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!”