Bill, this is always a highlight for me. I appreciate you making the time.
It’s my pleasure. I’m a big fan of what you do. I’m really pleased to be having some fun with you here.
To me, this is as much about the contribution that Bill Taylor has made and continues to make to the world, as much as it is about the amazing people that you have had the opportunity to profile. Something jumped out of me as I was halfway through the book. I think it was around your mention of our mutual friend, Daniel Pink’s mention of Clare Booth’s advice to President Kennedy.
She said “A great man is one sentence”. I thought it might be fun to start by asking you about Bill Taylor’s one sentence?
No one’s ever asked me that before. I suppose I should have anticipated that and come up with a great answer. Let me do one on the fly. It may have to be a compound sentence because I’m a writer and an editor so I’ll try to edit myself on the fly.
What I have always done is to try to persuade people that you can create tremendous economic value in the marketplace by building organizations and conducting yourself in ways that are in sync with the human and humane values in which you believe. That the most effective way to compete and win is to take the high road in business and to build organizations around important and compelling ideas; and trust that if you do the right thing as a leader and as an organization, good things in terms of dollars and cents and shareholder value and numbers will follow.
I think that’s a great sentence. What is it that keeps you inspired everyday to continually pursue what the greats are doing?
What’s so fun and energizing about what I do is that — truly, my job is to travel around the world and meet and spend time with incredible organizations and incredibly smart and committed leaders who are doing work they love, building — I would say company except in this case, I also spend a lot of time in the public sector or non-profit as well as plenty of for-profit companies — building organizations that bring a set of ideas and values to life and filling those organizations with people at every level who really have a sense of mission and a sense of cause.
Most people spend so much of their time kind of trapped inside mediocre organizations filled with people who aren’t particularly excited about coming to work. Somehow, what I have managed to do is concoct a life for myself where I’m just always on the prowl looking for the best of the best in organizations that are winning big and embracing change and really kind of believe that sometimes in ways that are big, most of the time in ways kind of small but not trivial that are having a positive impact on the world.
That is just incredibly energizing for me. I feed off their energy. I feed off their ideas. And then what I try to do is understand and tease out, as best as I can the ideas these organizations stand for. Try to tell fun and entertaining stories that persuade leaders and people in other organizations that we don’t have to be unhappy at work. We don’t have to be unclear about why we’re doing what we’re doing; if there is just a better way to compete, to lead, to work, to innovate, to win.
I let other people do the hard work of actually inventing these organizations. I get to go out and find them, interpret them and then try to persuade other people that the ideas that I’m teasing out are ideas that might help them as well.