Jean-Dominique Senard: “Meaning and why motivation burns”

What does the term “Positive Business” mean to you?

The word positive can cover many areas. A so-called “positive” business is an activity that goes beyond the mere production of goods and services. And who is involved for the benefit of his environment, in the public interest. And this is important! A manager must reflect on the importance of his company’s action and then define the long-term orientation and the strategic main lines.

What role does the raison d’être of the report you co-authored with Nicole Notat play?

The raison d’être makes it possible to connect the past with the present; it’s the company’s DNA. It has no economic significance, but is rather a matter of vision and meaning. This beautiful expression is also not theoretical, on the contrary, it is very practical. What is the reason defense? In what perspectives does it place the company? Purpose is a common good that engages and adapts everyone. It’s something deep.

And mobilizer?

Purpose is a very powerful concept! All those who make the effort to define it and share it realize how much it mobilizes people’s minds. Business is more than ever at the heart of political, social and economic life. The Glorious Thirties have had their time and the welfare state is disappearing. Today, there is a real need to create a liberalism that is acceptable to all. However, the company creates a certain amount of mistrust among too many people. By providing meaning and inspiration, raison d’être promotes consensus. In the world of work, meaning and why must constantly nurture motivation, otherwise we lose people. But the meaning and why is found in many other social sciences. It goes far beyond the business.

What was your motivation before writing the Note-Senard report?

The strong connection between political will and adherence to the business spirit interested me, which is why I agreed to help write the report on “business, object of collective interest”. Because if we do not embark on the path of peaceful and united liberalism, we are heading for very big problems. We will have to create another model, which is neither classical Anglo-Saxon capitalism nor state capitalism. In France, the tone of the debates on this issue, before the report, was extremely lively. Our work has helped to calm the situation, even though the debate is not over. The line transmitted by Nicole Notat and myself is balanced. The following ? It is first and foremost a passage for the Council of State within the framework of the Covenant Act. Then there is a parliamentary debate.

Michelin is often quoted for experimenting with the concept of the liberated company …

I prefer to talk about a responsible business. This concept is at a very mature level at Michelin, which experimented with it on a large scale, starting in 2010-2011. At all levels of the company, employees take responsibility. It transforms their lives, it is very impressive in terms of results, autonomy and team commitment. I am very happy and very proud of it.

How do we achieve such a cultural transformation?

With a lot of method, training and involvement of everyone, the general management, the leaders, the employees, the unions. In France, we have thus been able to sign innovative social agreements. But if they seem very innovative, they are not based on self-management, but on trust based on a common goal.

Does this explain your place as the largest employer in the United States?

It’s a pleasant surprise, but not a coincidence. Satisfaction at work, symmetry of attention, employees treated with the same consideration as customers, all this constitutes a theoretical corpus, which at Michelin has given rise to formidable practical applications. This explains our spectacular rise in the Forbes rankings.

But is not digitalisation likely to disrupt this beautiful order?

No, because our empowering approach prepares the ground for digital. The latter makes it clear, by accelerating the trade, that as in rugby, the important thing lies more in the way of passing than in scoring the attempt. The hierarchical organization that does not grasp this risks no longer being able to function in the long run.

You have prepared your succession with the same concern for expectation …

I was thinking about it from the day I was asked to be number one. Preparing for a legacy means avoiding the risk of chaos in a moment that is as sensitive as in a cultural transformation. I know Florent Menegaux [qui lui succédera en mai 2019, NDLR] since a long time. We live and work together in great trust.

What advice would you give to a new boss in terms of balance and values?

Everyone has their equation. I do not believe in the myth of interruption, it is impossible to get out of the company one lives with night and day. Wisdom, on the other hand, lies in delegation and empowerment.

Everything a number one does or says is observed, and therefore I advocate consistency and the ability to know how to keep one’s feet on the ground. Another piece of advice: avoid this tendency to pretend that everything is coming from you. To groups of students, I explain how important it is not to miss your beliefs. Thus, at the end of their career, they will be able to see themselves in the mirror.

What is ultimately the main role of a number one today?

It remains a conductor. And in an empowering company, this role is accentuated: making sense, defining the company’s raison d’être and sharing it, checking the relevance of the main orientations that follow from it … Number one guarantees absolute consistency. Another point: personnel management. It is up to him to know how to motivate them and respond to a growing thirst for autonomy, which I also observe among the younger generations, but also the others. This is one of the great keys to retaining talent. Companies that do not appear as places of refuge must hurry to understand this.

How he recovers

“Swimming makes me a world good! Also reading. I have a passion for history and international politics: the Six Day War, the issue of the Middle East … My father, a diplomat in Egypt in particular, passed on this passion for major geopolitical issues to me. »

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