The Scariest Business Question Ever.



I’ve been around large corporate environments. I’ve worked for some powerful people. I’ve seen what it take to reach the top. I’ve seen what it takes to stay on top. And I’ve also seen what a precipitous fall from the top looks like.

I say this as I read about the ouster of Disney’s Thomas Stagg, the heir apparent to Robert Iger. Did he see it coming? Did he know he wasn’t meeting expectation? When you are that high up in a company, do you know upon what you are being judged? It’s rarified air up there.

Remembering friends who ascended the mountaintop and were removed while reading about the sturm and drang at Disney has me thinking about adding a question to my business planning discovery questionnaire.

Here it is:

“If you were to be removed from your current position by the CEO or board of directors, to what would you attribute the firing?”

Freud doesn’t allow powerful men and women a wonderful night’s sleep without a few “naked-in-school-without-your-homework” dreams, so C-level executive think about this stuff. Don’t let them off the hook if they answer with high drama scenarios. Make them talk metrics.  That said, don’t allow them one-word answers like “growth” or “stockholder value.” Probe it. Ask them to storify it.

I’m thinking this is rich and richer territory. I can’t wait for my next assignment to try it out.