Trying to get Pasquale Pistorio to boast about receiving an award—even one as prestigious as the IEEE Robert N. Noyce Medal—is a fool's errand.
Some executives have a disconcerting habit of slipping into the first person when talking about their companies (i.e. "I can ship twice as much product as my closest competitor" or "I moved some of my manufacturing to China.")
Pistorio is basically the antithesis of these people. Urged to elaborate on his feelings about the Noyce Medal—which he picked up over the weekend in a ceremony in San Francisco—Pistorio uses two words more than all others: "we" and "team."
Pistorio is certainly honored about receiving the Noyce Medal, which is awarded for exceptional contributions to the microelectronics industry. But he bends over backwards to make absolutely certain that you understand that he could never have received it without the hard work of a lot of very talented people. In his view, personal awards like the Noyce Medal and the EE Times ACE Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received last year, are a reflection of the success of ST Microelectronics NV, which he helmed from the late 1980s—when the company was formed through the merger of Italy's SGS Group and France’s Thomson Semiconducteurs —until 2005.
Reminded that the Noyce Medal is an individual award, not one that recognizes an entire company, Pistorio sums up his accomplishments simply and without fanfare. "I did my job," he says.
Though he goes out of his way to stress the teamwork involved, Pistorio is clearly proud of the turnaround he helped orchestrate at ST, which he describes as "a success story of people; of a team." When SGS and Thomson merged in 1987, both companies were deficient in several areas, Pistorio says. That year, the company did less than $1 billion in sales. "The company was quite sick," Pistorio says, adding that many in the semiconductor industry and the financial community did not expect the merged entity to survive.
Cut to 2005, when Pistorio stepped down as CEO (he still holds the title of honorary chairman at ST), and the company's sales were approaching $10 billion.
Pistorio credits focus on three areas for the turnaround—innovation, globalization (establishing the ST brand throughout the world) and productivity, driven by a culture emphasizing the concept of total quality management.
An important part of Pistorio's management philosophy is that employees must feel that they are part of the decision-making process in the company in order to feel engaged. "If people understand that you are honest, dedicated and transparent and won't ask them to do more than you would do yourself, people will follow you," he said.