14 Executives Share The Best Advice They Ever Got

September 25 2013, by Macquarie Technology Group | Category: Technology Group

news.com.au, 12 December 2012

“BE yourself” was the best advice Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric ever got.

“Get good or get out” are the words that stuck with business guru Peter Drucker throughout his career.

“Always do the best job you can do at whatever you’re assigned, even if you think it’s boring,” was the valuable advice given to Meg Whitman CEO of Hewlett Packard early in her career.

And when Richard Branson was thinking about setting up his own airline, Freddie Laker an aviator who started a low-cost airline in 1966 but was forced out of business by British Airways said to him: “You’ll never have the advertising power to outspend British Airways. You are going to have to get out there and use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive.” Branson went on to call one of his planes “Sir Freddie” in honour of the best advice he ever got.

Many executives make it to where they are because they took advice from people they trusted and admired. We asked some local executives what was the best advice they ever got.

1. Philip Cronin
General Manager, Intel Australia

Stay calm

“Of the many things I have learned over the years of running organisations, two stick with me and are necessarily analogous. The first was ‘stay calm’ much like the Kipling adage, ‘when all about you are losing their head’, I was lucky to work for a great CEO David Arnott who was the model of calm. He taught me that by staying calm, you get to see the real issue and can deal with any problem in a rationale manner, which makes it easier to solve. I use it continually and it has served me well. David also taught me the value of ‘consistency’ as a manager. This has an added benefit for staff in that they do not waste time second guessing your response or trying to work out how to tell you what they think you want to hear.”

2. Steve Rust
Managing Director, Panasonic

Listen more, talk less

“Early in my management career my CEO and boss at the time said to me: factor in the other side’s perspective, listen more and talk less, then be decisive, make the call and get on with it.”

3. David Tudehope
CEO, Macquarie Telecom

Be persistent and determined

“When I first started Macquarie Telecom 20 years ago, I came across this quote in the library that I put in my wallet for the first 5 years:
‘Nothing in this world can take the place of Persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan Press On has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.’
This quote, by US President Calvin Coolidge, resonated perfectly with the significant challenges I faced starting up a business with only personal savings, competing with a powerful Telstra monopoly (the ‘kid that inherited the world’) and a well-funded Optus (the ‘other kid with the billionaire parents’).

4. Gilman Wong
CEO of Sirtex Medical

Seek input from others

“I always seek input from others to get multiple points of reference, everyone has their views and opinions however I always focus on trying to get facts so I can make informed decisions. It is rare that one can get all the facts but by compiling adequate levels of input from others coupled with my own knowledge and intuition puts me in a much stronger position to hopefully make the ‘right’ decision. For these reasons I cannot pinpoint a specific piece of career advice. I clearly recall that as a young lad I had a dream of what I wanted to achieve in my business career. I received countless advice along the way for which I am eternally grateful and despite a few detours on the way I am pleased to so far have achieved most of what I had dreamt I would.”

Theresa Mason

Theresa Mason, Head of Sales and Marketing, Teachers Mutual Bank Source:

5. Theresa Mason
Head of Sales and Marketing, Teachers Mutual Bank

Rise above the ordinary

“Probably the best advice I ever got, was keep rising above the ordinary ; I won an award at the NSW Institute of Administration back in the 90’s and the trophy had a picture with a helicopter on it with the quotation ‘keep rising above the ordinary’. There have been countless times I’ve used that trophy as a prop when I am encouraging my direct reports to push the boundaries and strive for the best outcomes. I still look at those words for inspiration, or when the going gets tough for me. It’s a great leveller, and it gives me strength to navigate a better path.”
Theresa was named Financial Services Executive of the Year at the Executive of the Year Awards

6. Carl Rose,
Managing Director, Sony Australia & New Zealand
Get on with it

“When I was working in the UK, my boss and mentor shared some advice with me that has been critical for the fast-paced and dynamic industry I work in. He said: ‘Tough decisions don’t get any easier the longer you leave them so once you know what needs to be done, get on with it.'”

7. Mark Brayan,
CEO, Integrated Research Ltd
Be persistent and good manners go a long way

“I got some of the best advice from my parents. My Dad showed me how to think my way around a problem and that success takes persistence and hard work. Mum taught me the importance of honesty and integrity, and that good manners go a long way. I’ve been very fortunate to benefit from the advice of a number of people. I learned a lot about people and leadership when I worked for Andrew Banks at Concept and Talent2, especially about how to manage high performers. My current chairman, Steve Killelea, has taught me a lot about strategy. Steve is one of the best thinkers I know and I’ve been privileged to get his advice.”
Mark was named IT Executive of the Year at the Executive of the Year Awards.

