Magazine article Workforce Management

5 QUESTIONS for Richard Cavanagh

Magazine article Workforce Management

5 QUESTIONS for Richard Cavanagh

Article excerpt

Richard Cavanagh

President and CEO, the Conference Board

As a partner at McKinsey & Co. during the 1980s, Richard Cavanagh advised CEOs to leave after a decade so that the business could try new things. On March 8, soon after Cavanagh reached the 10-year mark as president and CEO of the Conference Board, he took his own advice and announced he would step down by year's end. Cavanagh's management skills have taken him from the private sector to the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Carter administration and to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he was executive dean. Cavanagh, 59, recently spoke to Workforce Management staff writer Jeremy Smerd.

Workforce Management: How do you motivate people at places where getting a job is the hardest part?

Richard Cavanagh: At both Harvard and McKinsey you had high turnover rates that were induced by the organizations. At McKinsey, you'd get these incredibly bright people coming in as consultants, and one out of 10 would become partners. So you were always culling. It's a controversial view: Should you have forced attrition and should you be cutting the bottom X percent out?

WM: What qualities should managers possess?

Cavanagh: Highly talented people don't need to be supervised, they need to be provided with opportunities; they need to be provided with, maybe, some guidance. The second thing is that people realize talent is really precious. You want to treat it well and you want to develop it and you want to keep it as long as you can. …

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