• 10.06.09
  • hr

Bill Conaty Sidesteps Issues, Plays it Safe at World Business Forum

The opening sequence this morning at the World Business Forum highlighted the turmoil, crisis, and upheaval our business world has faced over the last year. It was ominous, one newspaper after the other headlining the dire events that have transpired recently, hitting close to home. 

Bill George stepped up to the plate, identifying one bad situation after another and prescribing his recipes for solutions and making it through the impending darkness (eg, our empoyment crisis).


Bill Conaty, called an HR Superstar in 2007 by BusinessWeek, did not. He assumed the podium and walked 5,000 people through an old-school powerpoint that described leadership attributes, and then delineated his process for ensuring good leadership development in a large organization.  No doubt he presided over legendary talent managmeent at GE, but he did not address one single challenge in today’s business climate (eg, our employment crisis).

After the presentation he sat down to be interviewed by Paddy Miller, Professor of Managing People in Organizations at IESE Business School. Paddy started by warning Bill he would ask a tough question. Then he questioned Conaty about the exceptionally large salaries of CEOs. Ok, I thought, here is Conaty’s chance to say something good. Instead he responded by saying something like, ‘…the value is directly proportional to the stock price. As long as the shareholders are doing well, the CEO can do well himself.’ I swear I could hear the labored breathing of the central antagonist in Star Wars as Conaty paired excessive executive pay with the price on the street.

Later an audience member asked, What about consultants – what is their fate in today’s business climate? Conaty replied by saying that if they were not providing firm value add, they would be gone. I ask, if they are not providing firm value add, what are they doing there in the first place? You see I was not inspired. I will stop writing now.



Stay tuned today as I continue to cover the World Business Forum live from Radio City Music Hall. 
Fast link to this blog:
– Seth Kahan,

Kahan is a Change Leadership specialist. He has consulted with CEOs and
executives in over 50 world-class organizations that include Shell,
World Bank, Peace Corps, Marriott, Prudential, American Society of
Association Executives, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike
Association, Project Management Institute, and NASA. He is the founder
of Seth Kahan’s CEO Leaders Forum, a community of CEOs working together
to innovate through the current economy. His next book, Getting Change Right: Guaranteeing Buy-In from Your Most Valuable Players, will be published in spring 2010 by Jossey-Bass. Visit his other blog, for more info on the book.  





About the author

I help leaders with change, innovation, and growth. My latest book is "Getting Innovation Right." My first book, "Getting Change Right," was a business bestseller.