Speaker: Peter Behrendt

*I had the privledge of listening to Peter Behrendt the other evening. Behrendt was CEO and Chairman of Exabyte and previously held executive positions at IBM. He was invited to speak to my management class on leadership skills. The following are his advice and thoughts:

The Biggest Inhibitor to Growth is the inability for companies to find managers capable of growing their business. In other words, people can be very good at doing their job, but not as many people are good at managing them.

**Today’s technical skills **have short half-lifes. The technology you learn today will be irrelevant in 5, 10, maybe even 2 years. Sure, it’s important to learn certain things now, but it’s more important to continue the educating yourself. Simply put: stay current.

You will move between many different companies. Obviously nobody has the opportunity to remain at a company for their entire life. On average, people will work for 7-10 companies in their lifetime. This has a huge impact on the skills you’re able to learn and the different interactions you’ll have in your professional life.

The 7 Habits of … People:

  1. Develop the best possible communication skills you can. Both oral and written communication apply anywhere you’ll go. Do your best to work on writing and speaking to people. Give presentations as often as possible and continue to improve.
  2. Learn to work well with people different than you. The world is full of diversity. The fact is, you’ll be working with people very different from you. There’s no way around it, in fact, you should strive to surround yourself with diverse groups.
  3. Develop a global perspective. In order to have a better understanding of the world and the people within it, you need to learn more about it. Plus, the world is becoming smaller. Your widgets are built in China with parts from Indonesia and you have global sales forces in Germany, and Japan. For beginners, reading the news is important.
  4. Develop zero-tolerance for unethical behavior. So many people do well by lying; don’t associate with these individuals. Don’t sacrifice your values and certainly don’t tolerate those individuals that will. “But if I come forward to my superiors I can lose my job.” A) Do you really want to work for those people? and B) You should never do anything that would cause anyone to distrust you.
  5. Learn to sell. Everyone has to sell. Job applicants sell themselves, entrepreneurs sell their ideas, and mangers sell their proposals. The ability to sell is crucial and goes hand in hand with communicating.
  6. Ask the right questions. If certain board members or executives asked the right questions there may be no Enron or WorldCom. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask.
  7. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Life is too short to live too seriously. Too often we’re going to be in humorless environments. Don’t be afraid to have (an appropriate level of) fun. Plus, don’t work too hard, live a happy life and above all: be modest. He said this point applies to MBAs especially. I liked that.

Peter Behrendt came to the United States speaking only a few words of English. He attended UCLA and ran for Student Body President. He figured it’d be a great way to develop his speaking and language skills. His opposition criticized him and noted “do you really want a President who can’t even pronounce (some word) correctly?” His response was: “Yes, you’re right… and I make that mistake in 7 other languages, too.”

He won the election.

[tags]management, leadership, skills, business, success, communication[/tags]