding the departure of the predecessor.

Outside CEOs coming on the heels of the forced departure of the previous CEOs did best when achieving positive changes in operating return.  The hypothesis is that the Board is sending a signal to the entire management structure by the forced exit and the arrival of an outsider.  This reduces the initial period of resistance to change.  The significance of this effect was greater than the .01 level of confidence.

Forced removal of the CEO followed by the introduction of an insider tends to produce almost zero change. 

Natural CEO departure followed by an outsider actually results in performance declines.  This may be that the combination of natural exit with the arrival of an external CEO means the board is creating mixed messages about its commitment to change.  And this mixed message can result in the highest degree of management resistance to new interventions.

                                                SYMMETRICAL VERSUS ASYMMETRICAL ASSIGNMENT CYCLES(sm)

From our perspective, we view the shape of assignment cycles.  Symmetry is the forced expulsion of the previous CEO followed by the external hiring of the new CEO.  Symmetry is the natural retirement of the previous CEO followed by the internal promotion of the new CEO.

Asymmetry is the forced expulsion of the previous CEO followed by the internal hiring of a new CEO. 

This is the situation we are currently dealing with in a CEO search conducted by Stybel Peabody. 

The Board has concluded that the current CEO has not provided the direction needed for the 21 century and has fired him.  But they are going to hire an internal candidate to be the leader of that new change.  Their rationale is that the internal CEO can make the most rapid changes because he knows where all the problems are in the company.  The Board calls this “hitting the ground running.”  Using Professor Khurana’s research, we have told the Board that the CEO may expect to receive high levels of resistance to change because of the mixed messages communicated by the Board.   And there is work that needs to be done to anticipate and deal with this inevitable resistance.


We run a specific coaching program for new executives called The First Hundred Days (sm).  As part of our assignment cycle framework, it is offered as part of our retained search work and it is offered as part of our full service retained search work.

Why The First Hundred Days? (sm)

Most companies give a new manager a 60-100 day grace period to learn.  Towards the end of that 60-100 day period, however, the first significant intervention is expected.

Success during this critical first 60-100 days provides a scaffold to build later success.

Failure provides a probability that someone is going to light a bonfire under the scaffold.

There are three basic questions that must be answered at the start of a new assignment: what do I want to achieve, what do I want to preserve, and what do I want to avoid?

Let the initial "achieve/preserve/avoid" mantra put a framework around your actions for the first 5-20 days.

The answers to these questions are not intuitively obvious.

Indeed, you may have been given mis-information or incomplete information during the job interview.  We call this incomplete information “Framed to Fail.”

Job interviews often focus only on what needs to be changed, systematically avoiding the preserve/avoid component.  What needs to be preserved and avoided can nullify the ability to make the changes that are necessary.  For you are a new VP Compensation & Benefits: 

Your mission is to use compensation as a tool to change the corporate culture.  Our present status is that we are a functionally focused organization that is failing to pull together.  We want to create an organization where the Departmental managers are focused on customer retention and net income as the key matrix for success.  Of course, we have a strong paternalistic culture we wish to retain.  The CEO’s brother-in-law is the head of Sales.  Whatever you do, don’t get him upset!

Visually think of change in three dimensions with change/preserve/avoid being the dimensions. 

Here is a tip for Job Candidates:  It is a great interview tactic to ask employers change/preserve/avoid questions.  They love it.

Failure to get that clear road map in the first ten days of your new assignment means that you will eventually discover the three dimensions of change………by getting your fingers slapped as your interventions fail!

There is nothing wrong with getting your fingers slapped.  It is part of being a senior executive.


Failed interventions in the first hundred days of a new assignment don’t build that framework that allows you to have credibility. 

Avoidable failure also wastes precious time.


Our next concept is called The Going in Mandate.

We stress the programmatic, structured importance of negotiating AND then re-negotiating the Going-In Mandate.

During day 2-5 of the new assignment, the boss/subordinate team should meet to jointly complete the Going-In Mandate.  The going in mandate comes from Harvard Business School Professor Jack Gabarro’s seminal work on CEO entry.

The Going-In mandate should include the following:

                What needs to be changed and what is the time frame?

                What needs to be preserved?

                What needs to be avoided at all costs?

                What things can I unilaterally change without consulting my boss?

                What things should I consult my boss on before making changes?

                What things should I let my boss make the final decision?

These ideas are intuitively obvious but seldom part of a structured management procedure for insuring similar perspective between the new boss/subordinate team.

We are simply recommending that these obvious ideas be formalized.  


