Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mindy Grossman from HSN as a Boss Among Equals

I love the NY Times' column "Corner Office," and I particularly like the regularity with which they feature women executives. They cover a range of industries from military contracting (Linda Hudson) to academia (Drew Gilpin Faust) to e-commerce (Susan Lynne), and I always learn something new.

The most recent column features Mindy Grossman, CEO of Home Shopping Network or HSN. My favorite part of the interview was the leadoff:

Q. Tell me about your leadership style.

A. I believe in accessibility. I believe in honesty and a culture that supports that. And you can’t have that if you’re not open to receiving feedback. I find out as much from the guy in backstage TV as I do from my C.F.O. Anybody can e-mail me. I do town halls with employees at least once every eight weeks. I’m out there and it makes a huge difference.

Q. How do you make sure you’re getting honest feedback?

A. I think the way you start sets the tone for your leadership style. For example, my first day, I went through orientation just like everyone else, because I wanted to see what everybody else feels when they come into this company for the first time. There were 15 people — a guy who is in backstage TV, somebody in production, somebody in planning, and I just came in and sat down.

Everybody had to go around the room and say what their job was, including me. There were a couple of abrupt reactions, with people saying, “Really?” But the impact that had, and how viral it was throughout the organization, made a huge difference, because it was a signal of a new management philosophy. When I came into the company, honestly, it was an unhealthy environment. I had worked in unhealthy environments, so I know what it feels like.


I admire Grossman for going through new employee orientation. This part of the job process is very important, it sets the cultural tone for the company. Not only is it important to make sure your company's culture is well presented in orientation, it is even more important to know that your company practices what it preaches. I can't think of many high level executives that do this, and this is something I am going to make sure that I do when I finally reach the C-level.

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