勤思慎言造就优秀CEO
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2007-12-18 15:24:11  【打印
Cos Need CEOs To Stop Spinning, Start Thinking

Forget the charisma and the polished speeches. Those may have been the qualities top executives were judged on this past year, when every other chief executive was publishing a book, appearing on prime-time television or socializing on Facebook.com.

But today, with everyone predicting a more volatile year ahead, business executives are going to be graded more heavily on whether the decisions they make on everything from strategy to talent help their companies grow. They have to stop becoming experts on giving a positive spin to economic warnings and start analyzing the data at hand.

This is particularly the case in banking and on Wall Street, as the subprime-mortgage troubles continue to unravel. It's also true in the media and entertainment industries, where the rapid growth of the Internet is upending traditional media; and in pharmaceuticals, where the expiration of patents threatens old giants.

'Successful executives have to be able to discern the really important decisions and get a high percentage of them right,' says Warren Bennis, a professor at the University of Southern California and co-author with Noel Tichy of 'Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls.' 'This is the heart of great leadership, especially now when so much is changing so quickly.'

In a bumpy business landscape where there are so many demands on executives' time, leaders must determine what's critical to their companies so they can mobilize their people to take action. And they can't assume that just because a rival is succeeding with a certain strategy, they will, too. That's the mistake many finance executives made in recent months. 'What led to the subprime meltdown was a manic denial of good judgment because there were warning signs everywhere,' says Mr. Bennis.

Not everyone fell into this trap. Richard Kovacevich, chairman of Wells Fargo, and his lieutenants deliberately steered clear of the riskiest sorts of subprime mortgages -- 'stated income' or 'low documentation' loans to borrowers with sketchy credit. They stayed out even though it caused them to lose market share in the short term that would have generated big loan fees.

'We talked about what other [banks, investment firms and mortgage brokers] were doing,' but decided 'it's economically unsound' and 'doesn't make sense,' he says. By making such risky loans to financially stretched borrowers, 'you're basically saying, 'Defraud me,' ' adds Mr. Kovacevich, whose bank has avoided the huge losses incurred at rivals. Giving that kind of loan 'isn't in our DNA.'

They didn't avoid every misstep. In its home-equity loan business, Wells Fargo strayed from sound lending practices, Mr. Kovacevich acknowledges. The bank, the nation's fourth-largest by stock-market value, bought some home-equity loans from brokers instead of sticking only with loans to its own customers. These broker-originated loans are souring at an accelerated rate, and Wells Fargo has announced that it will take a special loan-loss provision in the fourth quarter to cover losses.

'We made a mistake jumping into this market instead of testing it first for six months,' says Mr. Kovacevich. By addressing the problem quickly, however, Wells has minimized damage.

Good decision-making usually reflects an executive's overall business philosophy and management style. Mr. Kovacevich, for example, has long preached the importance of managing risk and cross-selling products to customers. The bank's average retail customer buys more than five products, twice the industry average.

'It's our fault if a customer is unprofitable, because it means we haven't done a good enough job of convincing them to give us all their financial business instead of just a piece,' he tells employees.

In addition, he has resisted following other banks that have cut costs through massive layoffs. 'When you do that, you just end up with low employee morale and customer dissatisfaction,' he adds.

Other executives depend on frank discussions with subordinates to help them make good decisions. At Hewlett-Packard, CEO Mark Hurd and his top nine executive vice presidents have been brainstorming to target growth opportunities next year in emerging markets and in such products as management software.

Donald Washkewicz, CEO of Parker Hannifin, an industrial-products manufacturer in Cleveland, has overhauled his company's pricing strategy. He studied every product, its customers and its pricing, and found a way to finally widen profit margins on many products.

Among other things, he divided the company's hundreds of manufacturing products into different categories, from high volume to low volume, and learned that as many as one-third fell into niches where Parker has few competitors. The result: Customers who can't get the products they need elsewhere don't balk at price increases.

Many economists are predicting an economic slowdown, but Mr. Washkewicz expects his company's revenues will climb.

