Leading Through Global Tilt: My Interview with Ram Charan

Global TiltI was honored to receive an advance copy of Ram Charan’s newest opus Global Tilt: Leading Your Business Through the Great Economic Power Shift. It’s a brilliant explanation of the shift in business and economic power from countries of the Northern Hemisphere to those of the Southern.

I cannot stress enough how highly I recommend this book for all leaders, particularly C-Level executives!

In my experience as Chief Relationship Officer at CEO Connection, I can honestly say most of the strategic challenges our member CEOs currently face involve global economic dynamics and uncertainties. So, I took the opportunity to ask Ram a few questions I knew were on the minds of the CEOs I work with. I genuinely hope you’ll find his insights valuable to you in your role:

1. What would you advise a CEO who understands the importance of the Global Tilt, but whose board includes members from Northern countries, including Japan, who are risk-averse and set in old-world, command and control belief systems?

If the CEO is committed to having the company take advantage of the global tilt, he or she has a few steps to take.  First, he or she needs to think through and discuss with the management team the risk of not making a shift to take advantage of the global tilt, and share that view with the board.  Second, the CEO and the team need to gather information and expert opinions, which they should also share with the board.  Bringing in outside information should be continuous, at every board meeting.  The CEO could arrange for the board to meet with people whose knowledge and opinions they value for a half hour at the dinner or breakfast before the board meeting.  Those people could be CEOs of other companies, or one or two members of the board who have a different perspective but don’t get a chance to explain their views.

The term risk averse is a broad brush.  Before any company makes an investment, they need to explore.  Exploration has learning in it.  The CEO needs to get his or her people to survey, explore, and identify opportunities and potential competitors, then get the board engaged.

It’s now common in America for boards to be actively involved in discussing strategic options for the future, their pro’s and con’s.  In some companies, such discussions span two or three board meetings.  They’re not one-way presentations of 200 PowerPoint slides that put the board to sleep. They are true dialogues, or conversations.

It’s the job of the CEO to do a balancing act between the short-term and long-term and risk and reward.   Experimentation is a necessity for any company to build the future.  Is there an option that requires the allocation of limited resources, so that the board can accept the possibility of its failure?

If the board is completely too conservative and is living in the past, consider bringing in one or two new board members who are respected by the existing directors but will help shift their mindset.

2. What kind of “compass” should today’s CEO use, knowing – as you eloquently demonstrate – that the rear view mirror of history can no longer serve as a guide since the Southern competitors are not playing by the same rules, following Northern models or seeking acceptance by the international business community?

I am absolutely clear that the executives of Northern companies must continue to live by their values even though they may have setbacks in operating in the South.  Besides, the rules are never going to be totally uniform across the globe.  Leaders have to learn how to navigate those inconsistencies without violating their values.

Recruiting the right people can help.  If you’re going to have to deal with an uneven playing field, you can hire people who have experience doing it.  They’re available.

3. How can a CEO of a US-based company allocate the resources needed for local, southern leadership, decision-making and initiatives knowing the US street is looking for short-term gains? How can US CEOs deftly handle this dilemma and move their boards, the street and investors to a longer term mentality?

CEOs who are totally focused on the short term and do not innovate or explore or invest in the short run to build the future will be shortening their own tenure and the longevity of their companies.  Despite the felt pressure from short-term traders, CEOs must artfully balance the short term and the long term.

When they’re making a change in strategy, and when therefore they’re shifting the resource allocation, they must excel in all of these three things: 1. They must be extremely clear about where they’re going to play, how they’re going to play, and what resources they’re going to deploy—both people and money—quarter by quarter.  Clarity and specificity are extremely important, even though the actions may be risky.  2.  They must execute those actions as promised. Often top management does not spend enough time on executing flawlessly.  3.  Some 70 percent of stocks of publicly traded companies are held by institutions.  The CEO has to be extremely clear in communicating to these investors, laying out the answers to their questions, and building credibility by executing what’s been promised.  Amazon.com has clearly demonstrated that investors will stay with you when they’re convinced that you are doing the right things. ~

Ram CharanRam Charan is a world-renowned business advisor, author and speaker who has spent the past 35 years working with many top companies, CEOs, and boards of our time. In his work with companies including GE, MeadWestvaco, Bank of America, DuPont, Novartis, EMC, 3M, Verizon, Aditya Birla Group, Tata Group, GMR, Max Group, Yildiz Holdings, and Grupo RBS, he is known for cutting through the complexity of running a business in today’s fast changing environment to uncover the core business problem. His real-world solutions, shared with millions through his books and articles in top business publications, have been praised for being practical, relevant and highly actionable—the kind of advice you can use Monday morning.

