It’s Not Always About You When It Comes To Success



Deborah Bial is the President and Founder of the Posse Foundation. Posse trains students from public high schools with extraordinary academic and leadership potential to help them succeed in college. In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Bial spoke about what inspired her to start the Posse Foundation and what leadership means to her. Here are some of the key points from the interview:

  • Success isn’t about you: “I didn’t pick Posse; it just happened. My philosophy is that leaders should always remember that it’s not because of them that things are successful.” Sometimes it comes down to the luck of the draw.
  • Being in charge allows for forming a great team: “The advantage of being in charge is that you get to hire people you really like. It’s my philosophy that as president or C.E.O. of a company, you are in this privileged position where you get the accolades for the successes of the organization, and you get to make decisions and people have to listen to you.”
  • You don’t have to be liked by everyone to be a great leader: “I used to care a lot that people liked me. That’s no longer as much the case. Of course, nobody wants not to be liked, but I don’t care as much. I remember feeling liberated when it no longer influenced my decision-making.”
  • Questions are key when hiring students: “In terms of questions, I’ll ask sometimes: “If you get this job, what are you most excited about, in terms of your personal growth? And where will you be challenged the most?” Then I’ll want to get into a discussion about something. What’s in the newspaper that day? I want to know what they think, how they think, how they express what it is they’re thinking, how they ask questions and how they listen.”
  • Students who reach out are the ones who are likely to succeed: “In a crisis, they reach out versus reach in. We look for the person who reaches out, because they will give themselves more options to succeed.”

Click here to view the full article from the New York Times.

Could Parenting Skills Be Transferrable To A CEO?

Penny Herscher

Penny Herscher is the Chief Executive of FirstRain, a business analytics firm based out of San Mateo, California. In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Herscher drew some interesting parallels between her approach to managing children as a parent and managing a company as a chief executive. Here are some of the key points from the interview:

  • Don’t hog the spotlight: “You need to let other people blossom and thrive” otherwise you’ll find yourself with employees that don’t want to work for you.
  • Having kids can change the way you manage: “The things you learn raising a child are great skills for nurturing a team and bringing a project to life. You take obstacles out of the way, encourage them and set goals that are tough but can be achieved.”
  • You need somebody who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth: “Many leaders with strong personalities never hear the truth because their people are afraid to tell them. The people who will tell you the truth are the most valuable people in your life.”
  • As a CEO you can’t blame anyone else: You can look to a board of executives or shareholders for advice, but not permission. As a CEO “You are it! You have to make the decisions. You can collect advice, but nobody is going to make a decision for you, so just get on with it and make the decisions. If they’re right you’ll be fine, and if they’re wrong you’ll be fired.”
  • When hiring, look for “I.Q, integrity and energy, because you can’t teach those.”
  • Ask questions in interviews that tell you MORE about the candidate: “What makes you really special,” “how do you grow your employees” and “what’s your natural strength” are great examples.

Click here to view the full article from the New York Times.

If you don’t know the answer, just say so!

Qualcomm Gansl

Steven Mollenkopf is the C.E.O. of Qualcomm, a mobile-phone technology company based out of San Diego. In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Mollenkopf opened up about his approach to leadership, hiring process and pet peeves in the workplace. Here are some highlights from the interview:

  • “You should make mistakes by throwing the ball away, not by holding the ball.” In the context of work this means “making mistakes by action, not thinking about something or being timid.” You should encourage yourself to take risks. If you make a mistake trying to do something, you can fix it later.
  • Workplace “perfection” is like a mathematical limit. “You need to make sure that you’re moving toward perfection, but you’re never going to get there.”
  • “Jerks don’t get promoted.” As with many aspects of life , you have to be able to get along with people. “Companies run on smart people who can also get other smart people to move generally in the same direction.”
  • “If you don’t know, just say so.” The more senior you get, the less concerned you are with saying, “I don’t know the answer here.” You realize you’re not supposed to now ALL the answers. As a boss, your job is to surround yourself with people who can help you find the answers.
  • 100% effort is key: “People who don’t work hard are a problem.”
  • “Treat people well.” Happy staff are more productive and efficient than unhappy staff.
  • When you leave college: “Don’t have a plan, because you can underestimate what your abilities are, and you might limit yourself in some cases.”

Click here to view the full interview in the New York Times.

A Job Description is Just the Beginning

susan story

Susan Story is the chief executive of American Water, a public utility company operating in the United States and Canada. In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Story opened up about her work philosophies that helped her achieve corporate success:

  • Every person deserves respect: “[N]o matter how bad things get, it’s about working hard and taking personal responsibility, because nobody owes you anything.”
  • In life and in work: “It’s not what happens to you; it’s how you react to it.”
  • A job description is just the beginning: “It’s about doing the job but also looking around for what’s not getting done that would bring value. When I would raise my hand, it was appreciated.”
  • Listening is key: “Listening on the front lines is one of the most important things I can do… If you really want to know what’s going on, you get out there and you listen to folks on the front lines.”
  • Focus on doing the best job you can where you are: “One thing I’ve done in my career is to never look at what the next job is going to be. I go in thinking this could be my last job, and I’m going to be the best I can at it.”

Click here to view the full article from the New York Times.