The New York Times
November 15, 2009
Are You a Tigger, or an Eeyore?
This interview with Mindy Grossman, chief executive of
conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
Q. Tell me about your leadership style.
A. I believe in accessibility. I believe in honesty and a culture that supports
that. And you can’t have that if you’re not open to receiving feedback. I find
out as much from the guy in backstage TV as I do from my C.F.O. Anybody can
e-mail me. I do town halls with employees at least once every eight weeks. I’m
out there and it makes a huge difference.
Q. How do you make sure you’re getting honest feedback?
A. I think the way you start sets the tone for your leadership style. For
example, my first day, I went through orientation just like everyone else,
because I wanted to see what everybody else feels when they come into this
company for the first time. There were 15 people — a guy who is in backstage
TV, somebody in production, somebody in planning, and I just came in and sat
Everybody had to go around the room and say what their job was, including
me. There were a couple of abrupt reactions, with people saying, “Really?” But
the impact that had, and how viral it was throughout the organization, made a
huge difference, because it was a signal of a new management philosophy.
When I came into the company, honestly, it was an unhealthy environment. I
had worked in unhealthy environments, so I know what it feels like.
Q. Why was it unhealthy?
A. Fear is not a motivating factor. You might be able to get a little bit more out
of someone in the short term, but you will completely erode your business and
your culture in the long term. You’re going to lose all your good people. You’re
not going to have people tell you the truth, and it becomes the tradition.
The company had had about seven C.E.O.’s in the previous 10 years. What
happens in that kind of situation — where you have a lot of leadership
changes, changes in strategy and perhaps not the best leadership style — is
that everybody freezes. It’s like Miss Havisham from “Great Expectations.” And
when someone new comes in, most people think, “O.K., we’ll wait this one