Wal-Mart’s Vice Chairman On Leadership

There was a very interesting interview with Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores, in the New York Times. Here are some of his comments that I found particularly insightful:

Leadership is about trust. It’s about being able to get people to go to places they never thought they could go… I think that business schools could do more to prepare kids to deal with the often more difficult side of business management and leadership.

My take: Castro-Wright makes a strong case for the 6 new management imperatives that I’ve introduced on this blog.  

I really like simplicity. At the end of the day, retailing – but you could apply this to many other businesses – is not as complicated as we would like to make it.. We have a very clear view of what we do for consumers around the world. And we can describe our complete strategy in 10 words. And that makes it very easy to get everybody energized and aligned.

My take: Companies often develop complicated strategies that look good on paper, but fall apart because people across the organization don’t understand them, and therefore can’t execute them. Simplicity can be very powerful.

I think the best source of strategy is your customer and the people who work for you… I walk around the store and approach customers and ask them if they have any recommendations for us… and talk to associates and ask them questions about their jobs. I ask them about their leadership in the store… Almost always, you get enormous insight from those who spend their days taking care of customers.

My take: Firms need to systematically listen to the voice of the customer; and one of the great sources of insight is front-line employees. There are also enormous implications to company culture when a vice chairman wanders around stores showing interest in customer and employee feedback.

The bottom line: Trust, simplicity, and voice of the customer are a powerful combination.

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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