Recently, I was asked to interview two candidates for a position as a tradeshow conference manager. The staff had already met with both people and now wanted an outside and perhaps more penetrating appraisal.
It had been so long since I had done any interviewing. I’m not sure how penetrating – or even cogent – my skills were. I tried to prepare as best I could, trying to remember what I used to do in interviews.
During this process I was reminded of an interview incident early in my own career: I was in Phoenix working for KTAR-TV, the local NBC affiliate, as a sales executive when I got a call from my former boss at the Electric League of Arizona. He told me he had been contacted by a management consultant who had been retained by the Electric League of Southern California to find candidates for their executive vice-president position. He told them he wasn’t interested in moving to Los Angeles, but they should talk to me.
The consultant called. I sent him a resume and subsequently had an interview with him. When one of the association principles was attending a meeting in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to meet with him as well.
The next step was a visit to Los Angeles and a meeting with the Electric League’s executive committee. Everything seemed to be okay; and then I didn’t hear anything for a while. Growing a little impatient, I called the management consultant and told him that if they were interested in me I would need to make a decision in the next month.
He got back to me in a week or so and asked if I could come back to Los Angeles for another interview. “Sure,” I said, and we set a date. Two days before the meeting I got a call from the consultant to ask if I could meet him at the Phoenix Airport the next day while he was changing planes on his way to Tucson and could I also bring my wife.
I didn’t understand the wife part, but figured I would go along. So we went to the airport the next day and waited. The plane from Los Angeles was late and all we had time to do was walk from one gate to the next. He never did talk to my wife and told me that I should dress conservatively, maybe get a haircut and be prepared for a tough interview. They were bringing in someone who would press me hard on a number of issues.
This seemed a little peculiar. It was now 5 p.m. and there was no time for a haircut, even if I thought I needed one. I picked out the loudest madress sports jacket I had to wear and was ready to go.
The interview started in the usual manner; and after the introductions, the president turned it over to Bob Bratton, who apparently was the “hammer. His interrogation went on for 45 minutes or so.
I tried answering his questions as best I could. He was aggressive and a little brusque. Sometimes he interrupted me and his manner was beginning to get under my skin.
Everyone else in the room appeared to be getting a little uncomfortable as well. Then he hit me: “Okay,” he said. “What is your definition of management”? Wow, now we were getting academic. I took a deep breath, realized I didn’t have an intelligent response and was about to tell him and the committee in the most measured tone I could muster that I didn’t think that this was going anywhere.
The association principal I had met with in Phoenix, perhaps sensing my irritation, interrupted and said, “I think we have all the information we need.” Fortunately, everyone agreed, especially me.
Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue about a definition of management. Fortunately, I was saved by the man who became my mentor, Ed Myers.
The committee asked me to step outside; and about 15 minutes later they called me back in and offered me the position. We chatted, and I agreed to give them a decision within three days. I spent the next day-and-a-half visiting with several members of the executive committee and then returned to Phoenix to consult with my wife and my former boss, Dick Reucker.
I couldn’t wait to see Dick and ask him for a definition of management. Without blinking an eye, and looking at me with a certain amount of disbelief, he said, “That’s simple; management is planning, execution and control.”
I never forgot Bob Bratton’s question or Dick Reucker’s simple answer. My only regret was I never got to know Bob Bratton. He was promoted and transferred back to his company’s corporate staff before I moved to Los Angeles.
I stayed with the association as executive vice president; and it was my first client when I started my association management company. My stay there was more than 10 years. I never forgot that definition and have probably used it 100 times.
What is your definition of management?