During my career at The Coca-Cola Company, I had the chance to work very closely with a wide range of senior executives.Â While they all had their unique traits, none did I find as inspiring or motivating as Neville Isdell.Â Nevilleâ€™s career traversed multiple continents, five decades, and culminated as Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company from June 2004 to July 2008.Â It was a true honor to have a chance to work on numerous initiatives that brought me in contact with him, always finding those experiences to be filled with learning and growth.Â I wrote more about this recently in an entry titled â€œA teachable Point of Viewâ€.
The cover of a recent issue of Â â€œBusiness & Financeâ€ magazine featured an article titled â€œNeville Isdell on recovery, sustainable growth and ethics.â€Â I was interested on first glance and dove into the article.Â While a variety of topics would be appropriate to review, there was a very short paragraph that quickly caught my attention.Â He is quoted as saying â€œthat two very important words were left out of corporate strategies in the recent past: â€˜over time.â€™Â We forgot those two very important words.Â What I was taught was that my role was to maximize shareholder value over time.â€
We are surrounded my so many examples, particularly in the financial sector, where a short-tem orientation has led to disastrous long-term results.Â Neville says further â€œThat became disastrous particularly when the banksâ€™ short-term profits were driven by instruments that not many people understood, including the management of the banks.Â But it is the â€˜over timeâ€™ piece that is very important.â€
Those two words â€“ â€œover timeâ€ â€“ seem so simple and so obvious…how have they been so easy to forget?Â Think about other elements of your life that are valuable to you.Â It could be friends, partners, spouses, children, organizations, etc.Â Are you only interested in how they are going to do next quarter, or do you have a longer view?Â As I reflect on my two children, aged 9 and 11, I am interested in how well they do in school this spring, but my timeline for their â€œsuccessâ€ spans years and possibly decades.Â I want them to do well â€œover time.â€Â If we can have that longer view in our personal lives, why canâ€™t we translate that perspective into our work life?
As an action step, take a few moments and pull out your goals for 2010.Â For those who might not have anything formal, write out what would success look like to you this year.Â With the goals handy, push yourself to think longer term.Â Use Nevilleâ€™s admonition and think about succeeding â€œover time.â€Â Try thinking out over the next three years and push yourself to think about initiatives and goals that may seem impossible over the next few months but attainable â€œover time.â€
As an extra step, try thinking past three years.Â What truly long-term objectives lie years over the horizon?Â Only by laying out those goals can we reflect back on what actions we need to take over the next three years, and thus this year, to ever achieve those seemingly distant goals.Â We can all benefit by remembering Nevilleâ€™s two simple words, â€œover time,â€ and we can all look for ways to turn them into reality today.