[Tips from a CEO] 3 Things You Can Learn from Nancy McKinstry

There’s a brief Q & A interview with the CEO of Dutch-based firm Wolters Kluwer in the Sunday, December 13, 2009 New York Times. While the title is Managing Globally, And Locally, the insights are more than that: there are rather three other key management lessons that any aspiring senior exec should take to heart.

What are they?

1. CEO McKinstry speaks to the importance the impact of tone (my word) she sets from the top. The question asked of her “What surprised you about the top job?” elicited her observation that as a senior exec “Everything you do is evaluated.” She goes on to recount the fact that things like the clothes she wore, and what her expense reports looked like was part of the regular conversation of the firm. Lots of senior execs don’t get it that it’s not only the big things that count but also the little things like saying hello to the receptionist, and picking up paper when the miss the trash bin in their office that are important.

Those big and little things become part of the lore and conversation when people talk about you, and how your “brand” gets interpreted as an exec.

2. She talks about the importance of setting clear expectations and goals. Her phrase? “Results matter.”  That while process and participation are important, it’s where you end up that gets valued in business. Years ago a direct report of mine asked me what the reward was if we made budget. My answer – you get to keep your job – seemed to be a surprise. But it’s a focus on those type results which help shape a performance culture.

3. McInstry values perseverance – the ability to keep trying despite obstacles – as a key factor in hiring people. As noted here and here, people who have what’s called by Carol Dweck a “growth mindset” will outperform those who don’t over the mid to long haul. The ability to persevere and keep trying is what’s critical in having that type of mindset.

Managing globally is in part about being sensitive and aware of local cultures. It’s also about being at your core a good manager. From this article, it sound like Nancy McKinstry has those talents.