Lessons from David Ossip, CEO at Ceridian

David Ossip is the CEO of Ceridian HCM, a provider of HR software and services. It is a publicly traded company on the NYSE as of April 2018 and the one of the most interesting turnaround story in recent years. In 2012, Ceridian acquired Dayforce, a time and attendance cloud company founded by David. David began the transformation and renewal of Ceridian with focus on the Dayforce HCM offering. In 2013, David became the CEO of Ceridian. David also founded Workbrain, a workforce management software company, where served as CEO and President and was sold to Infor for $227M in 2007.

1. "When you start a business, you need to remain calm. Usually it takes a lot longer to get going, and so you’re anxious to see something happen. You can get discouraged during that phase."
For millennials like me who are used to get everything quickly, it is probably the most important and toughest learning. I'm still working on it, but in the last year or so, I have increasingly become more patient regarding results and focused much more on the processes to get there. More is something you can always wish for, but it usually takes way more time and way harder than you expect. Accepting that the discipline of sticking to your core values and trusting the infrastructure you built around yourself helped me get the FOMO away and focus on playing the long game.

2. "In the early days, I didn’t understand that to successfully scale a company, it wasn’t about me, it was about everyone else. I had this mistaken notion that people work for me rather than seeing that taking care of my people was my job. That has been the biggest learning for me over several decades in business."
Working in mid-market management consulting taught me that the biggest challenge of executives are themselves. We see company that stops growing or have the potential for high growth, but they can't because executives are not able to let go, try to control everything and do everything themselves. I like this quote from David where he flips the paradigm toward employees: "their primary responsibility is to their employees. You have to weave that sense of service into the fabric of your culture to be successful." David also recommends executives sit down with every person to figure what their short- and long-term personal objectives are.

3. "My take home after a hard look at Ceridian was that the organization had to reinvent its culture in order to drive proper employee engagement, in turn improving our customer engagement scores and market share. If you have an organization that can’t change, you will become extinct."
A famous quote in management circles is that "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". More and more, I believe culture also eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Building a great culture is one of the most important ways to build an organization to the next level. One of the first things to do when reinventing the culture is to define a clear and common purpose that is created with the participation of employees. This exercise can be used as a stepping stone to change the management support systems and move towards OKRs/CFRs and other systems that allow open communication, alignment and empowerment of employees.

4. "To be great, you need two components. You need expertise so that your customers trust you. And you need character, so that we can clearly articulate to everyone what type of people we want inside the organization, how we want people to behave, how we want our clients to be treated. When we get those two components right, the company does become great."
One of the way Ceridian make sure they have expertise and character is to hire for what they call "FIT" short for Fun, Intelligence and Teams. These are people who believe in the purpose of Ceridian, fun in the sense that they are interesting people with a diverse background and other passion than work, intelligent people who are humble and have the ability to learn, and finally people that are team players and like to collaborate with others, because you need collaboration to scale the organization.

5. "Interact with external leaders, because people don’t know what they don’t know. Being exposed to different role models and ideas helps close that gap."
One of the thing people can do to upscale themselves is to get other kind of perspective. People should be wary of prescriptions and the plethora of advice out there, but they can still learn a lot by having other people challenge them on their views or just by having other people reframe the problems they might have. I like these quotes from Kanye West: "I use the world as my therapist. Everyone I talk to is my therapist. People around you know more about you than a therapist" and "I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life."

Source:
1. Have a Burning Business Question? Ask the Expert: David Ossip. - Real Wise
2. It Takes a Team to Make a Company Grow - NY Times
3. Ceridian CEO: 'Early on, I had this mistaken notion that people work for me' - Financial Post
4. How Transformational Leadership Saved This Company: Ceridian's Story - Forbes