The personal work styles of leaders
In the last post, "Rethinking the way we run our organisations" I suggested that one of the biggest challenges for leaders is to find a way to 'keep things simple' in order to keep the organisation's focus on what is important and meaningful. Lisa at Management Craft posts a very interesting question 'Should leaders be more or less visible'? Go over and see what you think - for me me this telling quote from her post says it all:
A leader is most effective when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his troops will feel they did it themselves." Lao Tzu
These interviews from Fortune Magazine look at the working styles of 12 leaders and gives good insight into their approach to leadership. There's a vast difference in approach here and I'm not going to pass judgement on what I think is good or bad - one man's meat is another's poison. It's interesting though to see how the creative use of technology is applied - e-mail usage ranges from nothing up to 14 hours in one day! If there's a common denominator though, it's that the personal touch still matters.
I don't feel overwhelmed with information. I really like it. I use Gmail for my personal e-mail -- 15 to 20 e-mails a day -- but on my work e-mail I get as many as 700 to 800 a day, so I need something really fast.
I use an e-mail application called Pine, a Linux-based utility I started using in college. It's a very simple text-based mailer in a crunchy little terminal window with Courier fonts. I do marathon e-mail catch-up sessions, sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday. I'll just sit down and do e-mail for ten to 14 hours straight. I almost always have the radio or my TV on. I guess I'm a typical 25- to 35-year-old who's now really embracing the two-screen experience.
I'm very speed-sensitive. With TiVo, for example, I just seem to spend too much of my life looking at the PLEASE WAIT sign. I adore my cell phone, but there's just a second of delay when you answer it: Hello, hello? I do have a BlackBerry. I don't use it at work because we have wireless throughout the office. I like my laptop a lot more, especially now that I have an EVDO [broadband cellular] card that gives me online access almost everywhere.
I almost always have my laptop with me. It's sitting with me right now. We are a very laptop-friendly culture. It's not uncommon to walk into a meeting at Google where everyone has a laptop open.
To keep track of tasks, I have a little document called a task list. And in the same document there's a list for each person I work with or interact with, of what they're working on or what I expect from them. It's just a list in a text file. Using this, I can plan my day out the night before: "These are the five high-priority things to focus on." But at Google things can change pretty fast. This morning I had my list of what I thought I was going to do today, but now I'm doing entirely different things.
I've been trying to figure out how to make time that was previously unproductive productive. If I'm driving my car somewhere, I try to get a call in to my family and friends then. Or during dead time when I'm waiting in line, I will hop on my cell phone and get something done.
My day starts around 9 A.M. and meetings finish up around 8 P.M. After that I stay in the office to do action items and e-mail. I can get by on four to six hours of sleep. I pace myself by taking a week-long vacation every four months.
I have an assistant, Patty, who handles calls from the outside, answers e-mails, letters, and requests. She does a great job with scheduling. In an average week I'm getting scheduled into about 70 meetings, probably ten or 11 hours a day. On Friday, Patty lets me out early -- around 6, and I go up to San Francisco and do something interesting.
From 4 to 5:30 every day that I can, I'll sit at my desk to answer any question that shows up on my doorstep. We have a big sign-up sheet outside. We joke that we should get one of those deli number tickers -- "Now serving No. 68!" But we have nice couches and power for laptops and things outside the door where people wait.
The average seems to be around 13 people per day. Sometimes they show me mockups or new demos of ideas they want to advance. Sometimes they have a presentation they're working on. Or sometimes they just want to ask me a question about Google's overall management. Anything is fair game. So if they ask, "Why are we in China?" I try to answer as candidly as I can.
I've never used e-mail, but I'm a huge voicemail user. I do a couple hundred voicemails a day. And I return every call right away, whether it's a client or someone in the firm. There are positives and negatives to this. I don't have a lot of time for small talk.
Occasionally there are wing nuts who call, and I pass them on to Julie, my assistant. But Julie doesn't screen my voicemails. The people at Goldman Sachs have to be able to get to me. Clients have to be able to get to me.
