Tom McCarthy – “A Little Advice From John Chambers”

One of the leaders I’ve admired since I first met him in 2000, is Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers. In my work I have met many outstanding CEO’s all over the world, but few have been able to achieve the results (a $10,000 investment in Cisco in 1990 would be worth almost $3,000,000 today) that John has while maintaining the highest level of integrity and care for his team members and customers. . Can you believe that even though Cisco has over 67,000 employees, John is briefed daily about every Cisco employee or Cisco family member who has a serious illness. Not only that, he makes sure they are receiving the best treatment possible and he personally communicates with them until they are healthy. It’s no mystery why Cisco employees love John.

Like most companies, Cisco is feeling the pain of the economic downturn. In a recent interview, John laid out Cisco’s strategy for using this economic downturn to set up Cisco for its next major growth spurt. By the way, this is the same strategy that Cisco used in the last 3 economic downturns to spur the hyper-growth they have experienced. I though the strategy plus the 6 areas John uses to measure leaders at Cisco could be useful to you.

Cisco’ 4 Part Strategy
1.    Ask the question, “What’s causing the trouble you are experiencing in your business?” Is it the macro economic environment or is it your strategy? If you determine that the macro economic environment is causing you problems, but your strategy is sound, continue with your strategy.
2.    Determine to the best of your ability how long and how deep the downturn will be and adjust accordingly. You may need to cut expenses or even some positions based on the fact that a downturn may be long and deep.
3.    Get your company ready for the upturn. Downturns are not just about surviving they are more about positioning yourself to take advantage of the upturn that will come. Many companies lose sight of the fact that the upturn will come and they are late to recognize the opportunities. The downturn and the upturn are great opportunities to dramatically increase your market share.
4.    Get even closer to your customers. In downturns, you are not the only one struggling. Your customer is too. Get closer to them. Increase the depth of your relationship with them. Understand their needs and do your best to satisfy them. Most likely, your competitors will be in survival mode and their connection with customers will decrease. This gives you a significant advantage to gain business.

How John Chambers Measures Leaders
1.    By the results they produce.
2.    By the quality of the teams they build.
3.    By their industry knowledge.
4.    By their communication skills. Especially listening.
5.    By their ability to drive culture.
6.    By their collaboration and teamwork with other Cisco teams.

Keep Living Your Dreams!

~Tom McCarthy

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