Significant Change Takes Lots Of Communication and Time


I spent the majority of my day with the CEO and COO of a privately held business that has grown to well over $100 million in revenue with a market that could afford them tremendous growth beyond that point. The business has a very successful past but as is the case with many fast growing businesses, they sometimes get there in spite of themselves. In fact, these two leaders have been placed in the business within the past year because many of the weaknesses that did not surface in an easier growth period are now becoming much too visible. It is a story that is much too familiar to me given my own business assignments. The multitude of challenges that face them include better strategic planning, stronger customer service focus, additional technology and most importantly significant leadership changes in the two levels below them. We talked at length about the various personnel issues, the structure (too many layers) in the organization and their market needs. What I want to share with all of you is the most important aspect of how to get started with all this change and have it succeed.

As I know you have figured out from the tittle of this blog, I spent most of my time talking about the need to SELL the changes that they knew needed to happen. It was clear that they have some really good people and some people who simply do not belong in leadership roles in the future of the business. With that said, it is also very clear that because of lack of progressive leadership they also have an organization that has little communication from the top to the bottom. So, while I suspect many in the organization want change, change is still hard when you are changing things dramatically. Therefore, we talked about the need to drive strong communication that is frequent, transparent and structured such that the organization not only senses that things are going to be different but is being sold on how different it will be from the top and through all layers of the business.

You see like it or not, change takes time to successfully implement and communication to create buy-in versus fear for the road ahead. I agree and have always acted quickly to change the leadership that had to be changed to facilitate the new future. However, I also spent more time on communication prior to the changes and continued with significant ongoing communication post changes to drive longer term buy-in and success. The stronger the constant focus on communication the stronger the odds of success with major change!


Great Businesses And Operational Success Are Founded On Even Greater Sales Results

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Spending the last several blogs writing about integrity and it being the cornerstone of any real business transformation, I want to shift gears and talk about the critical baseline that must exist to even begin to think about transformational results. That baseline is selling. Regardless of the businesses, you simply don’t have a successful product business, service business or a combination of the two without sales of your product/service that allow the business to cover its costs and grow. I know that sounds so simple that many of you must be wondering why I am writing about this. Well, most of what I write is driven by the events of day to day life and this writing is no different.

I am on the Board of a fantastic growth business called Serrus Capital Partners. This business has been built by two co-founders who have completely opposite but very complimentary skills. One of them is a serial entrepreneur who is creative and very effective in selling his concepts to a broad cross section of investors. The other co-founder is one of the brightest and most take charge operating guys who has years of experience in the real estate development. These co-founders took their collective skills and two years ago joined together to create an investment fund in distressed residential real estate that has been successful in all aspects including fundraising, deployment of capital, revitalization of the investments and the sale, lease, rental of these improved properties that are providing a strong investment return, improved neighborhoods and numerous jobs. In fact, Fund I has been so successful that we are just initiating similar opportunities in Fund II.

I share all this with you because of the most important part of this story. If sales of this investment concept had not have happened, all Fund I would have been was a good idea that failed. In fact the continuing investment opportunities in the real estate market exceed the funds raised in Fund I. We have proven operating success via our processes, technology and focus. There is greater opportunity for continued investment than when Fund I started but despite our success we can not take advantage of the significant remaining opportunity unless we sell this conceptually to more investors. The conclusion is that in so many businesses rarely is it that putting money to work is hard to do. On the other hand, most great business ideas that fail do so for lack of sales or revenue to deploy the business offering. In the next blog I will talk more about having the right sales resources, metrics and processes.


If Integrity Is Such A Good Thing Then Why Is It So Hard To Do?

