CEO caught in act of common communication hypocrisy

He wants to hear from people, but they'd better make it quick

The most sublime moment of most weeks is lying under the paper blanket of the Sunday New York Times, a football game on the TV and a yellow screwdriver in a big Ball jar at my side.

As paltry penitence for this surely undeserved Hour of Bliss, I glance at the Business section too, and make a bitter point to read the "Corner Office," a mostly formulaic Q&A with a CEO, about leadership. Adam Bryant is obviously tired of his job, and CEOs are notoriously dull interviews, so the piece offers few insights. Which is good, because I can get quickly to "Modern Love," feeling like I have done some reading for work.

But a couple of weeks ago, the the thing slowed me down. Because even in my cozy football vodka haze I caught Bob Pittman, CEO of Clear Channel Communications, in a classic CEO contradition.

The thrust of the interview is Pittman claiming he encourages "dissent" in the organization.

"Often in meetings," he says, "I will ask peole when we're discussing an idea, 'What did the dissenter say?' … I want us to listen to these dissenters because they may intend to tell you why we can't do something, but if you listen hard, what they're really telling you is what you must do to get something done."

Bravissimo! Managing by listening carefully for other points of view!

Not until his last formulaic question does Bryant accidentally put the lie to Pittman's claims of listening superstardom. He asks for Pittman's pet peeve. "Somebody who takes a very long time to get to the point. Patience is not a virtue of mien. Urgency wins. There are times when people come in with a presentation, and I'll say, 'What is it that you want from me? What is the decision?'" I find that 70 percent of the time, I just don't need to know any of the other stuff. I'll just say, 'Do this or that' and we've saved 50 minutes. Although it may come across as impatience, it really allows us to move faster. Or at least that's my rationalization, and I'm sticking to it."

To quote from National Car Rental: Yes you are, business pro. Yes, you are. —DM

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