Joseph Plumeri, chairman and chief executive of insurance brokerage Willis Group Holdings, once was a command-and-control leader.
“Being too exciting and too motivational is overbearing, and it turns people off,” he says. So he revamped his leadership style to focus on collaboration and debate:
He built up face time. “I spend 25% to 30% of my time calling my associates—whether they had a family problem or pulled off a great deal,” he says. “Two-minute phone call, or handwritten note. I can’t begin to tell you how important that stuff is.”
He broke down the doors. When Plumeri arrived, he removed every door in the office, except for those on conference rooms and restrooms. “I wanted to stimulate conversation.”
And he turned down the music. Plumeri learned that his zeal was so “loud,” employees didn’t want to hear it.
“I remember a good friend saying to me, you can be much better than you are. If you gave other people a chance to participate in what excites you, and have them get excited along with you, you could really do some great stuff.”
— Adapted from “On Passion and Playing in Traffic,” Adam Bryant, The New York Times.
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