I Accidentally Connected with My Boss on LinkedIn. Should I Disconnect?

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I can't tell you the number of times clients have asked me a variation of this question:

Jared,

I'm not sure how it happened, but it appears that my [current boss] is a first-degree connection on LinkedIn. I usually don't accept connections from people I'm currently working with. Let alone, my boss!

Is there a way to remove him without any notice?

Jane

Here was my email response to this tricky matter; edited for confidentiality.

Hi Jane,

Ah, the conundrum of removing a connection, and what it all means. Let's think it out.

As a member of the C-suite, yourself, what's the harm? Does it really hurt to be connected to your CEO? Here's a somewhat long-winded reason why it might not matter.

For starters, remember to always think of LinkedIn as a tool for business, not an online résumé. Even though LinkedIn fancies itself as just that—an online résumé (and then wonders why more people don't engage)—executives should not treat LinkedIn as an online résumé. This fundamental misconception will continue to dog LinkedIn until they realize the inherent problems with people, especially senior professionals, treating their profiles as online résumés. Too many potential serious pitfalls.

That said, I'm increasingly writing LinkedIn profiles for executive suites—meaning the entire C-suite contracts me to write profiles that complement each other, while demonstrating the collective credibility to customers, stakeholders, and other key external audiences.

While a simple 4-6 paragraph executive bio on a company's website is common and perfectly fine, a LinkedIn profile—perfectly conceived in concert with other members of a team—is like an executive bio on steroids.

"LinkedIn for Business" profiles can outline company priorities and initiatives (so long as they're okay to share publicly), champion a workforce, reinforce a company's culture and values, and a host of other beneficial non-self-serving purposes. (Because if they were self-serving, we'd expect that the profile owner was looking for a job, no?) 

"LinkedIn for Business" profiles can also help unify employees around their leadership, which has become critically important in a social-sharing age when employees can anonymously champion or anonymously trash their employer with a few keystrokes.

Keep in mind that we wrote your profile so it "champions the business and demonstrates your credibility at [Company Name]." Right? But remember that there's a byproduct to that approach, especially as you're looking to conduct a stealth job search.

It just so happens that retained search firms—the ones who hold the keys to the best and most interesting executive leadership roles—love that kind of approach because they want to imagine that they're "finding and plucking happy people" into roles that those people might see as a good next step in their career. (Also, they won't likely realize your "LinkedIn for Business" profile was written with them in mind, even though we wrote it to appear as if you are happy at CompanyX.)

You might even suggest that you take it a step further and truly change the way you think about and use LinkedIn, so it actually becomes a tool for business. This might mean, then, that you'd connect with other senior leadership—and even champion the "LinkedIn for Business" idea to peer leaders. (Just omit the "positioning for recruiters" idea. They don't need to now that part, and the profiles will still serve everyone very well.) 

Maybe the whole leadership team models their profiles after yours and creates a complementary story? It's where I see LinkedIn going, whether LinkedIn knows it or not. They'll figure it out someday.

If you still want to remove the connection.

So, if you're still intent on severing the connection, here's LinkedIn's help page. (Better to let them do the talking.)

There, LinkedIn states that removing a connection won't notify that person that they've been removed. However, circling back to the technical glitch issue, you just never know. A client experienced a pretty miserable event in 2007, and when he reached out to LinkedIn their response was "technical glitch." Alas, that "technical glitch" caused all sorts of awkwardness for him. Ever since I've used LinkedIn as if something could go awry at any moment.

Which all makes me wonder. What if your CEO already knows that you're connected, and then somehow notices that you've severed the connection. Would that plant a seed of doubt? Or open up more of an awkward conversation than if you left it alone?

Final thoughts.

Only you can make the decision, but I hope these ideas will help you work through the pros and cons. As for the C-suites starting to use LinkedIn as a credibility builder / tool for business, they're looking at what their profiles say to all of the audiences I discuss in my various tutorials. How will regulators view the material? Will the press find it helpful? Will analysts read between lines and make predictions? Are any of the profile accidentally giving away competitive information? How will the many potential readers regard a leadership team's profiles as a set? You remember all of my many warnings, no doubt.

Take care!

Jared 

How Important is P&L Management for Up-and-coming CEOs?

Imagine you've had a storied leadership career to date. You're hovering around the 18-22 year mark ... right at that point when a retained executive search firm approaches you about a great next step: successor CEO for a company where the founding CEO is participating in a search to replace him.

The stakes are high and you're interested.

After being vetted by the search firm, your first official meeting (don't call it an interview!) is dinner with the founding CEO. Skip to the front of the line! 

Before you order the first appetizer, he ask you this: "So how large of a P&L have you managed?"