忘掉所谓的超凡魅力和精心润色的演讲吧。在过去的一年中,当许多首席执行长们都忙着出书、在电视黄金时段节目中露脸或是在Facebook.com上进行社交活动时,上述特质可能会被拿来当作评判顶级管理人士的标准。

但如今,由于所有人都预计明年将会是更不稳定的一年,在评价商界人士孰优孰劣时更重要的是看他们从战略到人才等各方面的决策能否帮助公司实现增长。这些高管们必须做的就是,不再充当积极发布经济预警的专家,而是开始着手分析手头的数据。

在银行业和华尔街尤其如此,因为次级抵押贷款危机仍在继续;媒体和娱乐业也是一样,互联网的迅速发展正在颠覆传统媒体行业;还有制药业,专利过期对业内巨头无疑是个威胁。

南加州大学(University of Southern California)教授、与尼尔•迪驰(Noel Tichy)合着《Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls》的沃伦•贝尼斯(Warren Bennis)表示:“成功的管理人员必须能甄别出什么是真正重要的决策,并在大多数时候做出正确的选择。这才是伟大领导能力的核心所在,尤其是当前很多事情都在迅速变化的时候。”

在崎岖不平的商业道路上,需要管理人员投入时间的地方太多了,领导者必须决定什么是对公司至关重要的,这样才能动员手下采取行动。他们也不能想当然地认为对手采用某种策略获得了成功,那么自己如法炮制也能取得好的收成。最近几个月许多金融业管理人员都犯了这个错误。贝尼斯说:“狂躁地对良好的判断持否定态度正是导致次债危机的罪魁祸首,因为危险信号无处不在。”

并非所有人都栽进了这个陷阱。富国银行(Wells Fargo)董事长理查德•柯瓦希维奇(Richard Kovacevich)和他的手下经过深思熟虑后决定对风险最高的次级抵押贷款退避三舍,后者是为信用度不佳的借款者提供的低门槛贷款。即便这样的决策使得该行的市场占有率在短期内出现下滑,大笔贷款费用收入流失,他们也不为所动。

柯瓦希维奇说,他们讨论了其他银行、投资机构和贷款经纪的做法,但还是决定这样做在经济上不牢靠而且没什么意义;向财务状况有问题的借款者提供此类高风险贷款相当于对他们说“来骗我吧”。富国银行避免了业内同行普遍遭遇的巨额亏损。按柯瓦希维奇的话说就是:“提供那种贷款就不是我们会做的事”。

他们也不是没有失策的时候。柯瓦希维奇承认,富国银行在物业套现贷款业务上未能坚持健全的借贷操作。股票市值居全国第四的富国银行从中介手中购买了一些物业套现贷款,而没有坚持只接受自己客户的贷款。这类源自中介的贷款很快就出了问题,富国银行已宣布将在第四财政季度计入特殊的贷款损失准备金以弥补损失。

柯瓦希维奇说:“我们错误地一头扎进了这个市场,而没有先进行六个月的试验。”不过,富国因应对及时而将损失减到了最小。

良好的决策通常反映了管理者的总体商业哲学和管理风格。比如柯瓦希维奇就一直大力宣扬风险管理和向客户交叉销售产品的重要性。富国平均每位散户投资者都购买了五种以上的产品,为行业平均数字的两倍。

柯瓦希维奇对员工说:“如果某个客户没赚到钱,那是我们的错,因为这意味着我们做得不够好,没能说服他们将所有的、而不是一小部分金融业务交给我们打理。”

除此之外,他还反对像其他银行那样通过大规模裁员来缩减成本。他说:“如果你那样做,最后只能让员工士气低迷,而且客户也不满意。”

另一些管理人员依靠与下属进行开诚布公的讨论来帮自己做出正确的决策。惠普公司(Hewlett-Packard)首席执行长马克•赫德(Mark Hurd)和他的九名行政副总裁一直在进行讨论,来确定明年在新兴市场及管理软件等方面的增长机会。

克利夫兰的工业产品制造商派克汉尼汾公司(Parker Hannifin Corp.)首席执行长唐纳德•沃什科维茨(Donald Washkewicz)审视了公司的定价策略。他研究了每件产品、对应客户群以及定价,并找出方法最终扩大了许多产品的利润空间。

他将公司的数百种制造产品按产量分类,并了解到大约三分之一的产品已经到了没什么竞争对手的程度。结果是:无法在别的地方买到这些产品的客户没有因价格上涨而打消采购念头。

当前许多经济学家都预测经济增长将有所放缓,但沃什科维茨相信他的公司收入将会攀升。

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