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Delegate Like a Big Bank CEO

Sep 27, 2017

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BB&T CEO Kelly King

SMITH BRAIN TRUST — If you’re good at your job and can do it comfortably, then you’re wasting company resources and should delegate, BB&T Chairman and CEO Kelly S. King said Sept. 26, 2017, at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. "You need to disrupt yourself," he told faculty, staff and students at the BB&T Colloquium on Capitalism, Ethics and Leadership. "Every function in the organization should be performed by the person who is least qualified, who can perform it effectively."

King said the philosophy drives a growth mindset at BB&T. "It’s a constancy of pushing empowerment down, letting the least qualified people take their assignments and grow up," he said. “Then I can go on and do something that they can’t do."

The BB&T approach offers an optimistic twist to the Peter Principle, which states that employees in any hierarchy rise to their own level of incompetence and then stay there. “The Peter Principle is really about not optimizing, not having a growth mindset and not stretching because you don’t want to be uncomfortable,” King said.

His philosophy might be called the "Eyes Shut" Principle. "If it’s something you can do with your eyes shut, you shouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “Somebody else should be doing it.”

King said BB&T makes the philosophy work by giving team members permission to experiment and make mistakes. "For me to go and stretch myself, I have to have a fundamental sense of security, a sense of self-esteem, a sense of pride," he said. “I have to be clear about my why in life because I’m get ready to go into an uncomfortable place."

Smith School professor Rajshree Agarwal, director of the school’s Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets, moderated the discussion. The annual colloquium is supported by a $1.5 million gift from BB&T in 2010.

Other topics covered by King:

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.