My Executive


    Aug 02, 2013

    First thing I do: Get rid of barriers that separate people

    Leaders need to make their front-line managers feel like ambassadors in order to change the productivity of the whole organisation, says Mr Fred Hassan, chairman of Bausch & Lomb, in a recent interview with The New York Times.

    What were your early leadership lessons?

    My parents sent me off to learn engineering in Britain. One firm I worked for had a tiered system. I would get my pay cheque out of one window, and the guys who were in lower-middle management would get their pay cheque at another window. We would sit in separate cafeterias.

    I never forgot that, and wherever I've been in a position to make changes, the first thing I've always done is to get rid of any barriers that separate people.

    Other early lessons?

    A very important thing I learnt from my parents was to get your hands dirty. Just go in there and do a good job, always focus on the next mile, and things are usually going to break your way.

    What was your playbook?

    Roll up your sleeves, build credibility, and be very authentic with everybody so people start to believe you and trust you, and then get them to move together in the same direction.

    Then, when the green shoots occur, celebrate those wins, because people want to be on a winning team. That gets the flywheel turning. You have to gain a mandate for change.

    The other group I try to get to very quickly are the front-line managers. If they start to see themselves as ambassadors, as opposed to shop stewards, it totally changes the productivity of the whole organisation.

    Six executives who've worked with you have gone on to become CEOs on their own. How did you mentor them?

    Every one of them has a different story, but two things were always in common: No. 1 was expanding their role at the right time so that they got to stretch themselves.

    No. 2, I did a lot of reverse mentoring. So I listened to what they had to tell me, and that helped me be a better mentor. I don't think mentors are at their best if it's only one way.