What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-Smart Executive

What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-Smart Executive

by Mark H. McCormack


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553345834
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/1986
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 115,063
Product dimensions: 5.96(w) x 8.99(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Mark H. McCormack (1930–2003) grew up in Chicago, graduated from William & Mary College and Yale Law School and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to begin his legal career. While practicing law in Cleveland, he began International Management Group on a handshake with Arnold Palmer in 1960, launching the modern-day sports marketing industry. IMG continues to be the most dominant agency in global sports today.
After publication of What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School in 1984, McCormack also became a bestselling author of business advice books, focusing on practical, street-smart counsel to help entrepreneurs succeed in any business environment.
Through a gift from the McCormack family foundation, Mark McCormack’s files and papers were donated to the Special Collections department at the UMass Amherst Libraries in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

LET ME TELL YOU two stories. One involves a future president, the other a high-living golf pro, and though the incidents happened nearly a decade apart, they are linked in my mind.
In 1963, I was in Paris for the World Cup golf tournament, where I happened to have two chance meetings with Richard Nixon, once at the golf club when he came by my table to speak to Gary Player, the other, only a few days later, at the Tour d’Argent, when he stopped to speak to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, with whom I was having dinner.
Nixon’s remarks were pleasant enough. What stayed with me was that on both occasions he used the same words, the exact same five or six sentences. It was as though he were talking to stick figures rather than to real people, as though he had a fund of stock phrases for every type of person he was likely to meet—five or six sentences for a sports personality, a paragraph for a business leader, another for a religious figure.
The other incident involved the flamboyant golfer Doug Sanders. When we first started representing Doug a lot of people told me we had made a mistake. Doug did have some “Vegas” in him. He ran with a fast crowd, got into his share of scrapes, and was known to make more than just a friendly wager every now and then. Some people thought he was too controversial for us and asked why I trusted him. Quite frankly, I trusted Doug Sanders a lot more than some of the people who were questioning me. Which brings me to my story.
Once Doug played a golf exhibition up in Canada. He made all the arrangements himself. I didn’t know anything about it, and since apparently he was paid in cash I probably never would have known anything about it. But about a week after the exhibition took place, we received an envelope from Doug. There was no letter or note inside, only our commission—in cash.
I recall these incidents now because they demonstrate something important about reading people. What people say and do in the most innocent situations can speak volumes about their real selves.
My accidental encounters with Nixon, for instance, indicated a certain insincerity and a degree of phoniness that I remembered ten years later, when he was forced to resign the presidency. Nixon’s troubles probably had as much to do with his phoniness as they did with Watergate. People don’t like phonies. They don’t trust them, and they certainly don’t want one running their country.
In Doug Sanders’s case, the fee for the exhibition was so insignificant it might not have seemed worth the bother. But to this day I can see Doug going back to his hotel room, pulling a wad of cash out of his pocket, counting out our commission, sticking it in an envelope, and scribbling out our address. This was so totally in keeping with Doug Sanders’s character that nothing else would have occurred to him.
One would like to believe that it was a future American president who exhibited quality of character and a golf hustler who came off as a con man. But the facts in these cases belie those conclusions.
What does this have to do with business? Everything. In the business world it is easy enough to adopt a corporate persona, or several corporate personae, depending on the situation. Some people will act one way with their subordinates, another way with their boss, and a totally different way with people outside their company.
But the real self—one’s true nature—can’t change color to suit its environment. In any ongoing business situation, sooner or later—either subliminally or out in the open—you are going to find that you are dealing with that person’s real self.
If nothing else, you want to hear what people are really saying, as opposed to what they are telling you; you want to be able to put someone’s deeds—his own business activities—into the larger context of character. Whether I’m selling or buying, whether I’m hiring or (in our capacity as consultants) being hired; whether I’m negotiating a contract or responding to someone else’s demands, I want to know where the other person is coming from. I want to know the other person’s real self.
Business situations always come down to people situations. And the more—and the sooner—I know about the person I am dealing with, the more effective I’m going to be.
Don’t Take Notions for an Answer
People will often make judgments about others even before meeting them based on what they’ve heard or what they know about their company. They will even mistrust or ignore their own perceptions so as to make them conform to foregone conclusions.
At IMG we often have to face the preconceived notions that exist about our own company. What we do is fairly visible, and a number of the magazine and television profiles about IMG or me have stressed our power position in sports and painted us as tough, even ruthless negotiators.
Nine out of ten times this works to our advantage. People expect us to name big numbers, and their anticipation often makes it easier for us to get them. And when they find that we are actually fairly reasonable people to deal with, they are bowled over.
But there is also every tenth guy who has so hardened himself to his preconceived notions that he has no perception of the business situation itself or of the people from our company with whom he is dealing. He is so prepared to be tough himself, or to defend against our toughness, that he takes “Nice to meet you” as a veiled threat. Obviously his preconceived notions have made him incapable of any genuinely revealing insights.
People reading is a matter of opening up your senses to what is really going on and converting this insight into tangible evidence that can be used to your advantage.
Dave DeBusschere, the former basketball star, was a vice-president of our television company for several years prior to his assuming his present position as general manager of the New York Knicks. Dave once had several frustrating meetings with an executive of an insurance company in Connecticut whom he was trying to interest in sponsoring one of our television shows. The executive seemed genuinely interested in the concept but was so overwhelmed to be dealing with Dave DeBusschere he could never get past this fact, or his own suspicions. If this was such a great opportunity, he reasoned, then how come just a “regular guy” wasn’t trying to sell it to him?
Use Your Insight
Dave Marr, the former PGA golf champion, and I were once joking about some of the great golf hustlers we had known when Dave came up with the First Axiom of Golf Wagering: “Never bet with anyone you meet on the first tee,” he said, “who has a deep suntan, a one-iron in his bag, and squinty eyes.”
Shrewd insights into people can be gained simply through the powers of observation. In most business situations there is usually more to see than meets the eye, a whole level of personal dynamics operating just beneath the surface.
Most business situations provide all sorts of tangible evidence that allows you to see beneath the surface. Sometimes these are the things that people say and do unconsciously, the way someone looks away at the sound of a particular question, for instance. But they may also be acts that are neither simple nor unconscious, such as the way someone chooses to phrase a particular thought. The point is that the clues for insight abound and are there to be used by anyone who is tuned in to them.
A surprising number of executives are not. They totally lack an awareness of what is really going on around them. Either they are too busy listening to themselves to listen to anyone else or too involved in their own corporate presence to notice what someone else might be doing.
I can’t imagine anyone being effective in business without having some insight into people. Business itself is such a subtle matter of taking a slight edge here, an imperceptible edge there. And every aspect of the process comes back to people—managing them, selling to them, working with them, simply getting them to do what you want them to do. Without insight there is no subtlety.
Insight allows you to see beyond the present. Suppose you had a way of knowing everything that was going to happen in business over the next ten years. That information would not only make you wise; it would also make you successful and wealthy. Yet it is your insight into people that gives you the ability to predict the future.
A person’s true nature, true self, cannot change with situations. It is totally consistent. The better you know that person, the more you can get beneath the facades, the more accurately you can predict how he or she is likely to react or respond in almost any business situation. This knowledge can be invaluable.
The process of course is precisely the modus operandi of the “professionals”—the psychics and fortune tellers, who have been using the same tricks to tell the future for centuries.
Psychics will size up their clients by observing them—how they act, how they look, what they’re wearing—and by asking a few innocent questions. From this information they can “see into the future,” which is really a matter of telling their client what he or she wants to hear based on what has already been found out. The good ones can come up with some startlingly perceptive things based on the tiniest pieces of information. There are probably some psychics who would make excellent business executives.
I also know a lot of business executives who would make terrible psychics.
Insight demands opening up your senses, talking less and listening more. I believe you can learn almost everything you need to know—and more than other people would like you to know—simply by watching and listening, keeping your eyes peeled, your ears open. And your mouth closed.