Ram’s introduction to business came early while working in the family shoe shop in a small town in northern India, where he was raised. He earned an engineering degree in India and soon after took a job in Australia. When his talent for business was discovered, Ram was encouraged to develop it. He earned MBA and doctorate degrees from Harvard Business School, where he graduated with high distinction and was a Baker Scholar, then served on the faculties of Harvard Business School and Northwestern University before pursuing consulting full time.

Ram’s work takes him around the globe non-stop and gives him an unparalleled, up-to-date insider view of how economies and leading companies operate. Through keen observation and analysis, he forms powerful insights that help business leaders face their toughest challenges in the areas of growth, talent development, corporate governance, and profitability. His timely concrete advice is a powerful tool in navigating today’s uncertain business climate. Former Chairman of GE Jack Welch says Ram “has the rare ability to distill meaningful from meaningless and transfer it in a quiet, effective way without destroying confidences,” while Ivan Seidenberg, the former CEO of Verizon, calls Ram his “secret weapon.”

Ram has coached more than a dozen leaders who went on to become CEOs. He reaches many more up-and-coming business leaders through in-house executive education programs. His energetic, interactive teaching style has won him several awards, including the Bell Ringer award at GE’s famous Crotonville Institute and best teacher award at Northwestern. He was among BusinessWeek’s top ten resources for in-house executive development programs.

He has authored 15 books since 1998 that have sold over 2 million copies in more than a dozen languages. Execution, which he coauthored with former Honeywell CEO Larry Bossidy in 2002, was a #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller and spent more than 150 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He also has written for publications including Harvard Business Review, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Time, Chief Executive and USA TODAY.

Ram was elected a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources and has served on the Blue Ribbon Commission on Corporate Governance. He has served on the boards of Hindalco in India, Emaar, Austin Industries, Tyco Electronics, and Fischer and Porter. His newest book, Global Tilt (Crown, February 2013), is a guide to leading your business through the radical shift in economic power currently underway.



The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership

The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership

Are you an introvert looking to use your introversion to your advantage in business & leadership or an extrovert interested in leading introverts more effectively? I wrote this eBook for you…The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” eBook is NOW Available! Amazon Best Seller, Amazon Hot New Release, and the inspiration behind my Harvard Business Review article! Featured on Huffington Post. BUY Now on Amazon for Kindle or Buy it at B&N for Nook! Also available on iBooks!

Click here to DOWNLOAD in PDF format. Thank you!

Being an introvert is truly an advantage in business and leadership if you know how to leverage it, and if you remain true to yourself.


Every Leader’s Achilles Heel

Achilles Heel of LeadershipThe Achilles Heel: that fatal weakness which can bring you down despite your overall strength.

For otherwise outstanding leaders, it is a lack of clarity.

You may be a brilliant motivator and leader of great character who empowers their team for success and inspires them to move to action. You may be trustworthy and a leader who lives each value of the organization in an exemplary fashion. You may approach your leadership role with a servant mentality and recognize every success and strength of your followers and organizations. And you may be the most honorable and courageous leader on the field. But if you are not clear on your:

  • Purpose
  • Vision
  • Strategies

you will either lead your followers in circles, down the wrong path, or leave them confused and bumping into each other.

In other words, you can have every attribute you need to be a strong, distinguished leader but a lack of clarity is the single vulnerability that destines you to ruination.

Ok…a destiny of ruination might be slightly melodramatic if you’re not currently fighting the Trojan War as Achilles did, but you get the point. When you read about great companies that lost their edge and their leadership status you read words that evoke a true sense of confusion. They lost their way, they lost their focus. Ultimately, they lost their clarity of purpose, vision and strategies.

It is the leader’s job to prevent this from happening, yet so many leaders don’t have this sense of clarity within themselves let alone the confidence and ability to convey it relentlessly to their followers.

This is why I love the simple analogy of dance to make this critical point…

I wrote a few weeks ago about how my renewed immersion in dance is not only lifting my soul, it’s helping me better understand the work needed to be a great follower. I am incredibly fortunate to have an instructor who not only has a genuine understanding of the soulful journey I’m on, but is committed to getting me out of my leadership “comfort zone” to a place where following feels truly natural and effortless. Let’s just say I have a loooong way to go!

