What was the biggest challenge for you, in moving from being an executive leader, within in Dow, to the CEO of Sealed Air Corporation?

When I was an executive at Dow, I was part of the executive committee and this was a $50 billion company, with 55,000 employees, very global, and so on. I was a division president at Dow and a member of the executive committee and then I moved, as a CEO, to a publicly traded company. These are two very different jobs. By the way, Sealed Air, publicly traded on the S&P, in New York, was about an $8 billion company, with 25,000 employees. It’s very different to be an executive committee member because, in the end, you run your division and you are part of the decisions that are made at executive level of the company. But you are not the ultimate decision maker. The responsibility lies with the CEO.

Of course, some very important decisions are delegated down to the CTO, the supply chain VP, and the functional leaders. But in the end, the overall responsibility lies with the CEO. He is the one who is, what I would call, the Chief Culture Officer. He is the one who decides where the bar is. He is the one who decides about accountability. He’s also the one who might decide to have favorites and others. That is a very big issue, which deals with the fact that we are all humans. But how often have you met, in a given company, an executive committee where you see that some members of the executive committee don’t belong; are not at the level. You wonder, how did they get there? In fact, one of the main reasons is that they are very close to the CEO. Therefore, they have not been removed, because they could have been protected. That’s a big issue.

It’s a big issue, because down there, the organization knows it. Everybody would know it, because everybody is a public person in a company. If that person is a dictator, doesn’t listen, knows it all, plays favorites, shoots from the hip or is never able to make a decision, or never answers his emails – you have people who never answer their emails – then everybody knows it. Therefore, it reflects on the CEO and his or her own credibility, if that person is part of the leadership team. You’ve got to be very careful about those kind of things and you have to stay objective. You have to accept that the bar is set by you, the CEO, Chief Culture Officer, and that you have to demand, you have to be fair, otherwise your own credibility is at stake.

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