Lights! Camera! Cue the CEO!
Cisco chief John Chambers plans his day in the shower, and uses video-on-demand to communicate with employees and customers. A Fortune interview.
Interview by Adam Lashinsky, Fortune senior writer

(FORTUNE Magazine) -- I plan my whole day in the shower in the morning. I realize that's a little bit unusual, but I'm playing everything out - thinking through the issues, especially the key things I want to do that day.

I will be scheduled on average from 7:30 in the morning to probably 7:00 at night. And we leave a little bit of buffer within that so that I can move things around.

Not much of a paper chase for Microsoft's chairman, who uses a range of digital tools to do business. (more)

I started off with classic communication methods when I got here 15 years ago. I'd walk around and talk to small groups and larger groups. I'd see who was here in the evening. To this day I can tell you whose car is out in the parking lot.

Then e-mail became very effective, because it gave me the ability to send a message to the whole group. But I'm a voice person. I communicate with emotion that way. I like to listen to emotion too. It's a lot easier to listen to a key customer if I hear how they're describing a problem to me.

I'll leave 40 or 50 voicemails a day. I do them on the way to work and coming back from work. The newest thing for me is video on demand, which is my primary communication vehicle today. We have a small studio downstairs. We probably tape ten to 15 videos a quarter. That way employees, and customers, can watch them when they want.

As for how I hear from employees, I host a monthly birthday breakfast. Anybody who has a birthday in that month gets to come and quiz me for an hour and 15 minutes. No directors or VPs in the room. It's how I keep my finger on the pulse of what's working and what's not. It's brutal, but it's my most enjoyable session.

To be informed, I like summaries. Because of my dyslexia, I do very little novel reading or that type of activity. I love quick articles. Before every meeting and every panel I study briefing binders with all the information I need: what we're doing in a presentation, who we're meeting with, backgrounds on them, etc. It's two or three pages on each topic, and that is how I like to learn.

I usually wrap up my day just before my wife, Elaine, and I go to bed. I review my critical accounts around the world and summarize a little bit. And then Elaine and I go to sleep talking. My wife has been my partner for 33 years, and we dated for seven years before that, so she understands my strengths and my limitations remarkably well. We make decisions together. My family is the most important thing in the world to me.  Top of page

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