Lead from the front, and team above all
In June, GE announced plans to separate its healthcare business into a standalone company and fully separate Baker Hughes GE over time. This follows the merger announcement in May of its transportation business with another US company. The company will focus on aviation, power and renewable energy, where synergies remain and great opportunities are present in the Philippines and globally.
Leadership teams across the 180 countries we do business in are being called to lead a leaner and more focused GE. I have been fortunate to have held leadership roles in the private and public sectors in the Philippines and abroad. These rich experiences, coupled with the great (and not so great) leaders I worked with, have shaped my approach to leading GE Philippines.
Build a culture of candor. Leaders have the power and responsibility to drive corporate culture. We shouldn’t waste the opportunity on nonessentials. Candor and transparency are critical components of a compelling culture. This means being open and direct with employees: Set clear expectations, conduct regular touchpoints and provide insights and feedback to improve performance and create a positive work environment.
But this is a two-way street. You should be open to frank and honest comment and observations as well, and not listen only to what you want to hear. This is the reason I encourage my team to speak out even if it hurts. I also expect my team to walk to me with good news but run to me with bad. Keep your door open so anyone can walk in with an idea, insight, criticism or suggestion.
Team above all else. You can never do it alone. Your success as a leader is as strong as the weakest member of your team. Whether leveraging on what McKinsey describes as the top 2 percent in the organization, or a broader group, you need to ensure a healthy and positive team dynamic.
This really means encouraging everyone to pull their own weight (plus some) and not be a drag on the collective effort. In gauging potential new hires, I ask candidates if they can run faster than me, and demand that they do when hired.
Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement and make sure to publicly praise people when they outperform. I experienced this when I worked with then Secretary Vince Perez in the Department of Energy, and have adopted this best practice. Not only do you encourage the achievers to continue doing well, you also send a clear signal to the rest that good work is rewarded.
Do not hesitate to throw your team into the deep end of the pool. They will learn to swim. When I worked in Australia, my chairman would regularly throw me challenges that I doubted I could surmount. Because he trusted me, I would invariably deliver. And when I would falter, he would always throw a lifeline. So make sure you are at the pool’s edge in case you need to help your team.
This is part of developing our top talents, and actively working on succession planning, which we consider our great responsibility and legacy.
In GE, we pride ourselves on our leadership ethos. And, for us, 80 percent of leadership is learned on the job. There is a terrific global network that supports me in doing my job, but there is ample leeway, too, that allows me to adapt according to the nuances of a given business environment.
Lead from the front. Given today’s pace of innovation, leaders cannot afford to be armchair generals. While micro-managing is not necessarily a CEO’s job, I believe that being ready and able to jump into the trenches is invaluable. Business exigencies will require leaders to take ownership of a campaign, unlock an impasse, push an initiative and even show the team that he or she is ready to do what other executives may not necessarily take on.
Talk is cheap and easy. Make sure you maintain a high say-do ratio, and your team will follow your lead whatever changes and challenges you face together.
Jocot de Dios (email@example.com) is CEO of GE Philippines.
Business Matters is a Makati Business Club project to share the views of key leaders in the business community. The ideas do not necessarily reflect MBC’s position.
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