Global thinker Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Joe Bento’s chief information officer had all the goods: talent,

intelligence, experience and leadership — just what the global

freight division of CEVA Logistics needed in an executive as Bento,

the division’s new president, looked to expand his division’s global


But something was missing, and it didn’t become evident to Bento

until he saw his CIO on the job.

“We have our chief information officer of global freight management, and when I first took the role on, one of the issues I had with

him was that we had spent all this money hiring a really smart guy

to run our systems and help us evolve so we could be a very effective logistics and transportation company, and he wasn’t accountable,” Bento says.

“We had this great person, and everybody in the business

was on board except for him. So it became evident that the

person responsible for the systems needed to develop a plan

to get everyone in the group to understand, and that’s essentially what I did by position.”

It was a revelation for Bento. You can’t motivate and involve

employees without a culture that values teamwork, and you

can’t build a teamwork-oriented culture without good communication from the top.

Bento says it’s not a light switch, however. You can’t automatically turn your employees on to teamwork and give them

a feeling that their work affects the greater good of the company.

“They have to know and feel that,” Bento says.

It’s something that requires constant maintenance from the

top of the organization.

Bento says that as the leader of your organization, it’s your

responsibility to make sure everyone is on the same page and

his or her roles are well defined. That’s where good teamwork

starts, and that’s exactly what Bento has set out to accomplish

at CEVA.

Here’s how Bento uses his perch to ensure that CEVA’s $3.82

billion global freight business remains a well-oiled machine

operated by motivated employees.

Define your expectations

To give employees a sense of purpose, you must first define

the expectations you have for them.

At CEVA, Bento centers his entire freight management organization on a four-pegged operating process.

“We call it ‘operations excellence,’ and we believe it’s a market differentiator for us,” he says.

The pegs are zero-defect start-ups for new business, 12 communication-based “smart solutions” and lean initiatives.

“You do those three, and then you just measure the hell out

of them,” Bento says. “You put global metrics behind them and

then you have a definition of how you can communicate what

the expectation is.”

The four-pegged operating strategy does two things: One, it

is meant to focus everyone in the company on what CEVA

does best, which is essential for making sure employees can

live up to the expectations you and your managers set.

“When you talk about how to do business around the globe

and define that operationally, you have to be able to say, ‘This

is what we’re good at,’” he says. “This is what the company

should be known for; it helps the operations to know how they

could execute against that. It’s much easier than trying to be a

jack of all trades and trying to do everything for everybody.”

Second, Bento says any operations strategy issued by management is also a means of holding management accountable

to keep opening doors for employees, removing barriers that

might prevent employees from doing their jobs optimally.

He says there is one overarching rule that everyone in a management position should remember: The higher you go in your

company, the more people you are obligated to serve.

“You have to be someone who is willing to step across the

line and eliminate any type of bureaucracy,” he says. “The

ability to lead by example really differentiates good leaders.

Sometimes, you don’t realize that as you take on more

responsibility, you serve more people. You don’t think about

it in terms of that — that, that really has to be on a leader’s

mind, serving the people that work for you.”

Motivate the troops

What makes your employees want to come to work at your

company every day, beyond their paychecks? It’s a question

you need to become aware of as you are trying to achieve

buy-in from your work force as you move your company


Bento and his management team divide employees into two

basic groups: those who want to become exceptional performers at one specific job and those who want to scale the

organizational ladder.

Employees work with their managers to outline goals aimed

at building their particular career path, and each employee’s

performance is measured periodically against performance

indicators. Rewards such as recognition, bonuses and promotions are based in part on meeting and exceeding goals.

“One of the techniques we’ve done here that has been adopted by the global CEVA organization is to really be developmental with our employees as to what are their career aspirations,” he says. “We are doing more in terms of performance

appraisals. Not saying, ‘Here is a 5 percent raise,’ but asking,

‘How are we helping you to become a better employee?’ So my

human resources director is working with the global HR director to create a performance management arc for the organization that can help foster and develop that contribution —

whether it’s the night-shift employee moving cargo in Hong

Kong or someone working in distribution after hours, they

know how they are making a difference.

“These things over time do make a difference, that you are

making performance and performance management a part of

your organization’s culture. It can’t be once a year that I’m

telling someone they’re doing a good job.”

No matter where they work in the organization, they need to

hear and see communication from the top often and in multiple forms.

“You have to be able to give verbal communication or a pat

on the back,” Bento says. “You need to recognize what your

employees do in a group setting, in big settings. Anything you

can do along the lines of reinforcing the behavior in a positive

way, it costs you nothing.

“Recognition makes people feel great. An ‘attaboy’ goes a

long way. So we’re trying to reinforce that; we have things

we’re trying to evolve in terms of the involvement and the rewards for doing a very exceptional job. I’m a big fan of recognition, and it doesn’t cost you anything to do it.”

The key indicator for employee satisfaction and fulfillment

is your level of turnover.

If employees are leaving at a higher rate than you anticipated, it’s a signal to delve deeper into the issue.

“Your turnover will always be an indicator,” he says. “If you

can say, ‘Shoot, I have heavy turnover,’ well, why? Maybe

you’re not communicating the message very well. Maybe you

don’t have a good way to bring on new employees and teach

them the business in a way where they’re feeling like they can

make a contribution, so they quit.

“But the other side to that is, if you have areas in your company where you have a good methodology to developing people, where those people are the ones getting promoted, you’ll

populate your organization with employees who are doing

effective work outside of where they started.”

Keep everyone connected

Even if you have everyone in your company motivated and willing to work, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re working together.

Preventing silos within your company takes constant and consistent communication, not just from you but from leaders

throughout the organization.

Bento says the best way to bring different divisions and departments together is in meetings. Even if gathering your managers

into the same room on a frequent basis isn’t practical for your

company, there are still benefits to doing it as often as possible.

At CEVA, Bento’s entire senior staff meets monthly, while the

executive team meets each Monday.

“Because there is so much interdependency in our business, we

have to keep together on things,” he says. “We meet as an executive team every single Monday just to keep a pulse on the overall

business, where are the hot spots and whether we need to rede-ploy resources to solve a particular issue.

“Our monthly senior staff meetings enable the staff functions

within freight management to be tuned in to what is going on

with the overall business as well as their functions in supporting

what needs to get done.”

Bento says your ability to engage your people in person is a critical element to keeping everyone connected and working toward

the same organizational goals.

“Everything we say (as leaders) has meaning,” he says. “If you

can’t be trustworthy in your position, you’re doomed. In an interdependent business like ours, communication is foundational.

You have to be able to deliver on your promises.”

With that in mind, Bento says communication and getting out

among his people takes precedence over most of his other

administrative responsibilities, and it shows on his appointment


“Just to give you a flavor for it, in the last two months, I’ve been

to appointments in Zurich, Glasgow, Dublin, Birmingham,

London, Tokyo, Bangkok, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

So what I try to do is prioritize that as best I can. In terms of

administrative functions, I try to do those after I’ve had a chance

to go out into the work force.”