After an embarrassing dressing-down by a powerful boss, some employees are shaken to the core. Scarred by the experience, they never recover.
Irwin Simon bounced back—and then some.
Simon, founder and CEO of Hain Celestial Group, has built the world’s largest natural foods company. But his career path wasn’t entirely smooth.
In an earlier job, he liked to ask his boss lots of questions—both in private and in front of groups. This didn’t sit well with his higher-up.
One day, his boss pulled Simon aside and said, “You’re asking too many questions, and you are perceived as smarter than me, and I’m the chairman. And you shouldn’t be perceived as smarter than me.”
Determined not to follow such a poor example of, Simon surrounds himself with a smart team. He’s not threatened by displays of their brilliance; in fact, he embraces their superior intelligence.
Reflecting on his corporate career, Simon learned the destructive nature of office politics.
“If you got behind the right people, you would do well,” he recalls. “And if you didn’t support certain people, you were off the team—your competency and loyalty didn’t matter.”
Simon strives to treat everyone equally. He’ll assess input—regardless of the messenger—on its own merits. From painful experience in his prior jobs, Simon has also learned to lead with consistency. If he says something, he stands by it.
“It’s not, ‘Monday I mean it, Tuesday I don’t,'” he says.
— Adapted from Quick and Nimble, Adam Bryant, Times Books.