Dell 2: Personality Problems

Internal interviews at Dell revealed that subordinates thought CEO Michael Dell, 38, was impersonal and emotionally detached, while President Ken Rollins, 50, was seen as autocratic and antagonistic.

Few felt strong loyalty to the company's leaders. A survey taken after the company's first mass layoff found that half of Dell's employees would leave if they got the chance.

Within a week, Dell faced his top 20 managers and offered a frank self-critique, acknowledging that he is hugely shy and that it sometimes made him seem aloof and unapproachable. He vowed to forge tighter bonds with his team. Personality tests given to key execs had repeatedly shown Dell to be an "off-the-charts introvert," and such an admission from him had to have been painful.

Days later, they began showing a videotape of his talk to every manager in the company -- several thousand people. Then Dell and Rollins adopted desktop props to help them do what didn't come naturally. A plastic bulldozer cautioned Dell not to ram through ideas without including others, and a Curious George doll encouraged Rollins to listen to his team before making up his mind.

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