How often do you speak with your CEO? In most large companies, you get to see your CEO on videos, you read emails and letters from your CEO, and at Siemens we can also listen to our CEO, during his podcast. But all this is different from having a real conversation. A couple of days ago, this changed for me. And it came as a shock.
It’s like I won the lottery
Roland Busch invited me to join him for a full day, for a job-shadowing experience. Time with him; time with his most immediate team; time to take a look at Siemens from the CEO perspective. It would become the most memorable day of my career to date. I told my wife: “It’s like I won the lottery.”
But first things first: Why me? We are a global team of 290.000 colleagues at Siemens! Well, I simply made sure I’d have a lottery ticket in the first place: during one of Roland’s podcasts he asked his listeners for their opinion on what is necessary to develop a great career. Giving career advice to the most senior employee of my company? That kind of invitation does not come too often! The authors of Roland’s favourite tips would get an invitation to the job shadowing experience, the lottery ticket, if you will.
When reality set in
My tip: “You grow as a person by making others grow.” I had forgotten about the competition, until, in the following episode, I heard my name: Frank. Well, I thought, there are many Franks at Siemens. Who is the lucky Frank that gets to job shadow with Roland? Then Roland said, “Frank from France”. Finally, “from Smart Infrastructure”. Not so many Franks at Siemens Smart Infrastructure in France, I thought. But when I finally heard my last name, I still didn’t believe it. I rewound the podcast a couple of times, until the reality set in: I’ll spend a whole day with the CEO.
Roland started by taking time for a one-on-one with me for half an hour. He was curious about my different cultural experiences at companies I previously worked for: firms from France and the US. And my thoughts on how to give our sales teams more powerful incentives. My recommendation: give them rewards more frequently. Not one or two bonuses per year, but three or four. We don’t necessarily have to pay out more, but more often. Here came the first big surprise of the day. Roland took this idea on right away – reviewing the sales incentive is on his radar.
My lesson on empowerment
The second surprise was the Jour Fixe with the CEO of Siemens US, Barbara Humpton. She and Roland were talking about raising competitiveness and cost effectiveness. Barbara shared some potential measures developed from her team with Roland, he said: “Let me know if you need help with benchmarking or input based on my experience. But let me tell you, I’m confident you and your team will come up with the best solution – you guys know better than anyone else what’s needed locally.” It was a powerful lesson in empowerment. Barbara quickly jumped in, laughing: “I knew you would say this, Roland.”
At the end of the day, after eight virtualmeetings, I asked myself: How has this changed me? Time will tell. I learned about growth mindset and how strong empowerment can be – this is all about changing behaviours and habits. And this takes its time. But the day after the job shadowing, I already observed one small change. A mild impatience had grown in me. We all see need for change around us, most of the time. Sometimes small things, sometimes big things. But how often do we just stop whatever we are doing, and kick into action to actively change things?
What this day has changed
I observed, how I actually did kick into action, on the first day back at work, after the job shadowing. My team makes quotes for our sales teams at Smart Infrastructure: everything around fire detection, comfort and security. Big quotes, which can go into millions of Euros; and small quotes, some below 10.000 Euros. We have a solid, thorough process to produce these quotes. The problem: we treat them all the same way. A quote for 500.000 Euros goes through the same process as a quote for 5.000 Euros. It is slow, it is cumbersome for small orders, and we have known this for a while.
I didn’t want to wait any longer. We will change the software for small orders, speed things up for our sales people and their customers – and get more small quotes done in the same time. Ten percent productivity gain, that’s my objective. And the best bit: we are not starting a huge email chain asking for permission. We will just do it. That’s my lesson on empowerment, from a day with Roland.
What else changed? By interacting with Roland, I got to know a person, not just the CEO. His questions, the way he shows how he cares; his emotional side comes through during one-on-ones. Whom else among my colleagues would I like to get to know better? The good news: next time I won’t need a “lottery ticket”. I just pick up the phone or invite for a video call. That’s the other bit of human growth from this day. I am glad Roland didn’t only ask for advice, but also followed mine, in helping me grow. You grow as a person by making others grow.
“If you’re interested in hearing more about the job shadowing with Roland Busch, listen to this podcast episode of #RolandUnplugged where I had the pleasure to be his guest.”