By Gino Blefari
Good evening! This week my travels find me in rainy Phoenix for the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Leadership Conference. And while it might be hard to find an umbrella in this desert city, it’s easy to find inspiration at a meeting filled with dynamic and motivating leaders who stand at the helm of some of Berkshire Hathaway’s finest companies … Greg Abel, Bill Fehrman and Ron Peltier to name a few.
Just before the meeting, attendees were told we’d be given The 3G Way: Dream, People and Culture, by Francisco S. Homem De Mello, an entrepreneur and author who gleans insights from the management styles of some of the world’s best and brightest. Think Jack Welch of GE, Carlos Brito of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Marcel Telles, also of AB InBev.
The philosophy emphasized in The 3G Way begins at the top: Be the kind of open, honest, hard-working person you want your employees to be and the rest will fall into place. How? By embracing two important concepts: informality and candor.
First, let’s talk about informality. In the book, the author quotes Jack Welch, who I can confidently say after reading several of his books and studying his style, is one of my favorite CEOs. (Not to mention, we are the same height and he started GE in my hometown of Pittsfield, MA.) Welch described informality as the cornerstone to all great organizations. “Informality is … an atmosphere in which anyone can deliver a view, an idea, to anyone else and it will be listened to and valued, regardless of the seniority of any party involved,” Welch explained. “Leaders today must be equally comfortable making a sales call or sitting in a boardroom; informality is an operating philosophy as well as a cultural characteristic.”
Against the strong currents of an ever-changing real estate industry, informality is crucial to keep a company afloat. No longer can organizations remained mired in titles, rigid hierarchy or ego but instead must be fluid as this Phoenix rain, able to recognize good ideas no matter their source and execute with little delay. This means eliminating overly complex processes and fostering an atmosphere where fresh, creative thought isn’t just welcomed but also encouraged.
Next, candor, a concept warmly tied to informality. When a leader is candid, there are no secrets kept or surprises withheld; there is only fact, communicated through frank conversation and straight-forward dialogue. Homem De Mello defined a candid company as one in which “people discuss topics openly, with little tolerance for internal politics, hidden agendas and opacity.” Not to be confused with contempt, candor allows for anyone in an organization to speak their mind, so long as they remain respectful and constructive. Remember, criticism is a good thing, for it helps us grow and clarity is even better for it lets everyone know exactly where they stand.
So, what’s the message? Favor simplicity over complexity and fact over ambiguity. Drive your business on the power of good ideas, even if they originate from the most unlikely of places. Because when it comes to growth, informality and candor must always lead the way.