When the more experienced speakers at CEO Connection’s CEO Boot Camps are asked to look back on their executive training and careers and reflect on what they most regret, every single one of them has talked about not moving faster on people. As Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre told me in a recent interview:

I’m a big believer that you need to move very quickly and adapt to the changing circumstances in the marketplace.

So, when Chiquita’s business in Europe ran into “significant headwinds” last year along with the rest of the industry, Fernando was indeed ready to move very quickly.

Brian Kocher had dealt with very similar challenges here (in North America) in the last three years or so and he did very well. He had accomplished significant goals and he had more than delivered on his objectives.  And (moving him to Europe) gave me an opportunity to give him experience outside of North America…always a good thing for an executive on the rise.

While Fernando does not hesitate to make such moves when he needs to, his first choice approach is to develop and encourage his people so they can deal with the headwinds they face where they are. For him, “It’s all about personal goals.” He goes out of his way to let people know that,

I want to help you develop yourselves as leaders.

I want to help you develop yourselves as professionals.

But I also care very much about your personal side.

For example, Fernando met Leo Urzua during his stint on CBS’s Undercover Boss. Leo was the harvest coordinator who tried to teach Fernando how to pick and prune lettuce. Tried. Failed. However, in meeting Leo and getting to know him, Fernando was inspired by Leo’s quest to become a U.S. citizen, in a way seeing a version of himself and his own journey from immigrant to CEO. Fernando committed to helping Leo. Succeeded. Leo was recently sworn in as a citizen in Yuma Arizona.  The keynote speaker at that ceremony? ……..Fernando Aguirre.


While you, as a leader, will certainly do this in your own inimitable way, you must Acquire, Develop, Encourage, Plan, and Transition talent over time.

Let your mission inform the ideal organization and help you identify the required roles.

Let your vision then help you identify which of the required roles must be best in class.

Then match performance, strengths, motivation and fit of individuals and roles:

  • Support and develop high performers in right roles. (Feed them more than just bananas.)
  • Improve performance of low performers in right roles. (Invest here.)
  • Evolve high performers in wrong role to better roles over time. (The trickiest challenge of all.)
  • Move low performers in wrong role to better role now.

Some of your most painful choices are going to be in this area; trying to please everybody will lead to pleasing nobody. Choosing to act on people who are in the wrong roles now or will soon be in the wrong roles is generally not the most enjoyable part of leadership. But it is an essential part.

Remember that you can’t separate the business element from the human element.  This is golden rule time. While not all of us will travel from immigrant to CEO, we’re all on a journey. Treat others with the dignity and respect with which you would want them to treat you on your journey. When it’s their turn, they will.

Fernado’s efforts are a good example of step 9 of The New Leader’s PlaybookSecure ADEPT People in the Right Roles and Deal with Inevitable Resistance

Make your organization ever more ADEPT by Acquiring, Developing, Encouraging, Planning, and Transitioning talent:

  • Acquire: Recruit, attract, and onboard the right people
  • Develop: Assess and build skills and knowledge
  • Encourage: Direct, support, recognize, and reward
  • Plan: Monitor, assess, plan career moves over time
  • Transition: Migrate to different roles as appropriate

Click here to read about each step in the playbook

Click here for YouTube videos highlighting each step


The New Leader’s Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months. George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director, and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 2009). Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube