How To Become The Boss
Do only what you want to
This means skipping the stuff you don’t. How is that possible? By getting rid of, to the extent possible, the boring, time-wasting, frivolous and stupid. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But like anything worth doing, this talent can be mastered over time. Did you know that for every boring meeting you don’t want to attend, there’s some numbnuts who’d like to be at it? Find that person. Cultivate him (or her).
Most likely, he’s at the same level you are in the organisation, and in the same general discipline. Then, when a meeting comes along dealing with an upcoming meeting to ascertain the goals of another meeting yet to be scheduled, you can say, “Mike, there’s a meeting up on 37 about next year’s sales conference. I’m jammed here. Want to go?” Mike will say yes, and you just bought yourself an hour or two to do what you should be doing.
There are many tasks in the workplace that may be done with total adequacy and nothing more. People get mashed up by obsessively making sure every email is explosively terrific, each spreadsheet is impeccable. This is unnecessary. Of course, you don’t want to be a sloppy bastard. But don’t waste your time sweating the minuscule stuff while the Superplayers are defining the known limits of the universe.
Take my colleague Stephen, a laywer. Laywers are the worst in this regard. In meetings, he’ll make sure he has your total comprehension and acceptance on every single point. I’ll say, “Look, Stephen, I think I get it. Let’s move forward on this. What are you having for lunch?” And he’ll reply, “We’re only up to bullet point four on this, man.” And I’ll look at the page, and sure enough, there are eight more bullets! Shoot me. I’m all for excellence, but adequacy has its moments, too. I much prefer to deal with Stephen’s boss. “You okay with the Kruger thing?” he says to me the other day as we’re both taking a leak in the forty-second-floor bathroom. “Sure,” I tell him. “Good,” he says. Then we wash our hands and leave. Now that’s what I call multitasking.
Achieve maximum focus
The guys I know who consistently move the world – and, not coincidentally, make the most money – have this capacity. My friend Neil, for instance. At his company, he’s in charge of all the financials. At the end of the year, when the books close, he puts on his cape, commanding a team of people who make sure everyone in the company has their cheques in before the banks close on 31 December. They don’t take no for an answer. And throughout the process, Neil sits in his office at headquarters making sure every director, senior exec and midlevel grunt plays along. And he does not go home until he’s done. His chairman loves him. By the way, a key aspect of your Superplayer strategy is to make sure all credit for what you do is logged in at the one place it counts: your boss’s office. Not your boss’s boss’s office. Your boss has to know what you do and appreciate it fully, that’s all. You’d be amazed at the number of people who whine about the fact that their boss takes the credit with his boss for what they do. Or maybe you wouldn’t be amazed. Maybe you gripe about that yourself.
But you’re wrong. Your job is to make your boss look good, and to make sure he knows he wouldn’t look good without you. Establish a record of success and irreplaceability one victory at a time, and you will very slowly and irrevocably turn Super.
Forge your own style
Go on YouTube and search for “the best of Steve Ballmer”. Steve is the CEO of Microsoft, and he’s like nobody else in the world. On the video, in which Ballmer unleashes explosive, over-the-top pitches and rants in commercials and conferences, you will witness a man who in any other circumstance would probably be institutionalised. Instead, he’s leading one of the most important companies in the world.
He’s so good at what he does that he can pretty much do it any way he wants to. This is true of all Superplayers, and there’s no reason, aside from your own timidity, why you can’t start implementing this part of your programme right now. Of course, you have to be sensitive to your corporation’s culture. At IBM, for instance, a highly-patterned necktie might be a declaration of utter insanity.All great operators have their own way of doing things, one that develops over time and becomes their brand. That’s right. Everything in this world of ours that’s worth anything above scale is branded. Why not you?
Expand your turf
I started as an Associate of something. Very early on, I noticed our department had huge tracts of unoccupied land that I was interested in. I sort of oozed around the edges of them for a while, and then moved in and built tiny little yurts, domiciles I could use to camp in when the opportunity arose. Time went by. I knocked down the temporary housing and constructed apartments. Pretty soon I was master of an entire landscape of duties, responsibilities and excuses to use my company credit card. One day a big chance arose. We had taken over a larger company, and there was no clear boss of my function. I figured, what the hell. I went to see the president. I said, “You have nobody occupying the top slot of your department here. Let me do it.”
He took a day to think about it, and then he said, “Okay. If you’re crazy enough to want to do it, you can have it.” And so I took it. Did I have the necessary experience and seasoning at that point to dare to make the grab for the ring? Not really. But nobody else was thinking about it, and more important, no one was anticipating my move. Let’s just say it was a good thing I acted when I did.