Youdon’t need to tell Joseph C. Guyaux about tough love. The president of The PNCFinancial Services Group Inc. learned all about it when he was in college.
Guyauxhad two potential summer jobs: One was for a company that was a precursor toMerrill Lynch, and the other was for the Upper Allegheny Joint SanitaryAuthority — when there was a lot of rain, it would be his job to lift manholecovers and climb in with a hard hat and little shovel and unplug clogs.
Guyauxplanned to accept the Merrill Lynch job, but his father had other plans. Hisfather told him if he didn’t take the sanitary job, which paid less than theother job, he would have to move out.
“Isaid, ‘I don’t understand,’” Guyaux says. “He said, ‘Look, I don’t know whatyou’re doing when you are off at college, but I want you to understand whereyou could end up if you don’t make the best of your opportunities. So, this isyour job.’
“Ilater found out that the sanitary authority hired 14 people for the summer.Twelve sat in the air conditioning and painted the pipes at the sanitationplant different colors.
Twowent out on the line. My father had requested that if I was given the job, thatI must be one of the people that went out on the line.”
Guyauxdidn’t leave the experience without learning a lesson. “Where it shows up forme and what my father instilled in me was, we all have chances andopportunities in life,” he says. “Sometimes, we take them for granted like theyaren’t that big of a deal or, ‘I’ll get another one.’
“Ithink what my dad was trying to say to me was, ‘Hey, you should be thrilled togo to college, but what are you going to do now that you are there?’ I try totell people that you might be thrilled with a promotion, you might be thrilledthat you got hired here, but now that you are here, celebrate, but how are yougoing to take advantage of it now? What are you going to do to prepare yourselfto be the best that you can be so that you don’t have any regrets?”
Guyauxsays one of his biggest challenges is motivating more than 28,000 employees atPNC, which posted $6.7 billion in 2007revenue, to achieve new goals.
“Itis hard,” he says. “It’s sort of like when you have a group of people that aretrying to win a world championship in anything. Everybody makes the sacrificeto do it. I think why it’s so hard to sort of continue and repeat with the samegroup of people is that once you’ve achieved it, it does feel like, ... ‘Don’twe deserve a break?
“Youjust have to keep saying, ‘As well as we’re doing today, it’s not a certaintythat because of how well we are doing today we will be doing this well threeyears from now.’”
Guyauxand his team are consistently asking themselves the tough questions about wherethey are now as a company and where they want to be in the future.
“So,I’ll get my team together and say, ‘Three years from now, if we are doing thesame things, if we’re executing the same strategies, does that sound like awinning place for you? What are people that are struggling today or maybe arebetter in certain areas or even nonbanks, what are they doing? What do we thinkabout that? If we are going to stay ahead of them, what are the implications ofthat for us?’” he says.
Inorder to keep everyone excited and on the same page, you need to involveemployees in decisions at the company. The ability to do so exemplifies thedifference between leadership and management.
“Iknow this is an oversimplification, (but) when I think of management, it’s sortof, ‘I know what I want to do, and I want people to execute it. Here’s theplan, here’s the product, here’s the pricing. I want us to go find 1,000customers,’” he says. “If that’s what I want, I should just simply say, ‘Look,I need you to execute. I’m not asking you to bring your thinking and your views— feedback would be great, but let’s get going.’
“Ithink that’s different from getting people aligned. You have to leave room forthem to own whatever you’re doing.”
Forexample, PNC had an initiative called “One PNC” that was focused on how to makethe company more efficient and effective. In order to get the best results,employees are asked for their ideas.
“Webasically went out to the company and said, ‘We’d like your thoughts and ideason this,’” he says. “We even organized cross-functional teams, and we had aprocess where all these ideas bubbled forward and were then decisions. Therewere decisions of yes, no, not now, let’s take this one, but every employee’sthought or advice ... was at least considered.”
Someideas were discussed in work groups, and ideas would come from the supervisorlevel.
Therewere also no incentives for an employee if the company used an idea.
“Thiswas really just inviting them in and saying, ‘Listen, we need to do better atthese things,” he says. “Rather than management sitting off by itself andtrying to figure it out, we’re going to open this process up to the wholecompany, and that way, we’ll get the best ideas and the best way to get to ourdestination.”
Ifmanagement would have taken care of One PNC by itself, Guyaux said it wouldn’thave been as successful.
“Mysense is we would have hit our objectives, whatever they would have been,financially,” he says. “We would have probably made some serious mistakesthat we didn’t understand the unintended consequences because we would haveordered things to get done. And I do not think we would have emerged with amotivated inspired, engaged work force.”
