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Deloitte kicks away ladder for lattice

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Barry Salzberg recalls the early days of working at Deloitte, a place so buttoned-up, you could be publicly scolded for not wearing your suit jacket in the hallway.

He remembers one “Bosszilla” who had asked him for a photocopy of a tax ruling. Eager to impress, Salzberg also attached his own two-page interpretation. Bosszilla’s response: “I asked you for a copy of the ruling, not your interpretation. One copy, stapled.”

As the new global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, Salzberg still aspires to be very unlike Bosszilla.

The incident also fueled his revamp­ing of the traditional hierarchy at Deloitte. It’s time to ditch the “ladder metaphor,” when it comes to building a career, he says.

Deloitte has already “kicked away the ladder.” Employees now move up, down and sideways on the lattice.  

Along with rejecting the ladder, Salz­berg has rejected the idea of “a ruling elite in the clouds of some bureaucratic Mount Olympus.”

For example, Deloitte hosts employee town halls, where people can ask or say anything. “Our people have to see if they disagree [with their boss], nothing will happen—that there are no [negative] consequences to promotion or compensation,” he says.

He holds frequent lunches with small groups of employees. And, as head of Deloitte’s U.S. operations, Salzberg has visited as many as 35 offices every year.

“There’s nothing that can replace face-to-face interaction. Getting the rubber on the shoes worn out is how to do it.”

— Adapted from “Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg on Leadership as ‘the Norm, Not the Exception,’” Knowledge@Wharton.

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