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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Think your job involves too much travel? Consider Danny Roderick’s challenge: He manages about 13,000 employees in 18 countries.

Roderick, 52, is president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Co., a nuclear energy firm based in Cranberry Township, Pa. Its technology is the basis for nearly half the world’s operating nuclear plants.

EL: You worked in nuclear plant operations and engineering before going into management. What have you learned about leadership?

Roderick: You have to show passion to engage employees. Our industry is special. It’s different. We don’t get to blame our failure on anybody else. We’re accountable. Leaders have to continually restate their commitment to excellence.

EL: How do you communicate that commitment?

Roderick: Our “FAST” strategy is built on being flexible, agile, having strategic ability and technical superiority. I was never much of a blogger before, but I started blogging about our strategy and other things of importance to our employees. We send out a notification every time I do a new blog posting. We have 90% readership within 48 hours of when we post it.

EL: What other communication tools do you use?

Roderick: I implemented a weekly phone call to employees. I discuss what went well and what didn’t go well over the last week—wins and losses. I also talk about our safety culture. It has to stay under two minutes.

EL: Do you read from a script?

Roderick: From the input we’ve received from em­­ployees, they don’t want it to sound like it’s being read. They want it to be like it’s real. So I stay real. Sometimes there’s airport noise in the background.

EL: Speaking of airports, you travel often.

Roderick: Since I came here, I’ve visited places that have not seen the CEO of this company for many years. They light up [when I arrive]. You can see it in their face. It’s something that connects them with a bigger team around the world. Travel is a very important commitment. If you’re going to connect with a global team, leaders have to be visible and take the time to visit.

EL: How do you maximize your travel?

Roderick: When I travel, I try to spend a whole week in a region. It’s pretty brutal. We do four or five countries in one week.

EL: How do you manage such a diverse mix of people around the globe?

Roderick: Every country’s laws are different. We strive to recognize that one size does not fit all. But our core values are transferable [across different countries] and we drive those.

EL: You mentioned safety. How do you oversee compliance with safety protocols?

Roderick: The only problems we worry about are ones we don’t know about. Any technical problems, we can respond to. We have an adept technical staff.

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