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For the past couple of blogs I have really been focused on integrity and the need to have that as the cornerstone of Transformational Leadership. I have been fairly vocal that I do not think you just get a bye or forgiveness for a lapse in integrity. It has to be the cornerstone that is not compromised in leadership and if fact you have to consciously think about all you do and say through the filter of relentless correctness before you act. I believe that to be true not just because it is the right way to think and act but I believe that to be true because those who follow you will only believe, trust and act based on the good or bad example that you set. So, if all this is true, why is so hard for leaders and other very visible people who have such influence to embrace this in their actions?

Well, I will voice my opinions on this question and then I will move on to another subject in the next blog. In my opinion, it is relatively straightforward as to why the leadership failures in integrity. For me, it is the simple act of failing to be a real person first. For you see, real people have personal problems (life is not perfect). Real people do not know all the answers. Real people many times fail as often or more often than they succeed. Real people know how to say “I do not know.” Real people accept differences in others and believe that strengthens an organization. Real leaders know that great companies come from hiring the best people, empowering them and allowing them to fail and learn. In short, far too many leaders fail on the integrity front because they use less than correct facts or actions to cover up their own insecurity in being a real leader with real problems, needs, issues and failures!

When an organization is lead by someone who embraces not having all the answers and being blatantly honest in all they do and say, that organization is headed for greatness. So, integrity is not really so hard to do if the leader embraces the values of being a real person first and foremost. The best leaders I have known were also real people who I could count on to always lead from their convictions versus just an end result.


Having Great Integrity Does Not Mean Always Being Right

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I believe I have found a subject that many are anxious to discuss more as with all the feedback I have decided on a third article dealing with leadership integrity. In my previous two blogs I focused on integrity as the cornerstone of a transformational leader and that real committed leaders don’t compromise integrity just because things do not go their way or tough times confront them. With this blog I want to change gears and talk about the fact that strong integrity DOES NOT mean that you have to be right all the time. In fact trying to be right all the time will make you a very ineffective leader as others will be fearful of speaking up and making you feel wrong. That is a blog for a later date so let me further discuss not always being right.

As leaders we have been taught to have great confidence in what we do and say and quite often to be convinced that we are correct even if there maybe some doubt about the complete correctness of our opinion. I have seen and I suspect that many of you have also seen that leader who literally fears being wrong as he/she thinks it goes with the job to always be right. It is my opinion that if you lead with the belief that you will never be wrong then it is possible that your integrity can be as compromised as if you had failed to be completely open and honest in your communications. For you see the leader who has to always be right is the leader who has failed to realize that it takes much more than a title and facts to gain respect, and even outstanding integrity will not resolve that flaw.

As much as people want to work in a high integrity environment where they trust the direction, the communication and the leaders, they want just as much to be able to have an opinion and to know that everyone is capable of being wrong and learning from it. People don’t care how much you know or how right you are. People care about the integrity of their work environment and how much you care about them being a part of the team. So, you should worry about never compromising your integrity but you should spend little time worrying about always being right!


Life Is Not Fair Or Forgiving, But That Is No Excuse!

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In my last blog I wrote about integrity being the cornerstone of real leadership and my disdain for how easily I see very visible people betray integrity for real bad reasons. That blog and several comments that I received on the blog prompted me to follow-up with these thoughts. As I shared in the last blog, when integrity is compromised far too many folks want quick forgiveness and a second chance because they just “made a mistake.” In fact, how many times have you heard someone say when they are dealt the consequences of their actions that “life is just not fair!”

I have a really close friend who says frequently that life is not fair and that a “fair” is something that comes to town once a year! What she really means is that we all too often see life as we expect it to be and the really funny thing is that leaders who make really bad decisions expect others to just overlook it, forgive and move on. These leaders have no real understanding that life is not just a series of all your expectations being delivered to you despite the impact that it has on others, a business and the inevitable future of all involved including yourself. So, life is not fair. Life is not fair because far too many times our expectations and our actions are not fair or even in line with the expectations that we should have for ourselves, our business or the business team.

