Episode #1 with Alain Bénichou of IBM

Welcome to the first episode of “With a Mentor”, to kick of this podcast mini-series we decided to sit down for 30 minutes with the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in France (AmCham) Alain Bénichou. When he’s not leading AmCham, he is IBM’s Global Vice President of Strategy & Solutions and Former CEO of IBM France.

In this episode, we cover a lot of topics ranging from Alain’s approach to management, his thoughts on risk, to how he approached his career 30 years ago when he started at IBM. If you are a young professional, startup founder or a high level executive you’ll enjoy this episode – it’s full of amazing advice and insights from who Forbes magazine recently called “arguably [one of the] most influential businesspeople in the [France] today.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What Alain sees as up and coming technology that can help companies learn though A.I.
  • We discuss his career at IBM over 30 years, how it’s changed, what he’s learned and what he would do if he was graduating today.
  • How IBM is structured to allow intrapenures to be CEOs of their own projects.
  • How IBM IDs high performers, nurtures them and monitors them in their growth and progression in the company. He explains the CEO is even monitored, reviewed and overseen, no one is left out of this process.
  • He explains that “The people who can drink from the fire hydrant make it”, listening to his stories you can really see how this is true.
  • He discusses how speaking five languages has helped him in business and how it’s still necessary to speak more than just English to succeed in global business.
  • We discuss risk and we get my favorite quote of the episode “Playing it safe is the risky thing in life”.
  • Alain describes how he balances his day by focusing 50% of his time on current projects and 50% on long-term projects allowing him to always be thinking about the future.
  • How he manages his teams though coaching not directing. He explains how he became a world-class manager though education and practice.
  • He responds to NextGen member Liam Boogar’s question, “What keeps him up at night and how does he go to bed?”
  • He describes how he creates 24 hours of reflections by disconnecting from the internet and connected devices.
  • We discuss the strengths of France and how It’s an ideal place to start a company.
  • Finally we discuss NextGen, his ambitions for the community and his advice to me as the co-chair.
  • And last but not least he gives us NextGen members homework

Mentioned in this episode:
Non-Violent Communication

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