Cristóbal Conde Interview

The New York Times published an interview with Cristóbal Conde, president and C.E.O. of SunGard on 16 January 2010. The interview is about leadership and is well worth a read for anyone at any level (or desire) of leadership. I could point out many things that struck me, but using Conde’s concept of everything in threes, I’ll point out three.

  1. Threes: The idea behind this is you can give a list of things of people to do or priorities, but that doesn’t mean they can remember it all. Instead focus on a handful of things, which Conde translates into threes. For example when he does a review, he always points out three things that are going well, and three things that need improvement. Since everything knows he does this, they don’t take the three negatives as personal as the otherwise would.
  2. PowerPoint: Conde said he “actively despise[s] how people use PowerPoint as a crutch.” He instead believes people should write a proposal before the meeting and assume everyone has read it. One reason Conde doesn’t like PowerPoint is that “PowerPoint can be a way to cover up sloppy thinking, which makes it hard to differentiate between good ideas and bad ideas.” Added to this is the question if a meeting added value? If it is mostly a deck of PowerPoint slides, typically Conde believes “you conveyed information, but you didn’t actually add value.”
  3. Time Management: Conde said that one of the thing he tries to block off an hour and a half every day to” go somewhere that doesn’t have a PC or a phone” so he can think. He thinks many entry level people do not have enough to to think and are bombarding with information. I don’t know about others, but I certainly am. Since so much of my work is computer based, I doubt I can do this with 1.5 hours of my day, but I think I may try to build in some part of my day to do this. Even if it is just 30 minutes after I get my mid-morning coffee. This reminds me of something John Maeda said at TED 2007, “Vacation is the most important skill for any kind of over-achiever.”