Lemuel Greene was a trainer for National Home Manufacturers, a large builder of prefabricated homes. National Home had hired Greene fresh from graduate school with a master’s degree in English. At first, the company put him to work writing and revising company brochures and helping with the most important correspondence at the senior level. But soon, both Greene and senior management officials began to notice how well he worked with executives on their writing, how he made them feel more confident about it, and how, after working with an executive on a report, the executive often was much more eager to take on the next writing task.
So National Home moved Greene into its prestigious training department. The company’s trainers worked with thousands of supervisors, managers, and executives, helping them learn everything from new computer languages to time management skills to how to get the most out of the workers on the plant floor, many of whom were unmotivated high school dropouts. Soon Greene was spending all his time giving short seminars on executive writing as well as coaching his students to perfect their memos and letters.
Greene’s move into training meant a big increase in salary, and when he started working exclusively with the company’s top brass, it seemed as though he got a bonus every month. Greene’s supervisor, Mirela Albert, knew he was making more than many executives who had been with the company three times as long, and probably twice as much as any of his graduate school classmates who concentrated in English. Yet in her biweekly meetings with him, she could tell that Greene wasn’t happy.
When Albert asked him about it, Greene replied that he was in a bit of a rut. He had to keep saying the same things over and over in his seminars, and business memos weren’t as interesting as the literature he had been trained on. But then, after trailing off for a moment, he blurted out, "They don’t need...