...Well perhaps not exactly trainees, but those who have a different approach of creating a workplace. The role of a Chief Executive Officer is not an easy one. As the top boss of the company, she/he needs to know everything that has anything to do with her/his company. And let’s face it – the first thing a journalist is taught is that spokespeople give official statements, it is the ones who are not supposed to, or allowed to, speak, that give what is usually printed (and turns out to be truth) in most cases.
If the biggest source of news or information from any company lies at the maintenance and help staff level, or such, usually considered junior level, then for a CEO, to know that level is just as important as to know his/her A-team. Yes, the usual way to be omnipresent is to ensure a great A-team that creates a right chain up to the lowest common denominator but there are enough and more examples we have seen of the weak links.
I can think of at least three names from my media friends who have already disagreed with me, and have formed, what I am sure are, strong arguments by now. But let before you jump, let me tell you where I am headed with this - I had the chance to hear AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes at Spikes Asia this September. And he was every bit as brilliant as I was told he would be. However, one statement he made stuck with me, and I asked him more about it when I had the chance to meet him after his address.
Tony said his biggest strength at work was in his team, and the fact that he still knew what it felt like to work at the lowest levels in the organisational hierarchy. The way Tony chooses to maintain his knowledge of his staff is by working with his staff in ticketing, check-in, baggage, customer care and so on... I asked him if he worked at every level and department, and he said he did. My next question: Why. His simple answer: To stay focussed on what I want of this company, and ensure that the team not only has what it takes, but also what it needs, to achieve these targets we have set out. Brands are built within first, and that is what I am doing, Tony had said.
Yes, I was suitably awestruck but more importantly, I kept thinking ‘is that how CEOs of the future would work? Is that evolution?’ And the same question came rushing back when I heard Domino’s India’s CEO Ajay Kaul in his Keynote Address at Pitch CMO Summit 2010. Kaul has worked in various Domino’s offices doing everything from taking orders, delivering pizzas, even cleaning bathrooms of the outlets. Kaul did not shy in saying that Domino’s has a branch Captain and whatever the Captain would make him do, he would do it.
Kaul too is of the opinion that the brand is first built within the company. True you are creating a team but what you are hoping for is that a family is created at the same time. The family that knows the company’s traits and ethics as well as the marketing head or the CEO knows. And it helps to engage with the youngest members of the family but not just by supervising but by being a part of the contributor, of the team that ‘does’.
For those of us who have had the good fortune to know some broadcasting CEOs or media agency CEOs, know that we have some examples in our industry itself who make genuine and thought through attempts to be a part of the working staff, and we also know that some of these companies can boast of long employee relations and great performances...
So here is me, beginning the second last month of this year, saluting all those CEOs of the future – not future CEOs, but those present CEOs, whose footsteps the future CEOs would follow...