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• Team player: It’s almost a cliche that being able to be a team player and to collaborate with others is a critical work skill in today’s organizations. But cliche or not, teamwork is necessary to the success of today’s organizations and the ability to work well with others is a definite must for employees in any business or industry.
• Smart: People who are smart are able to solve problems—and solve them quickly. But keep in mind that, in the world of business, work smarts trump book smarts every time.
• Responsible: Employees must take responsibility for their work; employees who constantly try to shift the blame for their problems to other people or other things are employees you cannot afford to employ. Look out for the little things—like showing up for the interview on time—which can be key indicators of your candidates’ sense of responsibility.
• Stable: Stability is an important quality in the employees you hire; the last thing you want is to hire someone today and then find out that he or she is already looking for the next position tomorrow. Consider how long the job candidate worked with her previous employer and why she left.
So much depends on your identifying and hiring the right people—
you can’t have a great organization without great people. Far too few
managers make this task a priority, instead devoting as little time as
LEADERSHIP: THE PEOPLE THING
THE BIG PICTURE
Chuck Robinson Cofounder, M Ship Co.; Member, Nike Board
Question: Why create?
Answer: Being creative is important, and there's no reason to exist if you're not creating. For me, innovating technologically something that has commercial potential is my form of creativity. And if you're not creating, you might as well be six feet under. If you can't leave the world different than you found it, what's the reason for being here? If you're not bound by tradition, you can step back and ask if there is a better way of doing something. I did it in mining, in land transportation, in ocean transportation, and now in boats. It's creating and being willing to do things differently than they've been done before because you feel technologically that there is a way you can improve on the way it's been done before. I had the largest independent mining operation and I had the largest dry cargo shipping operation, which came from nothing. My stockholders put $6 million into developing a mine in Peru. That's all we had to get started. But from February to May of that year, we started shipping iron ore, and by the end of the year, I had generated enough cash to pay back the money that they lent. From that time on, they never put in another penny. And this was all done from nothing. It was leading yourself by your bootstrap but, because I had nothing, I wasn't handicapped by experience. I just did things and I had confidence; when I felt I was right, I had confidence in moving forward.
Question: Do you need employees with special qualifications to be creative?
Answer: No. When I joined the board of Arthur D. Little, in the first board meeting I was told that the greatest asset they had was 1,200 people that had their doctorates. At the time the company was making about $3 or $4 million a year. And I got this long lecture from the
The Management Bible
chairman of the board about this great asset—all of these doctorates they had. And I said, "You know, there's something very strange to me about this. You have 1,200 people who have their doctorates, and you pretend to be a commercial operation and you're making $3 to $4 million a year profit. I make $50 to $100 million a year profit and I don't have one doctorate in my organization. I don't understand that." You can have all the intellectual horsepower in the world, but if you don't direct it with imagination and a willingness to take chances and be creative, it doesn't add up to anything.
Question: How important is it to be willing to take risks?
Answer: I had one fellow who graduated from Stanford Business School who worked for me for about five, six, maybe seven years. He moved up in the organization, but I was looking for someone to handle my marketing, so I appointed him vice president in charge of marketing. Another fellow that had been with me longer and who also graduated from Stanford Business School came to me and said, "I'm just terribly shattered by your decision. I've worked for you for x number of years and I think you have to admit that I never made a mistake." I said, "That's the problem. If you've never made a mistake, you've never made a decision on time. If you were a 100 percent certain you're right, you're too late. I want somebody who will be right 80 percent of the time or 90 percent of the time, but who's prepared to fail. You're never prepared to fail. And as a result, you're not moving us forward." He stopped and thought about it and said, "I guess I'll go out and fail at something." I said, "Well, you just failed at getting promoted to vice president. Why don't you think about that?"