The Power of Prime

The cluttered mind uncluttered.

by Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

Business: Ten Laws of Prime Business Preparation

Are you prepared to do business?

Published on September 5, 2010

Success in the business world is not about who is the smartest; research shows that IQ is largely unrelated to status in the corporate food chain. Success is not about who has the best education; only 14% of Fortune 500 companies are led by Ivy Leaguers. And success is not about who has the best funding or resources; many successful businesses started in garages, dining rooms, and the back of cars.

The single greatest influence on who achieves success in the business is preparation. The more prepared you are to confront the many challenges of corporate life, the more successful you will be.

As I noted in my January, 2008 post, Prime Business Alert! newsletter, your goal as a business person is to achieve Prime Business which I define as: “Performing at a consistently high level under the most challenging conditions.”

To attain that lofty goal, you must engage in Prime Preparation which involves: “Maintaining consistently high quality efforts resulting in optimal preparation for maximum business success.”

The purpose of all of your preparations is to perform your best in Prime Time which is: “Professional experiences that place you and your team under the most demanding conditions, faced with the most critical decisions, with the greatest rewards/risks on the line, in the most important business situation of your life” (think of Prime Time as your Super Bowl or Olympics).

With this understanding, I want to present to you my Ten Laws of Prime Preparation:

First Law: Preparation is the foundation of all business success. This preparation involves six important areas: 1) Essential information (e.g., goals, plans, strategies) ; 2) Task-specific knowledge and skills (e.g., R&D, finance, sales); 3) Crucial resources and tools (e.g., experts, computer programs, data systems); 4) Psychological and emotional capabilities (e.g., determination, confidence, resilience); 5) Interpersonal skills (e.g., leadership, empathy, assertiveness, communication, inspiration, decisiveness); 6) Physical health (e.g., illness free, rested, well nourished, fit).

Second Law: Success comes from the days, weeks, and months of preparation leading up to the culmination of those efforts. Many businesspeople believe that it’s what happens on a key day (e.g., strategic-planning meeting, investor presentation) that matters. But I have found that success is determined more by what you do in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the crucial day. If you’ve put in the time and effort to develop yourself and your team in the six areas I described in the first law, then you will know that you have done everything you can to achieve your goals and you will perform your best on that important day.

Third Law: Three essential qualities necessary for business preparation and success are patience, persistence, and perseverance. Preparation takes time and you will experience many bumps along the road to Prime Business. Patience ensures that you realize that there are no shortcuts or easy roads to success. Persistence will get you to keep grinding away when you are tired, stressed, and bored. Perseverance will enable you to stay motivated and positive in the face of the inevitable obstacles and setbacks you will experience.

Fourth Law: You must take responsibility for everything that can impact your preparation and performance. Success is not a simple goal; there are usually many components that must be considered and steps that must be taken. You can not leave anything important to chance. To ensure that you are doing everything you can to achieve your goals, you must take responsibility for everything that might influence your efforts. Can you say with confidence that you have complete command over everything that might impact how you perform in Prime Time?

Fifth Law: The purpose of preparation is to develop effective skills and habits. When you have identified those six key areas from my First Law, you have a road map showing you what you need to do to achieve your goals. Education, training, experience, and teamwork that helps you fully develop all of those areas will ensure your complete preparation. These experiences will ingrain in you the essential skills you can then access when you arrive at Prime Time.

Sixth Law: Prime preparation requires a defined purpose, clear focus, and high energy every day. It’s impossible to engage in quality preparation unless three things are present. You must have a clear purpose that tells you precisely what you’re working on. With that purpose, you will make at best haphazard progress toward your goals. When you identify your purpose every day, you ensure that you put directed effort into that purpose. You must have a clear focus on that purpose which involves consistently concentrating on the task at hand and avoiding distractions that will interfere with that focus. You must have high energy to achieve prime preparation. All of your efforts will come to naught if you are not physically prepared (e.g., rested, relaxed, well nourished) to execute the purpose you have identified. When you have awareness and control of your energy, you enable your mind and body to direct all of its efforts toward your defined purpose.

