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CEO sends a message by flying coach

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

When you’re the CEO, everyone’s watching you. Your actions, even seemingly trivial ones, send a message.

Dave Yost, retired CEO of AmerisourceBergen, says he could’ve arrived at the office at 8 a.m. and performed his job just fine. But he showed up at 6:30 a.m. to signal to others that he valued a full day of work.

He could’ve traveled first class or used a corporate jet. But he flew coach like his employees to convey the importance of frugality—a key part of the wholesale drug distributor’s culture.

When a salesperson ran into Yost and said, “Dave, I didn’t get in until 2 a.m. last night. My flight was cancelled,” the CEO replied, “Same thing happened to me the last time I flew to Denver.”

By sharing his employee’s frustration, Yost presented himself as a down-to-earth leader. He earned more respect because he didn’t separate himself from his team by indulging in special perks.

Normally easygoing, Yost would not tolerate arrogance and would speak up if he observed employees letting their ego interfere with proper treatment of customers, suppliers or peers.

“If the guy in the corner office thinks he’s above it all, then his co-workers start thinking that way,” he says. “If you’re uncomfortable making your own coffee or making your own copies or carrying your own bag, you’re not going to be comfortable at AmerisourceBergen.”

Yost embraced a philosophy called CE2 that stands for Customer Efficiency/Cost Effectiveness. That involves delivering what clients want and need (Customer Efficiency) and doing it smarter and with more value than competitors can deliver it (Cost Effectiveness).

— Adapted from “Leading By Example,” www.rosengroup.com.

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