CEO's Notebook

Rudy Karsan of Raymond Karsan Associates, a human-resource-services firm in Wayne, Pa., knows that employee grumblings often signal opportunities. At his company, which projects 1996 revenues of about $28 million, Karsan takes every chance he can to encourage employees to criticize him. At quarterly meetings with top staff, Karsan opens up a discussion about his behavior and his blind spots. He also takes one of his 140 employees out to lunch every quarter and runs gab sessions at least quarterly for 10 employees, who sign up for the privilege of castigating him. The process has helped identify problem areas, from unclear communication to Karsan's failure to greet people in the morning. Karsan says the most important thing he can do during the faultfinding process is shut up. "If you try to be defensive," he says, "you're dead in the water." And there can't be any repercussions for employees' honesty, either. "If there are," he says, "word spreads quickly and the process becomes useless."