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Top professionals reveal the keys to their incredible success
What personal and professional attributes seem time and again to propel successful people to the top? Staying Power asks that question of an amazingly diverse group of notable figures. Their answers--often startling, always enlightening--reveal 30 key characteristics that seem to be consistently present in those who experience breakthrough ...
Top professionals reveal the keys to their incredible success
What personal and professional attributes seem time and again to propel successful people to the top? Staying Power asks that question of an amazingly diverse group of notable figures. Their answers--often startling, always enlightening--reveal 30 key characteristics that seem to be consistently present in those who experience breakthrough success. They also reveal how the most enduring top executives and public figures keep their careers out of the kinds of business scandals that are dominating today's headlines.
Executives from major U.S. companies such as H. Willard Marriott of Marriott International and Jim Parker of Southwest Airlines, as well as such success stories as varied as Bob Dole to Sheryl Crow, reveal the tactics that drove them forward through good times and bad. Both current and aspiring executives can protect their careers by following the book's real-life guidelines for achieving:
Do Not Map Out Your Career
When you were starting your career, did you have a "career plan"?
Yes: 5 percent No: 95 percent
In 1982, I met a supremely confident, arrogant, and highly intelligent young student at Harvard Law School. His name was Gary. One day at dinner, Gary lectured me on the keys to professional success. He said that the way to guarantee a great career was early planning and unbridled focus on specific goals. He then proceeded to announce that he would be on the prestigious Harvard Law Review by the end of the school year. He said that within twelve years, he would become a Republican senator from his home state of Kansas, just like his idol Senator Bob Dole. Gary said that within twenty-five years, he would "make a run" for the presidency. "You have got to know what you want and then go get it, Tom," he said, using words echoed by so many present-day gurus. He spoke with convincing conviction.
And sure enough, a few years later, Gary did "make a run." A run for the border. He had just jumped bail on federal drug and gun trafficking charges. It seems that when his law practice did not immediately get him the wealth and glory that he sought, he turned to smuggling cocaine from Colombia. Eventually, the authorities apprehended him and he spent several years in prison. The man who had planned to be the symbol of our Stars and Stripes settled for the stripes. His sense of personal conviction resulted in a criminal conviction. What happened there?
The Problem of Focus
Gary was too focused. Invincible executives are not. During my many interviews of dozens of extremely successful people, one point that immediately hit me between the eyes is that invincible executives, while highly ambitious, rarely had specific, long-term career plans. Even more interesting, most believe that an intense focus on specific career goals is counterproductive to success.
I had a fascinating discussion on this issue with Gary's idol, Senator Bob Dole—a man who has lived most of Gary's dream. Senator Dole started out as anything but invincible. He suffered a permanent disability in World War II. He fought back from his health problems, and by the 1950s he had become a prominent local Kansas politician. After the senior U.S. senator from Kansas retired, Dole ran for U.S. Senate and won. Eventually, he became the Senate majority leader. Then he had a couple of setbacks. He ran for president in 1996 as the Republican nominee and lost. He also fought and beat prostate cancer. However, despite these setbacks, Senator Dole immediately resurrected his career as a major charitable fund-raiser, bestselling author, good-humored spokesperson for a series of high-profile products, and the effervescent husband of his high-flying political wife, Elizabeth. Senator Dole is a person who, despite serious health problems and political setbacks, has always seemed to emerge on top. At seventy-nine, he remains as well known and as popular as ever. This soldier has not faded away.
Like so many other successful people with whom I discussed the issue, Senator Dole told me right up front that he never had a career plan. After World War II, he was something of a local hero in Russell, Kansas, and that inspired him to try to make something of his life. Yes, he had ambition. But there was never a map; he never sat down and said, "This is what I want to be." He did not think much about becoming a U.S. senator when he was a state senator. And he did not think much about the presidency until President Ford picked him as his running mate in 1976.
"I think it was almost an accident that I got into politics," says Senator Dole. And once he got into it, he did not have a "step-by-step process" to get him to the top. Senator Dole believes that saying "I am going to be this or that" is just not the way success works. Success is simply not a "mappable quality." His words were echoed by former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, who told me that, when he was a young state legislator in Wyoming, he recalls a group of aspiring politicians who all said they would be governors or U.S. senators some day. Simpson, however, never said anything of the sort. As for those who did make these statements, "none of them made it," Simpson said. "They disappeared." Anyone with the arrogance to tell others what he or she will be in a decade is setting himself or herself up for a fall, according to Senator Simpson.
