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Healing Uber: The 3 Pivots Needed by New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi

by Phyllis Reagin, Executive Coach & Organizational Effectiveness Expert, CSRH Consulting, LLC

After months of Uber’s brand being battered by accounts of poor management behavior and decisions, a new CEO, Dana Khosrowshahi, was selected. He takes the helm of a company in desperate need of healing. There is no doubt that Uber needs to revamp its image with its customers but the true work will be to heal an organization hemorrhaging from distrust, dishonesty, and a lack of focus. There are three pivots that CEO Khosrowshahi and any new leader can do to make a significant difference immediately when newly leading a company engulfed in challenges.

Don't worry about leaving your leadership legacy. Just live it.

- Lee Colan, Author

The first pivot is for the new leader to be clear about his values. This is pertinent for any new leader taking the helm, whether the business values are an issue or not. The new leader needs to speak to who he is as a leader, what he believes in, and why those values matter to the employees. The organization has its own set of values that may need fine-tuning but for a new leader he must carve out separately who he is so that his employees understand the leader they are following. For example, if generosity is a value then the leader needs to demonstrate this with how he behaves. That would mean being generous with his listening, support, accessibility, time, volunteer programs he supports, and more. New employees want to know who the leader is, how he is different from the previous leader, and to begin understanding what following him really means.

If you treat employees as if they make a difference to the company, they will make a difference.

- Jim Goodnight, Co-Founder, SAS Institute

The second pivot is to engage all employees. That means making formal and informal conversations happen that allows for wrongs, rights, misdirection, and new ideas to be discussed easily and without defensiveness. The opportunity here is huge. This is the time to listen. Even if the leader thinks she knows this information already. Being really present in this conversation and valuing all the content whether positive or negative will demonstrate to the employees that she is interested. It also tells them that the new leader is making decisions based on pertinent and real-time information. In the end, it may not mean a quick turn-around with employee negativity but if this becomes the leader’s practice, then the employees will trust her motives and feel more motivated to positively follow her leadership.

There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.

- Aldous Huxley, Writer

The third pivot for the new leader is to know his stakeholders’ perception of him. This is important because it allows the new leader to quickly identify any gaps between who the leader is and how he wants his stakeholders to experience him as their new leader. The analysis means being open to negativity, hostility, judgement, and conflict without hesitation, defensiveness, or sensitivity. These gaps in perception inform the new leader where he can quickly repair relationships, what might be needed to do so, find quick wins, and set in place long-term strategies. The impact is shoring up misperceptions immediately before they undermine the new leader’s effectiveness.

You manage things; you lead people.

- Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Uber’s new CEO will have many business areas that require his immediate attention and that matter to the market place but the most important focus is to heal and strengthen Uber from the inside out. CEO Khosrowshahi’s focus on discussing his values clearly and intentionally with employees, listening with an open mind to employees, and mitigating any gaps about how stakeholders perceive him will be critical to the healing of Uber. The result can mean motivated, focused, and aligned employees. This is the foundation to an organization being its best internally and being positioned to excel externally.

Phyllis Reagin, High Performance Strategist and Executive Coach with CSRH Consulting, guides senior leaders and high-potentials with mastering their leadership. To receive bi-monthly blogs that examine leadership lessons from the entertainment, business, and political worlds, join At The Coach's Table blog.

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