"Translate your daily experiences into cool stuff to do." Tom Peters
[note: the following is a slighted edited version of a New York Times Magazine piece
which deals with the pros and cons of Corporate Loyalty.]
Corporate Loyalty: A Commentary by Tom Peters
Loyalty is rubbish.
Loyalty is the glue that holds society together -- including commercial society. That said, Corporate loyalty is rubbish. (And always was in my opinion.)
If you apply for a job at the Tom Peters Company, and imply that you'd like to make a life of it, I'll unceremoniously throw you out of the office.
Suppose you are a would-be Michael Jordan of my trade, consulting? I'll still toss you out.
I want to do great work for my Clients. To be helpful. Provocative. Fresh. I want every project to be a slam dunk -- that we'll be chortling about ten years from now.
I want you -- my Michael Jordan of consulting -- to be a brilliant contributor. I want you to be perpetually excited. I want you to grow like Topsy, age 27 or age 47.
But I don't want loyalty, "corporate"-style.
So here's the deal. Or, rather, the New Social Contract. I want my company to be so attractive, so laden with talent, so energetic it makes your -- and my! -- head swim. I want you to come aboard and to contribute to a Hot Project Team right away! I want to give you something. Something(s) BIG. I want to give you an exciting work environment, peerless teammates, a string of challenging projects with challenging Clients you could not match anywhere else. I WANT YOU TO HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE!
And I demand that in return you give your energetic all to those Hot Project Teams. In fact, I demand that you be Loyal. Loyal to your teammates on this project. Loyal to the Client. Loyal to yourself -- that is, determined to perform and grow as you have never performed and grown before.
However, I also demand that you not be "loyal" to me -- or to the Tom Peters Company. Your oath is to Client-Project-Teammates-Personal Growth.
So, you do turn out to be a superstar -- that Michael Jordan of consulting. Don't I want you to stick around? No! (And yes.) I do not want you to stick around out of misguided loyalty to me or the Tom Peters Company. If I -- Tom Peters -- can keep providing you with the World's Best Challenges, and if you respond accordingly, well, then I hope we do indeed grow old together. One project at a time.
A great colleague of mine, taken early by cancer, was one of Silicon Valley's premier product developers. His talent stable was awesome. (He had an NBA general manager's knack for spotting Hall of Famers.) His biggest secret, I think, was his enlightened view of loyalty. Or, call it non-loyalty. Suppose you were doing a bang up job for Paul. And suppose he heard of a matchless opportunity for you -- at a competitor's. And he saw no opportunity to promote you right away at his company. He would unflinchingly urge you to skeedaddle -- and take that other job. Needless to say, Paul had an enviable reputation as a talent developer which resulted in the best and the brightest swarming to him. And needless to say, that reputation rebounded convincingly to his company's benefit over the long haul.
I've talked about Tom Peters Company and Silicon Valley. But what about Mike & Maude's 23-table restaurant? My take: Same deal! That is, I want every waiter and busboy at M & M's to be on the same growth trajectory I painted at my company. (I'm fond of waiters -- I waited tables for nine years in high school and college.) If I, Mike, can offer you a challenge, and if you respond accordingly, then lets keep dancing. If not, loyalty is the worst reason for us to stick to a lousy marriage.
All the above is ten times more important today, in a business world that demands constant revolution, than it was twenty-five years ago when I went to work for the consultants, McKinsey & Co. But, truth be known, I think mindless corporate loyalty -- the essence of 50s Babbitry -- was always a misguided (that is, stultifying to the individual and the firm) idea.
Loyalty to my Mates? Yes. To my project? Amen. To my Client? You bet. To my Craft and the pursuit of growth? Amen again. Loyalty to bosses and hierarchies and rules and corporate logos? Never!
IT'S AN E-WORLD BUT …
YOU MUST READ … IN "THE OLD PRINT VERSION" … THE CLUETRAIN MANIFESTO. There's a lot here I think is bullshit. But I love the baldly polemic nature of this treatise. So: read it, inhale it. If it pisses you off … GREAT! [The Website … cluetrain.com … is a must as well.]
