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Posted: June 16, 2011

Are you creating chocolate bunnies

Sweet on the outside, hollow on the inside

Todd Ordal

I recently had coffee with a fraud. He looked good, smelled good, dropped names and used buzzwords like a pro. However, he was a chocolate bunny ... sweet on the outside and hollow on the inside. These characters can deflect blame like a superhero deflects bullets. All fluff and no stuff, they add no value to organizations.

But how do chocolate bunnies evolve? I believe they grow up in organizations with extremely poor leadership, never really held accountable for their actions and results. Perhaps they're even "mentored" by someone who has mastered the art of "nonstick" and is unwittingly passing their skill on to the next generation of bunnies.

When this happens to young businesspeople, they eventually become middle-aged and have no real skills. They are frauds, and it's only partially their fault. When they eventually get into a healthy organization that requires true performance, accountability and emotional intelligence, they fail every time.

They often make great strides early because they're gregarious and look good. But once uncovered, they nervously jump from job to job looking for the sanctuary of their early career where being a good guy was enough.

Why bother to write about this? Because leadership positions come with obligations, and one of them is to avoid creating chocolate bunnies. I've worked with senior leaders who are fearful of, or not adept at, holding people accountable. They end up creating a full basket of these bunnies, thereby ruining careers.

So how do you avoid creating chocolate bunnies? Here are four rules that should help:

1. Avoid the "nice versus kind" trap. It's nice to avoid conflict and only give people positive feedback, but it's not kind.
2. Fire faster. Gosh, that doesn't sound nice, does it? I have yet to meet the leader who says that he or she has been too quick to pull the trigger on nonperformers.
3. Focus on value. How does each person on your team add value to the organization? Ask them. If they don't add value but they have talent, help them re-create their job.
4. Plan and review. People who execute a meaningful plan with specific objectives tied to the organization's global strategy cannot turn into chocolate bunnies.

I once had a young friend who made good money in a "cushy" job. However, he had no real responsibilities, and leadership in his organization could kindly be described as milquetoast. He was on cruise control but was smart enough to know that he was turning into a chocolate bunny. So he re-created himself in another company and is now successful in a senior position.

Are you creating chocolate bunnies in your organization?
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Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at http://www.appliedstrategy.info,  303-527-0417 or todd@appliedstrategy.info

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Readers Respond

Great one, Todd! By Great one! on 2011 06 24
My goodness, Todd. You must be the master of metaphor! I could not have put your observation more eloquently. I've known many chocolate bunnies....they also melt under pressure. By Marcia Noyes on 2011 06 20
Todd, only you could come up with the business metaphor "...he was a chocolate bunny ... sweet on the outside and hollow on the inside. Thanks for your intelligent humor as well as your invaluable strategic insights. By TC North on 2011 06 16

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