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The CEO and the Three Envelopes

By Kevin on September 3, 2010 in Uncategorized
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A new CEO was hired to take over a struggling company. The CEO who was stepping down met with him privately and presented him with three numbered envelopes. “Open these if you run into serious trouble,” he said.

Well, three months later sales and profits were still way down and the new CEO was catching a lot of heat. He began to panic but then he remembered the envelopes. He went to his drawer and took out the first envelope. The message read, “Blame your predecessor.” The new CEO called a press conference and explained that the previous CEO had left him with a real mess and it was taking a bit longer to clean it up than expected, but everything was on the right track. Satisfied with his comments, the press – and Wall Street – responded positively.

Another quarter went by and the company continued to struggle. Having learned from his previous experience, the CEO quickly opened the second envelope. The message read, “Reorganize.” So he fired key people, consolidated divisions and cut costs everywhere he could. This he did and Wall Street, and the press, applauded his efforts.

Three months passed and the company was still short on sales and profits. The CEO would have to figure out how to get through another tough earnings call. The CEO went to his office, closed the door and opened the third envelope. The message said, “Prepare three envelopes.”

– Kevin

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Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author and keynote speaker. Get more success and tips from his newsletter at kevinkruse.com and check out keynote video clips. His new book, Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.

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