Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Your leader expects you to stay current

I love the article by Larry Bossidy (author of Execution) in this month's Harvard Business Review, although I do detect an obsession with command-and-control language by former Jack Welch lieutenants in the way they speak and write about business. (For example, Bob Nardelli and Steve Bennett, in addition to Bossidy.)

As you'd guess, the article is called, "What Your Leader Expects Of You."

But I digress. In spite of its military crispness and the frequent use of "I" as a synonym for the business itself, it is an excellent article. Here's the section I like best:

Stay current. There's nothing more depressing than sitting in a business meeting with people who don't know what's going on in the world. I expect people to read, to watch the news - not just because it makes them more interesting but because what happens in the world affects what happens to us, to our marketplace, and to out competition.

About fifteen years ago, I was a product manager, and I found that I kept being invited to meetings even though I wasn't formally connected to the meeting's subject matter at all. After I turned down several invitations, I learned that people were inviting me because I brought a provocative point of view and wasn't afraid to talk. Soon after this, one manager came to me and said the following,

"You're so knowledgeable about the industry and what's going on. Where do you learn all this stuff?"

"The Wall Street Journal and industry publications, for the most part. Sometimes Business Week and the Harvard Business Review. They're in the company library."

"That's great. Would you be willing to sit down with our group once a week and give us an overview of important things we should know?"

I was speechless for a couple of moments. "Are you saying you'd like me to do the group's reading for them?" I said finally. "I'm sorry, but I don't have the time or the desire to do that."

(Picture by a_kartha via stock.xchng)

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P.S. To the title of Bossidy's book--isn't that another great military word? And it reminds me of an anecdote--a great old football coach named John McKay was asked, after a particularly poor performance, by his team, "What do you think about your team's execution?"

"I think it's a good idea," replied Coach McKay.