Seventh Law: However you perform in your day-to-day work is how you will perform in Prime Time. When most people think of the best athletes (e.g., Peyton Manning, Serena Williams, Michael Phelps), they often believe that what makes them great is their ability to rise to the occasion in Prime Time. But what really makes them so successful is that what they do in Prime Time is really no different than what they do every day in their training. The same holds true in the business world. Your daily work efforts should be imbued with the same drive, intensity, and focus that you will need to tap into in Prime Time.

Eighth Law: Preparation is about the Grind. To be your best, you have to put a lot of time and effort into your preparations. I call this the Grind, which involves having to put hours upon hours of time into your work, well beyond the point that it is fun and engaging. If you let these immediate negative aspects of your work override your long-term goals of performing your best and achieving your goals, your motivation is going to suffer and you’re not going to be as prepared as you can be and you won’t perform at your highest level in Prime Time. Most businesspeople when they experience the Grind, that is, they get tired, frustrated, or bored, they either ease up or give up, all of which will hurt their preparations. What makes the great ones great is that they understand it is what happens when they arrive at the Grind that separates them from everyone else. When they hit the Grind, they push harder.

Ninth Law: Prime Preparation comes from “one more thing, one more time.” You can assume that most of your competitors are working hard to become the best they can be. If you want to prevail over them, you must ask yourself, “What can I do to get the edge over them?” Here is a simple rule I learned from Bernhard Russi, the 1972 Olympic downhill skiing champion: “One more thing, one more time.” When you feel you have done enough, do just a little bit more. By doing one more thing, one more time, you are doing that little bit extra that will prepare you for Prime Time and separate you from your competitors.

Tenth Law: All preparation is directed toward preparing you to perform your best in Prime Time. Anyone can perform well in unimportant situations, under ideal conditions, when they are totally “on their game.” What makes the great ones great is their ability to perform their best when it really counts. Prime preparation will allow you to achieve Prime Business in Prime Time, your equivalent of the Super Bowl, Olympics, or soccer World Cup.


Interesting read on what it means to add your own personal touch 🙂

Article link here: http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/lifestyle/article/the-crazy-worth-it-wait-for-hot-dougs-ed-levine

The Crazy, Worth-It Wait for Hot Doug’s

Sep 03, 2010

“One of the curses and blessings of naming a place after yourself is that I believe you have to be there,” says Doug Sohn, 48, owner of Hot Doug’s, the wildly popular Chicago “Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium.”

And Doug is there. Every day. He’s the embodiment of what I call the “owner-operated” restaurant. His presence, style, and sense of humor take the edge off of what would otherwise be a torturous wait — at least an hour on most days, and often 90 minutes or more — for some crazy good hot dogs and sausages.

Are the hot dogs and sausages worth it? Oh, yes, they are. The regular Chicago dogs are just really good Chicago hot dogs augmented by caramelized onions, an inspired addition to the Chicago hot dog condiment canon.

The Atomic Bomb is extremely spicy (courtesy of the habanero-jack cheese and the red pepper in the pork sausage). It was too hot for me, but hot-food freaks love it. And the (in)famous Foie Gras Dog, with creamy chunks of foie gras strewn on top, is actually a well thought-out and constructed (and obscenely rich) dish that happens to be in hot dog form.

But back to the line and the wait — and Doug. After 30 to 90 minutes, serious eaters get their first glimpse of Sohn, who is always there taking orders and money. Doug is the only one I have ever seen taking orders at Hot Doug’s, which is cool because he makes the whole experience personal and memorable.

Ask him if he’s Doug, he says, “and I’ll usually answer with some sassy remark.” Though what he thinks of as sassy is fairly tame. “I do my part to keep alive the Borscht Belt humor of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Norm Crosby, Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles. I make Cubs references and roller derby references.”

Doug is actually incredibly friendly and efficient, genuinely helpful, and manages to move the line along with humor and without being a jerk. When customers realize that he’s the Doug in Hot Doug’s, he says, they take his requests (such as the rule on not taking a table until after placing an order) with a little more weight than they would from a server there.

