Friday, December 22, 2006

Success Books - Sandy Weill "The Real Deal" Part 3

This is Part 3 of my review of Sandy Weill’s autobiography The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy Part 1 is here and part 2 is here Sandy Weill came from undistinguished beginnings to rise to a midlife peak when he sold his business to American Express. He then “crashed” (going from a hugely prestigious post to virtual anonymity) and then came back again in a magnificent “Act 2” to acquire company after company, ultimately merging his company with Citbank, to create Citigroup, the world’s leading financial services firm.

The last part of the book deals with the Citibank acquisition and also contains Sandy Weil’s own views of some of his success factors. Here are a few:

Repeatedly, Weill describes his optimistic attitude: his belief that “setbacks don’t last long”. This is a true “talisman”, a master skill that drives other skills. If one develops the habit of believing things will work out, that the solution is “out there”, that “I generally win in the end”, it removes a huge impediment, for , imagining the opposite, it is hard to initiate any action at all!

Play “Your Game”
Sandy Weill had a particular leadership style, and learned to surround himself with those who could work productively in that style. This does not mean “yes men”. It means that everyone, leader and staff, was able to “buy in” to how Sandy wanted to do things. In any organization, the difference between those who buy in and those who don’t is pretty obvious. One can choose to have an uphill battle every day, or smooth sailing. It depends on who the leader chooses to have around him or her. I am guessing that the resultant outputs would be exponentially better with a group who harmonized with the leader’s style.

Get lots of data. In real time
Sandy Weill knew his “back office” inside and out. The nuts and bolts. And he got lots of data, on a daily basis, from each business unit. A lot of disasters can be averted by getting real-time information. It’s a lot harder to let things get out of hand. You have to love the data, and be comfortable acting on it fast.

In conclusion, the book can be used as almost a “management companion”. It is hard to argue with sound fundamentals: get people around you who harmonize, know the business inside out; be on top of the data on a daily basis, and stay optimistic: believe that setbacks don’t last forever.

It is also hard to argue with Sandy Weill’s unprecedented success.

Go to Part 1

Go to Part 2

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