“Go Home and Kick the Dog”

In an interview conducted by Professor Donald Vredenburgh, David B. Henry gave us his career advice and expert opinions on leadership, management, and organizational change. He is President, Vice Chairman and CEO of Kimco Realty Corporation, with local partners in Chile, Peru, and Brazil. Contrary to the typical idea of having a plan and mapping out our career paths and goals, he actually pointed out that more often than we think, we will stumble into our professions. In addition to this, he offered three key pieces of advice: 

1. Like what you do

2. Be fairly compensated

3. Be sure it’s meaningful for you to be at your job

Also, it’s important that you have a tendency to move around as it’s no longer the case that you stay at a single job for 30-40 years anymore. I remember hearing or reading somewhere that by our mid to late 20s we’ll already be on our 9th job or so. 

However, he did stress the importance of personality—regardless of smarts, nobody likes a grumpy person. Be sure to exude positive emotions, whether in an interview, at networking events, or at your day-to-day job. It really does make a difference. Cheerfulness is key; don’t sweat the small stuff.

In other words, don’t turn into this:

But the most important advice he offered was this—remember, don’t get frustrated and “go home and kick the dog”.

I don’t think fluffy would like that too much…

Some of the questions he was asked are found below along with his answers:

*What should organizations do to encourage leadership?

                Ultimately, organizations should recognize individual efforts and successes. For example, this can be done in a number of ways, some of which may include e-mails, handwritten notes (which are more personal and effective, and they motivate employees more), or something like “employee of the month” which is much more bureaucratic and loses its meaning. From the organization’s point of view, they still fear losing their best people to competitors as employees move around more these days.

                I feel personal recognition is extremely important to an employee’s perception of the organization. It makes them feel as though their work is not only important and meaningful, but that someone recognizes it.

*What are some of the challenges and rewards you have experienced with Kimco?               

I’m not really sure he answered the question at all, but I do have a laundry list of a wide-range of industries that make up Kimco’s diverse properties:

                                -nursing homes/assisted living

                                -Extended Stay hotels

                                -parking garages

                                -self-storage

                                -shopping centers

*What can employees in lower-level positions do to show leadership skills: 

                Here he actually offered the same “advice” or commentary as he did on leadership and management. He did add, however, to be sure that you like the industry and job function. Don’t settle. Go try something else if that’s the case. If you’re going to be doing this day in and day out, you better be sure you have some interest in it and that you like what you’re doing because it’s not going to get any better. He also reminded us that we will not walk in as CEOs, and so we must be sure to “pay our dues”. Kiss goodbye the long imagined dream of a 9am-5pm job in New York City, ‘cause it’s not happening. Lastly, management must like and respect you. Be observant and self-aware, and pick up on these signals. He or she is probably not going to tell you straight out, “your work is horrendous, your presentations are egregious, and your coffee-making ability is offensive”.  Let’s be real—you can’t expect to work for a boss that can’t stand you for very long. And he or she won’t be the one getting fired. It’s inevitable that the two of you will bump heads and this will only be the start of a plethora of problems.

*What can organizations do to increase ethical practices? 

                Apparently all this talk about being “green” is just a buzzword—malarkey, pansy talk, a huge load. But don’t tell a tree hugger this unless you want to be beaten with a plastic biodegradable bottle made from 100% recyclable material. But let’s think about this again as Jack Welch, CEO of GE takes off in his corporate jet…

                Organizations can implement a code of ethics and provide for an ethics hotline. The most important thing you can do is to hire and keep the people with the highest integrity and ethical standards. But his best advice he had to offer on ethical practice was this: you do what you can; you do the best you can.

*How do you manage change?

                “Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth”, said the great philosopher Mike Tyson. But when everyone’s screaming for you to do something, that’s probably the best time to not do anything, according to Mr. Henry. In times of great change it’s important to re-invent yourself. For example, as Kimco’s shopping centers are growing at a much slower rate than e-commerce sites, it’s important to change perspective and invest in stores for services that can’t be done over the internet, such as barber shops.

*What advice do you have to offer regarding career issues and the current state of the job market?

                It’s all about networking and who you know. Get in and meet someone. Nepotism is very active—it’s how the world works, as Mr. Henry put it. (So am I S.O.L. if none of my family members work in the industry I’m interested in??) Maybe not, but surely, according to Mr. Henry, if I talk too much during an interview, I surely won’t get the position. So, be charismatic, show what you have to offer, be friendly, but don’t take over the show.

*Work-life Balance

                 Mr. Henry said it bluntly—companies are not very sympathetic to ensure a work-life balance for their employees. In fact, it’s a personal issue—it’s not the company’s responsibility. This also depends on the job culture. In banks for example you’re actually required to take off a week or two—not because the bank cares about giving you time off, but as a form of checks and balances. They want to know that the work is conducted in the same way as when you’re the one doing it or not. Next time you go on vacation for 2 weeks and you don’t have a job when you come back, you’ll know why.

From a guy that openly expresses that his company partakes in nepotism during the hiring process, I couldn’t have expected too much more.

All in all it was “ok”–but maybe next time we could get some speakers that offer us something a bit more promising.

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