I've always spent a lot of time on the phone. Even when cell phones were a novelty in the 1980s when I lived in Chicago, I was using one of those huge Motorola phones as I walked from the train station to the office. This past Christmas, my wife, Wendy, and my daughter, Amanda, and her husband and I spent ten days hiking in Chile, and my daughter took so many pictures of me with this big satellite phone attached to my ear.
When I got back to the office in January, I called 60 CEOs in the first week to wish them happy New Year. I had never done that before, but it was great. I asked them about their business and their relationship with Goldman. I spend at least a third of my time on Goldman people and culture -- we have to be the employer of choice in our industry. So I spend time at business schools and am very involved in recruiting.
Last year we started a Chairman's Forum to raise awareness of the importance of business judgment. I taught more than 25 sessions to all 1,200 of our managing directors in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. That's culture-building. Forty percent of our earnings comes from outside the U.S., so I travel a lot.
Whenever I travel, I take time to exercise. When I go to China -- which I've been to about 70 times in the past 16 years -- I book my flight so it arrives at 6 a.m., which is the earliest you can land. I check into the hotel and go right to the treadmill in the gym. Then, starting at 8 a.m., I'll go back to back to back until 9 at night. I'll get up the next day and do the same thing. I make sure to leave in the evening so I can be back at work in my office in New York the next morning.
I've always been very efficient and disciplined. If I have a business dinner, people know that it should start at 6:30 and be over by 8:30. When I'm home in New York, I'm asleep at 10. I'm up at 5:30 and try to work out four or five times a week. Once or twice a week, I run four miles in Central Park. I used to do seven-minute miles. Now I'm up to eight and a half or nine.
I get up about 4:30 A.M. and check out the markets. I have a Bloomberg and a Telerate and some other machines downstairs. Bloomberg is the most important: You can get a review of the most recent New York play or you can get a 50-year currency history of the Brazilian real. It's amazing what you can access.
Anyway, I check out Japan and Europe. I make myself some breakfast and then head off to work about 5:45 A.M. and get into the office about 6. The first hour or two is used for acclimating to the markets and various economic data releases. Lots of big, macro numbers -- GDP, the unemployment number, other employment statistics -- typically come out around 5:30 A.M. Pacific time. These are things that influence economic growth and inflation going forward, which in turn affects bond prices.
For a portfolio manager, eliminating the noise is critical. You have to cut the information flow to a minimum level. You could spend your whole day reading different opinions. For me, that means I don't answer or look at any e-mails I don't want to. Other than for my wife, I'll only pick up the phone three or four times a day. I don't have a cellphone, I don't have a Black- Berry. My motto is, I don't want to be connected -- I want to be disconnected.
I sit in the middle of a 70-person trading room on the third floor of an office building that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. I'm surrounded by six Bloomberg screens. After I've as assimilated the economic releases and market moves, then I've got portfolios to manage. Pimco manages about $550 billion, and I have direct responsibility for about $200 billion. I check out the status of the various portfolios I manage and determine whether they have enough of this or too much of that, and go to work.
Of course, there some days when there's not much actual trading. When you're managing $200 billion, we need the rest of the market to be accommodating in terms of volume. On a day when there's not much partying going on, it sort of inhibits the ability to get something done. So if you were a fly on the wall, you'd see me just sitting here, examining screens, examining relationships between different bonds or currencies. There's a lot of dull downtime. An outside observer might wonder, "What the hell is he doing to earn that much money?" But that's the nature of the business.
The most important part of my day isn't on the trading floor. Every day at 8:30 A.M., I get up from my desk and walk to a health club across the street. I do yoga and work out for probably an hour and a half, between 8:30 and 10. There's only been two or three times in the past 30 years when someone has come across the street and told me I should get back to the office. One of them was the 1987 market crash.
There's an understanding here that that's my haven. Some of my best ideas literally come from standing on my head doing yoga. I'm away from the office, away from the noise, away from the Bloomberg screens -- not to mention that standing on your head increases the blood flow to your brain.
