I never have been particularly proficient at the fine art of sucking up. Fortunately, those above me on the org chart have better things to do than fish for compliments. Not everyone is so fortunate, and not many CEOs, I suspect, are as enlightened as this:
[M]y organization has 350 people in it. We can either think with just one person (me), working to improve our operations, or we can think with 350. Those 349 other people know many of the ways in which we are screwing up and can improve — the problem is getting them to come forward with those ideas. And getting them to do so is far less likely if we are maintaining some sort of North Korean style personality cult of the CEO.
I have written about this before, but it’s why I consider my Ivy League degrees to be a negative in running the company. Many of my employees have only a high school education (at best) and are intimidated in bringing up an idea or telling me I am screwing up because they assume since I have these Ivy League degrees I must be smarter than they are and know what I am doing. But in their particular job, in terms of my knowledge of what they see every day from customers and operationally, I am dumb as a post and completely ignorant.
Anyone who has worked for me for more than a few months can likely quote my favorite line which I use in most of my employee talks — “If you see something that seems screwed up, don’t assume Warren is smarter than you and wants it that way, assume that Warren is screwing up and needs to be told.”
My usual posture, you should know, is “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” I am not always successful at explaining why I’m against it, but I prevail more often than not, and almost invariably the eventual “not” will be the result of weapons-grade stupidity on the part of the idjits to whom we report. El Jefe, bless him, has no higher opinion of said idjits than I do; if anything, it might be lower, since he has to spend more time listening to them drool. I suspect they’re operating on the North Korean model, but I don’t want to get close enough to them to find out for sure.