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One-on-One with Dr. John Sullivan

i4cp's managing editor, Lorrie Lykins, sat down with Dr. John Sullivan, renowned human capital thought leader and strategist, who will be speaking at the i4cp 2011 Annual Conference, and asked him a few questions loosely based on the well-known Proust Questionnaire, which has been famously adopted by James Lipton, the iconic host of the A&E program Inside the Actor's Studio. We thank the speakers for their candor, humor, and willingness to participate in this less-than-traditional interview.

What is your favorite word?

"No." Because anything can happen from there.

What is your least favorite word?


What turns you on?

The problem from hell. Problems that keep leaders up at night. I like bad news. That's how you learn.

What turns you off?

Whiners. I was in a meeting yesterday and somebody was complaining about something being really hard to do and I said, ‘Hey, we get paid a lot of money - of course it's hard to do. If it were easy an intern would be doing it or we'd have a software program handling it.'

What sound or noise do you love?

Well, my students would say ‘cha-ching, cha-ching,' as in the sound of a cash register. Money doesn't impress me but it is a measure of success and I like to be paid because it's an indication that what you do is of value. People like their money, so if they're giving a lot of it to you it means you're really doing a great job.

What sound or noise do you hate?

"Hi, I'm from HR and I'm here to help you!"

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I'd pick CEO.

If you're Jeff Immelt at GE your problems aren't ever with buildings or equipment - it's people - how you manage them, how you get the most out of them. As a professor or a consultant, no one has to listen to you. If you're a CEO people actually have to listen to you. And when you have 100,000+ people who rely on you - not to mention their kids, their mortgages, their dogs - it's a helluva hard job and because I like difficult things I'd like to try that.

What profession would you not like to attempt?

If we're being honest: compensation. I don't see them adding half the value they have the potential of.

If you could travel back in time and deliver a message to yourself at the age of 20 what might that be?

"People are not telling the truth when they say they want change or innovation. When you give them true change or innovation they're not happy and managers in general will slow it down or find 100 reasons why not to implement it. When you present a really innovative idea, they're going to freak out . . . ."

Dr. John Sullivan will present "Impactful Things HR Should Be Doing, But Often Doesn't" at the i4cp 2011 Annual Conference: Next Practices of High-Performance Organizations. The conference takes place March 15 - 18, 2011 at the InterContinental Montelucia in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Learn more about the conference and Dr. Sullivan's presentation.

Lorrie Lykins
Lorrie is i4cp's Vice President of Research. A thought leader, speaker, and researcher on the topic of gender equity, Lorrie has decades of experience in human capital research. Lorrie’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other renowned publications.