Mike Hanson loves to read and today's master class in business philosophy proved to be an acute demonstration of the power of knowledge.
Hanson takes the concept of "well read" to new heights. After just a few minutes it became very clear that Mike Hanson, former president and general manager of Eli Lilly Japan KK, could astutely participate in a conversation on almost any topic imaginable.
For Hanson, this conversational diversity is nothing short of a gift. More important to him, however, was another more personal and memorable gift from his past.
"My grandfather was a learned person, but not what you would call an educated man," he said. "He used to love to talk about current events. I recall being quite young and discussing the 1960 presidential election with him. When I was old enough to get a paper route and earn my own money, the greatest gift I ever gave him was a subscription to Time magazine."
Throughout the spirited discussion, Hanson enthusiastically and articulately dashed from topic to topic, moving with ease from his Scandinavian heritage to the childhood obesity epidemic to, of all things, the Kardashians.
"Why on earth do we care about Kim Kardashian when there are so many more important issues that need to be discussed?" he asked.
It's an opinion shared by many in the business community who strive to understand how the rules for success have changed in the electronic age. However, Hanson proved to be an erudite example of the power of knowledge combined with character and traditional values.
A self-described "smoke jumper," brought into organizations to solve crisis issues, Hanson described a key part of his leadership process.
"I never believed in the concept of a 'consensus,' because, to me, a 'consensus' is nothing more than 'decision averaging.' I preferred to focus on establishing an alignment of beliefs and strategy within my teams," he explained.
Moments later, Hanson repeated a principle he followed throughout his career.
"I also never pretended I was the smartest guy in the room. A successful business is built by surrounding yourself with considerate, passionate, smart and, above all, talented people."
Hanson credits business-writer Bob Buford's 1995 book, "Half Time: Changing your Game Plan from Success to Significance," with altering his views on how best to humbly handle life's inevitable transitions.
"Maybe its part of being Scandinavian, but I was raised to never take myself too seriously. It's like a saying I once heard: 'He may not be much but he's all he thinks about.' "
Though retired from Eli Lilly since 1997, Hanson, who still reads two newspapers a day as part of an ongoing goal to keep current, took a moment to very briefly summarize his past success as it related to his future goals.
He simply stated, "I'm still a work in progress."
Surround yourself with talent. Stay informed. Think of others. And fearlessly jump the smoke.
Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of professional-courtesy initiative, RediscoverCourtesy.org. His creative communications agency, MindZoo, is dedicated to the development of highly targeted and innovative written and visual communications for use across today's wide spectrum of online and offline media. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or 239-304-9611.