He says that his sense of humor helps diffuse any tension regarding crowd control or that might have built as customers wait. “I’m never going to be the best cook in Chicago,” he says, “but I can be the funniest, and it really means a lot to people that I’m there taking the time to deal with them one on one. If I can get you to smile, I feel I’ve done a lot already.”

“I want this to be a treat,” he says. “I don’t care if it’s fast food or 3-star dining. This should be a break from your day and something you enjoy.”

This attitude and personal touch helps, too, to help preempt negative reviews online.

“That’s not the main reason I do it, but, yeah, I’d say that once you’ve met someone and interacted with them, you’d be less likely to go online and trash them.”

But Doug says he rarely spends time online checking what people are saying about him. That’s surprising, given the fact that the Hot Doug’s Facebook page (with 10,000-plus followers) is updated regularly.

“That’s not me!” Doug says. “I don’t even know who does it. And at this point, I don’t want to know. It would spoil the surprise. I was a bit worried at first, but then I saw that they managed to sound a lot like me and, hey, if someone has the time, I’m happy to let them continue.”

It’s a testament to Doug’s charm that he’s managed to connect with people in such a way that someone would anonymously create and maintain this increasingly important marketing tool for him.

To me, that’s what eating at Hot Doug’s is all about—the vibe that Doug himself creates.

“From the Borscht Belt humor to the Cubs to roller derby, I like this stuff,” Doug says. “I simply made Hot Doug’s the kind of place I would want to go to. That’s all there is to it. There are six billion people out there. Even if you only capture a small percentage of them, you’ll be successful.”

Tags: chicago food, ed levine, hot dogs, hot dougs, serious eats

Excerpt from
Pulling Together….The 10 Rules for High Performance Teams,
by John Murphy

At the center of every high performance team is a common purpose – a mission that rises above and beyond each of the individual team members. To be successful, the team’s interests and needs come first. This requires “we-opic” vision (“What’s in it for we?”), a challenging step up from the common “me-opic” mind-set.

Effective team players understand that personal issues and personality differences are secondary to team demands. This does not mean abandoning who you are or giving up your individuality. On the contrary, it means sharing your unique strengths and differences to move the team forward. It is this “we-opic” focus and vision – this cooperation of collective capability – that empowers a team and generates synergy.

Cooperation means working together for mutual gain – sharing responsibility for success and failure and covering for one another on a moment’s notice. It does not mean competing with one another at the team’s expense, withholding important data or information to be “one up” on your peers, or submitting to “groupthink” by going along so as not to make waves. These are “rule breakers,” that are direct contradictions to the “team first” mind-set.

High performance teams recognize that it takes a joint effort to synergize, generating power above and beyond the collected individuals. It is with this spirit of cooperation that effective teams learn to capitalize on individual strengths and offset individual weaknesses, using diversity as an advantage.

Effective teams also understand the importance of establishing cooperative systems, structures, incentives and rewards. We get what we inspect, not what we expect. Think about it. Do you have team job descriptions, team performance reviews and team reward systems? Do you recognize people by pitting them against standards of excellence, or one another? What are you doing to cultivate a team-first, cooperative environment in this competitive, “me-opic” world?

To embrace the team-first rule, make sure your team purpose and priorities are clear. What is your overall mission? What is your game plan? What is expected of each team member? How can each member contribute most effectively? What constants will hold the team together? Then stop and ask yourself, are you putting the team first?

The 99 club !

The 99 Club
Once upon a time, there lived a King who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was neither happy nor content.

One day the King came upon a Servant who was singing happily while he worked. This fascinated the King; why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land,unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly Servant had so much  joy.

The King asked the Servant, “Why are you so happy?”

The Servant replied, “Your Majesty, I am nothing but a servant, but my family and I don’t need too much – just a Roof over our heads, clothes to wear and Food to fill our tummies.”

The King was not satisfied with that reply.

Later in the day, he sought the advice of his most trusted Advisor.

After hearing the King’s woes and the Servant’s story, the Advisor said, “Your Majesty, I believe that the servant has not been made part of The 99 Club.”

