Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford, and a renowned expert on organizational change, leadership, innovation, and workplace dynamics. He received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from The University of Michigan and has served on the Stanford faculty since 1983. In addition to being a Fellow at IDEO, Senior Scientist at Gallup, and advisor to McKinsey & Company, Sutton has published over 150 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and news outlets, including The New York Times, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal. His books The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss are New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers, respectively. His most recent publication, Scaling-Up Excellence, was selected as one of the best business books of the year by Amazon, the Financial Times, Inc., The Globe and Mail, and Library Journal. His upcoming book is The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt, and will be released nationwide on September 12, 2017!
What are 3 things or experiences bring you the greatest sense of fulfillment in life?
- Taking a nice long walk with my wife, Marina.
- Writing a paragraph I am proud of.
- Helping a friend, colleague, or student who needs a hand or a boost
What are small things you do everyday to be happy/fulfilled?
- Having a fairly long dinner with wife and adult kids (when they are in town)
- Having a chat with a smart and caring student or former student.
- Having as little contact as possible with administrators— especially the ones who are assholes.
People often find they don’t have enough time. How do you make time for those?
What health habits do you stick to no matter what?
What’s your best relationship tip?
You seem to balance both happiness and success? What’s your secret to being happy and productive?
I am least happy when I think about success or failure as an end, or when I compare myself to others. I am happiest when I focus on the little steps and on process. Working with people who talk about winning and being number one is not my idea of fun. I like working with people who know the big goal, but but spend their days and hours focused on doing the little things well, and with joy and civility. Also, and there is research to support this, when I focus on just doing the best work I can, and being the best Bob Sutton I can be, rather than comparing myself to others, I am happiest and do better work. That is the biggest gift my parents gave me. They thought that such comparisons were bad for your mind, and made you selfish.
What – in your opinion – is the best way to spread happiness and fulfillment to others?
What is a quote you live by?
“Fight as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.” I think the psychologist Karl Weick said that (I am not sure, and neither is he).
Another one I like, something I believe more strongly every year: “If you are a winner and an asshole, you are still a loser as a human-being in my book.”
Be sure to check out Dr. Sutton’s upcoming publication, The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt!
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