After about 45 minutes of riding the exercise bike and maybe ten or 15 minutes of yoga, all of a sudden some significant light bulbs seem to turn on. I look at that hour and a half as the most valuable time of the day.
My bedroom is my sanctuary. It's like a refuge, and it's where I do a fair amount of designing -- at least conceptually, if not literally. I spread out on my side of the bed, and I may be looking at books to get ideas, or just thinking things through.
Staffers send me stuff at home, and I always read it at night -- the only time when seven people aren't coming to me at once. I'm able to think in a more peaceful way than when I'm in my normal routine. My normal routine is pretty much putting out fires all day in my office.
It's hard to juggle being a businessperson with being a creative person. You have to organize yourself -- PR needs me for PR, and the licensing division needs me for licensing, the bridal people need me for bridal. I prioritize by going to the next collection that's due. And as the collections get bigger, it gets more challenging.
I hate phones. All businesses are personal businesses, and I always try my best to get back to people, but sometimes the barrage of calls is so enormous that if I just answered calls I would do nothing else. I ask my assistant, P.J., to find out if someone needs an answer in three minutes -- or can they wait two days, or can we make a date for when I get back to them? Now, if I were to go near e-mail, there would be even more obligations, and I would be in Bellevue with a white jacket on.
My staff is always able to reach me. As an owner I am always accessible. That's the big difference. I am the CEO, not the COO, but at times I've still had to be partial COO to fix all the myriad things that can go wrong: calm dissatisfied clients, handle employees who want to leave, or renegotiate. These things are very hard to manage in addition to being creative. And that is the challenge of owning a creative business.
I get up between 5 and 5:30, and naturally the first thing I do is make some coffee; depending on my mood, it's either an espresso macchiato or one of our Indonesian coffees in a French press. I'll take my coffee, read three newspapers -- the Seattle Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times -- and listen to a voicemail summarizing sales results from the past 24 hours. This has been my routine for 25 years.
There are always Starbucks with their lights on somewhere around the globe, and we open five new stores every day. So I've learned how to leverage my time. In the early morning I focus on Europe. I'll call Greece or Spain or wherever, either at home or on the drive into work, to talk about challenges -- do the numbers make sense? -- or to congratulate them. These personal conversations are very important.
At work the first thing I do is read the flash report, which is our roadmap of what we do that day. We manage day-to-day in our business. I'm proud that we are so nimble -- we have great information flow to make that happen. So we attend to U.S. business during the day, and of course at night I'll be speaking with Asia.
I'm always stopping by our stores -- at least 25 a week. I'm also in other places: Home Depot, Whole Foods, Crate & Barrel. I was just in a great [home improvement] store, Tokyu Hands, in Tokyo; it's fun and it grabs you. I try to be a sponge to pick up as much as I can. I'm traveling internationally now one out of every seven weeks. China is going to be very significant for us, and it's something I've been spearheading.
The travel can be brutal -- I got back from China five days ago, and I'm still a little under the weather. The airplane is my time to read, which I do voraciously. I carry a Treo powered by GoodLink, which works well globally. I'm not a big e-mailer, though; it's a crutch that hinders person-to-person communication. I don't really have any secret tools or books or tricks -- other than I could always use a good cup of coffee.
You don't want trumpet players and musicians being your primary business decision-makers. It's not possible for me to do that and write music, program the season, and conduct the band. I really do let people do their jobs, so when we come together, we know what each is supposed to do. But I weigh in on everything.
I've never sent an e-mail. I have a computer but haven't plugged it in. I do have a cell phone. I just learned how to text on it. I do everything longhand or talk it out with my staff, and then they type it.
I have to do a lot of other work besides playing and composing -- like speeches and fundraising -- but everything is for jazz. Even if I'm talking about American culture or American people, it's really about jazz. So it all goes to what my skill set is. I'm really not an organized person. For me, my philosophy is "Just do it all, all the time."
