Home Articles Charles Eitel Proudly Featured as a Speaker at Boyles Distinguished Lecture Titled...

Charles Eitel Proudly Featured as a Speaker at Boyles Distinguished Lecture Titled “Selling Change: A New Way to Lead.”

Charles Eitel

Charles Eitel’s journey in the corporate world, characterized by innovative strategies and strong leadership, spans several decades. As a visionary leader whose career has significantly impacted various industries, Eitel played a pivotal role in redefining numerous companies, focusing on innovation, brand development, and quality, which has set new standards in his industry.

Speaking at the Boyles Lecture, Eitel took the stand and began his talk by thanking the attendees, expressing his honor for being part of the program, sharing a short history of his background, and introducing his family to the audience. 

Charles started his speech with its title, “Selling Change: A New Way to Lead. Frankly, that is what I do for a living is sell change, focused on two very basic goals:”

  • To create the kind of company where every one of my associates wants to get up and go to work.
  • To create the kind of company that other companies want to do business with.
Charles Eitel

In order to create this kind of business environment, I continually commit myself to four initiatives that I want to share with you that are core to my message today.

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The first initiative is centered on my personal commitment to be available, approachable, and accountable to every associate in our company. I call this style of management “getting in the fishbowl.” True leaders spend their energies mentoring other leaders. If you aren’t in the action, you may as well be a figurehead. Charles said.

The second initiative is to ensure that my senior leadership team agrees on priorities. We can’t be everything to everyone — we must figure out what we want to be and be it.

Lee Iacocca wrote in his book, “My most important job as Chairman of Chrysler was to select the right people and set the right priorities.” Speaking of Iacocca, some people are just destined to serve in certain roles in life. How about this acronym? “Iacocca: I Am Chairman Of Chrysler Corporation of America.”

Admiring Lee Iacocca as I have for years, one day I tried to create an acronym for “Eitel.” My wife, Cindy, rolled her eyes when she heard my idea, but I did it anyway. Here it is: “Empowerment Is The Essence of Leadership.” My job is to get rid of power. After all, that is what “empowerment” is all about. I must say it is quite difficult to convince people to empower themselves unless you give them:

  • Purpose
  • Permission
  • Protection
  • Process and
  • Payoff

When envisioning his first book, “Eitel Time: Turnaround Secrets,” Etiel explains that he began by writing the chapter titles before the book itself. As the book became a sort of autobiography, he fast-forwarded to consider the potential title of the last chapter.

He asked himself, “How do I want my story to end?” Employing a “back casting” approach, he arrived at the answer – “Peace of Mind.” This became the title of Chapter XII, the final chapter.  With the ending in mind, he then began to ask himself, “What do I need to do to achieve peace of mind?”  From there, the titles for the remaining chapters began to unfold.

Charles Eitel explained that this thinking is what led him to explore more deeply how important it is to simplify everything possible in both our personal and professional lives. While writing “Eitel Time,” he began dreaming about how the perfect organizational structure might look.

He went on to say that he has always struggled with the effectiveness of the traditional organizational model. Such structures work in the military, particularly in war, because everyone must know exactly what to do, or people may die. Counter to this structural thinking, Eitel pointed out the first principle listed in the Marine Corp. code of behavior – “Aim for a 70% solution. It is better to decide quickly on an imperfect plan than to roll out a perfect plan when it is too late.” And I might add, the second principle, “Find the essence.” When it comes time to act, even the most complex situations and missions must be perceived in simple terms, Eitel said.

So being a non-linear thinker, Eitel began to envision the most effective organizational structure as a circle, with the customer right in the middle. You will notice my wheel printed in your program. It has been a “work in progress” for the last five years. You will also notice the customer in the center. From there, we wrap four key resources around the customer.

  • Human Resources
  • Product Resources
  • Service Resources
  • Environmental Resources

You can think of this value wheel as a clock if you like, with the 12 stations representing the values of the organization, starting with the Human Resources and the first value Leadership, the second Education, and the third Empowerment.

Most people will not accept being empowered if they don’t have the training and education; or put another way, the Permission and Protection to be empowered through the process, which is education.

Eitel continued by expressing his thoughts on leadership and how to create a positive work environment. Eitel believes that leaders should be available, approachable, and accountable to their employees. He also believes that it is important to empower employees by giving them the resources and support they need to succeed.

Eitel also discussed the importance of customer focus. He believes that companies should focus on creating value for their customers, rather than simply trying to make a profit. Finally, Eitel emphasized the importance of leadership by example. He believes that leaders should walk the talk and set a good example for their employees.

Eitel concluded his lecture by giving advice to students on how to find a fulfilling career. He advised them to find something that makes them happy and that they can be great at.

About Boyles Distinguished Lecture

The Boyles Distinguished Lecture Series is a program at Appalachian State University that brings high-level business people to campus to interact with students. The program was named after Harlan E. Boyles, a former State Treasurer of North Carolina, who was dedicated to education and supported the university through his involvement. The lectures were originally held twice a year, but have been held annually since 2017.