Jul 17, 2012

Slumming it with the common folk

When a CEOs or a high level executive accepts a position at a new company, usually stories follow describing how they understand the rank-and-file employee and hang out with Joe Shmoe the janitor.

Gladwell describes how Ed Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T, was appointed to lead GM even though he had never worked for a manufacturing company in his life. However, the decision makers are convinced that Whitacre will be successful because he is a leader:
The men and women listened intently as Ed explained in his measured Texas drawl that he had no interest in presiding over a second-rate company. He praised the people. He stressed the need to make decisions [...] He takes lunch in the food court, mingling with the rank and file. "Hi, I'm Ed. Who're you?" he'll say to some dumbstruck middle manager in the elevator.
When Sheryl Sandberg started working at Facebook, she was also kind enough to hang out with 20 somethings:
Sandberg began work at Facebook in March, asking questions and listening. “She walked up to hundreds of people’s desks and interrupted them and said, ‘Hi, I’m Sheryl Sandberg,’ ” recalls Chris Cox, the vice-president of product, who sits next to Zuckerberg. “It was this overt gesture, like, ‘O.K., let your guard down. I’m not going to hole up with Mark. I’m going to try and have a relationship with you guys.’ ”
How long will it take for the first article to appear describing how Marissa Mayer, the newly appointed CEO of Yahoo, is spending time listening to regular employees? Send it to me when you see it.

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