Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wisdom for Winners

What makes a business person successful? John S. McCallum, professor of finance at the University of Manitoba, has taught MBA students for 32 years – and given a lot of thought to this question as he's watched his students make their mark (or not) on the business world.

He put down his thoughts on this subject in a column in the Ivey Business Journal in October 2004. If you missed it, click here to link to a very engaging and thoughtful article.

If your clicker isn’t working, here is McCallum’s top 10 list of characteristics that he believes play into executive success.

1. CONFIDENCE: If you don’t believe you can lead, then it will show and hurt your progress, says McCallum, “especially under pressure when the stakes are highest.” And why is it, he asks, “that those with the fewest legitimate reasons to be confident are so often the most confident, while those with real talent struggle with insecurity?"

2. BE ETHICAL: “Ethics is not only honesty, justice and fairness but also treating people with dignity and respect.” If doing the right thing for its own sake doesn’t inspire you, he adds, do it because unethical players will always be caught out.

3. THINK: “So often I have seen things go wrong because those responsible did not think things through.” The key, he says, is self-discipline and taking your time.

4. WORK HARD: “Working hard is not sufficient to get you to the executive suite and keep you there, but it certainly is necessary.”

5. GET OVER IT: Everyone experiences setbacks. In McCallum’s experience, those who do not let disappointments distract them enjoy the most career success.

6. LISTEN: Most communications training focuses on writing and speaking, says McCallum – not listening. Yet it is through listening that we gain most of the information we need to succeed.

7. GET HELP: McCallum says he’s seen many executives stubbornly fight their way through problems when they should have asked for help. “A reputation for not getting help when you clearly need it is no help to those who appoint and promote.”

8. READ: Books (fiction and non-fiction), professional and technical material, magazines and newspapers, short stories and poems can all help you gain business knowledge and, more importantly, wisdom, people smarts, and judgement. (No mention of blogs, though.)

9. BE BOLD: In talking to business people on their retirement, McCallum says many expressed regrets they had not been bolder in their careers. Not only because it might have brought more rewards, “but also because it might have been more fun and satisfying.”

10. NEVER GIVE YOUR HEART AND SOUL TO AN ENTERPRISE: “Hearts and souls belong to family and friends.”

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