I rely on my team. Right now we're writing a script about Count Basie's music for a young people's concert. Phil Schaap, the curator, is responsible for the history element. I explain the music -- riffs, breaks, calls and responses, orchestration, short chords -- those things I've taught many times. We all talk it together, get an outline, and then revise from that.
In terms of managing the Lincoln Center orchestra, we're part of that continuum of jazz. Our thing is to create the sort of relaxed environment that's part of our music. Most of us came from jazz people, so we have that in us naturally. There are always tensions that come up. Part of working is dealing with tensions. If there's no tension, then you're not serious about what you're doing.
But there's a certain warmth in there too, and a familiarity. We challenge each other, we fight, but we don't have a lot of grudges. The music is about improvising and being able to create new things at the spur of the moment with other people. There's not a long line of people who can do that in the context of a groove. To find a groove means practice, practice, and more practice. I'm very serious about this.
We rehearse a lot, and everybody comes to rehearsal. And I will send you home if you're not playing right. Now, I do lose my temper. If the young band members aren't practicing, aren't playing right, I will cuss them out. But I'm not volatile. We have the same system of understanding, the music, and a love between each other. It's a flow.
I go from Paris to Tokyo every month and spend between one and two weeks there.
The week when I am in Tokyo is the week when I have the Nissan executive committee meeting, the design meeting, the product decision meeting, the investment meeting, the board meeting -- all the important meetings are taking place during this week. I do the same thing at Renault. To put decisions into action, I hand them to the executive committee.
Every month is different. In March, I will be one week in the U.S. (I'm also head of Nissan's North American operations), one week in Japan, two weeks in France. But everybody knows that the first week of the month I am in Paris and the third week of the month I'm in Japan.
I have an assistant in France, one in Japan, and one in the U.S. They are all bilingual: Japanese and English, French and English. My assistants screen all the mail and documents. I'm very selective. They know exactly the topics I am interested in and what should be diverted to other members of the executive committee.
For meetings on a single topic that aren't regular operational meetings, I'm very strict. The maximum is one hour and 30 minutes. Fifty percent of the time is for the presentation, 50 percent is for discussion.
I do my best thinking early in the morning. I always ask that my first meeting not happen before eight. When I need more time to think, I wake up earlier. If I don't do six hours of sleep I'm in bad shape, but I'm usually up by six.
The risk in holding two jobs is that you are going to lose some details. We have organized ourselves in a way where I still see many, many people in both companies, so I consider myself in really good contact with reality. Some things I have to sacrifice. When I was in Japan running Nissan, I used to visit one dealer a month and one plant every two or three months. Now dealer visits are once every six months, and plants are once every year.
It is also important to take a distance from the problem. I do not bring my work home. I play with my four children and spend time with my family on weekends. When I go to work on Monday, I can look at the problem with more distance. I come up with good ideas as a result of becoming stronger after being recharged.
Stress builds up when you know that there is a problem but you do not clearly see it, and you do not have a solution. We're all human. I want to assure you I feel the same pain and the same stress and the same jet lag as anybody else. You have nights when you cannot sleep, and the stress is unbearable. It happens to every single person in a job like this.
Many successful women have become successful because they're just awfully good at being compulsive and organized and doers. But it's hard to be successful and be a control freak, because if you cling to things, you're going to be a bottleneck. Delegating to other people -- appropriately delegating -- is very liberating. There isn't anybody on my team I don't trust 100 percent. Remember, I've been building this team for ten years.
I have two assistants now. I have an assistant from 7 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon, and then an assistant from 4 to midnight. I wake up somewhere between 5 and 6 A.M., and get to the office about 8, before the phone calls start. On the days that I'm not traveling -- I travel probably 50 percent of my life -- I try to get home by 7:30 P.M. I typically don't sign off e-mail until midnight.
I get around 600 e-mails a day. I divide them into four categories, and I deal with them immediately, by and large. First are e- mails that I forward to someone else. Next are where somebody's giving me information that I need to cascade to somebody else with instructions. Third are the ones that I can read later on an airplane. Fourth are those that require me to respond immediately.
