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Fred Hassan On Leading Through ‘Mind-Bending Torque Change’


It’s always a good time to talk with Fred Hassan, but when the world is as topsy-turvy as it is right now, it’s a really good time to talk to Fred Hassan.

That’s because few people I know have more experience running companies—more varied experience—than Fred. From leading three global pharmas to then being chair of two additional global pharmas, Fred demonstrated that challenged situations can be convincingly turned around. Fred also showed he can turn small dials (small enterprises) in addition to big dials (giant corporations). In other words, he’s seen a lot.

So, what’s he telling CEOs who call him for advice now? I reached out and asked. It was, as always, a great conversation, and worth a look at the whole thing if you’ve got a few minutes this morning. If not, three takeaways:

  • Strategic flexibility. “If you are moving fast on your own, but you aren’t carrying your people with you, then it’s not going to happen. It’s a new mindset: Always be clear about what differentiates you and your offerings and always work on enhancing that differentiator. But don’t be too fixated with rigid long-term stuff in terms of how to get there.”

  • Stay tuned. “Focusing on sensing early and being agile is key to building in resilience. Efficiency and productivity remain the basics, but more urgent now are agility and resilience during times like the ones we are going through. It’s really three things: Having an ear to the ground, agility and resilience.”

  • Talk to the front line. “I ask: What’s making your people successful? And if there are a few things that are making them very successful, can we do more of those? What’s making them less successful? What’s in their way? What can we do to try to get rid of those barriers? What are competitors doing to us? And what are we doing to competitors? Those last two questions often don’t get asked.”

“The final advice I’d give to CEOs is to keep a cool head, even as you take bold and decisive actions to respond to unpredictable and lurching change,” says Hassan. “A cool head is good for your own psyche, and it is especially good for the psyche of your team as it helps reinforce confidence and resolve.” Read the full article >

Dan Bigman, editor, Chief Executive.

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