“The 99 Club? And what exactly is that?” the King inquired.

The Advisor replied, “Your Majesty, to truly know what The 99 Club is, we will have to place 99 Gold Coins in a bag and leave it at this Servant’s doorstep.”

When the servant saw the bag, he took it into his house. When he opened the bag, he let out a great shout of joy… so many Gold Coins!

He began to count them. After several counts, he was at  last convinced that there were 99 Coins. He wondered, “What could’ve happened to that last Gold Coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 Coins!”

He looked everywhere he could, but that final Coin was elusive.

Finally, exhausted, he decided that he was going to have to work harder than ever to earn that Gold Coin and complete his collection.

From that day onwards, the Servant’s life was changed. He was overworked, horribly grumpy, and castigated his family for not helping him make that100th Gold Coin. He stopped singing while he worked.

Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King was puzzled. When he sought his Advisor’s help, the Advisor said, “Your Majesty, the servant has now officially joined The 99 Club.”

He continued, “The 99 Club is a name given to those people who have enough to be happy but are never contented, because they’re always yearning and striving for that extra “1” telling to themselves: “Let me get that one final thing and then I will be happy for life.

“We can be happy, even with very little in our lives, but the minute we’re given something bigger and better, the Greed takes control of our life. We want even more & more! We loose our Sleep, our Happiness, we upset our near & dear ones, we hurt the people around us; all these as a price for our growing needs and never ending desires.

That’s what joining the 99 Club is all about.”

Hence, please ensure that under no circumstances do you ever join “THE 99 CLUB”, even if the membership is “FREE.”


Getting Your Life in Balance – For the Health of You and Your Company

Cameron Herold

May 27, 2010

Get a life.  Seriously. There is a Latin phrase I refer to often, Mens sana in corpore sano, which means “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.  Too many CEOs and entrepreneurs are completely out of balance.  Not only is it affecting their health, it’s also affecting their business and employees too.

Just today, a would-be entrepreneur told me he was working constantly and struggled to read books for fun. I threw down the gauntlet and told him he’d never be a successful entrepreneur until he figured out how to get a life.  I told him to read the book Endurance, the true-life account of Ernest Shackleton’s fateful voyage to the Antarctic.  And I told him not to contact me until he’d finished it.

I’m a big believer that focus on the “life” part provides a virtuous circle in which improving your quality of life will also improve you professionally.  That is to say, the best way to become a more productive worker is to focus more on the things outside of work that invigorate and recharge you.  This will positively impact the time you are spending at work.

I’m not an expert in work/life balance, but I’ve crashed twice, and hard.  Harder than I’d wish anyone else will.  Now I’ve learned how to get and keep a healthy business/life balance.  Here are my favorite tips:

1. Work hard, play hard. Sure, we’ve all heard this saying, but rarely do we live it.  Nowadays, people do a lot of hard work, but when it comes time to fulfilling the other end of the obligation, we give up, bringing our laptops, cell phones, and other “work” items into our “play time”. And from what I recall as a kid, playing hard didn’t include toting along our homework or in the modern world, our iPhone or BlackBerry. We just played – played until we dropped from laughing so hard. It’s time for us to return to that kind of play, not just for our individual sanity, but for the sake of those who care for you.

2. Build a support network. I’m not sure why it’s so common, but entrepreneurs tend to overwhelm themselves with guilt for not working around the clock.  Often our non-business owner friends’ wonder why we work so hard, or why we can’t ever “disconnect.”  Start spending time with them.  And disconnect when you’re with them too.

3. Don’t say it, do it. Stop saying you want to do things.  Stop saying you want to learn things.  Stop saying you want to try things.  Stop talking about your “bucket list” and start crossing things off of it.  I talked today via email with a friend in Boston, David Hauser. He’d just come back from a one-hour bike ride in the dead of winter with a fellow entrepreneur, Kris Kaplan.  David and Kris aren’t talking about it.  They’re doing it. Make a commitment to stop saying you’re going to do something and go ahead and do it.

