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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Star Tribune: Former Medtronic CEO Urges Students to Find Their ‘True North’

From Star Tribune, posted September 17, 2015

Former Medtronic CEO Bill George told students at Minnetonka High School on Thursday to find out who they really are and to stay true to that through the travails of life.

Everyone’s purpose takes some digging to pinpoint, he said, and he believes it is crucial for people to find their own “true north.”

George’s message went beyond life-coaching, touching on a tragedy still fresh in the community.

“Life is very precious,” he said.

George, 73, was referring to the loss of his mother and fiancée early in his life, but also a tragedy that was close to home for the audience. The school is still wrestling with the Short family murder-suicide last week. The children, Cole, who was 17, Madison, who was 15, and Brooklyn, who was 14, had all attended Minnetonka High School.

George said these tragedies often serve as a reminder of what he views as a major purpose in his life: making a difference.

George, who is now a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, has written books on this subject.

Minnetonka High School students in a professional studies program are studying one of his books, “Discover Your True North,” which focuses on leadership and ethics in business.

The program, called VANTAGE, is a yearlong course for juniors and seniors where students learn about business through projects, case studies and community mentorships.

George didn’t always know his “true north.” He’d thought he was on the path to becoming CEO at Honeywell, but realized he had lost his purpose. So George turned to Medtronic and immediately felt at home there, calling it the best time of his professional life.

“Stay on track,” he said to the crowd. “Know who you are.”

That message of experimenting before finding a perfect fit left an impact on students in the audience who are deciding on college and career options.

“I found it to be really insightful that the best way to find where you want to be is just to try it out,” said Smetana Larson, a senior in the VANTAGE program.