The Dufour file Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
Age: 51

Born: Montreal

Education: Bachelor of science degree, civil engineering, ⊃cole Polytechnique, University of Montreal; master’s degree, civil engineering, Stanford University; graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School

What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?

When there is a very difficult problem, there is something you need to be prepared to do. You must really try to go for what you want, not to go for what other stakeholders want.

In the end, if your starting position is someone else’s position, you’re always going to be disappointed. If your starting position is your own position, you’ll get something much more satisfactory.

Every discussion, every negotiation is a compromise, but if you start with your own position, what you want, you’ll get a more satisfactory answer than if you start with what someone else wants.

What traits are essential for a business leader?

People will follow a leader if the leader is consistent between how he behaves and what he says. People will follow that person, whatever his personality, whether he is a great communicator, whether he is a technical guy, a financial guy, a lawyer.

What is your definition of success?

It’s setting a goal that is beyond what you can see today. Something that is really out there, something that you’d like to get to, but you’re not too sure how to get there, then doing what is necessary to get there.

Then you bring your company or team, or whatever you’re leading to surpass itself. You set this goal that people aren’t too sure how they are going to get there, and then you make it possible. When you can do that, it’s a fantastic success.

Dufour on using e-mail: I hate e-mail. I’ve found e-mail to be completely faceless.

It’s very difficult to see where a guy is coming from, where he is trying to go; you are just getting part of the mental process. It’s rarely well-written, there is no emotion. It’s just data, basically.

I always remember a conversation I had with my son. He was just finishing school and looking for a job, and he proudly told me he had sent 140 e-mails to various companies looking for a job.

I told him he’d be lucky with one response. He was not very happy and told me I was wrong. He told me I was old-fashioned, that this is the way to communicate today.

I told him, ‘Maybe, but if it’s my generation that’s doing the hiring, I can tell you that any e-mail job inquiry I receive I don’t even open.’ It’s just not effective.

He finally did not get very much success with his e-mail campaigning and finally agreed to show up for face-to-face meetings and show interest in those companies. Doing that, he finally got hired and has a very good job today. But he didn’t do it through e-mail.