She went behind my back, destroyed morale, then tried to hijack the company I founded.

The story of a hire gone very, very wrong, and how you can prevent it from happening as you grow your company.

It started when I needed a head of operations. We had three account managers, two sales reps, and a bunch of back-office delivery staff.

My head was exploding running from fires in delivery to fires in sales, and back again. I’d waited too long to solve the problem.

It wasn’t just small things falling through the cracks anymore. Customers were starting to churn at increasing rates – and that’s the beginning of the end for a business built on long-term relationships. It wasn’t just a problem for me. I owed it to my team. I didn’t have time to create an environment where they could grow.

So, I did what you’re supposed to do. Hire a head of operations.

But this was before I developed a good hiring process. So, I did what most people do. Maybe what you do: put out a job posting, collect resumes, interview the best three, pick the best one.

Spoiler alert: This is the crappiest way to hire. If you’re doing it this way, you’re asking for pain.

Job posting out, and resumes piled in. Over 50 of them. I felt pretty good – lots of options. I phone screened about a dozen, and interviewed three of them.

Felt pretty good.

Picked the best of the three. Amazing interview, and she fit the position to a “T” (or so I thought).
She seemed like a real go-getter who wanted to be promoted to COO after earning her stripes.

So I hired Charlotte (not her real name).

I would regret that decision for two years as the fallout from this one hire caused good team members to quit.

When Charlotte started I did do one thing right. I used the Scorecard that I had created to ensure her performance was matching with the company’s objectives.

As you’ll see in a bit, that saved my ass. Though not as much as avoiding the hire in the first place …
She started and on her first day was off to the races. Absorbing everything she could about the company, how it worked, the products, the sales process, how we delivered.

I got more confident by the day that this was going to be great. My team was cautiously optimistic.

After three weeks I’d watched her sit in on customer delivery calls, work with the team on their objectives, and do market research I’d never had the time to do. So I turned my attention to growing the company.

And that’s when things started to go downhill. Fast.

One of my sales reps had an uncanny ability to read people. She came to me and asked if I’d seen any change in Charlotte.

I hadn’t. I was busy with a six month backlog of projects that hadn’t gotten done.

I kept one eye out, but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I should have listened to a loyal staff member – but I was caught up in digging out. Bad.

Another week goes by, and an account manager pops in.

“Are you selling the company?” she asked.

“No, haven’t even thought about it”

“Oh, OK.”

“Why? Do you have any concerns”

“Just curious”

I didn’t think much of it.

Until the next week.

Second account manager comes into my office.

“So Charlotte is in charge, and we report to her?” she asks.

“Yes, she’s head of operations. Do you have a concern?”

“OK. No, nothing, no.”

Now I got paranoid. What was really going on?

In my meetings with Charlotte, she seems like she’s digging in. So why do things seem off?

I learned that the next day, when Charlotte was out for lunch and the entire team walked into my office.

“Are you giving the company to Charlotte?” they asked.


“Charlotte says that she’s running the company now, and she’s moving you out next month. And we’re all fired if we don’t help make it happen.”

I guess this is what a coup looks like.

After Charlotte returned from lunch I sat her down.

Asked her what was going on. “Just doing my job” she said.

I wasn’t in the mood to have this discussion. I opened the Scorecard I made when she joined. I asked her five questions from the scorecard – and I could let her go on the spot with no bickering. The criteria for success were clear, and she didn’t hit them.

It didn’t have to be a who-said-what situation.

I later learned she’d been micromanaging and verbally abusing the team the second I stepped out of the room.

The team bore the scars of that for a long time.

A few of them quit. The whole incident set the company back over a year as I waded back into the fray … And couldn’t hire another manager for a while.

And it was my fault. I let her in with a poor hiring process. I didn’t have a process to ensure the team was protected.
It made me gunshy for hiring managers for a while. Until I hired Adrienne as COO (yes, that’s her real name, and she’s a rockstar).

It also focused me on developing ironclad processes for hiring, managing, and letting go staff that avoided this kind of employee disaster.

If you haven’t done so – install processes for this. I do this for companies I work with because it’s mission critical.

Without a team you won’t go far.

Do it, and thank me later – for the coup that never happened at your company.

Discover a weekly list of short, actionable steps to get out of operational deadlock, build a self-managing team, grow strategically, and increase company value in the Boardroom Bulletin™.