General Motors CEO Mary Barra is rethinking how to manage the 216,000-employee strong auto company, and she’s starting with her own schedule.
At last month’s 2015 Catalyst Awards, honouring progressive gender initiatives in American corporations, Barra told Catalyst president and CEO Deborah Gillis that one of her management initiatives at GM is to maintain a happy and thus more productive workforce. One tactic is to promote her own work-life balance, which she hopes serves as a model for her employees, she said.
“General Motors — or any company — will take from you 24/7 and not feel bad,” Barra said. “It’s a company. There’s always something new. There’s always a priority.”
But as research has shown, employees who enjoy their jobs perform at a higher level and more efficiently than those who don’t. That’s why Barra and her leadership team have positioned GM as a company that respects its employees’ responsibilities outside of work.
She said that such initiatives would feel like nice-sounding lies if the company’s leadership didn’t follow them, as well.
“In the role I have now — even for the last few jobs — I’ll say, ‘You know what, guys? This meeting needs to end on time because I’m going to my daughter’s soccer game. So we’re going to be done at 5:30 because I’ve got to go then,'” Barra explained. “It gives everybody permission” to acknowledge their other obligations.
“It’s not saying you don’t have to get your job done, but it’s saying that I’m going to respect that you have priorities in your life. And I want you to have a fulfilling life, and so I’m going to give you that flexibility.”
At a 2013 Inforum conference, when she was senior vice president of global product development, Barra said that while she may make time to see her daughter’s game, “that doesn’t mean that after we go home, and after we’ve eaten dinner and the kids go to bed, I’m not going to take out the computer and catch up on what I missed.”
It’s about finding a balance that actually improves the quality of work output rather than detracting from it.
“We need to find the opportunity not to do everything, but to do the important things,” Barra said.
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