At the Legacy complex in the spring of 1993, Gale left her merchandising office suite for the even bigger suites of the Golden Crescent. She had been summoned to see the main man, having been told only that it was "about a speech." Entering the chairman's anteroom, she was waved through by his suave executive secretary Trudy Morris. "He's with Chris, but he wanted you to wait inside."
Howell's suite was larger than any of the first Golden Rule stores. In addition to the main room where she was headed, the office included a midsize conference room; a full bathroom and dressing room; an office utility room; the anteroom reception area that included Trudy's mahogany workstation; and a really large conference room that bordered the rooms of "Director of the Office of the Chairman" Chris Sears, an executive vice president who was Howell's assistant.
Taking a seat at the table W. R. favored for one-on-one conversations, Duff-Bloom looked around at Howell's power walls. There were framed photos, honors and awards, plaques and mementos. There was a long built-in mahogany credenza laden with more mementos of crystal, silver, marble, brass, and gleaming wood. She turned toward an alcove and smiled at a symbol of Howell's position and personality: an expensive desk and accessories used for photo ops and nothing else.
Duff-Bloom smiled to herself and thought that of all the boys on this floor now, only W. R. really had the size to fill out his quarters even if they were twice as big as the others!
"You want Chris's job?" came the jocular voice. "Right now I think he'd pay you to take it." Duff-Bloom turned and rose, returning Howell's grin.
"Trouble down the hall?" she asked.
"God," said Howell as he walked over to his desk and picked up a folder. He said nothing further about whatever the high-level skirmish may have been about. But his prolonged chuckle as he crossed to Duff-Bloom indicated how much he actually enjoyed the blood and guts of office politics at this level.
"For you," he said, dropping the folder on the table and sitting. Duff-Bloom also sat as he continued with, "I've hardly looked at this, but I got a call from Charlie Mechem, who said they wanted me to make the keynote at an LPGA convention." He tapped the folder. "It's all in here, from the LPGA producer."
"So I gather you've committed."
"We have the relationship."
"And you want me to handle this?"
He tapped the folder again. "You're the Penney point person on these issues."
"Well, at a guess, this ought to be a pretty good audience for publicity. Do you want to talk about inclusion?"
"How forceful do you want to be?"
"When and where?"
"Pebble Beach, November 16, a Tuesday I think, in the morning." Howell's memory always impressed her. He had probably only glanced at the LPGA producer's letter. Now his eyes twinkled. "Hmm. Be almost sacrilegious not to play a couple holes as long as I'm there. Maybe Chris and Trudy can free up a few hours for menot," he added with an eye on her only half-hidden disapproval, "that golf had anything to do with my accepting the invitation ."
He was having fun with her. For years Duff-Bloom had been known for playing it very straight, and she still policed perquisites among her direct reports , sending a signal to the decks below. But here was the chairman theatrically flaunting executive privilegebut also, she knew, confiding in her. Which was a compliment. And compliments from the head of a $22 billion business were to be taken seriouslyno matter how awkward .
She actually managed a smile with, "Oh, of course not. Who would ever think that?" He reacted with appreciation . Howell admired her spirit. She could tell by his eyeseyes that on other occasions could freeze the strongest personalities in the company if he was displeased.
He tapped the folder once more. "By the way, since we're talking about inclusion, are we going to win the Catalyst Award?"
"1995," she replied with a confident smile. "Unless I'm totally wrong."
"Which these days would be very unlikely ," he said with a smile, rising . Typically, he was sending her off walking on air.
Things were going so well for Duff-Bloom that on the way back to her office she made a confident prediction to herself. By the time Howell got to Pebble Beach, she herself would be residing in the Golden Crescent!