2 leadership rules followed by GE Digital Energy CIO

2 leadership rules followed by GE Digital Energy CIO

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Like a lot of CIOs, I read a lot about leadership. And from the generic, C-Suite standpoint two things about leadership are becoming very prevalent today.

The first is that the top rule of leadership right now is to make customer service everyone’s job.

In the past, customer service was a matter of going your customer service team, your marketing team, or your commercial team, because the customer was their job.  Right now, it’s everybody’s job. No matter who does what, the customer comes first. And that simplifies your job in a sense, because your job is to service customers, no matter what your job is.

From a growth standpoint, that’s helping us quite a bit. Employees are learning new trades and participating in different training. Some people basically decide they are already good at putting the customer first. Still, it's becoming becoming everybody’s job. In a way, this extends leadership to everyone as well.

The second thing about leadership is creating enough time to lead, and leading by example.

Throughout 2015, I plan to leave my schedule open for at least 50 percent of the time. In other words, I want at least six hours on my calendar to be open every week. Otherwise I am always on calls or in meetings, and 90 percent of the time those calls and meetings completely fill out my schedule. They are often a waste, because so much of that work can be done by email. Leaving my schedule open will allow people to walk into my office, share their ideas, tell me what they are thinking, and have a robust conversation.

That’s why I told my assistant to book my calendar solid every day, and then to pick and choose where she wants to open it up. Then, I make it a point to leave my door open when my schedule is open. I’m slowly trying to convince my colleagues — I sit right next to our supply chain leader and our CFO – that if they do it, we will make it happen with them, too.

As part of  this change, I made sure to co-locate with my team on the same floor. I now can walk out and talk to my team members. In the past, all the company leadership was sitting on the sixth floor and the teams were sitting on the first, second, and third floors. I used to come down and chat with them, but now I can just walk into their space and speak with them. And, especially when they see my door open, they love to come in and chat with me.  Part of leadership is creating that environment.

I’m also trying to set up my office as an idea factory. I have information about new things posted everywhere in my office, about everything. People who come in and look at it say, “Oh, you know what?  I think we should do something like this.” I also have a bunch of puzzles that I leave on my desk. People will come and pull a shape out of this horseshoe-looking thing or whatever it is. And they talk as they do that and come up with new ideas. That’s what I’m trying to do, create an environment where we can generate ideas and do something different and something new.

In the end I don’t know if these are the best new rules of leadership, but I’m trying to turn them into my rules. In fact, they’re working already.

Venki Rao was named CIO of GE Digital Energy business in December 2010. He is responsible for driving the IT strategy for Digital Energy, synergies, operational efficiencies, key digitization initiatives and enhancing business’ go-to market efforts with their smart-grid solutions. Additionally, he works closely with the Software Solutions business team to grow it and strengthen connections with Utility CIOs.

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