Monday, March 9, 2009 by Dave Blum

There’s a great article in the latest issue of Inc. Magazine about the “personality makeover” of the CEO of Ruckus Wireless, a Sunnyvale, CA Wi-Fi start up.  By all accounts, Selina Lo is a hard-charging, successful executive leader; at last count, her company had 147 employees and recorded $40 million in revenue.  But Selina’s management skills were, shall we say, “undeveloped”.

Some of her pre-makeover behaviors included:

  • Sticking her head in your office and barking out a bunch of commands
  • Ripping into her bosses
  • Arguing with major investors

Was Selina a bad person?  Not at all.  Her fierceness and hyper-competitiveness, bred into her by her Hong Kong parents, had served the company well when Selina was a top salesperson.  But now, as the CEO — managing people — she realized she’d have to either change her tune or watch the hands abandon ship.   Selina’s makeover went like this:

  • She developed a group decision-making process that involved herself, the disputant and two other people affected by the decision.
  • She took up gardening to develop patience
  • She asked colleagues to point out employees who needed kudos and expressions of appreciation
  • She forced herself to stop multi-tasking and to put down work when employees entered her office.
  • She starting a practice of having drinks with people, outside of work, once a week

Has Selina gone all warm and squishy?  I doubt it.  I’m guessing she’s still a tough cookie who fights hard for her company and values results a bit higher than harmony.  You can bet she won’t be singing Kumbaya anytime soon. But it does sound like she’s learning — or at least, she’s working around her weaknesses and asking for help to develop her left-handed skills.

In my own team building exercises, I see a lot of people beating themselves up for their weaknesses.  And of course, I do it myself sometimes.  Whether you’re playing in scavenger hunts, engaging in team building activities, or leading project teams, it can be hard to admit that you’re not perfect, and that your default habits might have to change.   I admire Selina Lo because, although she didn’t achieve a total transformation overnight, she did take some baby steps in the right direction, showing everyone that she’s willing to try.

For the entire Inc. article, click here.