Career Profiles: Treat Everyone Like They Are the CEO

David knew he made a mistake the minute he left home.  He was leaving 20 minutes later than he wanted due to a personal problem at home and he knew that as a seasoned executive there was no excuse for his behavior.  The 20 minutes compounded his problem by throwing him into rush hour traffic.   By the time he drove in the company gates, he was already 10 minutes late.

The first person David saw was Sam, a security guard.  David was beside himself with the stress of the commute and the fact he was late.  He got out of the car and literally sprinted over to Sam to get directions to the correct building.  David was abrupt and to the point.  Sam tried to be helpful, but his learning disability kept him from processing the request for information as quickly as David wanted and needed it.  David was visibly disturbed, making Sam’s task all the more difficult.  Finally, David obtained the information and raced on.

David found Meredith, Mr. Aldrich’s executive secretary.  When he discovered Mr. Aldrich was running late and had not yet arrived, David’s perception of the situation improved dramatically.  He began to relax and got a grip on himself.  While he chatted with Meredith, he discovered they both rooted for the same baseball team, and they had a great time predicting trades and second-guessing the manager.

By the time Mr. Aldrich arrived, David was relaxed and confident.  They had a terrific meeting.  There was strong rapport and David liked everything he heard about the organization—colleagues who care about one another- a company with mutual respect for everyone.  David left the meeting feeling confident that he could be an outstanding division manager; Mr. Aldrich said he would be called back to meet other key players in the firm.

That night at the dinner table, Meredith told her family, who were also baseball fanatics, about the candidate she had met at work that day who knew so much about baseball.  She described David so they could picture him.  As she spoke, her brother Sam became more and more uncomfortable.  He lowered his head.  When Meredith noticed he had withdrawn from the conversation she asked, “Sam, are you okay?”  He wouldn’t speak for a few minutes.

When he said, “I don’t like that man.  He was mean to me.  He scared me,” Meredith was amazed.  She questioned her brother, gathering all the details of his encounter with David.  Meredith knew Sam liked everyone.  Surely if he had such as strong reaction, there must have been something in David she had missed.  Something worth thinking about.

When Meredith went to work the next day, she told Mr. Aldrich about her family’s conversation, particularly Sam’s reactions.  He listened carefully and at the conclusion, restated to Meredith the importance he placed on interpersonal concern and caring within the firm.

David never received a call back.  He waited a few weeks and started calling.  Mr. Aldrich did not receive his calls.  Finally, David called late one day and Mr. Aldrich answered the telephone.  He was short and cold.  “The job has been filled,” he said.

As David hung up, he was stunned.  His last meeting had been great. David never knew what hit him.  He never dreamed that his encounter with the security guard was his undoing.


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