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I was a 32-year-old engineering manager with virtually no manufacturing experience, but that didn’t matter. The company needed a strong leader to take over one of the key manufacturing operations in the division and, because I had demonstrated the ability to get things done, I was asked to lead this business. This was the culture that Percy Barnevik created.
My first job after serving in the U.S. Navy was working for the global engineering company, ABB. Our CEO at the time was the legendary, hard-charging Swede, Percy Barnevik. In 1988, Barnevik created ABB by pulling off the largest European merger at the time, bringing together two engineering powerhouses, ASEA and Brown Boveri Ltd.
What I loved about Barnevik was his bias towards action. He got things done. He was decisive and he expected the same from his employees. The company culture at that time reflected his personality. We moved fast and we fixed it along the way. He knew how to bring out the best of his employees by challenging them to do more.
“Leadership Is the ability to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people” – Brian Tracy
Barnevik believed in getting the most out of his teams. He created a culture where we challenged each other to do the impossible. It was a company where the status quo was constantly challenged and we worked hard to create new levels of performance.
He understood the most important role of a leader is to set expectations and Barnevik kept his standards very high. He expected strong performance but he also knew that he had to create an environment where employees could take chances and try out new methods and techniques to improve the business.
Here are four things Barnevik did to get the most out of his teams:
Challenging assignments. Barnevik thought good people should be challenged. It was not uncommon for strong performing employees to be placed in high profile assignments which were far beyond their proven abilities. This allowed employees to have the opportunity to showcase their skills and provided management with a way to quickly evaluate talent.
Professional development. Barnevik believed in giving employees opportunities to grow professionally. In my time working for him, I attended countless domestic and international training sessions which exposed me to new ideas and helped me further develop my leadership skills.
A forgiving culture. Barnevik pushed decision making to the lowest level and embedded a culture of decisiveness at all levels. He created a culture of speed, decisiveness and forgiveness. If you made a bad decision, it was not the end of your career. You were expected to fix it and move on. This allowed leaders to try new ideas to improve performance without the constant fear of being fired.
Recognition for high achievement. Barnevik also understood that excellence should be recognized. He had countless programs to acknowledge significant achievement throughout the organization. This created positive feedback for high performing employees and generated internal competition which continued to boost performance.
“Good leaders boost the achievement of everybody, bad leaders can have the opposite effect.” – Percy Barnevik
I was fortunate to serve under Percy Barnevik during his time at ABB. Because of the culture he created, I was given the opportunity to lead a manufacturing operation at a young age. The company continued to invest in me and I grew as a business leader. Like many, I thrived in the culture he created where speed, decisiveness and forgiveness were embraced and high achievement was recognized.
Read more about Barnevik’s leadership in this rare book written by Percy himself. This book is hard to find so I purchased a limited supply of these books and only have 4 left. This book is often stocked-out on Amazon and other sites.
Price includes shipping to U.S. customers. Overseas customers, contact me.
Percy Barnevik on Leadership (Shipping in U.S. included)
(Paperback – 2014) Percy Barnevik on Leadership is largely based on the author’s own experience gained in different leadership roles over a period of nearly 50 years. The emphasis is on efficient execution. This is, in his view, what mainly differentiates successful leaders and companies from less successful ones. The advice, contained in 200 separate points, covers a wide spectrum ranging from personal efficiency, strategy, handling of crises, company acquisitions to, not least, building successful teams.