Roberto Medeiros (Redecard): Be transparent when you can, and be very open and sincere when you cannot be transparent — explicitly say you cannot talk about that topic and why, rather than making up an answer.
• Integrate the parts with the whole. Only the CEO can instill an enterprise-wide perspective in an organization, because only the CEO can reconcile and address the tensions that erupt between the whole and the parts. The individual parts of a company are predisposed to battle the centralized corporate function on the grounds that it consumes overhead, slows implementation, and doesn’t understand the customer. The center is predisposed to feel frustrated with the parts because they act on their own interests, fail to put the larger company first, and are reluctant to coordinate actions and goals.
George Barrett (Cardinal Health): I see this as both a push and a pull. The CEO needs to bring a point of view on how the glue that connects the enterprise makes it more valuable than the collection of the pieces. If it’s only “push,” however, chances are it won’t stick very well. When the organizational units start to “pull” for value and draw on the glue from the corporate center, that’s when powerful things can happen.
José Antonio do Prado Fay (Brasil Foods): In addition to mass communication, the CEO must be open to individual communication. I travel the country to meet with all our managers. I believe in “leadership by presence,” even though it is very challenging.
Kenichi Watanabe (Nomura): Since we acquired the operations of Lehman Brothers in Asia-Pacific and EMEA [Europe, Middle East, and Africa] in 2008, much of my time has been spent communicating with and motivating our senior managers around the world. It was a cross-border and cross-cultural integration. Managing a global business is not about enforcing historical Nomura standards or pursuing the Japanese way; it’s about doing what is most effective in the simplest and easiest way.
Severin Schwan (Roche): The good thing about [our acquisition of Genentech] is that — despite the differences — we share the same set of underlying values. We’re both very patient-oriented organizations, both very science-oriented organizations, both very people-oriented organizations, both very long-term-oriented organizations. That’s a lucky constellation.
2. Engage with the Board as a Strategic Partner
The most effective CEOs practice a corporate version of the Golden Rule: When engaging the board, do unto it as you would have your business units do unto you. Just as you want your business leaders to engage you as their strategic partner, keeping you informed of the good, the bad, and the ugly in a transparent fashion, so too should you engage the board. This is especially important if you are the CEO but not the chairman of the board.
In most companies in the past, CEOs kept the board at a distance, involving its members in strategy only at yearly off-site meetings. Given the pressure now being placed on the board, and the level of accountability expected from management, this approach is no longer sufficient; board members need to take part in the strategic conversation of a company as it develops. Otherwise, they may focus overmuch on risk mitigation, a hallmark of inexperienced or uninformed boards.
Neil Kurtz (Golden Living): A CEO’s job is to give his board actionable information.
Ian Livingston (BT): Trying to provide proactively clear information to the board is critical. Make sure you’re trying to get ahead of the game with them, that they feel genuinely that you are trying to let them in and not keep them out.
Greg Wasson (Walgreens): The board provides me with guidance and advice. I can’t imagine not having a positive relationship with the board — not being able to call one of them up and say, “Hey, here’s what I’m thinking. What do you think?”