We’ve all had days where we would rather not open the newspaper, turn on the TV or pick up the phone for the fear of learning about more bad news.
Unfortunately, there have been a lot more of those days for all of us lately.
The stock market is going through extreme ups and downs, capital has dried up, and key customers are cutting back. You start to wonder where the sales are going to come from to enable you to make this quarter’s budget. If things don’t turn around soon, you’ll have to consider drastic cutbacks yourself.
In times like these, what’s a CEO to do? The answer: Get back to basics. Focus on the things you do best and do them as efficiently as you can. Use your strengths to exploit your competitors’ weaknesses and outhustle them.
It’s often the simple things that made you a success in the first place, and it will be the simple things that keep you afloat during the economic storm.
With that in mind, we’ve assembled the best pieces of advice garnered from Northern California’s top leaders from throughout the year. We think you’ll find some great ideas to help you improve your business within these pages, and we encourage you to keep this issue as an ongoing reference to help you find your way through the trying times that lie ahead.
Explain your mission
president and CEO, Silicon Image Inc.
Steve Tirado, president and CEO of Silicon Image Inc., says the challenges of running a business change dramatically as you scale your company upward. If you want to be successful, you need to change your management style accordingly.
“You’ve got to spend a lot of time making sure you’re not the only one pulling the wagon,” he says.
As the company grows and diversifies, the skill set needed to manage effectively changes. You begin to need the processes to scale your business, and you start realizing the importance of communication.
Each new employee you hire needs to know the company’s goals and objectives. So to make sure that all new employees are aligned with the vision, you need to be able to communicate to them how each element of your overarching strategy relates to their everyday job. Tirado says explaining the company’s mission can get repetitious, but you have to remind yourself that you set the tone for the entire organization.
“You have to get yourself comfortable with the idea that you have to repeat your vision and mission again and again and again,” Tirado says. “You can’t get bored with it. Every time you talk about it, you have to have a lot of enthusiasm.
“People look to your body language, your tone, the words you use to describe what you do on a daily basis, and they want to see a lot of passion and conviction. If you talk to the people in my company, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, he does that.’”
“You’ve got to be willing to say it again and again, because it takes a long while for messages from the top to get across to everybody in the organization.”
Tirado keeps the most recent 10 initiatives firmly in his mind, and makes sure he is able to relate the current goals back to the vision and mission of the company.
Many employees can get bogged down in the day-to-day operations, and you should-n’t miss a chance to remind them how their work fits into the company’s strategy.
“If you don’t continuously reinforce and talk about what you’re doing and where you’re going, you tend to get a loosening of that alignment or you get wandering off in that direction,” Tirado says. “It’s a constant and consistent amount of communication that has to go on related to that to keep the alignment where it needs to be.”
Support your people
CEO, VeriFone Holdings Inc.
CEO, Brocade Communications Systems Inc.
In everything that you have to do as a leader, it’s easy to overlook the most important asset that you have — your people. It’s important to make sure you create a strong culture for your people so the company can be most effective. One way to create a place people want to be in is to promote people from within.
“People want to feel that their contributions are valued, so we always look first to make promotions from within the organization,” says Douglas Bergeron, chairman and CEO of VeriFone Holdings Inc., in the January issue. “You have to think about what kind of message you’re sending as the CEO if you don’t consider your own employees first for any new opportunities.”
It’s also important to create strong metrics for performance.
“Top achievers want to be in an environment where they can accomplish and be recognized for those accomplishments,” Bergeron says. “When people know that they’re being measured and what they’re being measured on, they’ll perform. If people don’t perform, you have to get rid of them.”
In addition to measuring people, it’s important to reward them, as well, says Mike Klayko, CEO of Brocade Communications Systems Inc., and our August cover story.
“Through performance plans that are reinforced via compensation structures, everyone understands their role and how it all ties together and everyone knows what they need to do as individuals in order for the company to be successful,” Klayko says.
If you do these things, you’ll see success.
“I sincerely believe that if you priori-tize the success of others and if you truly help the people around you succeed, you will be a better CEO,” Klayko says.
The right ones
president, Chevron Energy Solutions Co.
As leaders, it’s important to get your employees in the right places to succeed.
“A real critical part of a leader’s role is to make sure that they have the right team in place in the right roles, so you can delegate critical initiatives to them, so that you’re not trying to carry the weight of the whole company on your shoulders,” says Jim Davis, president of Chevron Energy Solutions Co. “The collective strength of that leadership team can be leveraged exponentially further than an individual strong leader can.”
You have to look for signs from people inside and outside your organization to see whether people are effective.
“Typically, you’re going to get lots of different feedback from that person’s peers, possibly from their supervisors, possibly from their customers or suppliers,” he says. “You may even observe it yourself in meetings and interactions.”
The difficulty becomes that leaders tend to put off unpleasant things and hope they’ll blow over instead of reading the signs.
“It’s like a warning light on any dashboard ... you better pay attention when that red light comes on,” Davis says. “Business is the same way. You have warning lights that come on, on your financial dashboard or in terms of managing your people, and it’s just like the warning light on an airplane — you better pay real quick attention to it because something really bad might happen if you don’t deal with that right away. Rarely does a warning light come on and it’s good news.”
When you see or hear the warning signs, it’s important to point out the signs to the person who’s struggling.
“Gather the information and the facts, and then you sit down behind closed doors with that individual,” he says. “You’ll find quickly that, that person also recognizes that they’re in a difficult role that may not be the ideal fit for them.”
Doing this sooner rather than later helps both parties involved.
“If you react early enough, oftentimes, there’s not permanent damage done, so you can work with that individual to manage them out of that role and into a new role,” Davis says. “The problem is when you let it fester, and suddenly, there’s damage done to that person’s career, reputation, relationships internally as well as the damage that might be done through your organization as well as to your customers, suppliers and financial results.”
If it gets to that point, then it’s too late. “You’ll find it’s too late to manage that person into another role in your organization,” he says. “It might mean that you’re left with nothing other than to manage that person out of your organization. That is, in many cases, the fault of that person’s leadership in ignoring all the warning signs”
CEO, Cypress Semiconductor Corp.
CEO, Lam Research Corp.
If you want to be successful as an organization, you need to have a common set of values by which you operate.
“In order to continue to drive growth and maintain innovation, the main thing is that you have to keep everybody on the same page philosophically,” says T.J. Rodgers, founder, president and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor Corp.
One of the keys to establishing values is to look at what is important to you.
“You have to bring your own core personal philosophies of what you’re doing in a company,” says Steve Newberry, president and CEO of Lam Research Corp. “For better or for worse, the company is going to align to that. ... You basically choose what really is a makeup of who you are as a leader.”
He says to also make sure that those values are ones that others can get excited about, too.
“Choose a set of values that aren’t off the wall,” Newberry says. “... If the values system that you choose, people can relate to and can ultimately make their own, then it doesn’t become the CEO’s culture — it becomes the company’s culture.”