Bill Flemming (Skanska USA Building Inc.) in “The Corner Office”
Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Bill Flemming, president of Skanska USA Building Inc., who wants every meeting to end with a clear understanding of what was decided. “What are you going to commit to doing when you leave this room?” he asks.
To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
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Bryant: Tell me about your approach to leadership.
Flemming: First, I work for the people below me. They don’t work for me; I work for them. Because if I don’t do a good job in leading and setting strategy and helping them do their job, they’ll probably fail. Second, teamwork is key in this business. This is not an individual sport. I see many leaders who are somewhat egoistic. To me, it’s more about the team. And in my early years in this job, I focused on organizing the senior leadership so that they’re moving more in the same direction.
Bryant: What did that involve?
Flemming: The first step was acknowledging that I wasn’t going to do it. I’m part of the team, not the guy who’s going to lead everybody in how to change it. I realized that we needed a facilitator to do that. So I brought somebody in just to teach us better interaction.
Bryant:What were the best questions put on the table by the facilitator?
Flemming: Why do you want to be part of this team? Why do you want to be in this company? Why do you show up at work? What’s in your box? And when I say, “What’s in your box?” it means “What drives you?” and I don’t want to hear the party line that you’re doing this for the company.
And what commitment do you have to your partners? We each had to come up with a personal commitment to our team and talk about our responsibility to others on the team. That drove people together fairly quickly. The interaction in the group has been different.
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.
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