The chairman, president and CEO can do a reasonable job at retaining some of that information, but he knows some leaders who really excel at it.
“I think it’s a powerful skill that some CEOs have to be able to call people by their first name every time you see them,” he says. “But because I can’t do that, I may recall the conversation I had with them. But just let people know you care about them.”
That’s the main reason for Beauchamp’s envy of other CEOs who can recall names. He wants all of his employees to know he cares about them and wants his managers to approach leadership the same way.
Obviously, everyone has a rank in an organization, but that shouldn’t affect how much you show interest in an employee.
“If people are going to want to follow you and want to succeed for you, they have to respect you as a person first,” says Beauchamp, who has led BMC to $1.87 billion in revenue for fiscal 2009.
After all, the way you act is going to shape how everyone around you acts.
“As the leader, you are responsible to set the right culture of what is important and what will be tolerated and what won’t be tolerated and what’s expected of people that work there,” he says.
Lead by example
Creating a winning culture starts with you. Beauchamp wants to give people the respect that he would want them to give him. It’s a simple concept, but it takes a lot more work to actually exemplify it on a day-to-day basis.
“Implied in that is that you are honest and you are going to deal with them straight,” he says. “You’re going to make sure your own self-interests are not anywhere close to the top of the priority list on how decisions are made, that they see your priorities are the right priorities and you are making decisions in the right order.”
If you simply say that you want everyone to respect each other and care for each other, some might think it’s only lip service.
“I think it’s the way you behave every day,” he says. “As a leader in a company, people watch and report and record what you say and do to each other.”
For example, Beauchamp was invited to two days of meetings with midlevel managers. Since he was there to be a participant and not the boss, it would have been a major mistake on his part if he walked in and immediately tried to take charge. If you’re in this situation, remember you are a participant and not the leader, and listen to what is said. It will go a long way with those in the meeting who can see you are open to new ideas just like everyone else.
“It’s just how you interact with them, how you respect their decisions and how they see that sometimes when they say, ‘This is what I see,’ [that] they see you actually change your opinion based on what you heard from them, that you are actually respecting their opinion and that you are really there to learn and to serve them,” he says.
You can be proactive in leading by example by introducing yourself to people who are lower in the organization and who you may have not met before.
In addition, make it a point to show others in the organization that everyone’s opinion counts no matter where the person is on the organizational chart.
“For instance, if you are in a meeting and you have a whole set of people in the meeting from executives and midlevel management ... if there’s somebody I don’t know or somebody in that room that is furthest from the top of the ‘org’ chart, I try to make sure that person gets special attention,” he says. “I want everybody in the room to see that I am giving that person special attention.
“It will mean a lot to that person. It will mean a lot to their family. They’ll go back and talk about it or to their co-workers, and you let them know that ‘You matter.’”
You can drive your point home better if you ask for the opinion in front of other senior leaders.
“It’s important to let the organization know that every level of the organization matters and, in fact, the most personal respect is owed to those people closest to the customer,” he says. “The people that are not at the top of the org chart but the people that are at the widest part of the org chart.”
You can’t just do this once or twice and then everything will fall into place. It is going to take time before your message and examples sink in across the organization.
“You do that all day long, every day, over the course of years, and the organization develops an understanding of what matters to you,” he says. “Whatever matters to you as the boss, it’s amazing how often the organization begins to mimic those same characteristics. If they see me do it over and over again, and they know it’s what I like.”
You can also show employees they matter by responding to their requests in a timely matter. If you get an e-mail or a phone call from someone, do your best to get back to them as soon as you can.
“Particularly if it’s an employee I don’t personally know, who is remote from my day-to-day work, then I think it’s just incredibly important that I be respectful and responsive to those people quickly,” he says.
Hire the right people
When Beauchamp first became CEO almost nine years ago, he called two of the top CEOs in the technology field. He asked them for advice, and one told him, “By now, you know what you are good at,” Beauchamp recalls. “Do more of that. You know what you’re not good at. Go find somebody else who is really good at it and hire them.”
