It can be hard for a top executive to get good advice. Often the best place to find it is among your contemporaries. They may not know your sector, but they know what it’s like to lead people in complex, collective endeavours, under pressure - which is ultimately what running any business is about.
Chris Pieroni, operations director at real estate investment trust Workspace, says his peers have been the source of valuable insight during a career that’s seen him work as an economic advisor, KPMG consultant, CEO for property analyst Colliers and now executive at a FTSE 250 firm.
He shares the three that have had the biggest impact on his career.
Respect is top down
"Allan Leighton, the former chief executive of Asda said something that has resonated with me ever since. It was about respect. As a leader you should never expect to receive it, but should always give it and if you’re lucky you might get some back in return.
"I found that a really helpful rule if you want to get stuff done. It sounds simple but you have to treat people with respect to preserve their dignity. You can’t walk around shouting at people and insisting things are done to deadlines which are completely unworkable; you have to be considerate to people’s personal circumstances and private priorities.
"You have to make people feel very comfortable. They respond magnificently when they feel like you’re relying on them, you trust them, and you respect them.
"We spend a lot of time at Workspace trying to institutionalise that respect. The way you talk to people is as important as where you talk to people. If you need a conversation with someone, it’s done respectfully behind closed doors. We talk to each other on first name terms.
"Respect is top down, it comes from the senior leadership team, when new people join and they don’t fit that mindset, we stamp on it really quickly."
Don’t pick people you like
"I was working at KPMG and one of the senior partners was retiring. We had a lunch for him and he was asked to impart some advice. He said don’t pick people you like to be in your team all the time, because you’ll all be similar, it will become too friendly and won’t be challenging enough.
"You’ll also miss out on skills and attitudes that are already in the organisation that you might not appreciate. That’s particularly apparent in larger organisations. From then on when I was putting consulting teams together, I’d try to pick people who I didn’t necessarily understand or get on with so well.
"I think what he was saying was don't get too cozy, always keep that edge; it was good really good advice.
Don’t punish people for making a decision
"When I took over as CEO of Colliers (real estate services organisation) my then boss said he would never ever reprimand me for making a decision; but he’d be on my case all the time if I didn’t make one.
"That taught me a really important lesson, if you get them wrong you can reverse them or you can work your way out of it. But prevaricating and not making a decision, that really needs to be avoided. You need to make lots of them constantly, and be comfortable doing it.
"That was quite formative idea during my earlier years."
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