4. Schedule family time. Put family time in your calendar first and schedule everything else around it.  I’ve always wanted to walk my kids to school.  So, I do.  Every day I have a standing appointment from 8:45am – 9:15am, when I can walk them to school.  I book breakfasts, meetings and calls around that time.  Sometimes, I need to use that spot. But, I’ll bet I walk my kids to school more often than you do.  And I’ll remember it more than the meeting I could have had.

5. Force people to go home. One of my favorite lines at the office used to be, “great day – take the rest of it off.’  I used to tease people with that and say it at 6 p.m. – I’d also say it to people at 10:30 a.m. and blow them away. Tell people to go home and relax once in a while.  We all know that as entrepreneurs we duck out of the office for our little stress breaks.  Let your team take some once in a while, too.

Cameron Herold is the founder of BackPocket COO, where he coaches CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?   He is speaker resource for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Young Presidents’ Organization, global networks of more than 24,000 business leaders in over 100 countries, and has spoken to entrepreneurs in 17 countries and in groups as large as 2,000 people.  His blog can be found at www.BackPocketCOO.com/blog.

Tags: cameron herold, career, entrepreneurs, life balance, stress

Article link here: http://scotteblin.typepad.com/blog/2010/09/what-we-can-learn-about-leadership-from-the-chilean-miners.html

What We Can Learn About Leadership from the Chilean Miners

Some days it seems like you have to look long and hard to find examples of inspirational leadership lessons in the news. Today was not one of those days. If you haven’t already done so, you must read the front page article by Alexei Barrionuevo in the New York Times on how the 33 Chilean miners trapped in the copper mine have organized themselves to survive. In an era where lots of people claim to be leaders but don’t deliver, here is a whole group of leaders doing what needs to be done to facilitate their own rescue.

You’ve probably heard the story by now, but, in case you haven’t, here’s the quick recap. The miners were trapped in a collapse a month ago. They were presumed dead for 17 days until rescue crews on the surface pulled back a drilling tube to find a plastic bag with a note in it that said, “We are fine in the refuge, the 33.”  Since then, rescuers have been able to send necessities and communicate with the miners through a very small shaft running into the half mile deep space. The miners know that it will be between two and four months before they can be dug out.

What they’ve done for themselves since the collapse has been both simple and astounding.  Simple because it makes so much sense.  Astounding because of the grace and discipline they’ve shown under pressure. Through multiple acts of leadership they have organized themselves to take care of their bodies, minds and spirits. The way they’ve done it is instructive and humbling for all of us leading in much less challenging situations.

Here’s some of what we can learn from the miners:

Leaders share the role: You might assume that the miners’ shift supervisor would take over the sole leadership role. Yes, Luis Urzua is organizing work assignments for the crew,  assisting with the plan to get out of the mine and ensuring that no one eats a meal until everyone’s food has been sent down the shaft. He has not, however, taken on every leadership responsibility for himself.  The oldest miner on the crew, Mario Gomez, has taken the leadership role of attending to the spiritual and mental health of the men. He is consulting with psychologists on the surface to monitor the psychic health of his comrades.  Yonny Barrios has taken the lead on ensuring the physical health of the crew by drawing on six months of nursing training he took 15 years ago. Barrios is administering tests and health screenings to his friends on behalf of the doctors monitoring the situation above ground. What a beautiful and impressive example these men are of leaders who share the work of leadership.

Leaders leverage their gifts:
Each of these three miners along with others on the crew are drawing on the gifts of their life experience and interests to ensure the well being of the unit. Someone I respect recently pointed out to me that you know you’re in the right leadership role when your heart and body and not just your head tell you it’s the right way for you to contribute. That’s more likely to happen when you’re leveraging your gifts. My guess is that Urzua, Gomez and Barrios feel that kind of alignment with the leadership roles they’ve assumed.

Leaders keep the whole person in mind:
Every organization has a bottom line. In the case of a mine rescue, the bottom line is getting the miners out alive. It’s one thing, though, to bring the men out in relatively good physical health. It’s another to bring them out with their mental, spiritual and emotional health intact. How fortunate they are to be led by men who recognize those needs and have organized everyone to consistently attend to them. What difference would it make to the health of our organizations and the people in them if every leader approached their work with such attention and care to the whole person? It’s pretty breathtaking to consider, isn’t it?

