Exchange' puts leadership center stage
Motorola execs come together for insightful evening as PBS
tapes popular business program
stage at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium with leaders
of The Allstate Corp. and Motorola Inc. for the March 1 taping
of the PBS show "CEO Exchange," host Jeff Greenfield
asked a question that seemed designed to cross some wires:
What do you think about the use of cell phones while driving?
Edward M. Liddy, chairman, president and CEO of Allstate,
nor Edward J. Zander, chairman and CEO of Motorola,
gave a predictable answer.
said there's no clear evidence that such behavior increases
accidents and he compared using the phone while mobile to
changing a CD or combing one's hair in traffic. Zander allowed
that cell phones in public places sometimes annoy him. "We've
got to watch the social interaction of this technology,"
he said. "When I go to a restaurant or a movie, I want
to enjoy myself."
members interspersed questions during the event, which was
sponsored by the Kellogg School. First-year Kellogg student
Maya Prasad Clem asked Liddy how he sees the vast amount
of available information about people's habits affecting underwriting
comes a point where you're infringing on people's privacy,"
he said. "The industry's got to tread into those waters
hopes data gathering can prove helpful by, for example, giving
Allstate adjusters the ability to locate an accident scene
more quickly. "I want to turn this into a net-plus,"
noted that both CEOs were outsiders who had to revive sluggish
corporations and asked how they won employee support. Zander
said he participated in many town hall meetings with employees
and met with customers.
tell them right up front, 'Ask me anything you want to talk
about,'" he said, adding that early meetings were "sterile"
and that some employees are "still afraid of retribution"
but this situation has improved. "You can't underestimate
communication," he said.
who led Allstate through its divestiture from Sears, Roebuck
& Co. and spun off agents as independent contractors,
said winning full support has been a challenge.
are some things in life you are always striving to attain,"
he said. "Those who wanted to grow and mature into that
[independent] role have done fabulously well."
cultivate an atmosphere of innovation, both CEOs said they
never become complacent, although they don't embrace change
merely for its own sake. Liddy, for instance, does not intend
to alter Allstate's "Good Hands" slogan and iconography
any time soon.
such an advantage to us. We don't toy with it too much,"
he said. Nevertheless, he noted the importance of being prepared
to adapt if the market demands it. "You have to let people
know the status quo may be wonderful, but it ensures you of
like playing offense. I like setting the agenda," Zander
said. "It's a challenge because you get this comfortable
feeling, when things are going well, that RAZR [cell phones]
will be around forever or cellular technology will be around
Kellogg student Angela Chou asked how expectations
of the executives' performance had changed since they became
CEOs. Both alluded to the broadening notion of stakeholders,
with the community at large now playing an important role
alongside shareholders, employees and customers.
cited Sarbanes-Oxley legislation as one driver of this expansive
trend. "You have to be a little more enlightened and
balance all that," Liddy agreed. "The role has become
much more multifaceted."
challenge for Liddy has been the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,
which rocked the insurance industry. He said events of that
magnitude always will require significant federal government
assistance. (See page 58 for more on this subject from Allstate
President and COO Thomas Wilson '80.)
could [now] be in a period of [events like] Katrina not being
exceptional," he said. "Let's do what America does
best and get ready for it now."