But Joel is a phenomenal leader and dancer who empowers me for success by providing a foundation of clarity from which to build:

He is clear on our purpose by ensuring I know which dance we’re about to do. This seems so ridiculously obvious, but how many of us know with 100% confidence the exact purpose of our leaders? If Joel was not clear and I had to do even a small amount of guessing, I might start out heading to the side to Rumba only to be plowed over if he thinks we’re about to Tango. The result would not be pretty or soulful. Think about it, have you ever had a conversation with a follower in which what they said to you essentially equated to, “I thought you wanted me to Rumba?” I’m guessing you have.

He is clear on our vision by ensuring I know what the dance is supposed to look like when done properly, and the emotions it is meant to evoke. He has taught me which dances to dance on the balls of my feet, when to use my heels, and which dances are more staccato in nature. I know which are smooth and therefore traveling dances, and which are rhythm dances and have an entirely different carriage. All of this is critical for establishing the same vision in each of our heads as to what we want the dance – the performance – to look like. Because if we don’t have the same vision of the dance in its entirety, we cannot perform it in harmony. Think about the implication of this for you as a leader!

Joel is clear on our strategies by making sure I am clear on the steps. After all, to bring your vision to life you must align your strategies with your vision. Again, this may sound basic but how clearly do you think your strategies are being communicated throughout your entire organization? Essentially, everyone needs to be doing “the same steps” in order for strategies to be executed properly.

The crucial difference between business and dancing:

Here’s the thing about dancing with a partner: if the leader is not clear, the dance will be a disaster. This will be immediately evident. But in business, this is not always the case. It may take weeks, months or even years for a leader to realize their team is a mess because of lack of clarity around purpose, vision or strategies, but it will happen eventually with the same shattering impact.

How clearly are you communicating your purpose, vision and strategies to your followers?

Give this some thought and join me and my amazing Leadership Chat partner, Steve Woodruff (who doesn’t dance, but did invent Clarity Therapy) tomorrow night, May 22nd, at 8:00 pm Eastern Time for a global Twitter conversation with leaders from around the world about “clarity in leadership.” And mark your calendars for May 29th when we’ll host our final edition of Leadership Chat and send it off with a bang!


The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership

The Introvert's Guide to Success in Business and Leadership

Are you an introvert looking to use your introversion to your advantage in business & leadership or an extrovert interested in leading introverts more effectively? I wrote this eBook for you…

The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” eBook is NOW Available! Now an Amazon Best Seller & Hot New Release, Featured on Huffington Post, and the inspiration behind my Harvard Business Review article!

BUY Now on Amazon for Kindle or Buy it at B&N for Nook! 

Click here to DOWNLOAD in PDF format. Thank you!

Being an introvert is truly an advantage in business and leadership if you know how to leverage it, and if you remain true to yourself.

Photo of The Achilles Heel by TexMex5.

Five Signs You’re a Magnetic Leader

Are you a “magnetic leader,” the kind that draws others to you?

If not, are there behaviors and skills that you can work on that would enable you to be more magnetic whilst driving results?

Those questions were recently put to 24 high-ranking corporate leaders that I had the sincere pleasure of spending two days with at the Profitability Business Simulations “Magnetic Leadership” Program that I wrote about in this post just prior to attending the event several weeks ago at Wrigley Field.

I have to admit that going into the program I wasn’t convinced that a leadership simulation would truly enable others to get a real feel for someone’s leadership style, approach, strengths and weaknesses.  Yet, it did.  It absolutely did.

The Simulation

The 24 leaders were divided into teams of 8 and assigned a CEO and COO for each of four different simulation rounds.

I had the pleasure of playing the “customer” during each simulation round, which involved a one-hour strategy and planning session led by the CEO and COO, followed by a 10-minute, high-stress implementation period where product was produced and delivered to the customer.

As the customer, I had the opportunity to directly experience the impact of the strategic choices and direction set by the CEO, as well as the impact of resource allocations made by the COO.  Said differently, sometimes the product got to me on time and met my needs, and sometimes it didn’t.

The Leaders’ Experience

How did I know that the person’s true strengths and weaknesses were coming to the surface?

Following each simulation round I would lead my team in a coaching session that enabled the leaders to get immediate feedback on the direct impact their leadership approach – and decisions – had on the results of the task, as well as on their ability to magnetically lead their team members.

In so many cases they were saying, “This is the feedback I’ve been getting at work as well, but now I understand what it really means.”  It was as if reality was hitting them over the head and they were all having light bulb-popping “a-ha” moments!

