Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Way to Shoot Your Own Corporate Foot

Smart professionals advise everyone to have their 30-second elevator pitch ready just in case they are ever stuck in close quarters with a big wig in their company ... say a recently named Co-CEO.

Our newly promoted Co-CEO and I have been on a first-name basis since the small amount of recognition I received last December, and we've developed a casual, friendly rapport. Which is why I may have become too comfortable when descending the elevator with her at the end of the day and said, "Congratulations on the whole Co-thing."

As soon as I said it, I wanted to punch myself in the face. I immediately began to imagine her life-long corporate ambitions and realized that a role like this one is probably something she has been working toward throughout her entire professional career ... and then some 20-something executive assistant stands next to her on an elevator and calls it a Co-thing. I could feel myself mentally shrinking into my dark, internal institution, rocking in a corner, eating my checkerboard pieces and repeating "Congratulations on the whole Co-thing" over and over to a plant. This is where one goes emotionally when something stupid comes out of their mouth and the person to whom their comment was directed replies, "Thanks ... well ... it's going to be a lot of work."

Oh my God. She had to point out to me that this Co-thing is going to be a lot of work, as if I didn't already know ... which is what my senseless, down-playing remark basically implied. I tried to redeem myself by talking about a recent article in Advertising Age regarding the flat-lined advertising budgets of most companies in Q1 and mentioned how great it was that we had paced above our sales goal in the first quarter of the year. Like I wasn't telling her anything she didn't already know.

Has the little voice in your head ever pleaded for you to shut up, but yet you just kept right on talking?

I walked nine blocks and three avenues, replaying my comment over and over in my head and thinking of all the more eloquent things I could have said to a woman who was just promoted to the highest ranks of our company. And I'm starting to choke on my checkers.

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