Instead,the company had an inspired work force, and One PNC generated $400 million incost savings.
“Itmakes people a part of the company,” he says “So, when we declared success onOne PNC, there were literally thousands of people inside PNC that could saythat happened because of me.”
Theaverage cost-saving idea cut about $150,000 in expenses. “These weren’t, ‘Sella building, downsize your sales force by 20 percent.’ It wasn’t those ideas. Itwas a bunch of little ideas. So, ever
ybody literally could see whether theycame up with the idea or whether they executed the idea or whether theyaccepted it, they had contributed to a wonderful outcome for the company.”
Whilea leader should get employee input, it’s important to be clear to those belowyou that their opinions are honestly wanted.
Guyauxrecalls when the company was launching a new checking product, which was adramatic undertaking.
Hehad four people on his team to work on it, and one day, he sat them down andtold them he was feeling good about it. He also noted there was some risk andasked if anyone was concerned or wanted to talk about anything.
“Isaid, ‘I really need to know where you are at on that. Here’s where I’m atbased on what I know, but I value your thoughts on this.’ I went through personby person, and they all said, ‘Fine.’ We go into launch, and about a week afterlaunch, one of the women comes in and says, ‘Joe, you should know, here’s a badoutcome, here’s a bad outcome and here’s a bad outcome.’”
Guyauxasked her how this could have happened, and she said she suspected before thelaunch that it was a possibility but didn’t say anything. He questioned why shedidn’t bring it up when he asked in the prelaunch meeting if anybody had anyconcerns.
“Shelooked at me and said, ‘Oh, you really meant that?’ I said, ‘What do you thinkI meant?’ She says, ‘Well, the bosses that I’ve had, usually when they saythat, that’s been code for, ‘Get on board or get out.’ I said, ‘But I didn’tsay that.’ She looked at me and she said, ‘Oh, I get that now, but that’s sortof how I heard it.’
“So,it just shows you how complicated life is. I think from time to time I am beingcrystal clear with no room for misinterpretation, but people have their ownsort of filters and files and experiences that sometimes even then get in theway.”
Guyauxsays part of the problem was only two of the people on the team had a prior,direct working relationship with him. The woman reported down two levels in theorganization from Guyaux, and she wasn’t that familiar with him on aprofessional level.
“So,what I got clear about is when I am speaking like that and I am asking peopleto respond, there is a difference between how much time and energy we’ve spentwith each other,” he says. “So, how sure can I be that they’ve heard mecorrectly? So, my lesson from that is, if I had to do it over again, I wouldhave assessed how strong do I think my relationship is with this person. If Iwouldn’t give it an 8, 9 or 10 on a scale of 10, I should have probably takenthose other people aside and said, ‘Look, I know you haven’t worked directlywith me, but I want to make sure there is no misunderstanding. You have thefreedom to really express what’s on your mind because that’s what I reallymean.’
“It’simportant there not be any misinterpretation. Instead, I just assumed thateverybody knew who I was and everybody knows how I operate. Therefore, when Isay this, I can expect a uniform response.”
Youalso need to look at people and gauge their reaction in meetings and follow upwith them if you feel you didn’t get the reaction you wanted when, forinstance, if you asked for those in favor of a proposal to say ‘aye.”
“Thereare times when some people say aye, and there are some times when other peopledon’t bother to say aye and there are times when they sort of turn away and sayaye,” he says. “It all means something. It could mean something.
“But,clearly, the people that are shouting aye, you figure they are going to leaveand go climb the hill. The people that didn’t even respond, it’s at least worththe inquiry of, ‘Did you just not want to respond, or did you just not want toobject?’”
Guyauxreflects after meetings, and then reacts if he doesn’t feel satisfied when themeeting is over.
“Ialways ask myself in important meetings, when I leave the meeting, howconfident am I that everybody got the message that I intended?” he says. “Quitefrankly, there are meetings where I think back and I picture people in theroom, and I think about the body language or the expression on their face. It willcause me from time to time to call people up and say, ‘Hey, I’m just checkingwith you. What did you come away from the meeting with? Did you feel inspiredand motivated; did you feel clear and excited? Or, where did you end up comingout of that meeting?’ It’s amazing how many times I’ve had the exact oppositeeffect on some people than I had intended.”
HOW TOREACH: The PNCFinancial Services Group Inc., (888) PNC-BANK or www.pnc.com