“You want people to know one another,” says F. Mark Gumz, CEO of the Olympus Corporation and the Feb. 13 Corner Office feature in the Sunday New York Times business section. “If you pull people together and share how they do things, they work better.”

It is encouraging to read about leaders who understand the power of conversation, collaboration and knocking down organizational silos, so we wanted to both applaud and share his story.

Gumz rejoined Olympus after a long period away as an independent consultant. When the company approached him about the job, he was worried about readjusting to a corporate environment. But when he decided to make the leap, he was clear about the kind of organizational culture he wanted to create. One of his key strategies was tohelp people understand that a successful bottom line depends on seeing and effectively navigating the inherent organization’s interdependencies. He used their wallets to make his point.

“I made part of their compensation based on the company’s overall performance,” Gumz says. “And I focused on getting people to share processes from different parts of the organization.”

He also instituted a rule prohibiting people from eating at their desk, both because he understands that taking a break from work is re-energizing, and also because he knows that conversations in the lunchroom are a great way to learn more about your coworkers, what they do, and what they are working on.

Gumz clearly has a management strategy that emphasizes personal accountability for the success of the whole, something that keeps the focus on business results instead of self-interest. Because this is a strategy that is at the heart of our own work, we’re always grateful to see a high-profile leader living out those values.


Written by Maren and Jamie Showkeir

Owners of henning-showkeir & associates, inc., and co-authors of Authentic Conversations: Moving from Manipulation to Truth and Commitment.