Ivar Kroghrud (QuestBack) in “The Corner Office”

KroghrudAdam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Ivar Kroghrud, the lead strategist at QuestBack, which specializes in feedback management. He was a co-founder of the firm and was its C.E.O. for 13 years.

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

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Bryant: Tell me about your approach to leadership.

Kroghrud: Part of my role is to be “chief ironing officer.” It’s very easy in a fast-growing company and fast-changing industry to get hung up on all the things that aren’t working and that we should be fixing. If you want to get extraordinary results, you have to play to people’s strengths and you have to help them work as close to plan as possible. If you allow them to get bogged down in all the problems that are out there — and there are always problems — they’ll be unproductive.

You can get a lot of speed by thinking of yourself as a chief ironing officer. Once you have a successful system in place, you can spend some of your time just walking around talking to people and asking: “What’s preventing you from doing an even better job? What are you spending time on that you don’t feel you should be spending time on?” Those kinds of questions are easy to ask, and people relate to them.

Bryant: What else about your leadership style?

Kroghrud: I developed a one-page “user manual” so people can understand how to work with me.

Bryant: Can you give some examples of what it says?

Kroghrud: I am patient, even-tempered and easygoing. I appreciate straight, direct communication. Say what you are thinking, and say it without wrapping your message.

I am goal-oriented but have a high tolerance for diversity and openness to different viewpoints. So, again, say what you are thinking and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.

I welcome ideas at any time, but I appreciate that you have real ownership of your idea and that you have thought it through in terms of total business impact.

I also added at the end: The points are not an exhaustive list, but should save you some time figuring out how I work and behave. Please make me aware of additional points you think I should put on a revised version of this “user’s manual.”

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times‘ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.

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