Title: Chairman of the board, president and CEO of ArvinMeritor Inc.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, mechanical engineering, Cornell University; MBA, University of Michigan
Military service: Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1975 to 1979, serving aboard the destroyer USS Luce
What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?
You have to like what you are doing. An expression I learned years and years ago was that if you have a job where you like going to work three out of five days a week, you have a pretty good job. In my view, I’d have to say it’s four and a half out of five or six and a half out of seven. I always leave that one-half day for if I’m having a lousy day. But I really like what I’m doing, and what I often say to people is you have to find something where you like what you are doing and to be passionate about it. At the end of the day, no matter what industry you are in, it’s a tough industry. We’re in automotive and heavy truck, right now the banking industry is going through some challenges. So there are always going to be challenges, and you have to like what you are doing.
What traits or skills are essential for a business leader?
First of all, you have to be results-oriented. The expression I use is, ‘You don’t measure activity, you measure results.’ You also have to be positive in what you are doing, have a passion and enjoyment for what you are doing. You need a commitment to excellence.
This company is also much more powerful with 19,000 people pulling in the same direction, so I really have to drive the team, give our people the purpose going forward and recognize when people have successes. You also have to recognize when people aren’t performing and step up to that. You have to give people fair and candid and real-time performance feedback. It’s not always going to be great. If someone is not performing, go address that. If someone makes a mistake over and over, there is either an issue with the individual or the system, and you have to go fix that.
What are several universal truths you’ve learned about leading a business?
First and foremost is integrity. When you communicate, it has to be transparent. Whenever I talk to anyone in the company, I always say that what we discuss, I should be comfortable putting on the banner on the front of the building. I believe leading with integrity is absolutely critical.
Another thing I like to say is that my title tells me what I’m responsible for. I learned that the title ‘CEO’ stands for ‘customer, employees and ownership.’ Those are the three groups I’m responsible to serve. But I kind of modified it to ‘C-squared-EO.’ The other ‘C’ stands for community.
Also, you should make sure you have a good work-life balance. If you have family things, go to them. My kids are in college now, but I went to a lot of my kids’ sporting events in my career. People define having a good work-life balance differently, but you have to find that balance in your life.