Bill Grove was a legend as a salesman at 3M. He used to tell his story in his motivational talks to the troops. “I was just starting out in sales when my boss called me in and said, ‘Bill, I want you to go to New Orleans and see our field man, Harry. You’ve never met anyone like him. He’s about 60 pounds overweight, his clothes look like a bulletin board of whatever he ate for lunch, he garbles his words, and he writes his orders on the back of a napkin.’
“So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go down there. What do you want me to do? Buy him a copy of Dress for Success? Put him on a diet? Fire him?’ “‘Hell, no. Find out what this guy is eating and make sure he gets all he wants. He’s our biggest producer. And while you’re down there, you’d better get some for yourself.'”
That story always worked. Maybe because it was so close to the Able Lincoln version: “But Mr. President, Grant drinks!” “Find out what his brand is and send him a case. I need him. He fights.”
Could a curmudgeon like Harry or a boozer like Grant be successful today? Of course. You see it all the time in sports. The basketball player who averages 20 points a game is on a longer leash than the backup guard. it isn’t fair, it isn’t right, but it’s the way of the world in a world where results often matter more than how you get them.
Mackay’s Moral: If you’re going to be different, you’d better produce. Most managers hate mavericks, but all managers love results.