Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting when the president of the company burst into the room. I had never met the gentleman before for his office is in another state. He came in, exuding the sort of carefree, enthusiastic sociability perhaps stemming from his knowledge that he could fire everyone in the room if it suited him. No cautious probing or rhetorical smokescreens needed here! He, maniacally almost, shook everyone’s hand and gave his name. I bumbled out my own name in return but almost too late, he was already passing on to the next person. He then asked us what was on the schedule, and someone said, “Windows.”
“Uh oh!” he said in mock horror as he rapidly retreated to the decidedly overenthusiastic laughter of everyone in the room.
After he blew out as quickly as he had blown in, I spent a full half hour pondering the many things I could have asked or said rather than just a sheepish recitation of my name. Example: I could have asked him why he had just cashed out eighty million in company stock from his personal account, a fact I had learned but that morning.
I actually did think to ask that at the moment, but it may have been somewhat adversarial. I think you get the idea what I wanted to say. Something to set me apart, make me a little bit memorable. I realized that I could have handed him some spreadsheets of devastating effectiveness, sure-fire new things and processes that could help the company a great deal. He would have been impressed, and probably remembered who I, a lowly summer intern, was. I even happened to have a copy with me, ready for the giving.
So in an instant of wide-eyed hesitation I had clearly dropped the ball, but it is hard to wallow in self recriminations. How could one anticipate this sort of opportunity? I am not in a habit of spending time each day strategizing what I will do if our company president decides to fly hundreds of miles and waltz into a meeting I am attending. They told us in business school to prepare for this sort of thing, and that a good businessman is never flummoxed. But such heightened vigilance is too often the province of corporate whores who get an ulcer, two divorces, and a bunch of kids who hate them.
I guess I’m not that good a corporate whore and will have to practice. Or I will try to love my neighbor instead.