First 100 Days
Just finished an article in Fortune about Frank Blake, former CEO of Home Depot. It is one of those pieces that take the full breadth of a CEO’s impact on the company and his legacy. The article was particularly interesting because the question in the article title — How Home Depot CEO Frank Blake Kept his Legacy from Being Hacked — refers to the impact of the massive data breach of Home Depot customers and its impact on Blake’s well regarded reputation pulling the retailer back from the abyss.
Since I am an observer of CEOs’ First 100 Days, I wanted to record a few things he did from the start of his tenure. Blake laid out his strategy on Day One — that the focus would be on customers and employees and there would be plenty of listening all around. He never veered from this. After his first broadcast on Day One, he followed up less than one week later with a second broadcast describing his leadership model which was an inverted pyramid with front line employees at the top and management at the bottom. As Blake says, his job was to “clear away the things that get in your way” and make the hard and necessary decisions to grow the business for the future. This included selling off acquisitions, focusing incentives on servicing customers and getting his management team to speak up if things were not going right. Blake is quoted in the article as saying, “How do you make people comfortable enough to tell you what they don’t want to tell you?” The interview with Blake makes it clear that his quiet, unassuming manner and his listening antennae helped fuel his success. He walked the aisles in the stores and focused intensely on solving customers’ problems. As he said from the start, the front line employee who interacts with the customers is where the power lies.