Case study 7

Addressing conflict with the Chairman

The chairman and chief executive of a private equity backed company were at loggerheads. The chief executive resented the chairman's day-to-day involvement in the business. But he was new to his job, and relatively inexperienced in management terms. The chairman was not satisfied that he had a proper grip on things.

Nigel was asked whether he could sort this out. He met the two men individually to discuss their perspectives, and then the non-executive directors from the private equity owners. Afterwards he set up meetings with the chairman and chief executive together at which he:

  • helped the chief executive to see that the chairman’s concerns reflected those of the board as a whole
  • helped the chairman to see that he was not getting the best from his chief executive by overseeing too closely
  • pointed out that it was in the interests of neither of the two men that their relationship should break down
  • drew up a plan with the chief executive to ensure  he kept close enough to the business to anticipate and resolve operational issues
  • drew up a modus operandi for the chairman to ensure that he left the chief executive sufficient space to run his business
  • suggested formal and informal reporting arrangements to ensure that each kept the other, and the board, appraised of issues and concerns.