Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Do You Really Want to Be the Boss?

A lot of people claim that they would love to be in charge. "If people just did what I said, this place would work much better." Be honest. You know that you've thought it at some point or another.

However, I wonder if people truly understand what that those words mean.

Today in a speech to my marketing class, Chris Krohn, Chief Marketing Officer of Whitney Automotive Group, made the meaning of that statement clear. He faced the following situation:

He was making a major decision about the future of the company's online business and had to present his plan to the company's board of directors. The board heard his proposal, and one member said plainly: "I don't think this will work. You realize that if this goes badly, the whole business could go down. You are risking this company's future."

Stop for a minute. Read the critique again. Really put yourself in Chris's shoes. The entire future of a company, and hundreds to thousands of jobs ride on your decision.

How would you respond?

Chris told us this: "You have to be ready to look at the board and say, 'I believe that we are facing something entirely new. I can't prove that this will work until we do it, but we should do it. We have to do it.'"

He continued: "I put my job, my reputation, [the person who hired me's] reputation, and the company's future on the line with that one decision . . . but I made the decision."

This is the third time that I have heard a version of this story from a CEO or CMO. It may be that high level executives just have a flair for drama, but I doubt it. These are the types of responsibilities that people take on at this level, and these are the decisions that they have to make. These people must make risky decisions with imperfect information. That's the job.

Would everybody still want to be the boss if they heard this part of the story?

Thanks to Chris Krohn for taking the time to share his knowledge with us students, and thanks again to Professor Dhar for arranging it!