Jeff Doyle

Adecco Group CEO Jeff Doyle says the best advice he ever got was to ‘do’ better than you ‘talk’. Picture: supplied Source:news.com.au

8. Jeff Doyle
CEO, Adecco Group Australia

Do better than you talk

“The best general manager of a business I ever worked with was an ex Rugby League front rower, Gary McDonnell. He highlighted to me early in my career that many people talk better than they do and promise but don’t deliver. Gary’s focus was always to do better than you talk. I’ve also strived to live and lead by this. Simple, not easy.”

9. Hakan Eriksson
CEO, Ericsson Australia and New Zealand
Lead through other leaders

“I had moved up in the Ericsson ranks, building my own unit, where I was involved in recruiting almost every employee. Leading an organisation of a few hundred I had a discussion with our Group CEO at the time, Kurt Hellstrom, who was leading 100,000 employees. He argued that our leadership challenges were not that different, we both had to lead through other leaders, and the important thing was to do that well, not to know everyone in your organisation and be involved in every detail. Shortly thereafter I was offered the position as CTO and Head of R&D, leading almost 20,000 engineers. I took the step from leading a few hundred to tens of thousands with more confidence thanks to that discussion with Kurt.”

10. Steve Bevington
Managing Director, Community Housing Group of Companies

Focus on the core goal

“The most important thing is to recognise the driving mission, the core goal, the central value proposition from which other activities can be built but should always support. Non-strategic diversification diverts energy and value from the organisation.”
Steve was winner of the Community Achievement Award of the Year at the Executive of the Year Awards.

11. Stephen Ellich
Executive General Manager and Director, Service Stream

Listen and engage directly

“’The number one reason that people leave a business is due to their boss and the number one reason people stay is also due to their boss’. This one sentence reinforced to me the significance of the manager relationship to employee retention. Thinking it through, the advice gave me the insight into a simple, but effective approach to employee retention … listening and engaging directly. In my business, people are the delivery mechanism, they are the interface with the client and they are the way that revenue gets generated. So without effective and engaged people the business cannot realise its full potential. So over the past few years, taking this advice on board I have instituted regular one-on-one, agenda free meetings, called ‘catch-ups’, with my staff at all levels. The purpose of the ‘catch-up’ is to give each team member the opportunity to engage directly with the business leader and to talk about the things that matter to them. I have found this approach to be very powerful and highly beneficial to both parties.”
Stephen Ellich won Executive of the Year at the Executive of the Year awards

12. Tim Tape
State Manager, Watpac Construction Ltd

Go above and beyond

“If you think you have gone above and beyond the call of duty – think about who’s perspective you are looking at it from. As long as you are being successful in your role, anything above and beyond is just a factor in why you may be successful – not a measure,”
Tim was name Construction Executive of the Year at the Executive of the Year Awards.

13. John Delano
CEO, Flexigroup

Hire only the best and women rule

“My best advice came from a Tom Peters event in Sydney about 10 years ago. While many of Tom’s messages had a profound impact on how I think about business, what stood out for me were the following points he delivered about talent:
‘Only the Best: Some people are better than others. Some people are a helluva lot better than others…hire only the best; Women Rule: Women are born to lead. New studies find that female managers outshine their counterparts in almost every measure; Hire Diversity: Where do new ideas come from? That’s simple. From differences. The best way to maximise differences is to mix ages, culture, and disciplines – Nicholas Negroponte; The pursuit of top talent should be all consuming … 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, 53 weeks per year. Leaders of great groups love talent and will go anywhere to find it; Fork Over: Pay up…top performing companies are two to four times more likely than the rest to pay what it takes to prevent losing top performers.'”

14. Duncan Bennet
Managing Director, VMware

Do something you love

“The best advice I ever got was from my Father, written in a note sent to me on the day I graduated from University that said: ‘Son, Congratulations on finishing your education and joining the workforce. Whatever it is you choose to do from here, remember above all else, do something that you love and are truly passionate about, because you’ll be doing it for the next 40 years.’ He was right.”