The Dancing CEO

November 16, 2011

The Dancing CEO

I just read this wonderful interview with Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies. He has written a book titled Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Mnanagement Upside DownAnd that he does. The reputation of employees seems to be gaining more steam lately. More CEOs are asking how to engage employees better and more creatively and harness their advocacy. Nayar’s strategies and tactics are compelling — not only are detailed financial performance delivered directly to employee desktops but all (ALL) employee appraisals or performance reviews are posted on HCL’s internal website for all to see. And get this, this includes the CEO’s review. His theory is that he too can learn from direct feedback.
The CEO seems very plugged into the employee component of the value equation. Here are a few things that really stood out to me. He must have a fine reputation among his employees to bear his soul so publicly and turn everything on its head. There are other good examples in the article so I recommend you read it. And here’s to all those dancing CEO bloggers out there!

“We also looked for symbolic ways to be a model of openness. One thing I did was publicly dance in front of all my employees. This was to remove the halo that a CEO has around his head. Meaningful conversation happens after you have set the stage in this way, after you make clear that you are as open as anyone else — crazy but effective.

I started writing a blog called “You and I,” in which I encouraged employees to ask me questions in the open. The only rule I made was that when you ask the question, it must have your name attached. All 60,000 employees should see your question and my answer. At first, I was depressed by the result, because I mostly received negative questions that made HCL look bad. People said things like, “Vineet, I don’t accept what you’re saying.” Or, “You lack vision; you haven’t articulated what the company’s size and scale will be in 2010.”

So I held an open house with a group of employees. “I’m feeling pretty bad,” I said. “Nobody is saying what is positive about our company. Do you think I’ve unlocked a genie that is spreading demotivation?”

Their answer was interesting. They said it is good to wash dirty linen in public, in this case on the blog, because it builds trust. There are no rumors. We discuss everything openly and honestly. We don’t always have solutions to problems, but at least we expose them. Out of that, I began to share the financial numbers and give my perspectives, and the tenor of the blog comments began to change.”

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

2 Comments
  • Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Posted at 16:58h, 17 November Reply

    I particularly like the comment about “wash[ing] dirty linen in public.” How many organizations, large and small, have been undone by rumors floating through the hallways and in the breakrooms?Social media platforms make it possible for these organizations to foster and encourage open and honest discussion of issues that employees (and others) feel are important to the long-term viability of the organization.

    As Mr. Nayar discovered, the initial launch of the feedback mechanism (remember “suggestion boxes”?!?) will result in what seems like a deluge of negative comments. But…if the organization is sincere in its efforts to listen to and act on criticisms, complaints, and kudos, that torrent will reduce to a trickle.

    Nothing’s perfect. Never has been; never will be. But allowing concerned stakeholders the opportunity to express their opinions is a major first step in becoming “pretty doggone good.”

    • Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross
      Posted at 00:44h, 18 November Reply

      Great comments. Nothing is perfect but doing nothing is a crime. It was a very telling story about his blog. Takes leadership courage which is often in short supply. Best, lgr

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