Benefits & Continuing Education

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George David-UTC
17 Keys to the Corporate Lock

Based upon the remarks of George David, CEO of United Technologies, at the Yale School of Engineering on October 22, 1996.

  1. Complete staff work. When you write somebody a memorandum or make a presentation, do not ever let a question get begged that is not answered. You cannot do complete enough staff work.
  2. Relationships always. The reason you care about relationships is because you accomplish things in your life with and through other people. A little diplomacy and finesse in your relationships counts a huge amount.
  3. Relentless constancy of purpose. You get this out of having your own principles and values and beliefs and acting on them. With some people, you know exactly where they are going to be on an issue. With others, they are all over the place. The difference between them is principles. You want what John Adams called "Ambition of the laudable kind: ambition to excel. Not to be first or rich or powerful or famous. To excel."
  4. Clarity and brevity in everything you do. Write by the word, not by the pound. You cannot make it short enough.
  5. Be a high energy person. Energy is a scarce resource in the world, so examine yourself and ask if you have the energy level to compete. You can develop guidance, but you are born with energy. The author David McCullough noted that "ease and joy are not synonymous." It takes a lot of work to succeed, and yet it can bring you great joy.
  6. Provide solutions, not problems. Don’t delegate upward. People are dying to put stuff in my office so I can tell them what to do. I’m too busy, so please provide solutions, not problems.
  7. Always hire people that are better than you are. It’s the only way you’ll ever get to have time for the golf course, and yet most people will not hire people stronger and better than they are.
  8. Content, content, content. You should always have an agenda whenever you go to a meeting. You have to know what you want to accomplish. Think about it ahead of time and be prepared.
  9. Work downward, not upward. Some people have the sense that they can politic their way into the executive suite, so they’re always looking upward. That’s the wrong way to be looking. Senior executives actually have eyeballs and look at people all the time and what we like to see are the backs of people’s heads who are focusing on the job at hand.


  1. Don’t escalate. Young people have this binary, fight or flight view of the world. It never works. Learn the first lesson of diplomacy and, in the face of conflict, just back up. Don’t give up, but don’t ever let people put a glove on you.
  2. Don’t optimize around the short term. People get preoccupied with and worry about the work piece that is right in front of them, and so try to optimize everything for that work piece. Don’t do that. Always look at the horizon. Look past the immediate problem and start optimizing around the long term.
  3. Don’t confuse your income or your net worth or your stock price with your real worth. These things can dull you into false conclusions. You are what you are.
  4. Don’t forget gravity and other intergalactic forces. You get moved around by huge forces in life. I actually got promoted several times in my career by forces that were vastly beyond my control. People thought I was a genius. But don’t forget gravity either. If things feel like they are too good for too long, you’d better start looking behind you.
  5. Don’t ever compromise your ideals. Lots of young people have a cynical viewpoint about corporate America. I will simply tell you this: that view is largely, flatly wrong. The bad things that have happened, even in our own company, are not endemic. They are really truly very isolated and it’s because people largely don’t compromise their ideals. You should never compromise yours.
  6. Don’t change employers. At least, not often. When I look at a resume, one of the first bad flags is when I see five or six employers. I’m not interested in people that are not constant. I like momentum with a single employer or two.
  7. Don’t work the proximity theory of success. Some people feel if they are physically near the center of power, something good will happen. It doesn’t work that way, at least not with me. We care about people who have their heads down to perform the job and get it done because that’s the scarce resource.
  8. Don’t ever threaten people. There is a difference between a threat, which is something you may not intend to carry out, and a hard decision, which you do carry out. Don’t make idle threats, and the corollary argument is don’t enter a negotiation without knowing 100% where you will stop. Have a bottom line, and know when to put the auction paddle down and walk out of the room.

Two basics

  1. The scarce executive resource is time. Find ways to relieve executives of time obligations.
  2. There are many more opportunities in corporations than there is talent, not the reverse. With talent and application and work, you will find yourself sucked up the executive ladder faster than you have the slightest idea.
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