Carlos GhosnCEO of Renault (France) and Nissan (Japan)
Executive summary: Focus relentlessly, especially if you're running two Global 500 companies.
I go from Paris to Tokyo every month and spend between one and two weeks there.
The week when I am in Tokyo is the week when I have the Nissan executive committee meeting, the design meeting, the product decision meeting, the investment meeting, the board meeting -- all the important meetings are taking place during this week. I do the same thing at Renault. To put decisions into action, I hand them to the executive committee.
Every month is different. In March, I will be one week in the U.S. (I'm also head of Nissan's North American operations), one week in Japan, two weeks in France. But everybody knows that the first week of the month I am in Paris and the third week of the month I'm in Japan.
I have an assistant in France, one in Japan, and one in the U.S. They are all bilingual: Japanese and English, French and English. My assistants screen all the mail and documents. I'm very selective. They know exactly the topics I am interested in and what should be diverted to other members of the executive committee.
For meetings on a single topic that aren't regular operational meetings, I'm very strict. The maximum is one hour and 30 minutes. Fifty percent of the time is for the presentation, 50 percent is for discussion.
I do my best thinking early in the morning. I always ask that my first meeting not happen before eight. When I need more time to think, I wake up earlier. If I don't do six hours of sleep I'm in bad shape, but I'm usually up by six.
The risk in holding two jobs is that you are going to lose some details. We have organized ourselves in a way where I still see many, many people in both companies, so I consider myself in really good contact with reality. Some things I have to sacrifice. When I was in Japan running Nissan, I used to visit one dealer a month and one plant every two or three months. Now dealer visits are once every six months, and plants are once every year.
It is also important to take a distance from the problem. I do not bring my work home. I play with my four children and spend time with my family on weekends. When I go to work on Monday, I can look at the problem with more distance. I come up with good ideas as a result of becoming stronger after being recharged.
Stress builds up when you know that there is a problem but you do not clearly see it, and you do not have a solution. We're all human. I want to assure you I feel the same pain and the same stress and the same jet lag as anybody else. You have nights when you cannot sleep, and the stress is unbearable. It happens to every single person in a job like this.
-- Interviewed by Alex Taylor III