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Lenovo execs’ posh, high-stakes meeting

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

The CEO of Lenovo, a Chinese computer company, brings his own distinct cultural touch to his leadership. Yang Yuanqing, 48, hosts an annual event for his senior executives—a mix of lighthearted fun and dead-serious business.

He invites his top managers to his palatial home in a ritzy section of Beijing. One of his executives calls it “a mini-Versailles.”

The group enjoys a seven-course dinner with high-end wines specially chosen to complement each course. Teams of butlers descend on the executives, refilling their wineglasses with alacrity.

But then the team gets down to business. The CEO invites each executive to stand and declare his or her goals for the coming year.

Wineglass in hand, each manager shares an ambitious goal and then the group toasts it. Examples include, “We’ll beat Hewlett Packard’s sales” or “We’ll raise margins and expand our retail ­network” by a specified percentage.

Experienced Lenovo executives vie to go first. That’s because with each speaker, the goals tend to grow more outlandish. If someone doesn’t set a target that others deem sufficiently bold, good-natured protests erupt and the speaker is prodded to raise the bar higher.

Yang presides over the gathering gently but firmly. On occasion, he’ll tease an executive for missing last year’s target.

But he keeps his composure and motivates the team with his aggressive vision for the giant computer maker’s global growth.

One of the attendees at these annual banquets is the head of human resources. The next morning, she emails each executive with a summary of that person’s stated target for the year ahead. This heightens accountability and signals to everyone that Yang will be watching.

— Adapted from “Can Lenovo do it?,” Miguel Helft, Fortune.

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