Archive for 2012

In 100 Words: Live “Beyond Yourself”

Friday, December 14th, 2012 by Troy Schrock

Scott McNealy, cofounder and former CEO of Sun Microsystems, once commented that those in highly visible leadership roles must live beyond themselves.  In other words, leaders must demonstrate a clear willingness to set aside individual desires, motives, and preferences, consistently acting in a manner of transparent character and integrity – not just at work, not just in front of employees, but every moment of every day, in public and in private.

These are intense expectations, but employees are more likely to be disciplined in their work when they see discipline modeled by their leaders.  Are you willing to live “beyond yourself?”

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.”  (Aristotle)

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Living “Beyond Yourself”

Thursday, December 6th, 2012 by Troy Schrock

I once heard an interview with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who spoke of the example of his grandfather.  When Thomas was nine years old, he and his older brother went to live with his grandparents.  His grandfather instructed the young boys that they should not just do what he said, but do as he did.  He held himself to a high standard and level of accountability.  Looking back, Thomas says, “…example is worth a thousand lectures…”

If only more CEOs and executives would grasp this basic concept of effective leadership.  Granted, CEOs and executives have demanding jobs, constantly under pressure to provide answers, fix what is wrong, and produce financial results in a fast changing and highly competitive market environment.   Even so, it’s amazing to see leaders destroy the credibility of their communications and plans due to a lack of personal or professional discipline.

The CEO is an example for the entire organization.  Scott McNealy, co-founder and former CEO of Sun Microsystems, commented that when you occupy higher paid, highly visible leadership roles, you must live “beyond yourself.”  In other words, a leader must demonstrate a clear  willingness to set aside individual desires, motives, and preferences, acting in a manner of transparent character and integrity – not just at work, not just in front of employees, but every single moment of every single day, in public and in private.

These are intense expectations.  To meet them, CEOs and executives must be mentally and physically fit.  Have you ever noticed how many CEOs are physically fit?  Some of my clients’ CEOs and executives compete in marathons, triathlons, or other physically demanding activities.  We all know the physical and psychological health benefits of staying in shape, but the personal discipline required for getting (and staying) in shape carries over into other areas of life, including work.

Employees are more likely to be disciplined in their work when they see discipline modeled by their leaders.  Are you willing to live “beyond yourself?”


The Loneliness of Command

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 by Troy Schrock

“Jukes was uncritically glad to have his Captain at hand.  It relieved him, as though that man had, by simply coming on deck, taken at once most of the gale’s weight upon his shoulders.  Such is the prestige, the privilege, and the burden of command.  Captain MacWhirr could expect no comfort of that sort from anyone on earth.  Such is the loneliness of command.”  (Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon, pg. 75, published in 1919 by Doubleday & Company)

I found this reference in The Winning Performance.  We speak about it being “lonely at the top” in reference to CEOs.  Here are two ways CEOs can deal with this issue:

  • Build a strong, cohesive executive team.  This allows the CEO to “share the burden.”
  • Even with a strong, cohesive executive team in place, there will still be issues that CEOs shoulder on their own.  It can be helpful to partner with a seasoned CEO advisor, someone who can come alongside him to provide wise perspective and direction to excellent resources on-point with the issue at hand.

In 100 Words: Do You Know Your Team?

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 by Troy Schrock

You work with your team every day, but how well do you know them as people?

Author Patrick Lencioni encourages the sharing of personal histories as a safe way to build trust among team members.  Have everyone share simple information about their past.  Where were you born?  How many siblings did you have?  Where did you fall in the birth order?  What was your first job?  Worst job?  Name a particular challenge in growing up.  Who was/is your role model?

Most people enjoy sharing stories from their lives, and as a result, team members learn to better understand each other.

“Many a man would rather you heard his story than granted his request.” (Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield)

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Sergio Marchionne, an Exemplary Leader

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 by Ellen Bryson

In December of 2011, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, was awarded the Dwight D. Eisenhower Global Leadership award from the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU). BCIU recognized Marchionne for his unprecendented success at turning around two automotive car makers in the last decade; first Fiat, then Chrysler. No small feat.

In less than two years after taking the reins at each company, both returned to profitability. When Marchionne assumed the role of CEO at Chrysler in 2008, most in the car industry thought he was crazy. Chrysler seemed headed for bankruptcy, but Marchionne and Fiat drove a hard bargain to take control of the company. Marchionne had a compelling vision and saw how Chrysler could complete the Fiat product range to make it a more global company.

Marchionne epitomizes great leadership! Chrysler returned to profitability in the first quarter of 2011, repaid its $6 billion high interest government loan in May…six years ahead of schedule, and hit sales of over $55 billion by the end of 2011. Plants were modernized, Fiat and Chrysler operations were integrated, and the management structure was flattened somewhat. Not only did Marchionne restore Chrysler to profitability, he changed the culture. The company went from being a bureaucratic organization run from the Chairman’s office to an innovative culture focused on quality and execution where the CEO builds the cars with the guys on the floor! Now that’s transformational!

If you are like me, I’m sometimes skeptical about what I read or hear in the media, so I decided to check out the situation at Chrysler with someone on the inside to see if the culture really is different, and this is what I learned from Scott Bahr, a friend that has recently returned to Chrysler after four years away. “Yes, this is a good time to be at Chrysler. Morale is very high, and there is an earnest desire company-wide for people to “push the envelope” toward improvement. Bureaucracies and “old ways” will always be present in an organization of this size, but I am impressed by how much we are developing a culture of not being limited by those things and even openly questioning them. It’s one of the things that won me over to coming back here.” This confirms it for me. I hope it does for you. Sergio Marchionne is a great leader and a man we can all learn from.

To get inspired in your role as a leader and learn how Sergio orchestrated the Chrysler resurgence, listen to his recent interview with Sixty Minutes. It’s about 14 minutes long, but worth your time.


The Fundamental of Core Culture

Monday, October 15th, 2012 by Troy Schrock

The great thing about working on business fundamentals is that they will be equally as relevant in twenty years as they are today and were twenty years ago.

Perhaps the most important fundamental is culture, which is defined by the organization’s core values and purpose.  Strong leaders spend a great deal of time repeating the core values and purpose of their organizations and creating mechanisms that support the culture.  In The Winning Performance, Richard Cavanagh and Donald Clifford, Jr. provide a plethora of examples of businesses where the CEO and executive team spend a significant portion of their time communicating the fundamental values of the organization in an effort to protect the culture.  “Successful companies,” they write, “are run by people who have their priorities straight, their values clear, their direction tight, and a strong grasp of culture” (p. 17, emphasis added).

Don’t lose sight of culture.  The larger the organization, the greater amount of time the executive team should spend communicating and reinforcing the core ideology throughout the organization.