Mold Your CEO

April 1, 2008
Motivational speakers tend to get under my skin. Their, uh, cheerful solutions for "getting ahead in life" makes me want to hook them up to live jumper cables.

by Mark Hartley
[email protected]

Motivational speakers tend to get under my skin. Their, uh, cheerful solutions for "getting ahead in life" makes me want to hook them up to live jumper cables. However, I realize that — just because I do not need to be motivated — other folks at least occasionally need a rousing pep talk.

So I generously refrain from violence.

I read an article today on the Internet about what you shouldn’t say to your boss. It was an online reprint of an article originally published in U.S. News & World Report. It was similar to one of those "15 clever things to say to a supermodel." You click on it and get transferred to a bland list that suggests things you could say to all women — first dates, female members of the congregation, as well as anyone who is not your mother or sister.

But this was a little different. The things you don’t say to the boss were reinforced by anecdotes remembered by the author, Bill Lane, who was a long-time speechwriter for the former General Electric CEO, Jack Welch.

Lane recalled when Welch’s staff of managers would be figuratively or literally dismissed for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in the CEO’s presence. In some cases, it seemed to me that Welch’s mood was more relevant than what was said.

Welch, of course, was unquestionably successful as the CEO of General Electric. But his tenure occurred during a pretty rosy time period for the economy. He enjoyed a popular ride as an "iron-fisted" ruler.

For all I know, Jack Welch is as friendly as a cuddly teddy bear to most people. He’s on his third marriage, though, unable to show a permanent commitment to just one wife. Many working stiffs I know successfully worked through the trials of a single marriage. He had a triple bypass at age 60. So Jack Welch, one of the top guns in the American economy during the late 20th Century, is a flawed, complex person — much like the employees he told to take a hike.

But, worst of all, his second career after leaving General Electric has been as a motivational speaker, presumably encouraging other management types to be tyrants just like him.

So I’m in my garage, wondering where I put the jumper cables after the last time I used them.

After almost a decade of grappling with the economic aftereffects of corporate fraud by CEOs, I marvel that we still have that rock-star worship of them. Barron’s, CNN Money, and Forbes frequently rank the chief executives, just like we rank college football teams. We read articles about how CEOs mold workers to deliver what’s necessary to those who matter — the board of directors, of course. (Did you think I was going to say "consumers?")

Dentists, for the most part, are CEOs who do not report to a board of directors, although they do have to demonstrate fiscal management skills to creditors.

How would you mold your CEO? Does it make a difference that you and the boss are in health care? I think it does. But there are many who think that every health-care decision should also be a business decision.

It seems as if I communicate every week with a hygienist who wants to quit, shunning the business model imposed on her by dentistry. She would rather leave the "clinical hygiene" she loves than continue haphazardly in a system that doesn’t really value preventive dentistry.

What are the certain ways to get fired for things you say to the doctor? Are the things that could get you fired relevant to the practice of dentistry? My guess is that the top reasons you could be fired by your CEO are not really pertinent to what you do for a living.

Mold your CEO. Take a healthy step for your career and patients by exerting your influence.