I used to have two cell phones because coverage is erratic. I decided one service provider worked best here and the other there. At some point I decided that was insane.
I don't leave my cell phone on. I'm often in meetings or with clients, and I don't want people to assume that they can dial my cell phone and get me, unless it's an emergency. You can't leave it on if you're in a meeting with the CEO or a witness. It's really important to focus on the problem at hand. You get into a rhythm of a conversation, and you have to honor that rhythm. People get anxious when they feel they're going to be interrupted. What a good lawyer brings to a problem, in addition to creative solutions, is a quality of attentiveness. You can't listen with half an ear.
The BlackBerry was at first a significant intrusion on family life. But my family has gotten used to the fact that I'm more relaxed if I can take care of my e-mails. I don't generally look at my e-mail during mealtimes, and I try not to look at it in movie theaters.
I've learned how to manage my energy. I used to just focus on managing my time. I'd be up in the morning between 5 and 5:30. I'd work out and be at my desk by 6:30 or 7, drive hard until about 7 P.M., then go home, take a break with my wife, Margaret, and be back at it later that evening. I was just grinding through the day.
During my first year in this job, I worked every Saturday and every Sunday morning. Now I work really hard for an hour or an hour and a half. Then I take a break. I walk around and chit-chat with people. It can take five or 15 minutes to recharge. It's kind of like the interval training that an athlete does.
I learned this in a program called the Corporate Athlete that we put on for P&G managers. I did the two-day program, where I also learned to change the way I eat. I used to eat virtually nothing for breakfast. Now I have a V-8 juice, half a bagel, and a cup of yogurt. And I eat five or six times a day. It's about managing your glycemic level. You don't want to boom and bust.
The other piece of the Corporate Athlete program is spiritual -- things you can do to calm the mind. I've tried to teach myself to meditate. When I travel, which is 60 percent of the time, I find that meditating for five, ten, or 15 minutes in a hotel room at night can be as good as a workout. Generally, I think I know myself so much better than I used to. And that has helped me stay calm and cool under fire.
A key to staying calm is minimizing the information onslaught. I can't remember the last time I wrote a memo. I write little handwritten notes on my AGL paper, and I send notes, a paragraph or less, on my BlackBerry. I prefer conversations. That's one reason my office and our entire executive floor is open. The CEO office is not typically a warm and welcoming place, but people feel they can come in and talk in mine. We have goofy-looking pink and chartreuse chairs with chrome frames and upholstered backs and seats.
I still work weekends, though not the killer hours I used to. On Sunday nights, [HR chief] Dick Antoine and I get together at his house or my house or on the phone and go through some part of our leadership development program. We started doing this shortly after I became CEO, because I know that the single biggest contribution I will make to this company is helping the next generation of leaders become the best that they can be.
The hardest thing to do is to establish priorities. This morning we had a committee meeting on telecommunications. At the same time, I had to bounce over to the Armed Services Committee. Then I just met with Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue, who worked with me on immigration. Later I'm going to meet with a group of people on lobbying reform. And then I'll be meeting with a Congressman who wants me to help him out on something.
The key is deciding what are the most important issues to focus on. Priorities come from the constituents, and a lot of it is instinct by now. I've been in this business a long time.
I read my e-mails, but I don't write any. I'm a Neanderthal -- I don't even type. I do have the rudimentary capability of calling up some Web sites, like the New York Times online, that sort of stuff. No laptop. No PalmPilot. I prefer my schedule on notecards, which I keep in my jacket pocket.
But my wife has enormous capability. Whenever I want something I ask her to do it. She's just a wizard. She even does my boarding passes -- people can do that now. When we go to the movies, she gets the tickets ahead of time. It's incredible.
My most valuable resource is my chief of staff and writing partner, Mark Salter. We've been together for 17 years. I cannot imagine my professional life without him. When we're writing a book or speech, he'll come in to the office in the afternoon or evening with a tape recorder. We talk about the outline, then the details of it, then get into the minutiae. He writes most of it, and then we go over it together.
