A. Chair holds prominent positions at IBM, IDEO, HSBC, SAP, UBS, and many other prestigious corporate acronyms. She can also be found in classrooms across the country—though she typically leads by mentioning the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and another four or five newsrooms that have not yet been destroyed by the internet.
Below, A. Chair shares 5 key insights from her new book, The Secret Power of Being a Chair. Download the Next Big Idea App to enjoy more audio “Book Bites,” plus Ideas of the Day, ad-free podcast episodes, and more.
1. Keep all four LEGS on the ground.
Any chair knows that finding balance in life means keeping all four LEGS on the ground. Let any one of them fall into disrepair, and you’re at risk for toppling right over—along with your boss. But what exactly are these LEGS of which I speak?
- Leadership: Without the direction of a leader, we chairs are nothing but bits of plastic and wood, floating aimlessly through anonymous office corridors.
- Excellence: If you make your boss’s back hurt or legs numb, you are a subpar chair. Off to the dumpster.
- Goals: Your mentality determines whether or not you reach your goals. Are you thinking like a barstool, or like a throne?
- Simplicity: Don’t overcomplicate things. I would explain what this means at length, but that itself would be needlessly complicated.
2. All butts are the same.
We chairs are a humble breed. Our bosses are constantly putting pressure on us, a weight that we must bear bravely and in silence. And while we might aspire to a spot in the corner office, we must remember that at the end of the day, all backsides are the same. Whether our occupant is a veteran CEO or a junior intern with serious intestinal troubles, no butt is nobler than the next. So we must throw ourselves into our work fully and without hesitation, learning to appreciate the warmth of our assigned butt without pining after another.
“Whether our occupant is a veteran CEO or a junior intern with serious intestinal troubles, no butt is nobler than the next.”
3. Yes, lean in—but don’t forget to recline.
Though I come from a family of ambitious office chairs, my adopted cousin is a recliner. What I’ve learned from her (besides a few sordid family secrets that will go unmentioned) is the importance of leaning back and relaxing once in a while. These moments of blissful respite are what make life worth living. As an added bonus, they prevent burnout and enable your boss to work deeper into the night.
4. Know when to swivel.
It really is true what they say: “The best-laid plans of chairs and men often go awry.” Just when you think you have the future mapped out, a crisis emerges. Imagine that your boss has just graced your body with his hindquarters and is preparing some paperwork, when suddenly, he spills coffee all over the desk! What do you do?
Now, some chairs would stay put—but that’s because they can’t swivel. Luckily, you are more flexible than that. You must adapt, change plan, swivel away from the desk to prevent that wretched fluid from touching your boss’s tie. In fact, I would go so far as to encourage rolling away from the desk entirely—if you are among the elite, wheeled variety—to get some distance from the situation. Only then can you and your boss evaluate the problem and come up with a new plan. And in this way, both your fabric and your boss’s tie will be looking as spiffy as ever.
“If you cannot be the wind beneath your boss’s wings, be the scuffed synthetic leather beneath her pantsuit.”
5. Always have your boss’s back.
If there were just one piece of advice I could impart, it would be this: Always support your boss, both physically and emotionally. If you cannot be the wind beneath her wings, be the scuffed synthetic leather beneath her pantsuit. It’s important to think of your relationship with her as an investment; after all, if you two establish a quality rapport, she may bring you with her to the C-suite one day—or if you’ve already made it, keep you there for the rest of your career.
So do whatever you must to ingratiate yourself with her, and provide a solid foundation upon which she can operate. Yes, the pages of history may forget you, my dear chair-reader. Yes, your boss may get the credit for making the world a better place. But take pride in knowing that she could not have done it without you. This may be a human’s world—but it would be nothing, nothing, without a chair.
Happy April Fool’s Day! For more equally insightful Book Bites, download the Next Big Idea App today: