George Pratt Shultz was a dedicated public servant. Trained as an economist, he was a Marine artillery officer in World War II and a businessman. But he is best known for serving three Republican presidents and is one of only two people in history to have held four cabinet positions. He was Secretary of Labor, the first director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Secretary of the Treasury under President Richard Nixon. After a stint in private industry, he reentered public life as Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, then later served as an informal advisor to President George W. Bush. He has been in the news recently because he died on February 6, 2021, at the age of 100. His legacy is a remarkable record of accomplishment.
In reading through all the tributes and accolades, I learned something about his management style that I think is worth passing on. To clear his mind and focus on the big picture, he engaged in a special weekly ritual. He would grab a pen and pad of paper, then sequester himself in his office for an hour. Only two people would be allowed to interrupt him: his wife and the president. This is how he found time to think.
It’s fun to keep up with friends, monitor the news, and check social media; I’m something of a news junkie myself. But George Shultz realized you need time to just sit and reflect. British psychologist Sandi Mann says letting our minds wander “makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas.” The Dutch even have a word, niksen, which means the art of doing nothing. It seems to have worked well for Shultz; among his insights was that President Mikhail Gorbachev was serious about reforming the Soviet Union, which our foreign policy then encouraged and was how the Cold War ultimately ended.
So no matter how hectic your life becomes, a weekly “Schultz Hour” could be just the attitude adjustment you need.
For more, see “You’re Too Busy. You Need a ‘Shultz Hour’.” by David Leonhardt of the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/opinion/youre-too-busy-you-need-a-shultz-hour.html? )