A List of Ten Reasons Why the CEO Has to Go

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet
11/15/09

on the List is: The CEO didn’t bother to learn FINA protocols before hosting Junior World Championships and as a result he placed his foot in his mouth or should I say the USAWP’s mouth several times. The worst episode was when he placed the referees in a hotel close to the airport and when the referees complained of having limited transportation to the tournament someone in the CEO’s entourage said “Let them rent a car”! This ranks right up there with Marie Antoinette famous words, “Let them eat cake”. These referees are probably the same international referees who will be refereeing our games in the 2012 Olympics.

on the list is: As I have said before the CEO is a reactive rather than a proactive person and at this point in time we need someone as the CEO of USAWP who is proactive. We need someone who can stay in front of issues that might cause the USAWP harm so he or she can solve them and in front of those issues that will do the USAWP a great amount of good so he and she can capitalize on them. This person needs to be a creator and a doer and not an imitator or a procrastinator. We absolutely don’t need someone who is so far behind the issues that he or she has to spend half of his or her time creating excuses and/or bandages for the miscalculated or bad things that have happened on his or her watch.

on the list is: In order to get the money for the present web site the CEO told the Board of Directors that the current USAWP web site was going to be the "Mother of All Web Sites" and that it would solve many of the USAWP problems. How much did this fiasco cost the USAWP? Moreover the new Chief Marketing Officer said, "Begin the lengthy process of revamping our web site to create a resource that is informative, interactive, and easy to navigate.  We need to better serve our members and constituents through this important communication mechanism, and it needs an overhaul." What do you think the new web site is going to cost the USAWP to replace the “CEO’s Folly?

on the list is: The USA earned 2 silver medals in the Olympics and we did not pick up any meaningful sponsors despite paying a full time marketing manager.  Four years with a professional marketing manager yielded only minor sponsorships from organic ear drops and kinesio tape. If the CEO would have pushed the marketing manager to work just half as hard as the players on the US Men’s and Women’s Teams did to win the medals then she would have won some major sponsorship as well. In fact prudent management suggests that we would have experienced a larger net gain eliminating the marketing managers’ position and donating the salary saved directly to the Men's National Team and the Women's National Team programs.

on the list is: Should a CEO fire a staff member for doing what the CEO not only tells her to do but also tells her that he will take the blame? What if the staff member has this CEO’s action documented in writing? Couldn’t we say that such a CEO is not only a hypocrite but is also a hypocrite that is not very smart? People have also told me that they wouldn’t treat their worst enemy the way the CEO treats his immediate office staff. Maybe three times is a charm because that is the number of Chief Marketing Officers he has hired in the last three years. I thought picking the right person for the right position was all about good judgment. The constant staff turnover is an indication of bad internal management. People do not leave jobs in a bad economy unless forced to do so.

on the list is: Growth of water polo is listed as a critical mission of USAWP.  The regional directors of sports development were a failure because 2 out of 3 directors resigned within 2 years and, more importantly, there was no real growth into new areas of the country. The new national Director of Sports Development has a different game plan so we have essentially wasted 4 years of salaries on an ineffective regional development plan. ”? Where is this money coming from? We all know money doesn’t grow on the blue and yellow stripes of a USAWP water polo ball.

on the list is: Yes it is true the USAWP has moved forward since the current CEO was hired. But the million dollar question is how much further forward would we have been had we hired someone who had real leadership skills, someone who really could mould the organization into a winning team, someone who could have connected with current and present players and coaches, and someone who did not ignore the legacy of the past. Where would we be right now in terms of real fundraised dollars, in terms of membership growth, in terms of major sponsorships, and in terms of the number of water polo teams not just from California but also water polo teams from outside of California?  Under this CEO we have lost more than just money, time, and effort but we have also lost the camaraderie of being a part of a close knit water polo community and we have lost the soul of what it means to be players, coaches, referees, and fans of water polo.

on the list is: At the last World Championship the CEO had a chance to stand up for women’s water polo but instead he kept silent. In my estimation with his silence he committed a sin of omission rather than a sin of commission against women’s water polo and his silence also gave the TWPC tacit permission to treat women’s water polo as a second class sport again. Women’s water polo in this country and internationally has always stood on the shoulders of the those that came before them and because the CEO did not provide any shoulder for women’s water polo to stand on they will not be flying as high as they could have been. Moreover there is not one single female to this day on the TWPC. It appears at the World Championship the CEO was so busy trying to keep Bill Frady off of the TWPC that everything else on his mind became either insignificant and/or a minor detail.

on the list is: As of today the CEO has never answered the difficult questions that were asked of him by me and several members of the USAWP. You will note that both the Sport Developmental Director and the Chief Marketing Officer just finished answering a whole slew of very difficult questions created by the gang at WPP. (I guess three people who created the questions could be considered as a gang?). I have always been told that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t one the main reasons we voted to adopt the new organizational structure so the people in charge could and would be held accountable for their actions?

 on the list is: In my article "New Bylaws Say Bye-Bye to the USWP as We Know It" here is what I said about having a “no cause dismissal contract” for the CEO of the USAWP three years ago:

"It is going to be hard enough already to find a person for this position without handicapping it with the notion that the person can be fired by the Board of Directors without cause. The last person who I thought could have actually done this job exceedingly well could walk on water and even this person was eventually crucified by the people he was trying to help.

In a mega-corporation for profit it would be understandable to have the CEO to honor such a clause. Because in that CEO's contract there is also a healthy severance pay clause as well. Remember CEO's for mega-corporations are making mega-bucks.

What well qualified person in his or her right mind would sign a contract for a non-profit organization with such a clause in it? Please note that if you hire a person that wants this job so badly that he will sign such a contract then you have hired a person that wants the job so badly that he or she will do anything to keep it including being a sycophant to the Board of Directors. We don’t need a person in this position who is more interested in pleasing the Board of Directors than he is in helping water polo grow and prosper in this country.

Take this clause out of Article 14 and I would be willing to bet you ten Tom Seitz’s to one Bruce Wigo that the competency level of your candidate pool would go up two levels. Remember that old Jim Croce’s lyrics of the song, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim”. It goes something like this “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape; You don’t spit into the wind; You don't pull the mask of the old Lone Ranger; You don’t make a CEO of a non-profit organization sign a contract with the clause “can be fired without cause” in it; Or you won’t be able to hire a well qualified her or him.”