Nothing is more precious than to be able to decide

“When I set out to take Vienna, I take Vienna.
Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.” – Napoleon

I posted about an interview we did recently with Dan Glaser, CEO of Marsh, but it’s not enough.  I’ve been reviewing the tapes and it’s so rich with cool ideas to share.  Dan Glaser has restored performance discipline at Marsh and enjoyed seven quarters of increased performance, but look behind the curtain.  Yes, he restored focus but here’s another clue to how he got to financial excellence – “let your leaders run.”  That’s the expression he used when building expansion and opportunity at Marsh.  You might think a 5B insurance giant might be laden with bureaucracies.  And there is some of that, but Glaser started only two years ago with a few, but focused, ideas, and he doesn’t miss a trick.

First, he looked to the ground floor – he spent time interviewing and lunching with the people who do the work at Marsh.  He would walk the halls and ask associates, “What are you working on?” and “How does that fit in our greater mission and values?”  In many cases he ran into people who reported to four different people, which created conflict in their behaviors and actions.  The first step was to streamline the reporting process and get people aligned with the projects and ideas that provide value to customers.

Then he asked his managers – he appropriately calls them leaders – to pursue possibilities, not probabilities.  Probabilities suggest what might happen to you, to the organization – what you might have to react to.  It’s a limiting and reactive mindset.  Glaser asked Marsh leaders to look toward possibilities, not probabilities.  Possibilities leave the future open to be created, the landscape to be defined by wide-open opportunity.  The sky is the limit mentality.

But to be sure, while leaders at Marsh are offered the open leash to explore, they are indeed held to specific business initiatives which will create value for the customer, build growth for associates, and create shareholder value.  Glaser famously (at least internally since he is a fairly private person) held his key leader retreat in a windowless conference room in their NY offices, not in a swanky resort, and built the culture that they intend to be a lean, highly performing, multi-national focused on delivering results and customer value.

Here is an interview excerpt in which he is talking about allowing white space in the organization to allow people to create. Enjoy!