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Stepping down doesn't have to mean slowing down

Paul Tellier, left, and Dick Evans

KARL MOORE: This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to Paul Tellier, former CEO of CN and of Bombardier and Dick Evans who just retired recently as the CEO of Rio Tinto Alcan.

Good afternoon gentlemen.

DICK EVANS: Good afternoon, Karl.

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KM: One of the guys that I play hockey with was one of your senior vice-presidents, was on the plane with me to Berlin. He and I play hockey together and he is twenty years younger than me, and is in better shape than I am, and he plays in the A league and I am in the B league but he is in great shape. He would go Sunday on the flight to Berlin, go and come back and he would be exhausted. He said that Paul is the Eveready bunny. Here is this guy twenty years older than he was, he is in great shape but he said that he can just not believe Paul. How do you generally keep your health in good shape?

PAUL TELLIER: Well in my case, I have become addicted to physical fitness and I just cannot spend more than 48 hours without exercising. So therefore it is my top priority when I get up in the morning. I run, I cycle, I swim, I play tennis on weekends, I ski both downhill and cross-country, water ski. You name it, I try to do it. I started doing it because I have two children, they are good athletes and when I was thirty-eight to forty years old they said, "Dad you are going to kill yourself, you exercise only on weekends". I said that was not true, so I started to keep a diary. Every time that I would exercise for half an hour I would write it down, and I realized that they were right. Now I compete with myself. I can tell you that last year I exercised 313 days, and this year I am trying to do better because I do the count at the end of every month. For me, getting up in Berlin on Monday morning in the dark because I was doing this in the winter time, my first priority was to go and run twenty-five minutes, regardless of the level of fatigue. Yes, half an hour of additional sleep would perhaps be more beneficial but not to me.

DE: In my case, I think that physical activity was always part of it. I was a high-school and college athlete and as I continued. The sports changed, from football, track and basketball to tennis and squash and golf and then later on to bicycling, which is probably my current athletic way of staying in shape, and walking too- Just simply walking instead of riding whenever I can. I think that there is definitely something to be said for exercise in terms of helping your physical and mental state of mind. It is an opportunity to get out of the focus deductive thinking but I think that there are other outlets as well and over time I have developed hobbies. Whether it is fly fishing or photography, both of which are current active hobbies that give me a way that even when I am not exercising, I can also have a change of pace and a way to think away from the current stresses of the job. I think that a mental exercise if you will, outside of your day to day job is equally important.

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