Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs
, phoned from Madrid a few weeks ago to share “The Best Advice I Ever Got.” This is the cover package in the current issue of Fortune. And you can read wisdom from Blankfein and lots of other power players —Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Google
CEO Eric Schmidt–in the issue and online.
Beyond Blankfein’s “Best Advice” that appears in the issue, he told me some best advice that he likes to pass on at Goldman Sachs–and I’ll share it with you here. Blankfein said that executives, on their way up, tend to forget that they become role models. “People’s sense of themselves is a lagging indicator,” he told me. He went on to say that he talks with folks at Goldman to make sure that they recognize the impressions they leave:
I ask our people, “When you were on the way up, who had the job that you have now and how did they respond to you? It’s shocking to think that people respond to me like I responded to [former Goldman Sachs CEO] John Weinberg. I don’t feel that way about myself.
I also say to people here, ‘Okay, take that person who was in your current position when you were growing up in the company. How often did you talk about that person to your spouse or your boyfriend or your girlfriend? A lot. Well, guess what. Those people who are subordinate to you—they’re talkin’ about you now. So whatever you did, however you behave—it may be over in your mind. But it’s not over in theirs. They’re still talking about you, saying, ‘He or she is unpleasant or thoughtless.’
Blankfein went on to say that this sort of self-awareness has been particularly important amidst the global economic crisis and backlash against Wall Street.
I tell people here, ‘We’re going to get through this crisis. However you perform now–well or badly–we’re going to get through it. But how you behave will affect your reputation for the rest of your career. Do you show courage or not? Do you act big or small? Are you a statesperson or are you selfish? Everybody’s going to notice and remember.”
Think about it: Who was in your job back when you were starting out? What did you think of that person? And what impression will you leave today?