"Meetings und E-Mails sind Fallgruben"

21. März 2014
Produktivitätsfresser: Schlecht vorbereitete Meetings
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Produktivitätsfresser: Schlecht vorbereitete Meetings

3. Teil: Other coming challenges

What are other coming challenges you see, aside from technology?

Almost all companies have gone global. In the large companies, many derive 50% of the revenues from abroad. And even in smaller companies, they have to export. Doing business globally requires a very different skill set than distributing domestically.

But there are many executives who are very U.S.-centric. They really haven't spent much time overseas. Being a leader today requires that you have lived overseas, or have spent a lot of time overseas.

So how do you handle the demands of international business travel?

You as the CEO actually have to show up at your high value-added offices around the world. And that takes a lot of time and effort. When I was running Fidelity's investment arm, we had offices in London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. We also had distribution offices all over the place.

I tried to visit, at least once a quarter, those investment offices because they housed our prized contributors: portfolio managers and analysts. They needed to meet me regularly and have a chance to talk through issues. When you run a global operation, it's hard to maintain a global esprit and an integrated approach. And the CEO has an important role in leading those.

And what about the relationship with their board?

The nature of corporate boards has changed significantly over the last 20 years. When I joined my first board over a decade ago, a friend called me up and said, "We need an American on our board, would you consider it?"

I said "sure." He sent me some material on the company and told me that the CEO was coming to town in a few weeks and asked if I would have dinner with them. So this director and the CEO and I had dinner. At the end of the dinner, the CEO asked, "OK, are you ready to join the board?"

By contrast, when I joined the Medtronic board, the lead independent director came to my office and interviewed me first. Next I had to meet with a number of the independent directors on the governance committee, and then, at the end, I saw the CEO. It is probably true that if the CEO really hated me, the board might not have gone forward, but I was 90% on board before seeing the CEO.

Now CEOs have shorter tenures than they used to, and the notion of the imperial CEO is no longer accepted by most directors. They want a much higher level of accountability and a much higher level of transparency. And the CEO who doesn't realize that has probably made a bad career decision.

With these shorter tenures, how can CEOs deal with the inherent pressures that go along with them?

I believe that being a CEO is a lonely existence, so I think CEOs need personal coaches - preferably somebody who's been a CEO - to help with overall strategic thinking and also somebody just to talk with about company matters. A CEO really can't talk openly to anybody else in the company.

If being a CEO is increasingly lonely, how should CEOs sort of seek and maintain connections with family and friends, especially when they're so busy?

Families are very important, so CEOs should carefully protect their family time. It's easy to say, "Oh, I cannot possibly get home on most business days until 10 p.m." The demands on the time of most CEOs are so great that they easily do that. But I insisted on getting home to eat dinner with my wife and children at 7:00 p.m. and to share two or three hours of quality time.

Family time is critical. If 10 years later your kids are grown up and you haven't really spent much time with them, there is no way to recapture those years. Moreover, family dinners were healthy mental breaks for me. There were many times when I was struggling with a difficult problem, stopped thinking about it for three hours at dinner, and then suddenly the answer would hit me.

So what should - and shouldn't - executives do when they get home?

You don't want to come in the door, and then immediately receive phone calls or answer your email. Before I walk in the door, I will literally sit in my car and finish all my emails and all my phone calls; I won't walk in the door until I'm out of work mode.

If you come home for dinner, and immediately get a phone call or start checking your email, then you really undermine the notion of "quality family time." In the end, you will retire from your business, but your family is forever.

Zu den Personen
Gretchen Gavett ist Redakteurin der Harvard Business Review. Ihr Twitter-Account @gretchenmarg.
Sie führte das Interview mit Robert C. Pozen:

Robert C. Pozen lehrt Betriebswirtschaftslehre an der Harvard Business School. Zuletzt veröffentlichte er das Buch "Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours".

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