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What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-Smart Executive 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
martymojito on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The book is a very easy read with plenty of practical advice and anecdotes. However McCormack spends most of the book dropping names of all the famous people that he has struck a deal and names many Chief Executives that he feels he has bettered in a deal. Some of the anecdotes are amusing, some are relevant to the topic of the chapter, but most are there to show how much of a good business man McCormack is. I suppose it was the style of this kind of book in those days when it was written but I would guess that if you wrote some of the things he wrote these days that you would find yourself fighting a lot of law suits. He basically names these guys and points out their weaknesses and how he overcame their weakness to strike a deal. He mentions one CEO, whom he says had a really short attention span and knew that he only had five minutes to conclude a deal. This may be true but I'm sure the CEO was a bit cheesed off to read this about himself when it was published. There is lots of this stuff throughout the book. He even writes about some of the weaknesses of his own staff, but he doesn't name them. The best advice in the book is the advice to stay silent and to listen. Not saying to much forces the other person to open up and maybe say more than they meant to. Pregnant pauses are good because the other person feels the need to fill the silence and opens up a bit more. All in all a good read, a bit dated at this stage, it was written 20 odd years ago, but most of the advice is still relevant. It is much more direct than some of the business advice books. If you can get over McCormack's ego then you will enjoy this book.
B-loNY More than 1 year ago
Sound advice,
Miles-Gersh More than 1 year ago
A great book for any one thinking about going into business. McCormack's book will help any one from an intern  to a fellow executive. This book not only gives business advice but also gives many great pointers on how to live your every day life. This book has really helped me improve my people skills and I hope anyone interested in reading it gives it a chance. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are many books the shelves for the seasoned executive wanting to enhance his or her skills, but very few for the new executive crop. Mark McCormack gives straightforward, no nonsense advise on the subtly of business that is not taught in ANY business school. The reader gets invaluable insights into the world of 'the street smart executive' and how to immediately improve their people skills. While some of McCormack's 'notes' may seem obvious to an experienced executive, the lessons are great examples of how interpersonal dealings can either make or break a business relationship. I highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to save the pain of trial by fire as they make their way through the corporate world. This is a must read for anyone wanting to be a 'street smart executive'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What they don't teach you at Harvard Business School is a must read book for anybody in business or anybody thinking about business. Mark McCormack, a successful business executive and author of this spectacular book, shares his most inner and important secrets about life in the business world. We are able to relate to Mark on all aspects of business. He presents all topics, from meetings to organization. Mark McCormack also gives us examples of mistakes that he made as a young man growing into business. He warns us, as to help us make the right decision. Even for thoughs who are not pursuing business, this book will teach you the basics. Anybody who reads this book will surely have a much better understanding of the way business and the way it works. This book was not only written for information, but it also is produces some interesting humor with Mark's deals ands clients. Most of Mark's clients are superstars and it is often funny to listen to what they said or did. To sum it up, this is a must read book for anybody who is at all interested in learning about business and the way that it works.