Today’s guest post is from Bob Herbold, the long-time Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft Corporation and author of What’s Holding You Back: 10 Bold Steps that Define Gutsy Leaders (CLICK HERE to buy your copy). You can read more about Bob at the end of this post.
Eight years ago, soon after I had retired from Microsoft, I was approached about the possibility of heading up the IRS. I made two visits to Washington, DC to hear about the job and have my arm twisted to take it. Here is what bothered me. All the employees were part of a union which made it almost impossible to let anyone go. Also, promotions generally fell along the lines of seniority, and I could expect big problems if I tried to re-organize or to promote strong young players into crucial positions.
It gets worse. I would have no authority over the tax code itself; that was the job of Congress. Also, I would have 9 different Senate and House committees which would provide oversight, and I would have to report to each on a quarterly basis and take any of their suggestions and get back to them with regard to impact, feasibility, etc. Obviously, the only thing positive about this job was the status of being the head of the IRS (irrelevant to me).
The comparison to my 26 years at Procter & Gamble and 9 years at Microsoft is probably the key reason why the IRS job looked so bad to me. Both of those companies excelled at giving individuals jobs that had clear responsibilities with the opportunity to make a difference.