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.

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I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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