Sunday, February 13, 2005

Danger Zone for CEOs with No Ears

Out of the mouths of students ...
Comments on corporate listening


Allison, a student at Auburn University asked: “If she (Carly Fiorina) is such a revered business woman, then what made her stop listening? That is something that no one but she can answer, but it makes my mind wonder what really was going with her.”

Listening when the input runs counter to what you want to do is reallllllly hard to do.

“Search, Lord, my heart and know my ways.” The Biblical phrase is loaded with wisdom.

Leaders must follow their hearts and pursue a vision that often the rest of us cannot see, but when they are driving forward for the wrong reasons … reasons they might not be able to admit to themselves … the results can be disasterous.

For example: “I want to make HP big because it serves my ego” or “I want to make HP big because it needs size to defeat IBM” are quite different but could be quite easily confused in the mind. One reason serves the CEO’s personal and inner needs while the other serves the needs of employees and shareholders.

Carly was apparently warned by shareholders, her management team and her Board to go cautiously on the acquisition of Compaq. She would hear none of it and now they have problems as a company that they did not have before.

Big decisions demand listening … then heart and courage and wisdom. If decisions are driven by pride, arrogance or greed, I suspect the decision-maker cannot hear advice because it threatens self-image.

DBM, a global human resource consulting firm, analyzed data from 481 public and private businesses worldwide for 2000-2001 and found the average CEO tenure to be only three years, a slight decrease from two years before. Only 28 percent of CEOs lasted five years, compared with 37 percent in the 1998-1999 survey.

Makes you wonder if CEOs have ears at all.

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