5 Classic Dumb Executive Moves

Last Updated Aug 15, 2009 7:18 PM EDT

Folks really seemed to get a lot out of 5 Classic Boardroom Mistakes, so I thought I'd up the ante with these idiotic executive moves. And you know what's really special about these particular mistakes? I made them.

That's right; you too can make idiotic mistakes and still become a successful executive. So why air my own dirty laundry? A few reasons:
  1. They're funny.
  2. It's cathartic for me and I think heartening for aspiring executives to know that successful ones do dumb things too.
  3. Why not? Besides, I did most of them early in my management career ... but not all of them!
5 Classic Dumb Executive Moves:
  • After National Semiconductor acquired Cyrix, National's CEO - Brian Halla - introduced me as the new VP of corporate marketing (same job I had at Cyrix) at a companywide quarterly meeting. It would have been a nice gesture -- had I actually been there. Not realizing what a big deal it was, I skipped the meeting to get some work done. Bad idea.
  • Way back when, before sexual harassment litigation was a big thing, after-hours at a tradeshow in Atlanta, I and a few other executives of a public company took a couple of our female employees - at their request, I may add - to a gentlemen's club. No harm was done and we all had a good time, but what the hell we were thinking?
  • As CEO of a startup during the tech bubble, while pitching a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist to raise some funds, I gripped a mechanical sample of a silicon device too tightly and it shattered in my hands. Reliability was supposed to be a key selling point of the technology. We didn't get the money.
  • Back in the day, before we used computers to give presentations, we used transparencies on overhead projectors. I was sitting in a relatively high-level customer meeting, waiting for the sales manager to finish his introductions, when I realized that I - the featured speaker - had forgotten to bring my transparencies. Talk about embarrassing.
  • Ten years ago, when you edited a file somebody sent you as a Lotus email attachment, forget to save it to a local disk and shut down your PC, you lost the changes. Well, I had worked on an important pitch for days, thinking I was saving it when I wasn't. When I rebooted my computer, I lost the entire pitch and had to stay up all night recreating it. Years later there was an episode of Friends where that happened to Ross.
Okay, I came clean; now it's your turn. What incredibly stupid things have you done at work? You even get to do it anonymously!

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