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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


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"If you do the right thing, money happens to you." - Tom Mendoza

It was supposed to be a standard event photo shoot but the 45-minutes that I spent documenting Tom Mendoza's talk at USF's Stavros Center in 2009 was revelatory. Mendoza is the vice-chairman of NetApp, the technology company responsible for the server storage used by companies like Apple, Blackberry and Yahoo. He is frequently credited with instilling the culture that has led NetApp to be ranked the #1 company to work for by Fortune Magazine in 2009.

I did my typical, non-intrusive photo documentation of the event but frequently stopped to listen and laugh at Mendoza's insights about his career in management. He was dynamic and positively inspirational and I soon adopted several of his techniques in running my own small business and living a meaningful balanced life.

I highly recommend sitting down and listening to the video but here are several principles from his talk that are worth noting:
  • The most important attribute by far is Attitude. "This is 100 percent in your power. Everyday you choose it," he says. "It isn't a constant but how you present yourself can be a constant. There is no upside to a bad attitude."
  • Candor is the the key to communication. "If you don't agree with me or don't like what I'm saying, I expect you tell me right now. The unacceptable thing is to go out in the hall and tell other people instead. That's not how to run a company."
  • Setting Expectations High Enough because most people set them too low. "Most high performance people have time-bound measureable goals. These are your own goals for driving your life."
To implement his goal system, Tom sets 90-day goals — three personal goals and three professional goals. All are measurable. They are written down in a personal book. The personal are kept private so, essentially, you are accountable only to yourself. For professional goals, he asks "how can I make an impact?" and these are shared with clients and customers to solicit feedback if he is on the right track.

In addition to writing down the goals, Tom puts one appointment in his calendar every day for himself. Writing it down is different than saying it. "You're in control. You're driving somewhere every 90 days. Every 90 days, change your goals or don't change them. You're aiming at them."

Here is a great interview with Mendoza by the Wall Street Journal and the link to the video of the talk appears online at iTunes U.

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