[Keith Rabois] Where Was the Trusted Advisor – and Why You Need One

Image representing Keith Rabois as depicted in...

There’s a long of executives –  public officials too – who have seen their careers impacted, altered or ended by relationship scandals or questionable relationship judgement.

From Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd to any number of others, execs have been alleged – sometimes apparently accurately – because their judgement regarding who they chose to have private, intimate, physical relationships (back home in Oregon it’s known as having “sex”) with was seen as poor judgement on how they ran the business.

You can add Square COO Keith Rabois, as highly accomplished a business person as there is in Silicon Valley, to the mix.

The news hit the Friday afternoon news cycle so you might have missed it; his interview with Kara Swisher, Rabois’ blog post here, and the company’s statement as follows:

“The first we heard of any of these allegations was when we received the threat of a lawsuit two weeks ago. We took these allegations very seriously and we immediately launched a full investigation to ascertain the facts. While we have not found evidence to support any claims, Keith exercised poor judgment that ultimately undermined his ability to remain an effective leader at Square. We accepted his resignation.”

In the Rabois’ episode as well as any number of others you wonder, though, where was the guy (or gal) who knew Rabois and what was going on and told him to frankly chill it; to let him know that he’d made a lapse in judgement as a senior exec in helping get someone he’d slept with to be hired at the company where he worked as the #2 exec?

Where was the trusted advisor?

Where was the person on the exec staff – usually the HR head – who smelled danger and intervened to avert disaster?

Where was the exec coach who Rabois or Square retained who heard the story and told him that, as Robin Williams once joked, “God gave men both a penis and a brain, but unfortunately not enough blood supply to run both at the same time.

So in the absence of either – an internal person or an external exec coach – Square’s path forward becomes a little trickier, and Rabois likely leaves tens millions of dollars in unvested options on the table.

Appearances can matter, and sometimes how you conduct yourself in private affects the options you have in your business life. Good trusted advisors either help you avoid those types of lapses, or alternately catch them early so you can figure out how to unwind things and minimize the collateral damage.

The cost of good HR people or good executive coaches looks cheap by comparison.

Just ask Keith Rabois or the board of directors at Square.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

Photo credit: Image by Slide.com via CrunchBase 

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