Business

When Two Leaders on the Senior Team Hate Each Other.

Rahul Jain Rahul Jain

The feedback in the 360-degree reviews was supposed to be anonymous. But it was crystal clear who’d made the negative comments in the assessment of one executive.

Lance Best, the CEO of Barker Sports Apparel, was meeting with Nina Kelk, the company’s general counsel, who also oversaw human resources. It had been a long day at the company’s Birmingham, England, headquarters, and in the early evening the two were going over the evaluations of each of Lance’s direct reports. Lance was struck by what he saw in CFO Damon Ewen’s file. Most of the input was neutral, which was to be expected. Though brilliant and well respected, Damon wasn’t the warmest of colleagues. But one person had given him the lowest ratings possible, and from the written remarks, Lance could tell that it was Ahmed Lund, Barker’s head of sales. One read: “I’ve never worked with a bigger control freak in my life.”

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Lance sighed. Five years earlier, when he’d stepped into his role, he’d been focused on growing the company that his father, Eric — the previous CEO — had founded. Barker had licensing deals with sports leagues to make merchandise with their logos and partnered with large brands to produce it for retail markets, and when Lance took the company over, its revenues were about £100 million. Soon after, he’d landed the firm’s biggest partner, Howell. Negotiating the deal with the large global brand had been a challenge, but it increased business so much that Lance and his direct reports still felt as if they didn’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. They certainly didn’t have time for infighting like this.