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I bought a Harvard Business Review the other day, and read an interview with Bruce Wasserstein, who has been described in a different article as the most brilliant strategist by a guy who does global lawyering for mergers and acquisitions.

Does he deserve that title?

Under Mr. Wasserstein's watch, Lazard, which ranked 11th in completed global M&A transactions last year, has become a public company and thrived. While other banks unraveled amid the deepening credit crisis at the end of last year, Lazard's solid M&A record - and its lack of mortgage-related meltdowns - has made it "a darling of Wall Street analysts," Mr. Greenfeld says.
Nice feat.

Back to the HBR article, Wasserstein gives insight on how he hires and retains:

You attract the people your system invites. If you create a bureaucratic system and have meetings every day at 8:00 AM and send a report card in at the end of the day, you may think, intuitively, that's good management. That works for some companies. But if I did that, I'd lose my best people - the people I want. We sacrifice some degree of efficiency by deliberately having a somewhat less centrally managed culture.

We have and want to attract a network of stars - people who communicate and cooperate but are entrepreneurial and stand out as quality individuals, who are not the cogs in a corporate machine. Quality people must be managed with customized approaches. The idea is to create a hothouse where young talent is nourished by our culture and people are encouraged to think creatively, think deeply, think about the long-term client relationship - but above all, I want them to reflect on what they are doing and why, and then wonder, "Can we do it better?"

Management's role is to help them. It's an iterative process. Create an atmosphere where we can all teach one another and stimulate the imgination. Ideas are not hierarchical - they come from all levels - so allowing the talent of younger people to bubble up is our imperative. Our model also requires that senior managers lead by example - they are all "doers."

It's a good line worth considering... "You attract the people your system invites." Think about this on a more micro level...

I know some artist-types who are amazing and breathtaking people. Personally, I love them. But their system - the environment and methods they create around them in which to do business - make it impossible to business. Because they are messy personally - which is cool in a remote and observational way - they attract others comfortable with that system. And those people tend to be scattered and loose, shooting from the hip and winging it with bravado. Most of them struggle to "make it." They lack structure.

I also know some people who are wired in the most anal retentive ways, insisting on a rigid way of doing things, and wanting others around them to comform and getting irritated when they don't. Their system, boxed-in and immaculate, works on formula. And the minute that life doesn't comply with their formula, they seem to work harder to put things back in the way that they understand them (wasted energy on things they generally can't control) than they do on adapting to a new world.

What's your personal "system?" How does it affect those around you? How does it impact your success?

Now take this to a macro level... if you own or run a business, or manage a section of a business, what types of employees do you want? Do you want cogs in the wheel, professional burger-flippers who act according to the manual and job description? Do you want people who can run with little or no push from you? Do you want those who can act as Wasserstein wants his people to act, stars "who communicate and cooperate but are entrepreneurial and stand out as quality individuals?"

Personally or professionally, how is your system designed to invite those you seek?


by Brett Rogers, 1/19/2008 2:58:57 PM


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