- Be visible (and invisible). Nardelli plays a role in the “board cutting” ceremony that launches every new project and store. He also spends at least one week every three months as a “mystery shopper,” anonymously checking out up to 10 stores a day. At first, employees thought he was out to catch them doing something wrong, but eventually, they figured out that he just wanted to see things as a customer.
- Base decisions on the numbers. Nardelli uses his background in the metrics-obsessed culture of General Electric to measure what’s important. Example: Home Depot started tracking the average purchase per customer and raised it by 18 percent over five years, to about $58.
- Impose discipline. In his first two years, along with centralizing merchandising and creating other back-end efficiencies, Nardelli also instituted a performance- system that scared off a lot of his independent-minded store managers. Those who stayed benefited: Sales grew from $45.7 billion five years ago to about $80 billion last year.
- Understand people. Example: Nardelli notices who turns out for Home Depot’s charitable activities.
“People who volunteer are usually your best associates,” he observes.
- Execute. When Nardelli arrived at Home Depot five years ago, the company’s technology worked so badly that he couldn’t even send out an e-mail to the stores. Result: He rolled out a $2 billion technology project.
“He really is the best manager, execution- wise, I’ve ever encountered,” says former boss Jack Welch. “His real ability is to motivate lots of people around a mission, excite them about it and make it happen.”
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