I WENT THE LONG WAY. Started on Super Bowl Sunday. [Whadda game!] The Farm in VT to Rutland to Binghamton/Owego NY [19 inches of snow, seminar for Lockheed Electronics Platform Integration unit] to Newark to Denver to Albuquerque [I can spell it without spell check! Public seminar. More snow!] to Phoenix to San Jose/Palo Alto [confab with Oracle … what a cool thing they're doing with Ford!] to Sacramento [cow town/capital to booooomtown in 15 years! Public seminar] to San Francisco to Maui [no snow! Seminar for Time Inc.] to Honolulu to Tokyo/Narita to Singapore [half day layover, stayed at he incomparable Raffles Hotel, home of the Singapore Sling … at the Long Bar] to Delhi.
I am here for six days as an Accompanying Spouse. Susan is on her annual design-sourcing trip for her home furnishings company, Susan Sargent Designs. [She arises at 4am to draw and color, spends 10 or 12 hours on the road and in factories, and gets back, zonked, at 8pm!]
GO TO INDIA.
Palo Alto to India is … as they say … Culture Shock. We bask in, effectively, zero-percent unemployment and our longest boom ever. And here?
NO SHIT: The papers are full of Delhi and Karachi threatening each other with nuclear weapons over Kashmir! [I barely remember my 1950s drill of taking cover from the Russians bombs under my elementary school desk. P.S.: This ain't funny … and … ho-hum … barely makes the news "at home."]
Pollution is sooooooo [ridiculously, ludicrously] bad that, despite crippling poverty, national polls show the environment to be a far higher priority than prosperity!
The papers here are furious at Mr. Clinton and Ms. Albright for their Davos [World Economic Forum] speeches: They say we are hopelessly arrogant and utterly insensitive to Developing Economy issues. [Meanwhile, our papers report that our bigwigs thought they were being ultra-sensitive in Davos. PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING!]
But most important are my long morning walks. [Accompanying Spousehood ain't all bad.] And what I see-feel-sense. I love India! [People, typically, love it or hate it. I am clearly in the former camp.] THE LOOK AND FEEL AND TASTE AND TOUCH AND SMELL OF POVERTY AND UNDEREMPLOYMENT IS … DESPITE A DOZEN VISITS … FRESHLY MINDBOGGLING. [My anthropological "project" is watching, throughout the day and night, a family in a tent, under a freeway off ramp, in view of my -- lavish -- hotel room's 7th floor window.]
IT IS SOOOOO BLOOOOODY DAMN IMPORTANT FOR US IN THE TINY MINORITY -- PALO ALTANS, AMERICANS -- TO SEE/FEEL/SENSE WHAT IS GOING ON IN MUCH/MOST OF THE WORLD. [I couldn't tell you exactly how all this is affecting me, but it is. And it's important!]
One thing: Seattle's WTO meeting "fiasco" [from the viewpoint of us self-righteous rich folk] was no aberration! I AM A FREE TRADER. PERIOD. But there is more than one legitimate view of the way the world is unfolding. AND THAT AIN'T NO SHIT!
The BIG BOSS of Nokia is in my hotel. Predicting great things for India. [Wireless things, of course.] And the papers here are, indeed, chock-a-block with dot-com stories. There is a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit in this Billion Human nation. Sadly, a lot more of that energy is directed to rag picking than wireless miracles.
"We" all need to visit India -- or some place comparable, if such exists -- every 24 months! Message: PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING! THERE'S MORE TO LIFE THAN PALO ALTO AND TOKYO AND MUNICH AND LONDON! [You heard it here first!] [Next week at this time I'll be in Boston, shooting a TV ad for jobs.com. I HOPE I DON'T QUICKLY FORGET HOW I FEEL RIGHT NOW.]
I'm into my Y2K schedule. And travel is the main bugbear. As usual. Seasoned as I am [too seasoned!], I have picked up a couple of new tricks. To wit;
NEVER REST YOUR HEAD ON AN AIRLINE PILLOW. THEY ARE -- SIMPLY -- FLU CARRIERS!
Create a little kit. Tabasco. Dijon mustard. Balsamic vinegar. Use it to season the worst of airline "food" … and you can have a semi-gourmet meal, even in Seat 36Middle.
Always carry a portable, paper OAG flight guide; when the shit hits the fan, it's ultimately up to you to figure out an alternative routing. [P.S.: Unless you got A+ grades in geography, carrying a little atlas is also a good idea; you can create oddball connections via unexpected cities]
Before blogging became all the rage, Tom was posting book reviews and Observations (essentially early blog posts) to this site. You can find the archives below.