What’s inspired you about the Chilean miners, their families and the people working to rescue them?  What other leadership lessons can we learn from these brave and resourceful souls?


Good lessons to learn from this article J

Never Duck the Tough Questions


This interview with Dawn Lepore, chairwoman and chief executive of Drugstore.com, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant. Ms. Lepore is also a director of eBay and The New York Times Company.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

“You have to be transparent as a leader and you have to be willing to take criticism openly,” says Dawn Lepore, the chairwoman and C.E.O. of Drugstore.com. She is also a director of eBay and The New York Times Company.

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Q. Do you remember the first time you were somebody’s boss?

A. I was hired at Schwab in 1983 to be the manager of the information center. The person who wanted the job was way more technical than me, and that was the reason he didn’t get the job. He was in love with the technology — I wasn’t. He was not happy about having me come in over him. And he said, O.K., you’re so smart — let’s see you do it.

Those were the days when the computers were shipped in, and they were not all put together. So you’d get these little chips, and you have to put them in the motherboard. And so he said, “Well, there’s a shipment here for you.”

So I go to the dock and there are all these boxes with computers in them. I put together 30 computers. After the guy saw me do that, at least I had a little bit of his respect, and we went on to have an O.K. relationship.

Q. What was the lesson for you?

A. Every time you take on a new role, building credibility is incredibly important. I don’t think you do it by being smarter than everybody else or knowing more necessarily than everybody else. I think you do it by rolling up your sleeves, by showing commitment, by proving that you’re willing to learn, by asking for help.

All those things earn you credibility, especially if the people who work for you feel like you’re not going to sit back and take credit for what they do, and if they get a sense that you’re going to support them, help them grow.

Q. Other key moments like that?

A. My biggest promotion was moving into the head technology role at Schwab. It’s an important job at Schwab; it reports to the C.E.O. I was 39, and it was very unusual to be a woman running technology. I remember the person who promoted me said that he had several board members call him and say: “Why did you do that? That was a really dumb decision, putting a woman in charge of technology.”

Q. Just because you were a woman?

A. There were no women C.I.O.’s back then. And I don’t have an M.B.A.; I didn’t have a computer science degree. I have a music major. It’s a very unusual profile to be in that position. The reason I got the job was that I took on really tough assignments, things nobody wanted, things that people thought were kind of impossible or thankless tasks. So I proved that I could take on things I didn’t know, and learn. I was willing to take risks, and I’ve always been a good synthesizer. And I was good at building relationships across the company.

Q. So how did the transition go?

A. The first year or 18 months were rough. I found out later that people were calling me the Ice Queen. And I was devastated. But it’s because I felt like I had to be perfect — I couldn’t show any vulnerability.

I had a boss at the time who called me and said: “You know, I really believe in you. I gave you this job, I want you in this job, I really believe in you. You have to get better, though. You have to hire a coach, you have to improve, here are the things you have to do.”

But just having him tell me, I really believe in you, I want you in this job, it made me relax. It was like, O.K., I’m not going to get fired. He’s going to give me a chance to learn on the job and so now I’m going to be a little bit more open and be willing to ask for help.

Q. What other feedback did you get?

A. So, I’m incredibly intuitive. As the technology was evolving and the business was evolving, it was very intuitive to me what we needed to do. But I was not very good about putting that into words. And so people wanted to know, where are we going? And I was absolutely convinced that it was going to be fine and we were going to figure it out.

I’m very comfortable with ambiguity. But when you’re leading a large organization, people are not as comfortable with ambiguity and they want you to be clearer about what’s happening, where you’re taking them. So I had to get better at communicating what I was thinking.

We went through a big organizational change, too. We had to lay some people off, we changed the skills, we did a whole skills review because this was moving from old technology to new technology. And so the morale got pretty low. And I would have employee meetings, and they could give me questions anonymously, and I promised them I would read them and answer any question. And there were some pretty ugly questions, like, “Who do you think you are to lead?”

