As Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse addressed students on Sept. 27, one fact became increasingly clear: the man knows how to stand out.
Since joining Sprint five years ago, Hesse has been recognized as a wireless industry VIP by publications such as Laptop Magazine, which named him Most Influential Person in the Wireless Industry, and Fierce Wireless, which named him one of the best turn-around CEOs of all time, an honor also given to Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs.
He spoke on campus as part of the Undergraduate Business Council’s VIP Distinguished Speaker Series.
Since taking the helm at the end of 2007, Hesse has increased Sprint’s stock value by 140 percent, leading the company that he claims was just months away from bankruptcy to become the number one company in customer satisfaction.
Hesse shared his advice on how to stand out in the workplace:
1. Work hard
“In business, in school, in athletics, the person that usually wins and achieves is the person that worked and trained the hardest.”
2. Communicate well
“Communication skills are crucial. What got me noticed at AT&T in the early days…was my ability to write well and clearly. And, of course, being able to speak well. Communication skills are very important.”
3. Be a team player
“One of the reasons I got promoted so much is because the peers of my boss had heard about me and how much their people liked working with me, and I always tried to work hard with my peers. I think peer support meant a lot. A lot of the people that worked for me later in my career were people who were at one time peers.”
4. Accept that you might fail
“You have to be okay with failing from time to time. You have to work and make sure that as CEO you’re doing everything possible to make [an idea] successful, but you have to also know when it isn’t going to work and pull the plug.”
5. Be optimistic
“I look for a really positive and optimistic attitude. [People that stand out] look at the bright side and they can go get it done. As Dwight Eisenhower said, ‘A pessimist never won any awards.’ Right away, I can feel who has that and who doesn’t.”
6. Avoid arrogance
“For our interviewers and for me, what you want to avoid more than anything else is arrogance. That won’t fit inside the company or the corporate culture. A lot of students have to figure out that balance between telling your story and making sure we know how good you are without crossing that median, if you will, that goes into arrogance or pompousness.”
7. Do the right thing
“There are a lot of things that we say make us the good guy. At every meeting, for every decision, the last question is, ‘Are we doing the right thing?’ I think it matters to our employees and our customers because it’s good business…. it really is up to businesses and business leaders more than ever to do the right thing.”