Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CEOs say how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character

Things that all aspiring bosses and businessmen should know. Not bad to follow in your daily life also.

Office Depot CEO Steve Odland remembers like it was yesterday working in an upscale French restaurant in Denver.

The purple sorbet in cut glass he was serving tumbled onto the expensive white gown of an obviously rich and important woman. "I watched in slow motion ruining her dress for the evening," Odland says. "I thought I would be shot on sight."

Thirty years have passed, but Odland can't get the stain out of his mind, nor the woman's kind reaction. She was startled, regained composure and, in a reassuring voice, told the teenage Odland, "It's OK. It wasn't your fault." When she left the restaurant, she also left the future Fortune 500 CEO with a life lesson: You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she treats the waiter.

Odland isn't the only CEO to have made this discovery. Rather, it seems to be one of those rare laws of the land that every CEO learns on the way up. It's hard to get a dozen CEOs to agree about anything, but all interviewed agree with the Waiter Rule.

The CEO who came up with it, or at least first wrote it down, is Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson. He wrote a booklet of 33 short leadership observations called Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management. Raytheon has given away 250,000 of the books.

Among those 33 rules is only one that Swanson says never fails: "A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person."

Swanson says he first noticed this in the 1970s when he was eating with a man who became "absolutely obnoxious" to a waiter because the restaurant did not stock a particular wine.

"Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with," Swanson writes. "Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles."

Read full USA Today article here.

Bill Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management

1. Learn to say, "I don't know." If used when appropriate, it will be often.
2. It is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.
3. If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
4. Look for what is missing. Many know how to improve what's there, but few can see what
isn't there.
5. Viewgraph rule: When something appears on a viewgraph (an overhead transparency),
assume the world knows about it, and deal with it accordingly.
6. Work for a boss with whom you are comfortable telling it like it is. Remember that you
can't pick your relatives, but you can pick your boss.
7. Constantly review developments to make sure that the actual benefits are what they are
supposed to be. Avoid Newton's Law.
8. However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best
9. Persistence or tenacity is the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties,
discouragement, or indifference. Don't be known as a good starter but a poor finisher.
10. In completing a project, don't wait for others; go after them, and make sure it gets done.
11. Confirm your instructions and the commitments of others in writing. Don't assume it will
get done!
12. Don't be timid; speak up. Express yourself, and promote your ideas.
13. Practice shows that those who speak the most knowingly and confidently often end up
with the assignment to get it done.
14. Strive for brevity and clarity in oral and written reports.
15. Be extremely careful of the accuracy of your statements.
16. Don't overlook the fact that you are working for a boss.
* Keep him or her informed. Avoid surprises!
* Whatever the boss wants takes top priority.
17. Promises, schedules, and estimates are important instruments in a well-ordered
* You must make promises. Don't lean on the oftenn-used phrase, "I can't estimate it
because it depends upon many uncertain factors."
18. Never direct a complaint to the top. A serious offense is to "cc" a person's boss.
19. When dealing with outsiders, remember that you represent the company. Be careful of
your commitments.
20. Cultivate the habit of "boiling matters down" to the simplest terms. An elevator speech is
the best way.
21. Don't get excited in engineering emergencies. Keep your feet on the ground.
22. Cultivate the habit of making quick, clean-cut decisions.
23. When making decisions, the pros are much easier to deal with than the cons. Your boss
wants to see the cons also.
24. Don't ever lose your sense of humor.
25. Have fun at what you do. It will reflect in your work. No one likes a grump except another

In the Business 2.0 article that made Swanson's little book famous, they expounded on his rules and added the following:

1. You can't polish a sneaker. (notice when something hasn't got any real substance)

2. You remember 1/3 of what you read, 1/2 of what people tell you, but 100 percent of what you feel. (leaders generate emotions that move people in the desired direction)

3. Treat your company name as if it were your own (possibly the same as #19 above)

4. When faced with decisions, try to look at them as if you were one level up in the organization. Your perspective will change quickly. (your boss has to weigh more considerations than you do in making a decision)

5. A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.

6. When facing issues or problems that are becoming drawn out, "short them to ground." (solve problems instead of talking about solving problems).

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