I read every one, and I answered every one, and I stood up in front of the whole group and I did it. So I think over time, they saw I wasn’t going away, I was going to stick, and then we started to get big wins. Getting some wins always helps you as a leader.

Q. That was a risky step to answer those anonymous questions.

A. I’ve always felt that you have to be transparent as a leader and that you have to be willing to take criticism openly. The worst thing you can do is have people with stuff on their minds that they won’t tell you. I think that’s the kiss of death as a leader. And if you’re leading an organization, you want people’s energy going into the competition, solving big problems; you don’t want it going to what’s bothering them inside.

And people make assumptions — they see little pieces of data and they put something together and they come up with one and one equals six. They don’t have the context. And nine times out of 10, if somebody asks you the question and you give them the context they say, “Oh, now I understand why you did what you did.”

Q. What were the most important leadership lessons for you?

A. My strong beliefs are about commitment, loyalty and taking on hard things. And I’m not quite sure where that came from. When I majored in music in college, I still remember people telling me I wasn’t really talented enough to major in music. But there was a piece of me that just felt like, if you tell me I can’t do something, that’s what I want to go do. And I had to work three times as hard as anybody else, and practice three times as long, just to be able to give the same recital that somebody else was able to give. It’s really important to me to take on things that I thought I couldn’t do and prove to myself and to others that I could do them.

Q. Any bosses you had who were big influences?

A. I had a very bad boss early in my career. She was older than I was. She’d started in the financial services industry and she’d had a very hard time, so I think that probably shaped her as a leader. She was very smart but had terrible communication skills. She did not make people feel valued or comfortable or like they were supported at all. And I remember what that felt like. And I thought, I’m never going to do that to people.

Q. How long did you work for her?

A. Many years. I almost left twice.

Q. What’s your advice to people stuck working for a bad boss?

A. Life is about trade-offs. And you have to be conscious of the trade-off you’re making. I felt there were enough other positives in the environment and enough opportunity that I stuck it out. But, you know, I was unhappy. I had to kind of just take a deep breath and say, O.K., I know this is going to end and I’m willing to put up with this.

But you can’t be a victim. If you let yourself become a victim, that’s the kiss of death. So you’ve got to feel, O.K., I am choosing to do this, and when I decide I can no longer do it, then I will take action. So I will not let myself be so belittled that I think I can’t do anything. If it starts undermining your confidence, then you have to leave, because then that seeps into everything you do.

Q. Who else influenced your leadership style?

A. When I became the C.I.O. at Schwab, I had the benefit of being able to interact with a lot of technology C.E.O.’s, because they would come to sell to me. So I got to meet with Scott McNealy, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, John Chambers and others. And I would always say to them, let’s talk about your product, but I’d really love to hear more about your company, your culture, your leadership. So I really picked their brains.

I learned something from every single one of them. And I’ve served on a bunch of different boards, and I’ve had an opportunity to just learn from the C.E.O. of the company as well as all the other board members.

Q. Let’s talk about hiring.

A. I’m a very intuitive interviewer, so I want to get to know people. I always ask them to tell me their background. I can read it on the résumé, but I always want them to describe their background to me, because it’s interesting to see what people choose to tell you about themselves, how they describe the moves they’ve made, the changes they’ve made.

I’m looking for intellect, I’m looking for experience level, I’m looking for cultural fit, which is hard to describe. It’s more of a soft thing. And then I am looking for this whole commitment thing. Are they willing to stick it out during hard things? How have they handled setbacks? How have they handled tough times? If you ask them about things they’re most proud of, are they things they’ve done themselves or are they things where they’ve helped a team do more than they ever thought they could?

Q. Anything unusual about the way you run meetings?

A. We have a little joke where I’ll tell people, a light bulb or a gun. A light bulb means this is just an idea I had, so think about it, see if you think it’s a good one. Either follow up or don’t, but it’s just an idea. A gun is, I want you to do this. People don’t always know if you mean something as just as an idea, or you want them to go do it.