Bull Bear Report Dec 10 2009

Top 10 Career Tips from Jamie Dimon

By laura lorber

Even future Masters of the Universe need a hero.

Wall Street pros in search of a role model may need to look no further than JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon who has weathered the financial crisis better than most other financial titans.

"He's not where he is because he's a maker of mistakes," says Duff McDonald, author of a new biography, "Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase."

At 53, Dimon has perhaps the best reputation on Wall Street, one that extends even beyond the Street, and has earned the respect of Warren Buffett, once his role model. Sure, he has benefited from the mentorship of family friend and legendary Wall Street dealmaker Sandy Weill and is known for brashness that would short-circuit the careers of lesser talents. But there's a lot to be learned from his career thus far. FINS.com recently spoke with McDonald about the career insights to be gleaned from Dimon's career. Here are the takeaways:

1. Be a student of history.
Dimon reads a lot of history, including financial histories. Leading up to the bust, Dimon, unlike many peers, was mindful that history has a way of repeating itself, and the myth of "it's different this time" is seldom true.

2. Know your business.
Dimon is a hands-on manager and heavily involved in what managers are doing three to four levels down. "Jamie is immersed in detail," McDonald says.

3. Keep a to-do list and take it seriously.
In Dimon's pocket at all times is a two-column list: "things I owe people and things that people owe me." It's handwritten and updated throughout the day. If this system doesn't work for you, find one that does.

4. Choose a great mentor -- and be one.
Sandy Weill and Dimon were one of the most famous Wall Street mentor-protege pairs. OK, so Dimon was lucky that Weill was a family friend. (Dimon's father and grandfather were also mentors.) But he took a risk in choosing to work with Weill over an offer from Goldman after Harvard b-school. And Dimon has turned around and mentored others, including Heidi Miller, Charlie Scharf and Michael Cavanagh.

5. Value loyalty.
Fear can motivate people, but it isn't as effective as giving employees a shared goal and the knowledge that they'll be rewarded for their hard work. "It's difficult to think of a senior executive working with Jamie who has left of their own accord," McDonald says.

6. Act with integrity.
"This guy's proof that you can do well by doing the right thing," McDonald says. While JPMorgan critics may disagree, they don't know the man, he says. "There's no sort of a moral gray area in Jamie Dimon's world."

7. Put in the hours.
If your aim is the corner office, be prepared to work nights and weekends. "You don't get to the top of JPMorgan by being a 9-to-5er," says McDonald.

8. Be consistent.
While Dimon is a tough boss, he is a predictable one. If you do what you say you're going to do, you won't get an irrational response. When presented with certain disappointments he'll react the same way: Get frustrated and blow up. "You know what you're going to get with this guy," McDonald says.

9. Don't leave people guessing.
Dimon is a clear communicator. He's a big admirer of Ulysses S. Grant, the U.S. President and Civil War general, particularly for the clarity of his orders. "His troops understood quite crystal clear what the objectives were," McDonald.

10. Keep your cool.
If there's one thing Dimon is criticized for, it's his temper. Weill shielded him from fallout over outbursts and tantrums for years. But the bonds broke when a loud argument with rivals at a black-tie dinner led to his firing from Citigroup, and a year of unemployment. People say he's matured over the years. But back then, "he operated in a way that was based on some assumption that 'They'll never fire me,'" says McDonald.


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