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 Down. And 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.”