Board is the boss: The state of corporate governance is abysmal in Nepali private companies. That sorry state comes about not because of malice on anyone's part, but because of ignorance about what the governance of a private sector firm entails.
But an astute CEO need not despair. His primary task is to think of himself as an agent who's been appointed by the Board to represent the interests of the owners of the company, that is, the shareholders who have put in money to earn returns. This clarity about why he's there makes it easier for the CEO to filter important decisions through the lens of this question: "Is this decision in the interest of the shareholders?" If yes, proceed. If no, rethink and revise.
This mindset on the CEO's part makes it easier for him to have good working relations with the Board, which can then provide advice, guidance and necessary doses of skepticism. Conflicts that many Nepali private firms, notably banks, have between their CEOs and Board members boil down to the former's inability to repeatedly communicate their own job description to the Board members.
Persistence is important: I used to think that communication was very important. It is, but not as important as persistence to see challenges through over a stretch of time by focusing single-mindedly on the results. Almost all managerial accomplishments are about getting things done. As such, quietly determined persistence on the CEO's part signals to staff that the results matter more for the company than just communicating back and forth and getting along with one another.
To get the results, one can rant and rave and scold employees. Fear works very well to get outcomes in the short run. But it will fail to develop the long-term capability and the professional confidence of the staff to deliver results on their own, without anyone hovering over their shoulders.
For long-term stress-free results, a CEO has to initially set himself up as a patient coach who will let some employees make mistakes, stumble, not get results for some time, before making sure that they have mastered the art of getting their act together to start delivering results. An initial investment of coaching pays for itself many times over.
Culture matters: Culture has two parts: one facing inward, and the other facing outward. Inside the company, the CEO can use his role to share information with all, be approachable to staff, be transparent about important HR and management decisions that affect staff, and focus on creating an environment that values sharing information quickly with one another. The more information the staff members have about their company, the more they feel that they know what's going on, and this knowledge helps reduce the level of internal politicking.
Company culture that faces outside has to be customer-centric. This means that all staff, from those who create the goods to those who ship the goods to the customers, are thinking about a single question: how can we please the customer so that he does repeat business with us?
At Himalmedia, though we have been able to get the internal culture of openness working, we still have a lot of work to do to be more customer-centric. Still, at a media company, balancing what advertising customers want with the obligations of being a respected, independent public watchdog is a task that is challenging for any manager.