Also, life is not always fair even for those who do the right things, but that is no excuse for not continuing to work hard and doing the right thing. Life, as I have heard on many occasions, will throw many curveballs at us. Those curveballs or things that we were not prepared for, is just a part of our growth and development as both leaders and human beings. People will see us and judge us not on how fair something was that happened to us but rather how well we handled those difficulties. Business as well as life can be very tough and unforgiving at times but that is simply no excuse for not be a strong leader whose integrity and conviction to doing the right thing can be counted on by all those around that leader. Real Transformational Leadership is about integrity with no compromise or excuses!


What Is And Always Will Be The Most Important Business Attribute?

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I did not really want to go down this path on my blog this week but I have a been so troubled by a series of events that I decided it was critical to express my views about the most important business attribute that is not valued nearly enough by too many leaders. That business attribute is a simple word but the depth of issues that can surround it if it is not embraced is devastating. The attribute is integrity. We are bombarded, it seems like every day, by countless examples of leaders who have just simply decided that integrity was less important than money, fame, or some form of satisfaction which will now compromise there future abilities and effectiveness forever. In fact, I was at a Board meeting recently where I stated to the leaders of the business that I was simply serving with them and investing in their business because integrity was the most important aspect of their day to day leadership.

I never really was as visible to the general public as a CEO as many of our politicians or business leaders are today but it was my general belief that I was the leader of a great group of people who had placed their trust and future in my vision and leadership. If I falsified things about the business’s future, its needs, its financial position, or their future and it was discovered, at what point were they to believe me or trust me again? All the hard work by me, my team and all the members of the business could be destroyed or at least significantly impacted in a negative way by my lack of integrity. In fact, I told all my teams that I would answer any question with as much honesty or opinion as I had and if I did not know I would simply say I do not know.

I believe we are being conditioned to believe that lack of integrity is simply a mistake that is to be forgiven with the hope that things will be done better in the future. I do believe in second chances but I think as leaders we have to never ask for a second chance on integrity because we will never be as effective a leader when this attribute is compromised. Every team deserves to work for a leader and a leadership team that they can trust and that trust will be the cornerstone of buy-in to the vision, tough execution choices, strong communications and putting the best people on the team. At the heart of Transformational Leadership lies the cornerstone of integrity!


Leadership Is About Not Just Accepting, But Confronting Reality

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I was in a great conversation a few days ago with a young, intelligent and very driven business entrepreneur who has been wildly successful in not one but a couple of business start-ups. We talked at length about all the attributes that are required to really drive both short and long term success. We really relate to each other when it comes to building a vision, driving a commitment by all involved to that vision, putting the right talent on the team and a metrics/process driven approach to the execution of both the short and long term strategy. With that said, I was compelled, however, to write this blog about the most interesting aspect of our lengthy conversation which was the need to day to day confront the various realities that will and do affront every business/organization regardless of how well they have planned.

It was clear in our conversation, since both if us know many driven, intelligent and hardworking leaders that have not succeeded, that planning a business and actually operating in this fast paced world of change are two very distinctly different needs. Our most interesting agreement in this area was the fact that we think many great visionaries with great teams fail to really execute because they believe the plan and people will overcome the unforeseen realities that occur day to day long after the plan is in place. Therefore, we agreed that with a strong plan, a good team and focused processes every leader must also be able to anticipate and constantly be diligent concerning the what he/she did not know or anticipate when the plan was built.

In other words, the really successful leaders, who realize the best return on all of their investments, are those leaders who don’t just build a plan and wait to see how the day to day realities will impact that plan. The very best businesses and leaders are confronting the reality of their marketplace, the economy, and their own business needs to adjust or modify their plans, teams and metrics to win. The most successful leaders run out to meet/confront their problems not wait for the issues to come to them!


