Lilian T. – When Stocks, Money And A Promotion Are Not Enough, But Making A Difference Is

By Hassan M. Al-Sharif, CIO at Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc.

In the mid-1990’s I was hired as an executive to oversee a major global initiative by one – at the time – Silicon Valley household names and a Wall Street darling.

Arguably, at that time this initiative was one of the largest of its kind in the industry and I had accountability for its global IT implementation.

My boss was the CIO of the largest division of the company and had entrusted me with the technology implementation of that fairly complex global effort.

Not 2 weeks into the job, I happen to walk into my boss’s office and find him somberly conferring with the EVP of Worldwide Operations.

Upon delicately inquiring about the situation, I was told that Lilian T. is resigning and taking early retirement.  At that time, I had no idea who Lilian T. was and why her resignation would elicit such a somber outlook.

I found out that she was one of the very early employees and THE expert on the existing manufacturing systems to be replaced by this initiative.  Her departure would significantly and adversely impact the initiative and the company.  I also learned that in an attempt to keep her around, more stock was offered and was declined.  She was one of the early employees and had garnered enough stock grants and options that had set her for life.

She was offered more money and that also was declined since she had enough of it and was not motivated by money.  She was offered a promotion which was declined since she felt she paid her dues and wanted to pursue early retirement and was adamant about it.

All options seemed to have gone nowhere and the prospects were bleak.

Before I left my boss’s office, I told him “let me try” to which he responded: “you’re welcome to do it, but I don’t know what you can do that we haven’t tried”.  I left by saying “let me figure it out.  Before the end of the week, I’ll let you know”.

Sure enough, before the end of the week, I called my boss and told him “I have good news, Lilian T. is staying”.  His response: “how the hell did you do it”?

So, how did I do it when stocks, money, and a promotion failed to do it?  Here is how:

During the course of the week, I had my executive assistant reach out to Lilian T. and request a meeting.  She declined the first time.  I pursued it once again through my assistant.  She declined for the second time.  The third time I personally called Lilian T. and asked her to extend a favor to the “new guy” and meet with me for 15 minutes.  She finally relented and agreed to come and see me.

I started the meeting by telling her:

“I am not here to insult you by offering you any more money, or stocks or a promotion.  I firmly believe that people like you cannot be bought and that loyalty is earned and not granted.”

I proceeded with:

“If you stay, you won’t get a single penny more or earn a single stock more or a promotion.  You will work harder than you ever have. Be more frustrated than you’ve ever been. More tired than you can imagine.   When things go right, nobody will notice, but the slightest thing that goes wrong, everyone will notice. It will be a thankless, hard job.”

And then I continued:

“But this much I can promise you.  If you stay, you’ll help all of us succeed where so many have failed.  You will help me build and lead a team that will transform this company.  You will be part of the team that will show them how success looks! You will be making a difference in this company and in the industry.”

I concluded by telling her: if you decide to stay, we can shake hands and I can welcome you to my team, but if you decide otherwise, we can part ways and I can wish you happy early retirement.  She reached across my desk and we shook hands by her agreeing to postpone her retirement for 2 years and stay with me to see the conclusion of the initiative and MAKING A DIFFERENCE!

Later on, my boss asked me, “how did you do it?”  to which I replied:

“It’s simple boss…I talked to her with sincerity and honesty as I would expect someone to talk to me if I was in her position!”