Professor Gabarro stresses the importance of building subordinates into a cohesive team. Failure to value a team approach to decision-making leads to a management style characterized by Gabarro as the "Lone Ranger Syndrome." And the Lone Ranger Syndrome was associated with management failure:

         "Compared to the successful managers, (Lone Rangers) involved others to a much lesser degree in the work of assessing and diagnosing organization problems. As a result, their diagnoses of situations tended to be much more narrowly focused and incomplete. Finally, they made changes that were perceived as inappropriate or ineffective, either because the changes were based on partial or incorrect diagnoses of problems or because the changes were badly implemented by a management group that did not support them."

In other words, your first 1-15 days, you should be walking around the organization and asking many questions.  Avoid summoning people to your office, as it creates a powerful first impression that you are here to tell and not to listen.  People may feel more comfortable talking with you in their office and not yours.

 Avoid all reference to “Let me tell you how we used to do it at my old company.”   It suggests you are seeking to force-mold your new company into the image of your old one.


Gabarro studied seventeen management successions over time.  Regardless of industry, size, or country, there was a tendency for management changes to come in waves of three, with the second change being the most dramatic.  The last change was often a refinement of the major changes that took place in the second wave. Indeed, this three-wave cycle took place even among managers in the study who (at the time) believed that their first wave of action would take care of most of the major changes.

 Gabarro believes the three-wave effect is a natural consequence of how new managers learn. 

Given that there are at least three waves of change for any new manager, it is NOT necessary for the first intervention to strike at the most "important" problem.

Important problems are what newly hired executives are most often urged to fix first.

We would argue, however, that the most important problems tend to be the most difficult to resolve.

 It is best to begin your new assignment with an intervention where you can win.  Use the first win to build on later success.  In handling a major intervention, consider breaking it down to waves of three.  For example:

For example, instead of force-feeding a system wide benefits change, why not first announce the change as an R&D project and try it out with the functional area where the change will most likely produce the most positive results?  By calling it an R&D project, you can later change the program without suffering loss of political face.  By testing it out in the area most likely to be receptive, you have a safer platform for extension. 


Reserve the most important problems for the second cycle of change.  The critical second cycle should build on the success of the first.  We recommend first cycle interventions focus on issues where there is a high probability of success. For example:

President Clinton did the right thing when he made allowing gays in the military his first major intervention:  he had campaigned on this issue, he had courted the support of gays, and he was Commander-in-Chief.  The firestorm of protest from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Conservative Democrats made him back down.  Big mistake.  By making gays in the military his first intervention and then loosing on the issue, he set an initial framework for his Adversaries.  That framework was successfully duplicated when he introduced his comprehensive health care program. 

On the other hand, by the time President George W. Bush came to power, both Democrats and Republications were embracing the concept of tax reduction.  The only squabbling was over the amount of the reduction. Bush made this issue his first intervention and it became his first success.  His goal was to build on bi-partisan success for next intervention----educational reform. 


As mentioned earlier, The Going-In Mandate should focus on timeframes and specific goals for Change/Preserve/Avoid.  Once it is written, however, the Going-In Mandate will likely need to be re

negotiated once the new executive has a better appreciation of what is realistic in the organization.  In managing a subordinate, you might want to ask the subordinate to re-write the Going-In Mandate based on what has been learned about the organization in the last 1-15 days.

Try to meet with your boss 16-20 days after the first day of employment to begin this renegotiation process.

You want your performance to be evaluated based on realistic goals. 

You don’t want to risk being Framed to Fail.


The retained search industry, the retained search industry, and the corporate clients both industries serve have a clear, simple, and inaccurate view of the talent acquisition and talent removal process.

They view these issues as discrete transactions.

We believe there is evidence to suggest that there is such as thing as the Senior Executive Assignment Cycle.

We believe that there can be competitive value by managing the Senior Executive Assignment Cycle rather than managing separate transactions.

Specifically, the success of the new executive is dependent on the message the organization sent in its removal of the predecessor.  Forced exit of a predecessor combined with the entrance of an outside executive sends a symmetrical signal.  Natural exit of a predecessor combined with entrance of an outside executive sends an asymmetrical signal. 

Spend time learning the conditions under which your predecessor left.  Beware of asymmetrical assignment cycles.

Spend the first 1-15 days learning what needs to be changed, avoided, and preserved by getting out of your office and walking around or flying around.  Avoid summoning people to your office.

Once you have learned what needs to be changed, avoided, and preserved re-negotiate the Going-In Mandate so that your performance can be evaluated on a realistic basis.  We have provided a structure for designing the going-in mandate.

