Because he has the intimate conviction that the purpose of a company is not to make profits and that people are at the heart of entrepreneurial performance, Hubert Joly invites all leaders to exercise their leadership differently ” by unleashing human magic “.
Why did you insist on transmitting another vision of the company and of the leadership that you yourself embodied at the head of large groups?
Hubert Joly: I wanted to demonstrate that people are at the heart of business performance, noting that everything I had learned at school and in the first years of my career was either wrong, incomplete or outdated. The dominant model of the last thirty to fifty years was Milton Friedman – the primacy of profit – but also top-down management. I, who am nevertheless an eternal optimist, during the crisis I was obliged to say aloud: ” the world we’re in doesn’t work “.
We are experiencing a health, economic, societal crisis, a racial or ethnic crisis in many countries, an environmental time bomb, but also geopolitical tensions. In short, it doesn’t work. What is Einstein’s definition of madness? ” Doing the same thing and expecting a different result “. I have worked a lot on these subjects of business performance and transformation and, with the credibility of the unprecedented recovery of BestBuy, I said to myself that I had to write this book. Many entrepreneurs today are convinced that the old paradigms are outdated.
What motivated you in your journey to always give more place to the human and meaning at work, in particular at the house of BestBuy ?
HJ: I am personally convinced that we can see work as something essential to our humanity and our quest for meaning, even if 80% of people still see their job today as a necessary evil. If we can make our work correspond to what mobilizes us in our life, to our own individual reason for being, then we will have won everything. I advocate leadership from the inside out actually. That is to say, connect to our work what motivates us intimately. And if, in addition, we can do it in the service of the company but also of a societal and environmental cause greater than us, then there, it becomes magic!
In fact, I experienced this at BestBuy when we started the 2nd recovery phase. A human magic was then released in the company, where everyone felt they could have fun in their job, even at 15 dollars an hour. I really like this idea from boss Satya Nadella who told his teams: ” Microsoft needs to walk and work for you “.
We can clearly see in your book that we are not born leaders, ” we become so thanks to others “. Explain to us.
HJ: It’s actually a trip. The story of our lives is how we can progress and evolve. You are right, all leaders are born, but no leader is born! We become leaders by listening to others and learning from them. The four great qualities of a leader are listening, learning, humility and empathy. Me, what helped me enormously, it is the. From 2009, I was lucky to have a coach, Marshall Goldsmith, specialized in successful leaders, to help them become even better, like Jim Yong Kim, the boss of the World Bank or Alan Mulally the CEO of Ford.
His coaching method is a process that fully involves employees and stakeholders so that they interact with the leader, allowing him to decide if he wants to improve on certain points, on the advice of his own teams. . And that changes everything ! Because the state of mind is to become better by listening to others and working on yourself. For my part, I learned not to “more” but to “better” to delegate and to create an environment more conducive to growth by releasing energies. If 100% of the 100 best tennis players in the world have a coach, it’s not a coach, it’s not a coincidence, is it?
You invite entrepreneurs to ” unleash human magic “. That is to say ?
HJ: I’ll give you an example. One day in a store BestBuya little boy came up with a broken dinosaur toy, the head of which was disconnected from the body, explaining that his dinosaur was ” sick and that he had to be cured. That day, two salesmen, instead of saying that the toy was broken and that it had to be replaced by a new one, explained to the little boy that they were going to make him immediately ” a surgery “before giving him back his dinosaur” fully healed “. You can imagine that there was no internal memo to act and speak like this. These two collaborators found the answer in their hearts to make this little boy happy. This is creating and releasing human magic in the service of business performance and results.
To achieve this, it must speak to everyone, to each employee, to each client. To do this, we must seek to treat each other as if we were inspiring friends for each other. Every manager, whatever his level, should ask each of his collaborators two questions: Tell me your life story, including the highs, including the lows. “And secondly, ” What is your dream ? What is the meaning of your life? What gives you joy? And of course, to listen carefully to their answers. Because the job of a leader, of a boss, is to help each employee achieve their dream, hence the importance of knowing it well by giving them the opportunity to formulate it.
What are the essential qualities of a good leader?
HJ: He is first of all a meaningful leader, who is clear about the meaning of his own life and who is interested in the meaning that employees want to give to their lives, in order to connect them together. Second, the leader is the one who creates the environment in which this human magic can be released. Thirdly, it must also be clear who it serves, ie its collaborators and its customers. Fourth, it must be imbued with values. And fifthly, he must show authenticity and above all empathy which has certainly become the essential quality of the leader, because it is his ability to put himself in the place of the other, whether he is a collaborator, shareholder, customer or supplier, to try to understand what is important to him.
Why has the single view of profit maximization become not only erroneous, but above all dangerous and inappropriate?
HJ: Focusing on profit, even if it is important, is like a doctor only focusing on the temperature, when we want him to be interested in our health as a whole. That’s why it’s dangerous, because it can lead to mistakes. It is also inappropriate, because today, as we have seen during the crisis, companies are interdependent and they need to take an interest in all stakeholders, taking into account their responsibility. social and environmental in an entire ecosystem.
You are issuing a call to action that requires everyone to be involved in the necessary transformation. What advice to give to entrepreneurs?
HJ: This transformation, it first passes through a transformation of oneself. Everything starts from yourself. Going from the inside out is essential. Ask yourself the question: What type of leader do I want to be? How do I want to be remembered? My wife, who is an executive coach, offers them the exercise of writing their funeral oration! You can’t lead others if you don’t know how to lead yourself.
What do you think of management education in France?
HJ: The major management schools are still very well ranked and what is positive is the change that has been initiated, because my answer would have been different five years ago. Previously, teaching was too focused on technique. However, what I observe is that what distinguishes a leader is not his ability to have the best result of calculating the net present value, but everything that we have just discussed together. There is knowledge, know-how, but today, we must also emphasize soft skills.
It’s true at HEC, Essec, Sciences-Pô, everyone works there. What is exciting is that we have the opportunity to invent, at the start of this new era, how to reconcile both growth and the environment, mobilization of employees and profit, long and short term, without forgetting the role of companies on societal issues. Today, most entrepreneurs spend more than 50% of their time on issues they didn’t deal with even five years ago.
What is your view of the economic situation in France and what should we change to improve it and perform?
HJ: In France, we have been pessimistic since Voltaire. The first thing is that we must not lose sight of all the qualities and strengths of the French economy. We have some very fine big bands that are doing very well internationally, and in recent years we have become the ” Startup Nation “. In my family, the majority of children work in startups. It is unheard. And there, I say congratulations! Without forgetting that in terms of artificial intelligence, Paris South is recognized worldwide. In terms of performance, however, we have an economic growth rate that for forty years has been a little below that of the United States and Germany.
So we are losing ground. In France, what saddens me a little, even if the objective is noble, is that by wanting to protect the weakest, we have created rigidity in the company, with an increase in fixed-term jobs and trainees . By making it more rigid, we create vulnerability, increase delays and deny ourselves opportunities for growth. Recent efforts have been made. It is therefore necessary to continue to release the ease of production and the agility of enterprises.
Interview by Valérie Loctin
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