Sunday, March 26, 2006

CEO Calendar Vertigo

Just finished reading a Financial Times interview with Merck's CEO Dick Clark. It is worth repeating below because this is not the first time I have heard a CEO talk about underestimating the demands on his or her schedule. Wal-Mart's CEO Lee Scott had similar thoughts:“The biggest mistake I made was not controlling my schedule. I was not prepared for the demands of my time -- internally and externally…I have to make sure I am in the stores and that I understand what is going on with the business.” My real sense is that CEOs get vertigo looking at their calendars.

"FT: Can you describe how your day has changed since you’ve become CEO?

DC: That’s a great question. The variety of activities you do in any one given day are just incredible. They go from very strategic, to interface with investors, to meeting with employees. You have much more visibility inside and outside the company, so the variety is just incredible in the different types of experiences you have.

And the thing that’s probably the most difficult for me right now is to balance the demands on my schedule. Not internally as much as the demands that are being asked of me externally. I made a commitment when I took this position that I was going to spend a tremendous amount of my time, a majority of my time, internally running the company, getting the strategy in place, making sure we’re doing it right – before I decided to have this external exposure.

Whether they are different associations and boards or government officials, I underestimated ten-fold the external demand that is placed on a CEO

FT: By how much?

DC: 10-times, 10-fold. I had no idea the impact it would have. And there tough decisions, where the President of the United States, of the UN secretary general or this particular congressman or senator; you’ve got to attend these two board meetings and the council of competitiveness, and on and on and on. Which are important decision for the company as well, to represent the company and you help whoever’s asking you to provide input.

But at the same time you have to balance that. Your mission in life is to your stockholders, your employees and your patients. And getting that right is something I’m still working on."


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