How NOT to Go EO: Terrified Terry

Terry wasn't ready to take charge

NB names and details are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is entirely coincidental!

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Terry’s not the founder in this tale. He’s the brilliant right-hand-man.

The company was set up 10 years earlier. Terry was the first recruit, right at the start. He’d worked alongside the founder for a decade, had a brilliant understanding of how the company works, and was well liked by the staff.

He loved his job. He could have the excitement of being a senior employee in a small, changing business, but the buck stopped with the founder.

Terry didn’t realise it, but the founder had been planning an EOT sale for a couple of years.

What happened

The founder had done lots of planning on the financials, and technical side of the EOT sale. He had a brilliant recruit in Terry, who surely could take the lead.

Terry was told on EOT transfer day, publicly, at the same time as everyone else. He was going to be Managing Director going forwards, with the founder stepping away.

The staff all cheered. They saw it as a big promotion that Terry thoroughly deserved.


Terry was both terrified and horrified. A rabbit in the headlights. He awkwardly forced a smile, but his legs had gone to jelly.

He’d never been a leader, and had no desire to become one now.

Terry had loved working closely alongside the founder. Their right-hand-man. He got to work on all the key projects, but was never in the limelight. He liked to be in the background, supporting those in the front.

This all changed. It wasn’t his choice. He hated it, but everyone was telling him it was a good thing.

Over the months that followed, Terry fell apart. He grew increasingly tetchy and anxious. Neither the staff nor founder could understand what had happened. He previously seemed so capable of taking over.

The business became a shadow of its former self.

What he could have done differently

The founder made a dangerous assumption. They had always wanted power and responsibility, surely everyone does, right?!

Wrong! Plenty of competent people have no desire to lead!

Had the founder spoken to Terry some time before transfer, things could have been very different. Terry could’ve explained his fears/concerns.

Possibly they could establish some specific bits of the role that Terry was happy doing, and narrow down those he wasn’t. They could then look at options:
– perhaps the founder continued to do some roles,
– perhaps another senior staff member may take them on,
– possibly an external recruit could be brought in to do those things.

Key thing is if it was discussed, they could have worked SOMETHING out.

Moral of the story

It’s easy to see when staff have different strengths.

It’s less easy to see when they have different desires.

Don’t make assumptions about what people want. Not everyone will think like you do!

An EOT will have a big impact on senior staff members. Talk to them. Consider their thoughts/feelings, and try to solve/alleviate concerns before pressing ahead.


Competence and desire for power don’t always align! Some people are br scary too, and cause problems!

  • Someone being great at their current role doesn’t always mean promotion makes sense.
  • Some people want to lead others prefer to follow.
  • Yes people can benefit from being pushed out of their comfort zone…
  • …but dumping a load of responsibility on someone who doesn’t want it won’t end well!
  • There’s lots of different areas in leading. Maybe they’re keen on some but not others.

If EOTs are of interest, or you have questions not covered here, get in touch!

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