Intel chief enjoys role as `Dear Abby' for corporate managers
One-on-One with Andy Grove, by Andrew S. Grove. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 235 pp. $18.95. To the 18,000 employees at microchip maker Intel Corporation, Andrew Grove is known as president and chief executive officer. Fortune Magazine describes him as one of the ``10 toughest bosses in America.'' Electronic Business Magazine ranks him among the 10 ``best executives of 1987.''
But the moniker Mr. Grove seems to enjoy most is ``Dear Abby of the workplace.''
For nearly three years, Grove has authored a weekly syndicated business advice column. His 19-year tenure at Intel - listed in the book of ``The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America'' - would seem to qualify him to dispense advice.
Grove's latest book, ``One-on-One with Andy Grove,'' should serve to cement his reputation as corporate counselor. Drawing on 150 questions sent in by readers of his column, Grove provides concise, practical solutions to everyday dilemmas facing both managers and workers.
Topics cover the gamut of workplace issues from ``Young, female, blonde - and `hit on,''' to ``Is it fair to fire an incompetent?,'' and ``When a union vote tears your employees apart.''
But the question that is most frequently asked of Mr. Grove is ``What are the characteristics of a successful manager?''
His answer could apply to success in any avenue of life: ``I advise aspiring managers to stop worrying about what magic characteristics they need; instead I urge them to concentrate on the task at hand and use their own strengths and capabilities to the best effect,'' Grove writes in a chapter on this subject. ``Effective managers are distinguished by what they accomplish, not by what they are.''
Grove elaborated on this point during a recent interview in New York.
``It's a hard truth to accept. People want to be told if I do such and such, then I will be a good manager .... But it takes all kinds of qualities to succeed,'' he explains in an accent richly indicative of his Hungarian heritage.
``A person comes to mind that is highly analytical,'' Grove continues, ``not very intuitive, not very personable, not even a very hard working guy. But, boy, his analytical mind is phenomenal. This is hisstrength, and he's very effective. Now, to tell someone else who's not very analytical, but has a very good intuitive sense, to be analytical would be a disaster.''
``People have different capabilities. The trick is to use what you're good at and acquire some skill in other areas and make that work for you.''
In a chapter entitled ``What is Right?'' Grove tackles whistleblowing, illegal shortcuts, drug testing, and entertaining business clients. He doesn't provide pat answers for all ethical or legal dilemmas. Rather, he suggests a mental exercise.
``Picture yourself facing a group of people who are very important to you, whose opinion you value, and whose respect you seek. They could be your spouse, best friends, parents, children - or they could be a group of senior managers from your company.
``Now, imagine yourself having to account to these people for your conduct in these situations.'' There are risks in keeping quiet or speaking up, he allows. But the effect of this test is to clarify your thoughts and put your options into the context of the values you live by.
What if you work for a firm where the top managers are dishonest? Isn't an ethical corporate culture something that has to be fostered by management?
``I do believe that ethics start at the top, but I don't advocate it because it gives a cop-out for everybody to wait until the old man up there starts handing down ethical principles,'' says Grove.
``We all have a responsibility for our own actions. We can't change the totality of a workplace, but we can change our own environment and how we conduct ourselves.''
While Grove devotes less than a chapter to the subject, he says he hopes readers also extract the concept that work should be enjoyable.
``Don't take yourself seriously, take your work seriously. A lot of people think that being solemn, unapproachably serious, comes with supervisory territory. That's dead wrong.
``If you're so darn solemn and serious, communication breaks down. If you can't banter, who is going to approach you with a difficult problem? Removing that solemnity is enabling, it enables a lot of other things to take place, such as communication. Communication begets collaboration.
``I could make a strong argument that it's good for productivity,'' says Grove. ``But even if it only makes work more pleasant, it's beneficial.''