(From The Wall Street Journal) -- Clutching his last six performance evaluations, the man in his 40s walked crying into the office of Howard McNally, a former chief operating officer at AT&T. Why, he asked, was he being let go after so many outstanding reviews?
That moment transformed McNally's management style. He began ranking his staff, ensuring that no more than half got cited as outstanding and, never again, would an employee be caught unaware of how he or she stacked up. It was one of many management lessons during his 25-year career at AT&T. As COO during the early 2000s, McNally oversaw thousands of layoffs as the company's traditional landline business shrank and its wireless revenue grew.
McNally joined AT&T after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1979, advancing from a local manager in the company's enterprise business division to COO and co-president of its consumer operations. Since retiring in 2003, McNally has worked as an executive recruiter, and most recently as an adjunct professor at the Hult International Business School. In August, McNally was named CEO of the Hult Global Case Challenge, a New York not-for-profit that holds case study competitions.
FINS spoke with McNally about the role luck has played in his career, how he dealt with overseeing thousands of layoffs, and why you should always treat your colleagues with respect.