Position: The new president and chief operating officer of K12, an online education company based in Herndon.
Tim Murray says he learned the importance of corporate values as a teenager working behind the counter at McDonald’s. After graduate school he began a career at AT&T developing a reputation for turning around businesses within the company. After 21 years there, he transitioned into leading a series of technology companies for 11 years until landing his current post at K12.
When did you realize you had a niche for turning around companies?
After the breakup of the Bell system, I went to Boston to build an organization to interface with one of the former Baby Bells. This was a case of creating an organization that relatively became the best in its class.
What is your secret?
Two things. I start with what do our customers expect. Secondly, from a process perspective, I understand what business process is required to deliver performance to the customers’ expectations. Then you sweat all the details to make sure you operate that process effectively.
How do you determine
One organization I ran was a repair operation so the culture within the company was to focus on minimizing the mean time to repair. So, to have a two-hour outage was better than a four-hour outage. But the feedback from customers was clear: they were more satisfied if we kept them well informed. If the customer was kept well informed and had a four-hour outage, they were more satisfied than having a two-hour outage and not being kept informed. Our goal became to keep them informed while trying to minimize the outage.
How has your leadership evolved over the years?
As we evolve, we learn to empower people more and not less. The Pygmalion Effect is the greatest sin a leader can commit. If you expect too little of people, that’s what you’ll get. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to recognize the talent in people and the importance of empowering them. We’re more successful as a team when we have very high expectations.
— Interview with Vanessa Small