You freeze. 

You've managed 400 people globally. You've managed budgets totaling 50 million dollars. You've mentored 12 high performers into senior leadership roles. You've driven several billions of dollars in annual revenue for crying out loud!

But you have to confess: "Well, I've never officially managed a P&L."

The founding CEO doesn't beat around the bush: "Well why the hell did they send you to me?!" 

Dinner is over early.

This is a compilation of two people in my experience; both of whom had careers that many might consider exceptional. They both continue doing impressive work in tech. They're game changers in their fields.

But the P&L hiccup held lessons for both. Three lessons, in fact. One, P&L management matters. Two, not all search firms are built equally (the firm should have done better). Three, the CEO in question might have been short-sighted by not exploring a bit further.

The important lessons are still there for all to see.

Note that both came from flat organizations and neither had previously realized the importance of P&L management experience, nor been handed P&L authority. Both were walked to the door when they should have been walking through it. Both are now looking for ways to get their hands around P&L management ASAP so the issue doesn't flare up again.

BlueSteps.com underscores the importance P&L management experience holds for senior executives.

BlueSteps.com underscores the importance P&L management experience holds for senior executives.

As an aside, I recently began researching how many CEOs in the Fortune 500 founded their own companies or firms in the early parts of their careers, and the percentage is becoming convincing. Guess what starting your own company or firm involves? P&L management.

BlueSteps.com's "5 Characteristics a Senior Executive Must Possess to Assume P&L Responsibility" 2010 article still resonates today. Important read for management professionals with an eye on the C-suite or senior executives with a gap or two to fill before reaching CEO.

Are CEOs Born or Molded?

Those considering the C-suite, and particularly the role of CEO, will do well to read Korn Ferry Institute's recent article, "Formative Experiences May Be Key for CEO Readiness." 

As an executive résumé writer and career coach who has long-worked with Fortune 50 executives, I've also long-noticed that CEOs—somewhere in their early careers—either founded a company and drove it to success, or in some other way faced a wall of professional accountability that might have crushed their peers. 

I've noticed and wondered about it so much, in fact, that I have a researcher looking at the backgrounds of current Fortune 500 CEOs to see if this hypothesis holds any merit. 

Meanwhile, Korn Ferry Institute may have shortcut my research. The article is worth a read for professionals with an Eye on the C-suite.  Here's a glimpse into the key takeaway. 


When an MBA Isn't Enough: Learning From the Masters

My Twitter feed served up a great INC.com tweet yesterday: 19 CEOs That (sic) Will Teach You How to Run the World. 

From Ben Horowitz' "the hard thing about hard things is that they don't have a formula" to Jason Fried's coauthored startup book, 'Rework.' (If you missed it, be sure to catch my recent mention of Jason Fried's not-to-be-missed December 2012 blog post about the role mistakes play in our lives.)

Check out a snippet of INC's article below, then click over to read the full story. I just ordered two of the books and clipped the page to Evernote for future reading.

Article screenshot of INC.com's "19 Books by CEOs That Will Teach You How to Run the World."

Article screenshot of INC.com's "19 Books by CEOs That Will Teach You How to Run the World."

Must Read: Heidrick & Struggles' CEO Report for 2015

Heidrick & Struggles tweeted this morning a link to their 2015 CEO Report: Embracing the Paradoxes of Leadership and the Power of Doubt.

If you're a CEO, or well on your way, this quite simply is one not to miss. 

An excerpt from Heidrick & Struggles' 36-page The CEO Report, downloadable at no cost.

An excerpt from Heidrick & Struggles' 36-page The CEO Report, downloadable at no cost.


New Data from Heidrick & Struggles for C-suite Members Considering a Fortune 500 Board Directorship

C-level clients sometimes ask how to get on a board of directors. Like it's an easy thing. And yes, there are differences between executive résumés and board director résumés.

But the question is a good one, because every journey begins with a single step.

If you're thinking what a Fortune 500 board directorship might look like, Heidrick & Struggles yesterday released their Four Boardroom Trends to Watch. The downloadable publication presents an interesting breakdown including new seats filled, average age of directors, percentage of directors who are current or former CEOs and CFOs, and more.

Here's a preview:

From Heidrick & Struggles Board Monitor: "How the Most recent cohort of Fortune 500 board appointments is shifting the landscape in board composition, diversity, and talent."

From Heidrick & Struggles Board Monitor: "How the Most recent cohort of Fortune 500 board appointments is shifting the landscape in board composition, diversity, and talent."

If you're quietly considering whether the future might hold a board directorship—two, five, or even ten years down the road—this is a laser-focused resource for those considering a board directorship.