December 2000

Volume VI   Number 4         


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What Makes the CEO Different: Choices


One of my current G&S clients, the former CEO of a major international advertising agency, asked me recently what was the difference in working with senior managers (CEO’s, COO’s, CFO’s, or the like) and more mid-level executives.


In thinking about the question, there are several attributes of people who have achieved leadership status in business: 

  • ·        High self-confidence and insight.  A person cannot accomplish what the executive has without a good self-image and the ability to read others.
  • ·        Abstract thinking and capacity for vision. A leader must think fast and see far.
  • ·        Multi-tasking coupled with intensity. A senior manager juggles many balls but is also able to focus and “drill down” with razor-like precision.
  • ·        An awareness of choices, both in the past and in moving their career to the next level. This person is usually very aware of decisions made consciously that impacted on their success.


What do these clients expect of us at G&S?

  • ·        A partner and advisor, someone they can respect intellectually and ethically.
  • ·        Time and attention. One-on-one time is crucial, especially in the initial few weeks.
  • ·        A track record of successful work with other senior executives.  Many senior executives choose G&S as their firm based on the solid years of experience we have with others.
  • ·        An effective sounding board for the choices that emerge.  Many senior executives have literally a dozen viable opportunities.  Choices often involve complex decisions affecting every aspect of the person’s life.


So, the answer to the question is knowledge, experience, and the ability to focus intensely as well as provide the resources that senior executives have come to expect.  We are proud to continue a professional friendship with nearly all of our senior executive clients after their successful transitions.



South Africa -- A Vacation Choice


When my wife, Caren, flew British Airways on business earlier this year, she was awarded two coach tickets anywhere BA flies, to be used before year-end.  We considered a long weekend in London, but chose, on the spur of the moment, to go to South Africa for a week.


We flew, via London, to Capetown; saw the Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet; and toured the major wine-growing areas.  The wine country reminded us of Northern California, but it is less commercial, and we were impressed both by the natural beauty of the region and the quality and low-prices of the wines.


After a night in Johannesburg, we flew to Mala Mala, a private game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park.  We went on four “safari” trips. Together with a young English couple, we rode the trails in a Land Rover, driven by a “ranger,” a university graduate of Irish ancestry, with a “tracker,” a Zulu who stood in the back to spot game.

We saw elephants, Cape buffalo, lions, leopard, and rhinoceros (“the Big Five” -- called that because they are the most dangerous to hunters) as well as giraffes, zebras, and a few dozen others.  The camp is actually a series of very luxurious individual buildings, well-appointed and spacious -- which helped us meet our 6 a.m. safari departures.


After three days, we returned to Pretoria, which is the administrative capital (the legislature meets in Capetown) and toured the city and surrounding areas, before making an 18-hour trip home.    


The most memorable part of the trip occurred on   our last night in Mala Mala. It had rained, so earlier meals were inside, but the sun had come out and we dined in the boma (open-air enclosure), sitting at tables set around a central campfire. At the head of the horseshoe sat the Afrikaner owner, his wife, and their adult son, whose birthday it was.


At the conclusion of dinner, the tribal women who had served us in bright red native dress came out with a cake, singing “Happy Birthday” in Zulu.  They then sang three other songs, all focused on the owner’s family.  One song featured praise of the wife as most lovely and referred to her husband as “tree-hugger.”  I asked our ranger what that meant, and he explained, with a smile, that it was the nickname for the owner, stemming from twenty-five years ago, when he was taking over management from his father and used to climb a tree to see who was working. The ranger added that it was a mark of change, because ten years ago they would not have dared to sing that to his face.


At that moment, with the rangers in khaki uniforms, all blond and blue-eyed, and the Black native Africans in their colorful but clearly servant outfits, I felt like I was in a surreal dream of a mixture of the plantation and the Nazis!


We Americans still have choices to address in our handling of race, but nothing I’ve ever experienced compares with South Africa.  The 1994 inauguration of Nelson Mandela may have been seen by the world as the end of apartheid, but there is little change in the roles of the various groups that co-exist.


That being said, it was a fascinating week, and one that got us completely away from work.


Corporate Governance: Another Potential Career Choice


Frank Dees, who recently assumed responsibility for G&S’s Princeton office, has developed a program to help clients attain board positions.


Working with consultants who are highly experienced board directors themselves, Frank’s program helps focus on the potential candidates’ skills and experience and researches the development of a “wish list” of targets, which may involve both public and private as well as not-for-profit or community boards.


All of the executives Frank has accepted as clients have been successful in attaining board seats. To my knowledge, ours is a unique service, and we’re pleased to have Frank as a G&S resource.


Books I’d Recommend


“Get to the Point: How To Say What You Mean and Get What You Want” by Andrew D. Gilman and Karen E. Berg, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1995.


The opportunity to serve on a professional advisory board allowed me to do a half-day of media training with Andrew Gilman with a focus on serving as an expert in all kinds of settings.


This book is an excellent overview of presenting in public -- anything from spot television interviews to courtroom testimony. “In question and answer technique, the key is preparation.” “The personnel manager, customer, divisional vice president, or reporter will ask any question.  The art of handling questions is a crucial component of the presenter’s craft.”