Lessons from the Nissan Renault CEO

 Carlos Ghosn

This is Carlos Ghosn. If you haven’t heard of him, you should. What he did with Nissan is remarkable. Listening to his lecture, you’d understand and you will have no doubt whatsoever that he did what the books, analysts, media etc said he did. It was no fiction.

While it’s still fresh on my mind, the pointers. Some are paraphrased, or interpreted from my understanding of the lecture.

  1. On change: The one thing that you have to remember when you are the agent of change is that you are alone. Don’t expect any support, don’t count on it. You are alone in your plan, you are alone in the execution, you are ALONE. All you can do is keep your head down and stick to the plan and stick to it and stick to it and stick to it until it works and people turn around and say, you were right.
  2. On motivation: You cannot order people to be motivated. You cannot pay them, you cannot force them. You cannot demand it of your employees. They either have it, or they don’t. Motivation is a gift that they give to you and only they decide whether they want to or otherwise. There is nothing else that you can do.
  3. On how to motivate your people: Motivation is the very fundamental of good management, one of the two things that you must have or look for in the people that you work with. The second thing is empathy. You and the people that you work for must have empathy, defined as the ability to understand, listen and take in opinions or suggestions from all quarters and really think about them and be able to relate to the people who made these suggestions. It’s all about having passion. There are many ways to motivate people. But I’ll give you one way not to motivate people. Don’t listen. (everyone laughed)
  4. On cultural and sex diversity: Let’s be honest, the Renault-Nissan alliance is the only alliance that worked. It is simply for the reason that it is not an attempt for a European car manufacturer forcing his ideas on a Japanese revered car institution or vice versa. It is an alliance, not a merger. It would be foolish to try to make Nissan a Renault or Renault a Nissan or combine the two and try to make a better car. Each has its own unique entity and branding and you have to respect that. What we must do is acknowledge the diversities, treat it with utmost respect and work on ways where we can exchange technologies et cetera to make better, individual cars without compromising that diversity. Same with sex diversity. Nissan sells 4 million cars a year in Japan, and 3 out of 4 cars are bought by women OR by men who brought a woman with him. It would be very stupid of us to design a fantastic car without thinking of the aesthetics that would be pleasing to the customers – in this case it is obvious that women have the upper hand. So how do we make cars that appeal to women? Simply by having more female engineers, designers, marketing people etc. It doesn’t make sense to try to do it any other way.
  5. On mistakes he regrets: I made many mistakes but the one that I regret would be taking too much time to rectify or react to a mistake thinking that I have more time later to deal with it. Mistakes must be rectified immediately, assuming that it will resolve itself or get better with time is just prolonging the misery. But I will tell you, the people who stay (in Nissan after his 9 year tenure) are not the people who do not make any mistakes. They are the people who make more good decisions that it overcomes the bad ones.

Come see this space again in 5 years.

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