Is there any executive phrase more trite these days than an
open-door policy? The fact of the matter is that there are few
executives who would confess to having anything different.
At Blackstone, Arias has found it’s better to close the door
behind him as he goes out and communicates with his employees and builds buy-in on company direction. He spends roughly an hour a day walking around Blackstone’s office and starting casual conversations with people. And he puts the emphasis on casual: He makes it a point not to wear a suit, instead
sporting the same attire that everyone else has.
“If you don’t have a suit on and you have a pair of jeans and a
normal shirt on, you blend in,” he says. “You put a suit on, and
you work through the day with a suit and a tie, and I believe you
create a different category for yourself.”
Little things like that will help you knock down barriers with
your people. As he walks around, Arias spends his time doing
two things: understanding employees’ ideas and personalities
and selling the company’s plan to people.
“Basically, it is everybody has his own opinion, so let them
express it and try to sell your point to them,” he says. “You have
to sell to them as much as you sell to the outside; if they haven’t
bought into the idea, it’s hard. I like to explain to people what we
need to do and why.”
How do you sell them your idea without it coming across as just
the generic company line? Arias explains each company direction as an idea that is still being shaped and then he lets them
“Explain why you want to do it, how you do it, and ask for their
input and really listen to what they say,” he says. “I don’t like to tell
people what to do, I like to get them on board and think that I’m
not telling them something; we’re doing it. I don’t like to use the
word ‘I’ when I refer to us, I use ‘we.’”
Like wearing jeans, using “we” lets people know that you are
not thinking of the company in terms of CEO and employee but
as one unit. Beyond that, Arias says you must be genuine when
you go to your employees — if you can’t be genuinely interested
in the ideas they’re going to bring to you, don’t bother.
“Communication is everything,” he says. “The way you portray
yourself is part of that. (Your) body language, you really can fake
it for a while but not for too long. You disarm people with a smile
— if you really mean it.”
Leaders will claim that they don’t have an hour a day to talk to
people, but if you want to grow, you have to know your people.
Arias goes so far as to say that if you’re in tune with your people
and getting them to share your vision, you’ll learn enough to
make up for areas where you lack talent because you’ll understand people’s abilities and limitations.
“Take the time to know your people; take the time to know your
procedures,” he says. “If you know how your company works and
the personnel, you don’t have to have the greatest people. If you
have two aggressive people in the same department, you are going
to have problems. If you have one who is aggressive and the other
one is a planner and an implementer, you’re going to find out you’ll
end up with a better team than most people, and you have to get
to know them to find that out.”
HOW TO REACH: Blackstone Calling Card Inc., (305) 639-9590 or www.blackstoneonline.com