- Michael Seto/Business Insider
When Tim Armstrong left a successful job as an executive at Google to be CEO of AOL in 2009, he stepped into a company that was largely demoralized.
AOL “was something that everyone had given up on, but they had a lot of resources, a lot of users, and they had a lot of talent,” Armstrong told Business Insider US editor in chief Alyson Shontell in an episode of Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It.”
Armstrong new his first few months on the job would be critical, so he came up with a plan to make the most out of his first 100 days as CEO. The goal was to meet as many people as he could, listen to all their ideas and concerns about AOL, and use their feedback to come up with a plan to fix the company.
“We did a 100-day process, and I traveled around the whole globe,” Armstrong said. “There were about 10,000 AOL employees at the time, I saw about 9,000 of them in person, and I had three processes I was running: feedback from the entire company and team, feedback from the management team, and then a list I was keeping of things that I thought we should be doing.”
After he compiled the feedback from those three processes, he found an interesting pattern among the responses he got back from employees and management.
He told Shontell:
“After the 100 days, we held a meeting at the Time Warner Center and I put up three whiteboards. On one white board I wrote back the results from the entire global team of what they thought we should invest in.
“I put up a white board of what the management team thought, and I put up a whiteboard of what I thought. I flipped them all around at the same time. Each one had five things on them. All of the white boards were identical, except for one area on the white board that I had flipped around on my personal side.
“So the whole company was already in alignment and I think that got people excited. They weren’t told what the strategy was. They got input, and everyone was on the same path in believing in it.”
A common mistake new leaders make is to take action before they fully understand problems in the new organization they’re joining. By including AOLers in his planning process and listening to their concerns, Armstrong made them feel ownership in his turnaround plan, which in turn helped boost morale.