When Your Star Performer Can’t Manage

Vic, the CEO of a sporting goods company in this fictional case study, is pleased with the numbers. For several years now, they’ve gone steadily in one direction: up. But there’s trouble in paradise. Hidden from the public’s view of industry-dominating winners–from the coolest snowboards to the hottest in-line skates–lies a product-development department that may be ready to shatter like cheap fiberglass. Carver, the company’s chief of product development, is the workaholic mad genius who is responsible for most–he might say all–of the company’s successful products. At the same time, he has managed to alienate the rest of his staff.

The Case of The Floundering Expatriate

A classic, the case that hundreds of universities and training organizations are still using today.

Frank Waterhouse, CEO of Argos Diesel, Europe, is exasperated. Bert Donaldson, who arrived in Zurich a year ago to create a European team–to facilitate communication among the parts suppliers that Argos has acquired over the past two years–just isn’t working out. Although he has excellent credentials, both as a successful team builder at Argos International in Detroit and as a teacher in Cairo, his style seems abrasive here and he is behind schedule in implementing the team-building program. Moreover, Waterhouse is worried that Donaldson’s failure will reflect badly on himself. But Waterhouse can’t simply fire Donaldson. Donaldson is a smart man with a record of genuine successes in the States. If he gets fired, his career may be destroyed. Further, the CEO of Argos International thinks the world of him and is counting on Waterhouse to make this assignment work. Can Waterhouse teach Donaldson cultural awareness? Can he help him become effective in his job? Waterhouse has scheduled a conversation with Donaldson to discuss the situation. What should he say?

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