It’s pretty clear that hiring the right people is crucial to any organization’s culture-building process. But, the challenge in hiring is trying to be as close to perfect as you can be. The wrong hire is going to happen, but the more times you get it right, the easier your life will be.
“You can’t run a great organization without great people,” he says. “A hiring mistake is really expensive.”
To complicate things, most potential employees are going to be on their best behavior and ready to impress you at a moment’s notice. You have to get candidates to relax during interviews so you can see more of what they will be like on a day-to-day basis after they’ve been hired.
“You wear them out,” he says. “You spend a day. Nobody can stay that tight all day long. Give them an opportunity to work off their jitters in some of the lesser important interviews so, by that time, the day has moved forward. I also know that sometimes when people are interviewing with me, because of my job title, they may be nervous.”
That’s something you have to take into account. If your company has an interviewing model where lower-level managers or employees will meet with the CEO, they may be on edge a little.
“If it’s a first-line person or a second-line person or a manager, a young person particularly, then, of course, you give them the benefit of the doubt and recognize they’re going to be a little wound up,” he says.
Don’t start the interview by asking them something negative, like, “What are the three things yo
u think people don’t like about you?’
“(You) just kind of try to make them at ease,” he says. “I try to relax and get them to talk about their family and talk about their background.”
Give and welcome feedback
When it comes to building a winning culture, you have to keep the lines of communication open so you can get a better feel for what is working and what isn’t.
Beauchamp wants to hear feedback from all parts of the company, and that includes those who are closest to the customers. Employees have his phone number and his e-mail address so they can contact him.
But opening up those lines of communication can lead to you receiving calls and e-mails for problems that should be handled by someone else. It can also create an atmosphere where managers and directors feel uncomfortable if their direct reports aren’t respecting the chain of command.
You have to be clear about the guidelines for employees contacting you with ideas or information.
“What I look for is if an employee has any feedback they want to give me about direction of the company; things that they wish I would do as a CEO or maybe they can give me some input that would be helpful around what customers are saying and what employees are saying,” he says. “Just let them know there is a feedback loop directly to me that’s wide open all the time. You do have to use some caution when you explain that to not say, ‘I’m also the person if you don’t think your raise was big enough, to call me.’”
In addition, he doesn’t want to hear about insignificant information like the soap being low in one bathroom. However, if it’s low in all the bathrooms, then that is something he wants to know.
Opening up the feedback lines will make it easier for you to hear problems like this.
“If we were letting our campus run down and the soap was needed to be refilled in all the bathrooms, then, yes, someone ought to tell me,” he says.
“One of the things a CEO has to do is watch little things to make sure that the organization knows that there is a standard of quality and everyone is accountable to it. If I see something like a typo or a poorly worded sentence that goes out in the e-mail to a large number of employees, I will get involved in that.”
What seems like a small mistake to someone can get bigger and bigger if that person doesn’t receive feedback.
“The reason I do that is not so much that I think I’m going to write a better e-mail,” he says. “It’s just that I want the organization to know that you better be very professional and precise in how we communicate. Little mistakes to a lot of people can have a cultural impact on the organization.
“So, when a CEO particularly in a group setting, finds small errors and points them out in front of the group, it sends a message that we need to pay attention to detail. The organization needs to not get sloppy.”
Whether you are the CEO of a company or a young intern, you need feedback to know how you are performing at your job.
“It’s a frequent mistake, and it’s one that I know we’ve made before where someone is essentially told that you’re doing a good job and then all of a sudden, one day, you are doing a bad job,” he says. “People don’t like that. People want to know, ‘How am I doing?’”
However, if you are going to point out mistakes, you have to be ready to get that medicine yourself. Tell your direct reports that you want to hear from them if you are doing something incorrectly. When you hear your weaknesses, you can’t argue with them or get defensive if you are asking for that feedback.
“The hardest part of our job is the things you don’t know about yourself,” he says. “It’s not the things you know you need to get better at. It’s the things that you don’t even know you need to get better at. It’s the blind spots that are the real risk.”
How to reach: BMC Software Inc., (800) 841-2031 or www.bmc.com