My wife used to be most surprised that as CEO I would come home tired.
CEOs were not supposed to work .They had it easy. My daughter thought all I do in office is sign papers. On the other hand I saw a lot of my friends and peers working every day late into the night with no time to call their own. I used to wonder how they managed that.
As a CEO I did not have any direct responsibility. Everything was under some functional head. I had two options. One is to keep arms length and act as a coordinator or I could get involved, have all the authority and leave the responsibility at the departmental heads door.
Being the lazy kind I opted for the first option. This had a problem. What do I do? How do I pass my time and justify my job and high salary. Thinking about the future, working out long term strategy is not a full time job nor can it be done in isolation.
So I created out a job area for myself. This was relationship management.
I always felt that leaving all staff relationship and handling to the HR/personal manager is a grave mistake. So I carved out the employee relationship bit from the HR mangers role to get my direct attention . I would interact with all levels of persons . Have casual conversations while walking through the factory or office or go to the place of work at tea time, have samosa and tea and chat. In these informal chats no notes were kept. I went back and made action points. So everyone was relaxed and tended to speak out the truth. I encouraged alternate opinion and ideas. Only rules were no veto without an alternative and no personal attacks. There were no departmental heads so everyone spoke freely. I would do a lot of kite flying to test out ideas or strategies, ask for suggestions for solving problems or issues. At times I would also leak out or discuss plans. This gave all employees a feeling of participation and ownership. Lots of good ideas came from such discussions, lots of disasters were prevented and useful feedback was gathered leading to course correction. You will be surprised how much collective knowledge is available across organization.
My relationship handling also covered customers. I met my domestic A class customers at least twice a year and international once a year. If there was a serious problem then as many times as it took. Customers give very good feedback about the product offerings, service level and commitment and reliability of the company. They are a great source of competitive information and market movements.
The next area of relationship I covered was suppliers. These were a great source of product and technology development and price trends on a global basis as well as competitive actions and plans. I met my suppliers also regularly.
The last area was external. Deal with the outside world. Be part of industry associations, government bodies and have press relationship. This helps you create a network which comes in handy whenever there is an institutional problem. Dealing with the press was a very effective means of keeping the employees motivated and charged. When they read good things about the company they feel proud.
This relationship handling was not carved out of the relevant departmental manger’s role but was an add on. This was fuzzy with no rules and periodicity, organization or hierarchy.
This was my tool which made me so successful as a CEO and help turn around companies. Your stake holders could put a face and voice and also identify with you . This is a tremendous strength because that not only gives you knowledge but the ability and strength to take decisions because you have pulse of what they think and feel.
About the Author
Mr. Veer Sagar, Chairman, AOE
Mr.Veer Sagar consults and advises companies on general management, business development, cost and process management, objective creation and company positioning
Has over 48 years of general management experience in India with a particular focus on marketing and on the information technology and manufacturing sector. Currently is the chairman of Selectronic. Selectronic is one of India's earlier BPO operations.