The CEO Speaks Through A Megaphone – BizTimes Article by John Howman

We were about to lay off 20 percent of the team. We were losing money. I was close to being clinically depressed. While she never admitted it, I am quite sure my wife, Laura, was about ready to get rid of me as well.

Suffice to say, 1996 was not my best year. I really did think I was holding up pretty well. I made it to work every day. Then I went straight to my office, shut my door, and effectively shut out my team. I either blew off our meetings, or I attended them but was disengaged.

Then one day, my TEC chair, Jutta Parsons (one of best TEC chairs of all time), came in for our 1-2-1. The first words out of her mouth were, “John, what the hell is the matter with you? You’re destroying the culture in your own company. Don’t you realize the CEO speaks through a megaphone?” (Jutta was never known for beating around the bush.)

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“John, the minute you drive into the parking lot, you are ON STAGE. People are watching your body language, the words you use, even how you walk. Right now, when things are down, 80 percent of your job is about showing up. And not just walking in and closing your door. But showing up with a positive attitude and a vision for the future. If you can’t do that, you’re better off staying home!”

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‘Be bold, be brave, be strong and move forward!’

When Harry S. Dennis III walked into the room, more times than not, he was the smartest guy in that room. So it is with great sadness and a profound sense of loss that I inform BizTimes readers that Harry passed away on Sunday, April 27, 2014, from complications of pulmonary fibrosis.

One of Harry’s greatest loves and the legacy he leaves behind is TEC –The Executive Committee. Harry was hired as a TEC chairman in 1974 by TEC’s founder, Bob Nourse. It was then that Harry formed his first TEC Group – TEC IV – which remains in existence 40 years later.

“Harry was best known for his intellectual brilliance and superb business savvy. All of us…TEC staff and chairmen…loved Harry for his unwavering adherence to TEC’s values, his absolute fairness and his huge heart. He always treated us like family,” said Priscilla Kemp, who has succeeded Harry as president and CEO of TEC.

Harry began writing business insight columns for BizTimes and its predecessor, Small Business Times, long before I joined the company in 2002. Harry was a significant element of our company’s brand. I cannot count the times over the years that readers remarked to me about how much they learned from and respected Harry.

Once a year, Harry booked a prominent guest author or consultant to come to Milwaukee to share their wisdom and knowledge about business or leadership. However, I always learned more during the dinner with Harry on the night before than from any of the so-called hot-shot experts he brought to town.


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