Excerpt: Introduction

Liston Street in Buffalo, New York, was not known as being part of the richest of neighborhoods, but it’s where I grew up. I was never much of a student in high school; frankly, I couldn’t sit still for more than 10 minutes without getting antsy. As a kid, I was good at sports, but my primary interest was flying airplanes. By the time I was 19 years old, I had a commercial pilot’s license.

In 1966, after two years of college, I dropped out and joined the army. After the army, I was on track to become an airline pilot until I found out the pay for starting pilots was only $350 a month. One of my flying buddies suggested I might be able to land a better-paying job in the “business world.” I thought it was a pretty dumb idea, but what was there to lose? So on a whim, I walked up and down Main Street in Buffalo one rainy June day in 1968 and filled out job applications at several banks, the water company, the gas company, and the telephone company. New York Telephone offered me a job a few days later at almost twice the pay I would have made as a pilot. (Incidentally, working a regular day job gave me the opportunity to finish college at night, which I did 10 years after I took my first course.)

Forty-one years later, I retired as president and COO of one of the largest telecommunications firms in the world, with operating revenues totaling over $107 billion. Throughout my career, I wore many hats, from telephone installer to salesperson to CEO. I can honestly say that I learned something from every position. At each job I encountered different challenges, with new people and new managers.

Over the years, I sorted my good experiences from the bad ones and came up with the management philosophy that is detailed in this book. You will find much of what is presented here to be contrary to what is taught in business schools and management seminars, or even what you may have learned on the job. What you will read in these pages, however, are field-tested concepts that produce results.

My coauthor is Frank Swiatek. Frank is a performance consultant and speaker who helps managers and organizations improve their results. He has led over 3,400 speaking engagements and seminars throughout the United States and Canada and has worked for more than 25 Fortune 500 companies, including Verizon Wireless. Frank and I are both graduates of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.

Two months after I retired, Frank sent me an e-mail asking how I was doing. I told him that I was learning how to teach people to fly, which I had always wanted to do, and I was also learning to fly a helicopter, something which I said I would never do. He concluded his e-mail reply by asking if I had ever considered writing a book. I said that I had, and after further discussion, we decided to collaborate.

To tell you the truth, I am not a big fan of consultants. In fact, I have terminated many of them in my career. However, I have always been impressed by how effectively Frank’s sessions were aligned with Verizon Wireless and with my thoughts and values as a manager. He has conducted sessions for the company in the areas of improving accountability, commitment, respect, and trust for both managers and employees—all of which are major subjects in this book.

Throughout these pages, you will find that we use numerous reallife examples to reinforce and drive home the concepts we present. I will use Frank’s name to identify his stories and examples. Occasionally, you’ll find us speaking together as “we” to describe a point or sentiment that we both share.

When Frank and I first talked about writing this book, we decided we wanted to do something different from what authors of business books have done in the past. We have each spent over 40 years working with managers, and we’ve seen plenty of successful ones in action.  All too often, we’ve also seen managers fail, and we have each drawn conclusions about why they have done so. Our goal is to share as much knowledge with you as we can from our combined experience to help you be an effective and successful manager.