Avoid tackling the most important problems first during the critical first hundred days.  Tackle the problems where you can win.

And if you find you misjudged the level of resistance, go to the mats and do what needs to be done to win the first conflict.  You can compromise on later conflicts.  Don’t compromise on the first.  This was the mistake Bill Clinton made with homosexuals in the military.

If your subordinate mis-judged the level of resistance on the first intervention, back that subordinate to the hilt on the first intervention.  Don’t compromise on the first intervention. 

Change comes in waves of three.  Try to break your intervention into three parts and use the first part to test the level of resistance within the organization.  Your second intervention will be that much more informed and realistic.

Finally, an assignment cycle perspective to employment means that senior level jobs tend to be driven by the company exit strategy.  Exit strategies can be to have a lifestyle business, to grow so that we can acquire others, grow so that we can be acquired, or grow to have an IPO. 

Have a crisp understanding of what that exit strategy and its time frame will be a powerful factor in influencing the quality of the assignment cycle.  

Negotiate hard for a decent severance package at the time you are hired.  You will never be in a better bargaining position to negotiate a good end to the cycle than at the beginning of the cycle.                                             

 Framed to Fail Part II: Managing Enemies, Chums, and Friends

Keen relationship management separates the merely competent from leaders who make their companies thrive.

Based on our consulting work with senior executives,  our First Hundred Days™ we want to provide a simple framework for categorizing work relationships. 

Why is a system for categorization of relationships important?

Consider the following scenarios:

You expect me to contact Jane??!!!  She contributed to my downfall.  Jane is not a friend!!

Yes, I wrote that stupid, off-the-cuff response.  Yes I sent it to Fred.  But I never expected Fred to show that Email to the CEO.   I considered Fred a friend!

What do you think about these two statements?


In the early phases of an intellectual discipline, categorization tends to be broad and imprecise.  For example, in the early days of mutual funds, the two categories were Equity Funds and Money Market Funds.  As the industry matured, more categories were created for ease of communications.  The popular nine-factor Morningstar system is a simple, useful system for categorization of equity funds:

SMALL CAP                        MID CAP                                              LARGE CAP




In relationship management, new executives often use broad and imprecise categories: friends versus enemies. 

Under prolonged stress, however, we have seen senior executives cognitively regress to the point of returning to this simplistic, dangerous categorization system:  friends versus enemies. 

When CEOs go through this type of cognitive regression with respect to how they categorize Board members, the end of that CEO’s assignment cycle is clearly in sight.

One of our roles during times of stress is to keep the categorization system alive.

A simple factor system for categorization of relationships adds to the precision of relationship management efforts.









This is a term often used by children.  It is possible to have many “Best Friends.”  “Best Friends” are those people who will love you regardless of your actual behavior.  They can be anchor points in your life.  Most of us count ourselves lucky to have one “Best Friend.”

Given the realities of business life, don’t look for “Best Friends” at work. 

We see many dysfunctional ties at work when CEOs begin to treat selected subordinates as Best Friends.

When there is a love relationship at work, it can introduce this kind of dysfunction.

Consider the Marriage Vows. 

This simple ceremony focuses on the non-contingency nature of the relationship: “In Sickness and in Health: For Richer or Poorer; For Better or Worse.”  Statistics would suggest that in the United States, 50% of newly weds may be marrying Friends and not Best Friends.


“Friends” is the most over-used term in business in the United States.  For some people in the United States, it has deteriorated to the point of being used to describe anyone you call by first name.

Our definition of “friend” is someone whose death would distress you to the point of tears or disorientation. 

For example:

Larry was involved in a project 25 years ago with Sam.  Over the years, they would meet and enjoy each other’s company.  But they probably had not met more than once every five years.  Each year Sam would send Larry a funny Christmas letter.  Upon hearing of Sam’s death, Larry became disoriented and sad.   He realized that his relationship with Sam had been far more emotionally positive for him than the brief time they spent together would suggest.  Sam was a friend and an important part of Larry’s landscape, despite their relatively infrequent visits.

Some sales professionals often find themselves profoundly upset when they misclassify a customer relationship: they thought they had Friends when they really had Allies.


Our definition of “Enemy” is someone who can be counted upon to work against your interests regardless of your behavior.  It is the mirror image of Best Friend.

In an unstable, insecure world, Enemies and Best Friends are reliable.

In addition to reliability, Enemies provide zest and self-definition.  Where would spies, sales professionals, soldiers, CEOs, and politicians be without good Enemies? 

Reliability, zest, and self-definition in an unreliable world are powerful even if the reliability is negative. 

