November 22, 2009
68 Rules? No, Just 3 Are Enough
This interview with William D. Green, chairman and C.E.O. of
conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
Q. Tell me about important leadership lessons you’ve learned?
A. I’m a proud plumber’s son from Western Massachusetts. In my family,
working with tools is the highest honor. It isn’t how many degrees you have.
It’s what you can do. So that had a big impact on me. What that says is, it
doesn’t matter what you look like, what you talk like, where you went to
school, where you came from, any of that stuff. What matters is what you’re
Q. What else?
A. I was not a good student. I took what they call today a gap year, but back
then it was called “finding yourself.” I did one of those, and I finally found my
way into a two-year college. I went from an underperformer to a solid
performer, with a little inspiration from some professors. That had a profound
effect on me, to realize how much raw talent there is out there for us to
exploit, leverage, take advantage of, and how much talent there is that people
can give that organizations don’t mine, they don’t harvest, they don’t get the
best of, because of structure, because of strategy, because of rules.
Q. So how do you break through?
A. I once sat through a three-day training session in our company, and this was
for new managers, very capable people who were ready for a big step up. I