Bernard Wilsey

By H. Irving Grousbeck, Sara Rosenthal
2016 | Case No. E583 | Length 3 pgs.

Bernard Wilsey, the athletic director at National University, had two challenging personnel issues on his hands.  The first involved Sarah Carter, the coach for National’s women’s track team.  Since her arrival at National five years ago, her teams had won just under half their meets, and the current squad had a record of 2-7 at the midpoint of the season.  While Sarah was extremely popular with other coaches as well as with her athletes and their parents, and was a gifted speaker at alumni events, her recruiting success left much to be desired as well.  Now, Bernard was receiving pressure from several donors to replace Sarah, and he knew he would need to talk with Sarah in the next couple of weeks about moving on after next season.

After scheduling a meeting time with Sarah, Bernard turned his attention to a particularly prickly situation.  With one exception, his relationships with key internal and external constituents were excellent.  That exception was Tom Steele, one of Bernard’s four senior associate athletic directors.  Tom had been among the three finalists for the athletic director job, and their relationship had been rocky since the beginning of Bernard’s tenure.  In addition to the unspoken interpersonal friction between them, Bernard had heard from three other senior associate athletic directors that Tom had been criticizing Bernard behind his back.  Bernard knew it was time to confront Tom head-on about the situation in hope of coming to some favorable working relationship for them both.

Learning Objective

The learning objective of the case is to help students, in the role of CEO or manager, prepare for and practice difficult conversations with important stakeholders where they often must deliver unwelcome or unpleasant information or help them navigate through challenging situations. The students must make important decisions around tone, content, setting, and talking vs. listening to help them guide the conversation to the best outcome.
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