Turnarounds Know No Life-Balance: Why Digging Out of a Hole Takes More Hours...
August 30, 2010
When you talk about the high performers, the stars in your company, what adjectives do you assign to them?
Of course, they're smart, analytical, great communicators, etc. But when I ask people that question, the biggest things I hear are the following tags:
"Driven". "Passionate". "Motivated". "Determined".
Which brings me to the point of this post. A former boss of mine had a saying that he kept coming back to related to what it took to be a star:
"I've never seen anyone rise through an organization or create incredible results without putting in more hours than those around them."
The hours paradox is still alive and well. For all the talk about work/life balance, the cold hard truth remains. If you want to move the ball, you're going to have to put in more hours than the average Joe.
That's true in normal work, but especially true in a turnaound situation. Turnarounds generally require even more hours, an almost psychotic, single-minded determination to do what is necessary from a work perspective to make change (and the business results that follow) happen.
Example: New Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. Fortune paints him as follows:
"Marchionne, 58, is taking a far more personal approach to velocity. It has been evident since Fiat took a 20% interest in post-bankruptcy Chrysler in June 2009 and installed Marchionne as CEO of both companies. Since then he has torn up Chrysler's old-school org chart with its chains of command and replaced it with a flat organization with him at the top. He has handed two jobs to some executives to reduce the need for memos and meetings. And to make sure decisions are made quickly and nothing is overlooked, he supervises them all. Marchionne has his 25 top Chrysler executive -- everybody from engineering and manufacturing to legal and HR -- report directly to him.
Since Marchionne already had 21 direct reports at Fiat Group, and must divide his time between Auburn Hills, Mich., and Turin, most management experts would call his method madness. But instead of becoming a bottleneck, he has turned himself into an expediter because he is always reachable. "They have access to me 24/7," he says, and when they call or e-mail, he makes decisions in minutes -- or seconds. While traveling, he stays in contact with one of his six BlackBerrys. "BlackBerrys are divine instruments," he purrs."
6 Blackberrys. That really tells you all you need to know. As you might expect, in exchange for being available 24/7, Marchionne expects his direct reports to follow his lead and looks for the types who are willing to commit to the same lifestyle:
"After taking over Chrysler, Marchionne overhauled not only the management chart but the staff as well. He combed the company for younger managers willing to take on more responsibility, be available at all times, and put the company above their own interests. The last is important to Marchionne. "The hardest job is getting personalities to mesh. Some people become dysfunctional -- their egos become blown out. It is like having an evil spirit in the house.
Marchionne-style management is not for compromising types. He works all the time, subordinates say, and his wife has left Italy to live separately at their home in Switzerland (they have two boys). "The lifestyle I have today is the most abusive way to achieve a lasting impact," he concedes. His subordinates, most in their forties or early fifties, complain about their CEO's all-in schedule but not about the results. "He defines the road, and we have to drive down it," says Scott Garberding, 46, Chrysler's head of manufacturing. "I'm putting in more hours, but there are clear outputs to the hours and we're making progress."
He combed the company for younger managers willing to take on more responsibility, be available at all times, and put the company above their own interests. Welcome to the reality of the turnaround, where you're either all in... Or you're out....
While I admire the drive and pure efficiency of this approach, it's best as only a temporary solution. At some point, the never-ending drive will erode away good talent and leadership, as those with outside interests or desire for a life beyond the office will simply find the pace not worth it - and many of those are top talent. It's good for a temporary situation, but creating an enterprise that flat with a huge number of direct reports leads inevitably to bottlenecks and loss of organizational memory if you leave (or cannot be reached).
In general, it's a mark of poor leadership to direct too many people to report to you. Even CEO's aren't that critical. Create a trusted team, and actually trust them to function.
Posted by: Matthew | August 30, 2010 at 12:42 PM
I also admire the work ethic of people like Chrysler's new CEO. My understanding is single mother's work as hard as this new CEO but ultimately have to decide what in life is truly important in the big picture. When all is said and done at the end of our lives will we only be proud of our accomplishments at work or will we purposefully chose to work during work hours and then make a strong investment with our family after work hours. I guess the question would be "am I focusing my best efforts were they should be focused". If I say "yes" to the level of commitment from this CEO I am saying "no" to many other areas that deserve my same level attention. What do I love and put in its prominent place; job, family, faith... or do I commit all my efforts in one place, to the exclusion of everything else, and pay the inevitable price? That's a big price in the end. Building a trusted team at work and bringing long term sanity to work and home sounds like better leadership.
Posted by: LM | August 30, 2010 at 03:23 PM
It helps to be at the right company where work-life balance is seen as important. You can review a companies working environment at http://www.cubecheck.com
Posted by: Sarah | August 31, 2010 at 01:29 AM