By Maria Saporta
In her 11 months working on the restructuring of AIG, Paula Rosput Reynolds said she learned a great deal about what makes a company not a great place to work.
Reynolds was the keynote speaker Friday morning at the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Best Places to Work” breakfast at the Loews hotel in Midtown.
“People were highly siloed,” Reynolds said of her time at AIG, which began in October, 2008. “There was no transparency between the silos let alone transparency to the world. There was an entrepreneurial culture instead of having collaboration.”
Reynolds is no stranger to Atlanta. She was the chairman and CEO of AGL Resources before becoming CEO of the Seattle-based Safeco insurance company, which later ended up being sold. She continues to serve as a director on Delta Air Lines’ board and maintains her Atlanta contacts.
In her opening comments, Reynolds said: “How great it is to be here” in Atlanta.
“When you think about great places to work, Atlanta is at the top of the list.
She then began her twisted tale of how she fared during her AIG restructuring venture after the sale of Safeco
“I can’t say I made it very much better than how I found it,” Reynolds said.
But Reynolds did come up with principles that she believes creates a “Best Places to Work” environment.
“What makes for a good place to work? A shared sense of the worthy purpose of the enterprise,” she said. “In a best place to work, everybody has to agree that it’s worthy. It has to be an honest place. You have to be grounded in reality. There has to be good accounting and controls. If you don’t have good accounting and controls, you don’t know your financial position. (Employees have to feel) we all have a stake in this firm.”
An employee also must “be engaged” and “be in the game every day.” The company must be transparent, and management must respect employees and encourage good ideas, she added.
“The quality of culture and tone is really essential,” adding that great companies are focused on their culture.
While at AIG, Reynolds had to go to Asia several times because of the insurance company’s holdings. It was particularly humbling when Chinese leaders said that they had believed in American financial engineering and risk management.
“You totally failed us,” Reynolds said recalling what the Chinese told her. “We bought your currency. We bought your success, and you failed us. You were supposed to be the leaders.”
In closing, Reynolds told the people attending the ABC breakfast: “You have to be the kind of change you want to see in the world. It’s time for us to take accountability.”