This perspective helps provide a framework to comprehend why individuals, companies, and nations tend to hang-on to their Enemies.  It also rejects the classic psychoanalytic notion that we are attracted to enemies because they possess some of the attributes we cannot accept in ourselves. (Volkan, 1998).

As the world moves faster and assignment cycles get shorter, we will develop more enemies.  Reliability, zest, and self-definition are powerful.  I can more control my selection of Enemies than my selection of Best Friends.


An Adversary is someone who is working against your interests for reasons of self-interest.  If it is the person’s interest to assist you, the Adversary will turn into an Ally.

The key difference between an Adversary and an Enemy is that an Adversary’s negativity is based on the Adversary’s perception of enlightened self-interest.  Change the rules of the game and the Adversary can become an Ally.  For example, the heads of Sales and the head of Manufacturing are often political Adversaries because of their functional responsibilities.  It is not necessarily the case that they are Enemies.    

Variable compensation programs are often designed to incent Adversaries to become Allies.  For example, basing bonuses on achieving net income over a three-year period versus quarterly sales.  The rationale for the expansion of stock options as a variable compensation factor was to move enlightened self-interest from a functional perspective to an enterprise perspective.


When Adversaries have a positive emotional feeling towards each other, they can be called Chums.  For example, Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil and Republican Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole were political Adversaries.  But they enjoyed each other’s company so much they took vacations together and purchased condo units in the same building.


Allies positive support is contingency-based. 

During the 2002 War in Pakistan, the Northern Alliance of Pakistan fought with United States Forces to defeat the Taliban.  The defeat of the Taliban had been their objective, whereas the destruction of the terrorist network had been the United States objective.  With the defeat of the Taliban, the Northern Alliance eventually refused to participate with the United States’ continued its pursuit of Osma Bin Laden and his group.

When allies have positive emotional feelings towards each other, they can also be Chums.

It is a pleasure to have chums in business as long as the contingency basis for the relationship is kept in mind. 

When senior executives are terminated, we often find an emotional let-down when they discover that their “friends” do not return phone calls and are not helpful to them in their job searches.  They often externalize their reaction, blaming their problems on “false friends.”  In our model, however, the real source of the problem might lie in our clients’ misclassification of the relationship in the first place. 

Because of the contingency nature of the relationship, Allies and Adversaries can and do frequently shift position.


At the executive levels, work is intense and time demanding.  This intensity often leaves little room for strong emotional commitments outside the work situation or the nuclear family.   The intensity of work makes it easy to confuse Chums for Friends.  Fred’s betrayal of our client is an example of a client confusing Chumship for Friendship.  Friends don’t stab each other in the back.  But Chums will do so if it serves their interests.

Risk management in relationships suggests it is prudent to presume Chumship rather than Friendship. 

One can feel betrayed only by a friend or a Best Friend.  The contingency nature of Allies and Adversaries implies relationship fluidity.   

As senior level work moves from stability to an Assignment Cycle (tm) flow, accurately differentiating Friends from Chums and Enemies from Adversaries become key issue in the first hundred days of a new assignment.

Do not waste scarce time or political capital trying to turn Enemies into Allies.  Enemies tend to remain Enemies.  As stated earlier, Enemies provide both sides with zest, self-definition, and predictability in an unpredictable world.  Those are heady reinforcements that are hard to turn-around.  Use your scarce time for other purposes. 

It is easier to isolate Enemies by converting Neutrals into Allies.  Neutrals can be converted to allies by appealing to their enlightened self-interest.   

It is reasonable to spend time for purposes of retaining Allies.  Given the contingency nature of the relationship, never take Allies’ future support for granted. 

Do not confuse Adversary with Enemy.  In our model, Adversaries can easily become Allies if it serves their self-interest.  Thus our client who refuses to contact Jane may be missing an opportunity.  Effective relationship management requires clear distinction between Adversaries-Enemies.  If you are too close to the situation to be objective, get an external opinion.

Adversaries become Enemies if you treat them as Enemies.  Enemies remain enemies regardless of how you treat them.


Keen relationship management is the differentiator between competence versus effectiveness.   Effective relationship management requires a framework for easily categorizing work relationships and then quickly dealing with those relationships in a meaningful way.


Dr. Laurence J. Stybel and Maryanne Peabody are co-founders of Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire of Boston.  Founded in 1979, the firm assists companies in managing the Senior Executive Assignment Cycle ™.  Core services include retained search of CEOs and Board members, coaching, and helping senior executives craft new chapters in their professional lives.  Their website is


V.D. Volkan.  THE NEED TO HAVE ENEMIES & ALLIES.  Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1988.