3 Ways to avoid HiPPO in your Company

HiPPO is an acronym that stands for "Highest Paid Person's Opinion" - and it's toxic in a company - Killing creativity, individuality and empowerment. But there are some easy fixes to product your business from this phenomenon.

These are actual Hippos. This is not what we're talking about. But they sure look pissed. I bet their last Staff Meeting went bad... because of HiPPO.

These are actual Hippos. This is not what we're talking about. But they sure look pissed. I bet their last Staff Meeting went bad... because of HiPPO.

HiPPO usually manifests itself in a company in one of two places (or both):

  • Meetings

  • Decision Making

Consider this scenario - The heads of Sales, Marketing, IT as well as a few representatives from other departments are in attendance at a meeting. A decision needs to be made. An issue is presented... and a solution is proposed. And what happens?

Every head in the room turns to the VP, EVP or CEO sitting at the end of the table.

He/She may ask for opinions, at which point a variety of bland, non-committal answers start to murmur from the crowd.

But the bottom line is that no one wants to be on the "wrong side" of the HiPPO.

The result:

The meeting is useless. It could (should) have been an email to the Sr. Executive just asking what he/she wanted to do, and then that would be executed. 

In reality, this Exec... if they're worth their salt should do everything in their power to avoid this happening. They want... no, NEED, the valid opinions and input of everyone involved in the decision to be made. These are the people that have the information, are often in the trenches, and at least understand their department's needs, strengths & weaknesses better than anyone.

So... what can be done about it. 

1) Have a "Department Head's Meeting" w/o Sr. Staff

Again - Sr. Executives are NOT welcome. If they're truly looking for honest input, they'll be happy to oblige (plus - it's one less meeting they have to attend).

The Department Heads, now able to speak freely, can come to a group consensus about the best course of action on an issue.

They then deliver these results in a separate presentation to the Executive Team. 

The Result:

The Executive Team has the honest viewpoint of their valued leaders without it being skewed or altered by their presence. 

2) If the Sr. Executive member does need to be in attendance, they should speak last, and should maintain a "poker face" throughout.

People will "defer to him/her" and he/she should actively say, "No, I'd like to hear your thoughts."

3) When it's time - understand the difference between HiPPO and the valid birds-eye view the Sr. Exec brings. 

What Sr. Execs can do better than anyone else (hopefully), is understand the "big picture". The Purchasing department may say "we need to stock more product", while Finance says "we can't drop that kind of cash for that amount of product right now".  -- But -- collectively they've determined that an issue exists. An impasse.

This is where the Exec should come in and use his/her bird's eye view to make the call.

Perhaps they can pull cash from someone else to keep product stock up, or perhaps they can figure out a way to address the short stock they currently have (e.g. Don't push sales of those products right now). 

The Wrap Up: Your Executive staff should be the first to embrace the understanding that HiPPO is awful for creativity, empowerment, individuality and efficiency - and ultimately, morale. They realize without input from staff, they [LITERALLY] can't do their jobs. They should be in favor of this and seek out ways to allow others to express their feelings without fear of being on the "Wrong side" of the HiPPO's Opinion.

But, if the worst happens and you have an Exec that simply wants to come into a meeting, not listen, and bulldoze every idea with his/her own, you've got bigger problems.

May I suggest taking a look at THIS WEBSITE.