by Patricia Sellers
The best bosses tend to be those who welcome bad news -- "Hit me with your best shot!" -- and keep hope alive.
That balance is at the heart of the remarkable turnaround at Ford (F). Last week at the Yale CEO Summit, a gathering of corporate chiefs and other influentials led by Yale professor Jeff Sonnenfeld, Ford Americas President Mark Fields told a story that conveys how Ford CEO Alan Mulally set the stage for the automaker's recovery.
"We had a culture where, if you reported bad news, you were done," explained Fields, recalling a 2006 meeting with Ford's senior global executives at headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.
At Ford, the standard practice in these meetings is to use red, yellow and green charts to report on the status of projects. At this particular meeting -- like at most Ford meetings back in the days -- "All the charts were green," Fields said.
"I showed a chart with red on it. All the chairs moved away from me. I thought, 'What the hell—this is the reality.'"
Fields' red chart signaled problems with Ford's soon-to-be-introduced Edge crossover vehicle. "I said, 'We have a problem with this launch.' There was dead silence...
"And then Alan starts clapping."
At the break, I asked Fields if I could share his anecdote. He said sure and explained that Mulally, who had joined Ford from Boeing (BA) shortly before that meeting took place, made an indelible impression with his simple gesture. "You know the book The Tipping Point?" Fields asked me. "That meeting was a tipping point at Ford."
This fall, Mulally topped readers' votes for Fortune's 2010 Business Person of the Year. The editors ended up naming Netflix (NFLX) founder-CEO Reed Hastings No. 1 because he is shaking up the media and cable industries in Steve Jobs-ian fashion. It's worth noting that Hastings and Mulally are very different guys in very different industries, but both are gutsy visionaries, not just optimistic but perpetually paranoid enough to thrive even in the most challenging times.
The average person has eight daily sources of news.
The average person goes to 87 different websites in a month.
And 90% of people on the web arrive at sites not through the front door, but rather through a search engine.
So says Richard Edelman, the PR honcho who runs Edelman. Here's his take on the implications of this multiple-news-sourced world we're in: "We tell our clients, 'You have to be everywhere. You MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 17, 2009 12:11 PM ET
Is the role of the Fortune 500 CEO changing? I think it is. Of course, we've never seen so many corporate chiefs gain fame by testifying in the halls of Congress -- and then get skewered on Saturday Night Live. Any leader's nightmare, indeed. But as the world spins out of control, even the admired CEOs (a rare breed!) are feeling a need to step up and broaden their traditional MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 12, 2008 4:42 PM ET
It's been 15 years since IBM (IBM) set what was then the record for the biggest annual loss in U.S. corporate history. Today, thanks to growth in emerging markets, Big Blue is one of the tech industry's big success stories -- and is expected to report healthy second-quarter sales and profits after the market closes today. IBM is also one of only four stocks on the Dow 30 that are up over the past year (the others are MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 17, 2008 12:10 PM ET
Eddie Lampert used to be the smartest investor in retailing, if not the best investor of his generation. That was the case last summer when shares of Sears (SHLD) hovered above $170. In his recent letter to shareholders, Lampert presented a chart showing that even as Sears stock collapsed in the latter half of last year, his five-year return on investment in Sears Holdings, the combination of Kmart and Sears, MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 24, 2008 4:17 PM ET
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