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Michael Powell of the NCTA on How He Leads, Hires, and Measures Success


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Michael Powell is the chairman of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and former chairman of the FCC. He spoke with LinkedIn Executive Editor Daniel Roth about how he leads, hires, and measures success.

Some of our favorite excerpts from the interview:

On measuring success at the NCTA:
“There's a certain abstraction to our business, right? I don't have a bottom line P&L, I can't say we made this much money this quarter, or that quarter. Washington is a kind of amorphous place. How are you doing well, how are you doing poorly? Of course, you could measure headline risk.

You know, you got regulated, or you were able to deregulate a particular rule. That certainly constitutes success. But when I got there I realized you had to really find other measures. The way I describe it is that we are progressing. That we are moving forward, right? That we're not stagnant, or moving backwards.”

“So we do have a strategic planning process. We identify that. But, you know, as great leaders once taught me, plans don't survive the first contact with the enemy. And our business is really about adaptation. Your ability to change direction quickly, based on the intelligence you're receiving at the moment. And that's probably one of the highest things we value.”

On managing introverts:
“I'm a big person about chemistry. You could have the best credentials on the planet, you could have worked at every great company in the world. But I will sit there and evaluate very heavily, do you fit in? Will you make the soup around here spicier, or more bland?”

“I don't like meetings where I ask my staff their opinion. I prefer to wander around the building and ask opinions individually. And then digest, and integrate them myself, then bring them together for a conversation. I don't like the 'let's just throw it on the white board'. Why don't I run around and see?

"Because I think people often are intimidated by the group. Some people withdraw in the group. There's a great book out called Quiet: The Power of Introversion, which I read. It sort of warned me about the potential of people you're not taking full advantage of. Because they don't work well in that dynamic.”

On being an introvert himself:
“Every single office in my space has a television, of course. They're all tuned to CNN. You know, everybody's pretending to be high-brow, watching the news. My TV's never on. I just don't ever have my television on. I would prefer the room to be quiet. I'd prefer to be kind of inside myself, thinking. So I think I'm an introvert with extroversion skills, or something. You have to be a team player. But brilliance also often emerges from sort of individual solitude.”