It's the perfect partnership, with him doing most of the work. He's a remarkable man. I gave a speech on the floor of he Senate to wrap up the debate on the torture amendment. It was the only time when there was total silence on the floor of the Senate. We wrote that together.
I rely on staff to take care of things that I know they can, usually back in Arizona. We've got very talented, experienced people who take care of constituent issues. People don't care if I personally get involved, or if I put somebody who is a hell of a lot smarter than I am on it. But if something is important for me to pay attention to, like immigration issues, which have grown for us since 9/11 -- I focus on it.
We decide on a case-by-case basis about whether to do the Sunday shows, if it would have some value to get my viewpoint or knowledge out there. I'm going to do Jon Stewart again, and "The Colbert Report." That's good stuff, an interesting audience for me.
You lose battles in politics. I do get good and angry. Really angry! By God, I'm not going to let them beat me again. I don't like to lose. After the 2000 race for the presidential nomination, I spent at least ten days -- and in many ways it was the most wonderful experience of my life -- wallowing in self-pity. It was really fun. Freeing.
Then I just woke up and said it was time to get over this. The people you represent don't want you this way. You're still their Senator. And besides, America doesn't like sore losers. I also don't hold grudges. It's a waste of time. What's the point? Frankly, the sweetest revenge is success.
Really, I have to admit: I'm an e-mail addict. It keeps me connected to work even when I'm not at the office. I do about an hour of e-mail in the morning after I've skimmed the newspapers. I usually have to go out for lunch, but I hate it. I'd rather have lunch at my desk and read though e-mails between meetings.
My day usually ends in the office at about six o'clock, but then I go to two or three parties a night. Authors, who are the most important people in our company, really appreciate it when the CEO turns up at their event. In between, I check e-mail on my BlackBerry. I can write answers, but I still don't know how to compose e-mails on it. I don't love my BlackBerry, but it keeps me in touch with things.
Then, no matter when I get home at night -- and it's usually late -- I do at least an hour or two of e-mail. It's usually when I'm watching "Law & Order" reruns. I have this thing about reading all my e-mails. Most people just go delete, delete, delete, but I don't. Other than obvious spam, I read everything that comes in, even unsolicited proposals. I don't read the whole thing, but I'll read the cover letters, and there are moments I feel that somebody has something.
I got an e-mail from a 12-year-old Chinese girl that sounded so wonderful to me that I sent it over to the children's division, and they're going to be publishing her book. It's called "Snowbird."
I usually think of the digital revolution in terms of reducing the costs of transferring information. For people like me, whose work is basically intellectual and not heavily dependent on personal contacts, the effect is wholly positive. The older, conventional means of collecting, communicating, and manipulating information were very inferior. It's also enabled me to work at home.
I came here from lunch with a political theorist at NYU, and it was an extremely valuable conversation. For him to convey his comments about my book, a conversation was the most efficient mode of communication. It's just that in my line of work, that type of face-to-face or even voice-to-voice communication is relatively infrequent. I have very, very few telephone conversations.
I have become entirely e-mail dependent in the sense that I would not dream of going anywhere overnight without my laptop. I can't even substitute a BlackBerry because so much of the stuff that I get involves substantial attachments. So I carry a laptop everywhere. With e-mail there's a kind of oppression factor, especially on Mondays. But it's a very small price to pay.
I usually get up around a quarter to 8 and don't get to the office till about 9:30, 10 a.m. I usually go home after lunch and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening, except for dinner, up till about 11:30 p.m., working. I'm working on opinions, or writing a book or blog, or something else.
When court is in session we hear six cases a day, sitting in three-judge panels, and split it up so that each judge does two opinions. I usually write my first draft of the two opinions in the evening after the arguments. So maybe four hours' worth of time to write two opinions.
I'm a very fast writer. I can write 20, 30 manuscript pages in an evening. I do revisions later, but I find it more efficient to get something down that indicates where the gaps in my thinking are, and what research has to be done, and so on.