"People who set artificial career goals make a huge mistake," according to Jim Parker, CEO of Southwest Airlines. Parker, who started his career as a lawyer, recalls a meeting he had with Southwest Chairman Herb Kelleher many years ago. Parker was a young assistant attorney general for the state of Texas. Kelleher asked him what his career goals were. Parker replied, awkwardly, "Honestly, I never really have set any career goals." Kelleher looked back at him and smiled. "Then we are going to get along just fine," he said.
Both Parker and Kelleher believe that rigid professional planning is a major obstacle to long-term professional success. Indeed, the major mistake that causes otherwise talented people to fail, according to Parker, is "the desire to achieve some specific title or position at some specific time in your career."
The viewpoint expressed by Senator Dole and Mr. Parker is a recurring theme among the invincible executives we shall get to know in this book. Let's start with recording artists. Grammy winner Sheryl Crow told me that in 1986, she just picked up and left her teaching job in St. Louis and headed for Los Angeles with four thousand dollars in her pocket. Within a few years, she was the most decorated rock star in the world. "I didn't have any plan for how I would get a record deal," she said. "I just figured the first thing I would do was ... try to see what I could do as far as getting my music heard.... My plan wasn't even remotely reality-based," Crow added. Rock drummer Gina Shock told me virtually the same story. In 1979, she loaded up her drums in her car and drove to Los Angeles. She had no idea that she and her band, the Go-Go's, would hit number one less than three years later, and she had no specific plan on how to get there.
How different can rock stars and military leaders be? Well, in terms of career planning, they are not that different at all. Admiral Joseph Prueher said that he never thought that he would become the commander of the Pacific Fleet when he started his career as a young officer. His only goal was to serve his country the best way that he could. "Planning is an eight-lane highway," according to Admiral Prueher. "You really have to keep a lot of options open," he adds. "Another way to look at it is to consider yourself to be at the center of a circle, with the option of going in any direction. If your plan is 360 degrees, you don't have a plan. If it is 180 degrees, it is probably not a functional plan. If you can get it down to a quadrant—90 degrees—then you are doing pretty well." No one should be more focused than that.
Pat Finneran, the former marine who is in charge of some of the nation's largest military programs for Boeing, also could "never have dreamed" he would be responsible for thousands of people and billions of dollars when he joined the marines as a lieutenant in 1966. "I did not have specific plans.... I felt a need to support my country in the Vietnam conflict ... so going into the Marine Corps just made sense to me at that time." His marine career gave him the qualifications to land a mid-level job at Boeing, and before he knew it, he had been promoted four times and had several thousand people reporting
Excerpted from Staying Power by THOMAS A. SCHWEICH. Copyright © 2003 by Thomas A. Schweich. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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Introduction: "Most Unlikely to Succeed"
PART I THE INVINCIBLE CAREER PATH
RULE 1 Do Not Map Out Your Career
RULE 2 Discover Your Talents Early, and Discard Your Fantasies
RULE 3 Maintain Pervasive Professional Flexibility
RULE 4 Get Lucky
RULE 5 Promote the Organization, Not Yourself
RULE 6 Connections Get You a First Chance, but Never a Second One
RULE 7 When You Suffer a Setback, Come Clean and Bounce Back
RULE 8 Learn to Take a Punch
RULE 9 Work Is a Member of the Family
RULE 10 Find a Job That You Look Forward to Every Day
PART II THE INVINCIBLE PERSONALITY
RULE 11 Anger Is a Tactic, Not an Emotion
RULE 12 Harness Your Fear to Sharpen Your Professional Judgment
RULE 13 Respect Ambition, but Destroy Opportunism
RULE 14 Value Loyalty, but Do Not Depend on It
RULE 15 Put a Very Fine Line Between Yourself and Your Subordinates
RULE 16 Wield a Spiritual Shield, but Not a Spiritual Sword
RULE 17 You Do Not Have to Be Good-Looking, but You Have to Look Good
RULE 18 Take the High Ground and Never Give It Up
RULE 19 Don't Lose Your Confidence for Very Long
RULE 20 You Can and Must Develop Professional Charisma
PART III THE INVINCIBLE MANAGEMENT STYLE
RULE 21 You Can Only Micromanage Ten Employees and About Six Hundred
RULE 22 The Invincible Executive Delves into Specific Problems at Great
RULE 23 Intimidation Chases Away Talent, Opportunity, and Creativity
RULE 24 Spend More Time on Information Inflow than Information Outflow
RULE 25 Wring the Emotion out of Risk Analysis
RULE 26 Take Decisive Action to End Discord
RULE 27 Get Results Through Alignment and Adjustment, Not Democracy
RULE 28 Minimize Meetings
RULE 29 Negotiate the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, but Leave the Games
RULE 30 Put the Interests of the Organization Over the Interests of
Appendix: List of Those Profiled