From: Ann Tardy (LifeMoxie) [] on behalf of Ann Tardy (LifeMoxie) []

Sent: Friday, November 05, 2010 2:02 PM


Subject: [Moxie in Motion] CEO of ING Direct Asks His People if He Should Stay - That's Moxie!


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CEO of ING Direct Asks His People if He Should Stay - That's Moxie!


Arkadi Kuhlmann has been the CEO of ING Direct USA for 10 years. In December, he's giving ING employees the opportunity to vote anonymously whether he should be CEO for another year.


That's moxie.


Why does he ask?

Kuhlmann shared with The New York Times recently, "I don't want to serve here unless I've got the commitment of people genuinely wanting me to serve." He admits that if the ING people are as important as he says they are, then they should have a say in whether Kuhlmann continues to lead.


Not a popularity contest

Kuhlmann clarified that the vote is not about being popular. He stressed that a vote in his favor is a vote of confidence for the company's mission and a vote of confidence for his ability to lead the accomplishment of that mission.


What he communicates with the vote

By calling for the vote, Kuhlmann is communicating two important things to his people: (1) he doesn't take his job for granted, and (2) he is accountable to them to walk his talk. Most leaders fail to remember these points altogether.


Serve with him

"Would you vote for me to serve with you for another year?" Pay attention to the words he uses in this annual voting ritual. He doesn't focus on his position as the CEO. He doesn't mention anything about "running the company." He sincerely sees his role as one in which he has the privilege to serve with people in the accomplishment of a mission.


Associates vs. employees

It is also interesting that Kuhlmann never uses the word "employee" when interviewed by The New York Times reporter. He refers to the people who serve with him as "associates." An associate by definition is a partner, a colleague, a co-worker, a comrade. That distinction breaks down the wall that separates them vs. us. It acknowledges that we work with people who contribute and solve problems instead of creatures called "employees" who need things and create problems.


Kuhlmann must be nuts!

His colleagues and the directors on the ING board think he's nuts. He's well aware of this. But he is nuts in furtherance of his battle cry - to serve with people to accomplish the company's mission. 'Being nuts' separates the moxie leader from the mediocre leader. In spite of (or arguably, as a result of) 'being nuts,' ING stock has gone up by 55% in the past 6 months.


The typical leader

Most companies run hierarchically. Leaders are in charge of people below them, but they don't operate as if they are accountable to those people. Instead they operate as if they don't owe their people anything - not communication, not recognition, not appreciation, and certainly not comradeship. This mentality usually starts with the typical CEO who answers only to Wall Street and the Board of Directors, and merely tolerates everyone else.


When did leaders forget what it was like to follow?


Have you ever asked?

Have you ever asked your people what it's like to work with you? What you could be doing more of, better, or differently? Has your leader or any leader ever asked you what they could be doing better to serve with you? If it ever does happen, will you instinctually look for the hidden camera?


Why it takes moxie to ask

It's a vulnerable place from which to stand. What if your people tell you something you don't want to hear? What if they point out one of your weaknesses that you thought you had beautifully veiled? What if they tell you, in so many words, that you don't have what it takes to be their leader? Ultimately, leaders fear being rejected by their people... so they don't ask.


It takes moxie - guts, courage, perseverance, determination, and a little 'being nuts' - to feel this fear and ask anyway out of a commitment to something greater than ego.


Three reasons to be like Kuhlmann

(1) People support that which they help create.

When Kuhlmann asks his people if he should serve, he is valuing their opinion. When they vote for him to lead for the 11th consecutive year, they will support him as the CEO because they voted for him. This is a behavioral phenomenon in action called "irrational escalation bias." 


(2) Asking builds trust.

By asking Kuhlmann is being vulnerable. The people know this and appreciate it. This fosters trust. People will trust him even more going forward because he is so willing to be vulnerable with them today.


(3) It is impossible to succeed on our own.

The leader's ego tells us that we have all the answers, but we don't. And even when we do, it's entirely exhausting to carry the weight of the company, a department, or a team on our shoulders.


What is your commitment?

As the leader, what are you committed to? If you are committed to generating the highest stock price possible, you will get it, people-be-damned! Just ask Jeff Skilling of the Enron scandal or Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom disgrace. If you are committed to accomplishing something great that changes the world in some way, you will need others to serve with you. The choice is yours. 


Gandhi said, "My life is my message." Let's borrow this in our quest to ignite our moxie leadership and say, "My leadership is my message."  


What do you think?

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Moxie in Motion: observing moxie at work

Vol. I. Issue 4


Welcome to
Moxie in Motion!

Get ready to observe and analyze moxie at work. We'll look at the good, the bad, and the ugly. The irreverent, the ridiculous, and the offensive. Theadmirable, the enviable, and even the incorrigible. From leaders to contributors, from the front line to the assembly line, from white collar to blue collar to pink collar.


There's so much to be learned by watching others risk it, reap it, flub it, and flunk it.


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