Will your CEO sacrifice?

Sray Agarwal | January, 2013

“Fulfill all your duties; action is better than inaction. Even to maintain your body, Aruba, you are obliged to act.  Selfish action imprisons the world.  Act selflessly, without any thought of personal profit.” - Krishna utters in the midst of Arjun’s infatuation with life and war as they prepare for the great Kurukshetra war.
Bhagwad Gita, in its very beginning, speaks of human beings being born with the spirit of sacrifice and through sacrifice only they will realize their ambition. Lord Krishna, subsequently advices Arjun to sacrifice and reach his goal. The value of sacrificing is a cosmic truth that human beings are realizing more and more and that is pertaining to their growth as human beings as well as their ability to serve others and win respect and admiration. And these two features are invaluable sources of prudent HR management of the CEOs to held sway their band of employees to great motivational level and perform better.
This Bhagwad Gita’s philosophy, in the advent of the new century, is being imbibed by a number of CEOs across the world and miraculously with amazing effect. The hotelier, Chip Conley, was a paradigm in sacrificing his personal wealth in the greater interest of his company, Joie de Vivre, and his employees. In the aftermath of 9/ 11, when chips were down in his business, he led his team from the top in terms of doing away with his remuneration. His policy of cutting the wages from the top kept the employees motivated and was instrumental in arresting the employee attrition rate. He stopped taking wages and undertook two mortgages and shaved retirement plans to keep his organization at bay. Only after his personal commitment he slashed 10% of his senior executives’ packages. Because of such exemplary commitment none of his staffs left the organization neither he laid off anybody. Even bolder step was taken by Lola Gonzalez of Florida based recruitment firm called Accurate Background Check (ABC). ABC lost one its prized clients and as the recession set in, the company found itself in knee-deep crisis. Under such circumstances Ms. Gonzalez decided on the obvious of lay-off. And on the day of that decision she called all his employees and announced to the astonishment of everybody present there that she is firing herself from the organization!
There are more examples of self-sacrifices, like; a unique instance of Japan Airlines CEO Hurok Nishimatsu who started travelling by bus to office apart from his forgoes in salary in turbulent times of his organization’s fate in 2009. In true display altruism, the CEO of Lenovo, Yang Yuanging, after receiving $3 million bonus from his organization’s record-setting performance, was spread among his employees something he thoroughly deserved and was rewarded.
The self-sacrifice is greater leveler among the employees in the time of crisis. It is also a motivator that obliges the company staff to perform even under strain because the head of the company is showing the way. It gives them a sense of duty to perform and enhances their devotion towards the organization. The trust factor is such a quintessential prerogative for an organization to reach heights of success, which can be achieved through sacrifice from the top.
The employee’s trust, employee retention and their performance have bearings on investors’ confidence and performance in stock exchanges that help a firm raise capital for expansion, diversification and growth. The employee performances enhance sales and revenue and help the company earn profits at the end of the reporting periods. This in turn will increase the retained earnings and help maximize the shareholder’s value. The results are not just theoretical abstract but are there for all to see. The measures of employee motivation taken by Conley, leading from the front, showed up results for Joie de Vivre with annual revenue augmenting three times, from 2001 to $200 million. Gonzales’ sacrifice, too, paved the way for ABC to secure interest-free loan of $35,000 and vestiges of spiral was reverted with 20% profit.
Therefore a simple tactics and a little forfeit of wealth can do wonders for an organization. And in the spate of sustained global meltdown the tactics is increasingly in vogue in the corporate circle, worldwide. The sacrifice of 20% wage by FedEx CEO, Fred Smith or 20% slip in pay of Motorola’s co-CEOs Greg Brown and Sanjay Jha or 33% dip of gross by John Coyne, CEO of Western Digital – all have reaped benefits for their organizations in doing such give up. And it is like a boomerang, it goes off and after the turnaround is affected it comes back again. So, when the slump is weighed down the CEOs can hike their salaries again. The chain reaction of positive effects can be initiated with this simple formula.
One of the teachings of Krishna entails self-sacrifice should precede reward. And that’s what he followed in Mahabharata. When Kaurava’s defeated the Pandava’s in the game chess through deceit and sent them to the woods for twelve years, the Pandava’s accepted their fate with passive endorsement, even though juxtaposed with sympathy towards them and scorns towards Kaurava’s, from Krishna. It was only after their sacrifice was complete that they stood up for their rights and fought the righteous war to enjoy the affluent kingdom. In Ramayana, too, the same doctrine is found. Ram, himself, after sacrificing fourteen years in forests and then fighting inordinately difficult war finally reaped the fruits of sacrifice.
Even after thousands of years the philosophy of self-sacrifice is as potent. We have seen that the CEOs who sacrificed their fortunes, most cases than not, were flag bearers of success later on. And that’s the ethereal truth of life being preached by great Indian philosophers, strategists and tacticians like Ram and Krishna. And, in the most inconspicuous way, Conley, Gonzales, Yuanging and the likes falls in line with this strategy, and through it, garner rich harvest of success and glory.