The junior members of the organisation often ask me this: how do I become a corporate superstar like you? And I think: not by asking that question. For starters. But I don’t tell them that. I’m too successful to shoot them down like that. Only people who haven’t made it yet are entitled to be merciless. So I give them the one bit of advice that really matters. It’s served me well, anyway. If you want to be a big hitter, I say, with your own PA, a Porsche and all the women you can think of after you (and not just for your money either) it’s quite simple. Have meetings all the time. Make it so your Outlook calendar is filled up with meetings… for the next year. Meetings are easy. The more meetings you arrange the more meetings you get invited to. They’re like capital in this way; they grow, they beget meetings. You don’t even need to have anything to say. As long as it’s a meeting and people get invited to it, it has authority. You can even arrange meetings to discuss the arrangement of other meetings. And people will take you seriously. Outlook’s a marvel like that. It legitimises, raises up and empowers the profile of anyone savvy enough to exploit its calendar function. Let me just say this as well, I’m an honest person.
That’s all I want to say on that.
Back when I was a junior, my boss never saw me. He’d come looking for me to tell me off. My work was always bad. He’d stand at the front of the room, facing the grid of cubicles that reminded me of a CBD street map, and say: “Where’s McNamara?” And someone’d say, “He’s in a meeting.” That would do the trick. The next week, he’d come for me again (more shoddy work needing redress) and someone would say: “He’s in another meeting.” “He’s always in a meeting.” “Who, McNamara? Oh yeah sir. McNamara hasn’t been at his desk for weeks. You should see his calendar. Stacked full with meetings.” “But he’s a junior.” “Actually sir, he just got promoted.”
I got promoted while I was in a meeting that I’d arranged. The meeting was about how our organisation could come up with ways to come up with more ideas for meetings. The CEO was there. He wanted to know whose idea the meeting was. He thought it was such a strong move, a show of corporate initiative, that he had to meet me in the flesh. I was too busy though (I had the meeting to run) so we arranged to arrange a meeting for us to get to know each other. He called me the next day and said: “When are you free for our meeting?” “Not until March next year.” It was about that time I got my first bonus. It came in the mail. They didn’t want to risk handing it to me in person because the chances were I’d be incommunicado, in a meeting somewhere.
Now, all these years later, I run the company. And I see it with a 360 degree view. People think that the boss is too preoccupied with being the boss to notice the minutiae of a business, but that’s not true at all. From where I sit, I see everything. And everyone. And you know, it’s the people who keep themselves busy with meetings that rise the fastest. Now I’m not the kind of person to stymy someone’s success. If you’re a worthy candidate for higher echelons, by all means shoot for three points. But if you’re not attending meetings all day every day I have very little time for you (mainly because I’m in meetings). But even so. Get yourself booked into a meeting immediately. Use that meeting to get yourself on the invite list for all the other meetings that spin out from the first meeting. And if you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, let’s lock in a meeting and talk about the different ways we might meet with each other to work through this issue. I’m even willing to push back a meeting to fit you in.
Dominic Carew is a lawyer and writer from Sydney.