How Do You Connect The Dots Between Vision, Mobilizing Commitment and Financial Results

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I had the opportunity to speak or actually do a deep dive, two hour conversation with a limited group of small to mid-size business CEO’s last month, following a broad Transformational
Leadership presentation to a much larger audience. This roundtable type process involving about a dozen CEO’s allowed us to really get into the details and their broader questions that were
created by listening to my thirty minute speech that addresses the highlights of my book, Transformational Leadership–A Blueprint for Real Organizational Change. It was a great almost two hour
deep dive and we discussed many subjects that will be further commented on in my future blogs. However, the discussion I want to highlight today is as you read it in the title for this blog or
connecting the fundamental business strategy to a vision and mobilizing the commitment of the entire organization to work towards that vision and ultimately change the financial results, market
position or future security of the business and its related jobs.

This is such a great question that I had to write about it first relative to all the things that surfaced and it is also important to note that this group got from the presentation or their own perspectives
that you have to know your business’s success factors, build a strategy to get there, create a vision of what that new state looks like to mobilize a commitment to get there and then EXECUTE the
strategy to achieve improved results. None of that is as easy as it sounds but what is easy is that this is a tried and tested process that works and following/executing this series of events can lead
to great success! So, with that said what was the answer to the how of connecting these activities (the dots) to make it all work. Well, if I gave you all the details this blog would be much longer than
you would probably care to read but because it is the fundamentals to any successful business transformation, let me give you the highlights.

First, you must know your businesses strengths, weaknesses market position and the overall market conditions. That is the only way to properly define the future success factors around which the
strategy is built. Second, the leader and a small, knowledgeable team can take the success factors and develop a strategy to achieve them but it must be a detailed strategy with timelines and
clear responsibilities assigned. Then that strategy must become a vision that can be communicated and be understood by all involved which is only achieved through focused, simple communications
taken to every level and continually communicated both from a plan and results standpoint to all involved. Third, the leadership must then determine if the commitment of the majority of the organization
has been mobilized (engaged actively) to achieve the vision/strategy with clear metrics to measure that commitment and ongoing performance. Last, when that all comes together there will be some real
wins and also some failures that will help correct the direction/performance. This is not a short term process. In most of my situations it took 18 to 24 months to see real significant financial or market
change. It could take longer in some instances but if you stay the course of vision, commitment, metrics, and correcting course as necessary. The dots will connect to drive improved business performance!


How Do You Get The Right People On Board Throughout The Organization?

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I recently blogged about the value of strategic planning but I also shared with all of you that the strategic plan is only as good as the great human resources that you have in place to execute
the plan. I had the opportunity to talk about that in even greater detail this week as I opened a question and answer session following a speech that I made to a local business forum and a
number of bright entrepreneurial business leaders earlier this week. The group was very attentive to the thought process that is a basic roadmap for any business which as I have stated is
defining business success factors (price, market share, asset leverage, etc), a strategy to get there and then the right people and processes to support/execute the strategy to close the gap
between the success factors and the strategy. As I closed the presentation and opened up the meeting to questions, one of the best questions was, “How long does it take to get the human
resources committed to your vision/plan and how do you get that to happen throughout the entire organization?”

What an insightful question that was! I addressed the first part of that question very openly and stated that through my experiences it takes an ongoing commitment to communications to both
get and maintain the organization’s commitment to the vision/plan. Of course, the effort required in the first 100 days as the new leader is very different than the effort required in year two or three. The
point is that you clearly have to do a lot in the first 90 days and first six months to move the organization’s beliefs and views as well as to get buy-in to where you are taking them. However, once you
get the organization going in the direction of the new vision/plan it must be maintained through a robust and continual communication plan to continue to feed, reward and drive the change
necessary to long term strategic success.

The second part of that question is even more interesting and I shared with the audience that you can not effect change without the entire organization buying in. This buy-in starts at the senior
team level so as CEO I had to get the right players reporting to me first then I had to get to know very well the next two levels of leaders in order to know they were on my side or not and to know
they too would drive the type of change that I was promising the organization. You get to know these next two levels of leaders by scheduling time with them in their organizations, by holding
skip level sessions with their employees, by conducting operating reviews with multiple levels of the organization involved, via ongoing Town Halls, by formal talent planning sessions and the list
goes on! In other words, if you want an organization that buys-in, supports and drives the business success, you MUST spend lots of time on this. I suggest 30 to 40% of your working time as a
business leader–no small task!


