Words from the Chairman* ‘What Would You Like Me to Know’ 

By  Debbie Nicol

Words from the Chairman* ‘What Would You Like Me to Know’

These words open up into possibility. These words facilitate dialogue. And….when asked by the Chairman throughout a senior executive’s resignation process, they will likely evoke both personal and professional choice on the spur of the moment.

All relationships have arcs, with some lasting a day, a week, a month and others many years. With increasing complexity and ambiguity in the corporate landscape, many senior executives are now trading off length of loyal service for a myriad of reasons, moving more regularly to ‘greener pastures’. Upon resignation, it is commonplace for a surface-level conversation to occur regarding reasons for leaving. Yet, can there be exceptions? ‘What if’ the Chairman of the Board contacted the departing senior executive with just one brief question: ‘what would you like me to know’? How would you respond?


  1. Some may ‘pill the beans’, getting many things off the chest, unconsciously communicating an inability to rise above adversity, revealing a degree of emotional attachment, as well as a lack of desire to persevere.
  2. Some may take the opportunity to pull the trigger on a person or situation, representing a plea for assistance that is all too late and should not have reached that level.
  3. Some may use the time for the giving of thanks and the sharing of fond memories, revealing good will and best wishes.
  4. Some may genuinely share the natural progression of ‘what’s next’ along with the impetus behind the decision, while seizing the opportunity to strengthen ongoing ties.


  1. Any Chairman will perceive ‘reaction’. What he chooses to do with that, nobody knows, yet what stands out is that proactivity would not be the lasting impression.
  2. Any Chairman who observes cries for help will naturally be curious as to why that person was incapable or unwilling to deal with this problem openly during employment. The lasting impression will include a need for further growth in the arenas of technical expertise, gumption and resilience.
  3. A connected Chairman, whilst enjoying the positive strokes, would surely see a sugar-coating if this message was in isolation of another, easily interpreting that as a lack of desire for transparency and on-going honest relationship.
  4. Most Chair People have earned their stripes as business people and understand the importance of continuous challenge and personal growth. Not only would they be genuinely accepting of the logic behind this departure, but also happy to nurture an ongoing connection.



The Future

Either way, this question would have to be one of the smartest questions ever for a leader to ask, transferring responsibility to the one being lead. Not only would the Chairman gather some kind of information but also they would gain valuable insights into the person’s inner priorities and their current state of being. With the future being very much a product of the past, what value do you see in this question?

*Chairman = ChairPerson, ChairLady. Gender non-specific

Debbie Nicol

Debbie is tenacious, resilient, can break complexity and ambiguity into concrete simplicity, eats the stage, loves to challenge, Author.
Debbie is a Change Practitioner, Facilitator, Conceptualizer, Design Capability, Asks the right questions, Builds Customized Solutions, Life's Mirror

Debbie Nicol

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