Category Archives: CEO

Management styles

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For last one week I have been closely working with a person on finalization of our company’s annual report. Now this person has verbal diarrhoea and can’t stay mum for long. But he does talk sense most of the time, though his own names invariably crops up in each incident he describes. So coming to the point he discussed a lot about our seniors and our CEOs.

First he shared his views about my ex-boss, let us name him Shawn for this blog. So he commented how Shawn had mostly done liaisoning work all his life and knows only sucking up and buttering up. With people like him in CEO coterie, you can understand the value of these people and the working style of CEO. He guessed how Shawn would behave in tricky situations, and to my utter surprize, he was right. Actually I have a love-hate relationship with Shawn. He did a lot for making my work count and getting me visibility and expsoure, he even ensured I get a coveted award, but he did a lot of bad things with me also. He asked me to draft a charge-sheet that was intended to be issued to me (it did not happen luckily), he blamed me for things I did not do, he expects me to do his errands even now, he expects me to risk my relations with present boss, let us name her Hale. Now even I start doubting Shawn’s intentions of helping me, I at times think SHawn must be having some hidden selfish motive in doing that for me.

Okay, now to Hale, this guy described Hale also pretty well. He said- SHe might have taken 30 days to judge each of the team member and her future action would have been guided by that. If she feels you can be relied upon, you talk sense, then she will value your opinion. Because she has risen through the ranks, has done hard-core marketing, she understands constraints and timelines. She won’t expect you to do unreasonable. And this guy was right about her.

Then he shared his experience with another CEO. This CEO always asked these guys to do what they felt right. So in a case, when the controlling Ministry expected this guy to commit to an unrealistic deadline, this guy politely declined. The CEO had instructed them to always be polite and dignified in conveying their problems. The issue was escalated to CEO level, but CEO backed him up and the job was done in real-time. Basically this guy wanted to prove how back-up from top motivates you to do more.

While talking about another CEO, he said- Once I had gone with a file to him. CEO wanted to check if a particular point discussed with my senior had been included. Then he talked over phone to my senior, who assured it has been included. So CEO signed. Our guy, to impress CEO, tried to find the para, but could not. CEO said-no worries, I have signed. Our guy came out, found the para and went inside again. Now the CEO told him- There was no need of this. When your boss has assured it has been included, I believe him. I am not supposed to get into these things. And I trust you people, you won’t cheat me. In future, keep this in mind. Then onwards our guy always checked notes 2-3 times before getting sign, knowing that CEO relied on him.

For annual report, we also had to work with two other guys from a third department, This guy explained how these two guys had a tuning between them as team members. They covered each other’s faults and never fought with each other, to impress boss. He related one incident also as to how the mistake was hushed up and rectified at junior level, without going to CFO level. I nodded to him, but thought to myself that this was at the cost of organisation. Their camaraderie was for their selfish motives, not for company’s interest. But I kept mum. 

These two guys also shared their view on management style. They had a bitter experience with a third CEO. Actually I was trying to understand the concept of hedging from them. This reminded them of a past incident. A group of them was monitoring the currency fluctuations over a period of time, and recommended a particular time when the deal should be frozen to benefit from favourable exchange rate. Luckily their prediction was right. They were happy and thinking that management will appreciate their work, What happened instead was that the CEO called for all such dealings in last two months and asked them why these deals were not done in this manner. Such is the management in our company.

Okay, back to the first talkative guy. He was discussing about a past CEO, and I told him how CEO’s anger and tantrums were good for company as most people in public sector responded to fear. But this guy gave a logical argument, and I had to agree. He said the CEO behaved this way with everyone, it would have been better if he could assess who asked for the lecture and who did not. Besides, after some time everybody got used to his anger and ignored it or laughed at it. This percolated down to all levels and resulted in demotivation at all levels.

Then we also discussed how TAs and others reach at director level and start having unrealistic expectations and talk nonsense. 

He talked a lot more, but rest some other day.

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Power of Communication

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I worked in a company almost a decade back, which was almost on the verge of closing down, or at least its employees thought so. Most perks were cut down, and there were rumours of other conglomerates taking over and what not.

At such a time came a CEO who with his sheer power of communication turned the things around. It may sound like exaggeration but as a PR executive there, I was first-hand witness to a major transformation in employee morale and attitude.

Firstly the CEO, we got to know, had come with a mandate and backing of people who matter, to carry out that mandate of turnaround, without any interference. And that he did finally.

He was an engineer with Ph.D and ours being a manufacturing company, he could micromanage the process, production, operation and be pedantic. But he did none of that. What he did was communicate, communicate & communicate.

His being a local with knowledge of local language did help, but rest was his own charisma. Soon after his joining, he started a whirlwind tour of the huge production assembly. And maybe for effect he went in an open jeep, and not in any air-conditioned sedan. He met workers at the lowest level on the shopfloor, and took direct feedabck on what was wrong with the company. What were their problems. How could they help. What he could do to make their lives easier. 

After this went on for a couple of months, he started a series of communication exercises. And I think there was not even one weekday when he did not conduct these exercises.

First was a large group interaction on a weekly basis. 400 plus employees cutting across levels and units met every week with company’s top management. Presentations were made on industry and company scenario, achievements and targets of different units. Then CEO and other top managers addressed the gathering. This was followed by the best part-an open house session. Any of the employees could come and ask direct questions from the top management. To give you the extent of its impact, here are a few comments employees made in the open house session.

-I have been working with the company for 30 years. But this is the first time that I am seeing the CEO face-to-face.

-I complained about this problem to shift incharge, AGM, DGM, GM but no one listened. I hope you will.

-I want the name of our unit to be a part of presentation among the best performing units. Give us any target and we will do it.

Second was a mix-group exercise. In this exercise, 50-60 worker-level employees of a major unit were called alongwith some executives. This exercise again was chaired by CEO and top management. Other invitees were the Heads of major supplier and customer units of our company itself. Here again presentation was followed by address and open house. The difference was that employees pointed out their problems with other units. And Heads of those units had to reply on the spot in front of CEO. That was indeed a pleasure to watch, communication-at-play.

Third was a leadership exercise, in which executives in group of 25-30 were invited and CEO himself took 2-hour session on leadership. That was an eye-openeer in itself.

Fourth was brainstorming exercises between senior level managers in a relaxed environment, and mostly over dinner, which extended till very late in the night.

A unified goal document was also finalized and was publicised through posters, magazines, tv channels etc.

This communication coupled with special incentive schemes, taskforces, union management, cultural renaissance actually turned around the company within a span of few months.

It was an honour to be a part of that change exercise.