You see, the beauty of the simulation was the ability to immediately see, feel and understand the direct impact of their leadership decisions and their personal style and approach on the business results (whether they made any money and whether they met my “somewhat fickle but so true to life” customer needs) and on their team members.  In some simulation rounds the teams felt inspired by their leaders; in some they felt completely ignored.

Five Magnetic Leadership Traits

There were five traits that stood out over the course of the two days that were clearly present in those leaders who were most successful at not only driving results in the task phase, but of truly motivating and leading their teams.

1. Calm and uplifting demeanor and tone

This was hands-down the biggest surprise for me.  I never expected this to stand out so dramatically, but it absolutely did.  Those CEOs and COOs who had a calm and uplifting demeanor throughout the process – and a tone of voice that went along with this demeanor – were most successful by far.  I can’t stress this enough!

During the implementation phase of the simulation there are many team members that are “heads down” making product and who barely even look up during the course of the 10 minutes.  For them, it was the tone of voice that they heard from their leaders that made all the difference to them during the stress of those 10 minutes.

Think of what this means for you as a leader when you consider all channels of communication you use.  What tone are you sending out verbally, through your body language and in written form as a leader?  Is your demeanor one of assuredness that draws people to you, or is your stress level serving as a repellant of sorts?

2. Trust – and awareness of this trust – between the leader and team

Throughout the simulation those leaders who performed best heard from their teams during the coaching sessions, “I knew you were there, I felt your presence and I knew you’d help me if I needed it.”  Not only were these leaders willing to be there for their teams – they were present with them throughout the entire process and there was full awareness that they were present and ready to help.

At the same time – and this turned out to be critical – they only “jumped in” where requested.  They trusted their team members to do their jobs to the best of their ability, and the team members valued this trust.  Those who “jumped in” without being asked made their teams feel like they were not fully entrusted to produce and achieve results.  Again, critical insight.

3. Encouragement

Leaders who did the best job of motivating their teams during the 10-minute action phase were very encouraging.  Team members with their heads down heard comments like, “You’re doing a great job, we’re on target, three products made and only one to go…”

Whereas some leaders might think of this as “leadership fluff” the reality was it made a great deal of difference to the teams and to their level of focus.

4. Proper alignment of resources with vision and strategy

Those leaders who “messed up” did so from the get-go when they did not align their resources with their vision and strategy.  For example, leaders had a choice of following a customer service strategy, low cost strategy, quality strategy, innovation strategy, etc… with each strategy having different customer requirements and different profit potential.

One team that chose the customer service strategy – basically focused on meeting my customer needs for new products and fixing my “broken” products, simply didn’t assign enough people to building and maintaining product, and they did not spend enough time determining what my real customer needs and priorities were.

SIDE NOTE: In one simulation the “salesperson” asked my needs and I wrote them down very clearly.  Unfortunately, that piece of paper never made its way to all of the other team members. My needs were not properly communicated by the leadership to the full team.  Of course, they didn’t succeed at the task.

Once you have set a strategy, you absolutely must ensure that your resources – people, time, dollars, energy, focus – align with that strategy.

5. Communication of the vision and strategy

This is where the rubber meets the road – where it all comes together.  You’ve got a brilliant vision and strategies aligned with it.  You’ve properly allocated your resources to ensure that you can bring the vision to life.

Now, you have to clearly communicate your vision and strategy to your team.  Successful simulation leaders (and real life leaders) understand just how critical this is. Communication of your vision and strategy must reach all levels of your organization so that every employee understands the role they play in achieving that vision, and so that they may align their efforts with the strategies you’ve laid out.

In the simulation, those who did best communicated their vision and strategy from the outset, and reiterated it throughout the process.

Just prior to the 10-minute, high-stress task phase they regrouped with their teams, reminded them of the strategy they were pursuing, the role each of them would play and what they were to focus on for the next 10 minutes.  It made a tremendous difference.

A final word on “vision”

At the end of the two days the 24 leaders were asked to write down the key attributes that characterize a magnetic leader.  Without any prompting from me the overwhelming winner was “vision.” Yes, I was smiling from ear to ear.

What are your thoughts on my observations? Do they resonate with your own experiences? Please share in the comments; I’d love to hear from you!


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Thank you for reading and for being part of this community – it means so much to me.

You can find me on Twitter at @LisaPetrilli and on LinkedIn. To hire me for Visionary Leadership programs, Marketing Consulting or for the Social Media Concierge program, email me at [email protected].

Photo is Mount Rushmore by Sebastian Bergmann.