If You Want Them to Care You Must First Show You Care!

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I often have the opportunity to have very interesting and enlightening conversations with other great business leaders. I was recently in one of those conversations with a friend who has experienced significant entrepreneurial success. We talk about leadership on all fronts and it is always very interesting for me to hear his perspective as an entrepreneur. I really enjoy comparing it to my experiences as a leader who came up through the structured environment of organizations like the General Electric Company. After talking for quite some time, we narrowed our conversation down to what is really important in either environment to really succeed and it was really amazing to me the commonality of our experiences and opinions.

As you may have guessed by now, the biggest synergy in this very interesting topic was the need to find the very best people and motivate them to work to their full potential and beyond. As I have said before, when you say things like that it sounds easy but it is far from easy! In fact, we ended up talking about a number of experiences that we had personally had where we were as the employee of some organization significantly under utilized and less than motivated at several points in our career. When we really begun to compare true feelings about those experiences, it was so clear that we worked for managers (not leaders) who simply did not care about us but cared very much about themselves and their next promotion. As a matter of fact, we then moved on to discuss that even in our curret roles as senior independent business leaders, we are even more keenly aware of those people who are just trying to get something from us versus invest in a relationship and future with us.

It is these thoughts that prompted the title of this blog at the end of our conversation. We actually discussed a common acquanitance that is knowledgeable, well connected in the business community and has the ability to really make a difference on many fronts. However, the approach taken to get things from others be it funds, volunteered time and/or community development is one that lacks real personal connection and committment to those needed by him and his organization. So, my friend and I drew the conclusion that if you want me to care or committ, I must first know that you care and are committed to me and my needs. In my book you can get through the Town Halls, the open door policy, the Ask Randy messages, the operational reviews, the strategy sessions and the vision communication that I was just simply committing myself to caring about the business and all involved. So, above all else please remember as a leader that the only way others will truly care and committ to your objectives/needs/aspirations is to first know that you truly care about them in whatever undertaking you are leading!


Randy’s Blog

Good Leaders Do Not Manage Change……They Lead Change!

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have had several interesting consulting engagements recently and they have provided me some great experiences to … [Read More...]

Motivational Leadership Speaking Motivational Leadership SpeakingRandy continues to be an exciting motivational leadership speaker, which has been his passion for over 25 years. He honed his skill as a motivational speaker and business coach working at GE under the tutelage of Jack Welch. From line supervisor to President & CEO, Randy has successfully lead individuals through his specific motivational methods that produce tangible results. Randy is personable, authentic, and driven. He has a speaking ability that motivates and energizes individuals to achieve beyond their potential.
Executive Leadership Mentoring Executive Mentoring & Leadership ConsultingRandy Dobbs is a proven CEO with strong operational/execution skills who has demonstrated success in fix-it situations. Randy has been a mentor for over 30 years helping individuals, senior leaders, to CEO’s at GE, Phillips Medical, USIS and wcasportfolio companies. Randy was trained in mentoring while at GE and subsequently pushed to train all the top leaders in Philips and USIS while implementing mentor programs at both organizations.Randy mentors/coaches CEO’s and some of their direct reports today in his current role.
Buy Randy’s book “Transformational Leadership” Transformational Leadership

Sharing personal experience and practical business blueprints, Dobbs takes the reader on a journey through the transformational process. Leaders working in organizations of various sizes--and facing diverse challenges and opportunities--will find Dobbs' ideas transformative, personally as well as professionally. This is a book for persons who want to be change agents within their respective organizations. It is for all who want to make a difference for themselves and their coworkers.