Leading By Example Facilitates Real Change

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For those of you who do not know me, I will let you know that we have just entered my favorite time of the year, college football season. As I watched these first few weeks of the new season, it is clear that some of the best results so far are the teams that have a head coach that is leading their teams out front with real passion and commitment. The players feed off the energy of these coaches who run up and down the sidelines engaged in every play and who more importantly have delegated the leadership of their offense and defense to their assistant coaches. In other words, like so many good business leaders the real change and success of these teams is because they have a leader that believes, engages the team around him with delegated leadership and visibly gives 110% in effort to win!

I have written before about the need to be a real, authentic person in order to be a really effective leader. Well there is no way you can be real without really setting the example for all to follow. A real leader is out in front of his/her team. Did you ever wonder why a team could perform so differently with the same players and the only change being a leadership change? Well I have personally witnessed this in three businesses and I can tell you that in order to facilitate the dramatic changes that occurred, it all began with leading the members of the business in a very visible, honest, an energized way that set the belief that we could change and win!

You know we hear it most of our lives, “set a good example.” Well there could not be better advice when it comes to leadership. Strong leadership examples who give their all, energize people who may have given up on winning. Strong leadership examples can dramatically change the results of a less than successful organization. Real leadership often facilitates real change and a future that few can see.


Real Leadership Is Allowing Others To Think And Act

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I had a terrific time this past Monday consulting with a small business owner (revenue less than $2 million) who appears to have a very strong product but is significantly missing growth opportunities. I spent a couple of hours over the weekend reading about his product, his current customer relationships, his missed market opportunities and his organization. We then spent the better part of the first hour talking about the history of the business, the product and the current financial position of the business. At that point, I was overflowing with ideas that I felt could help short term growth, business/product market positioning and longer term broader market opportunity perspective. However, one of my most important jobs in this consulting assignment was to make sure that it was not my ideas and thoughts that drove the actions of this business’s future. This is not because I did not want to help but rather because if the actions were to get long term traction they would have to be owned by the CEO and his team not a consultant.

With this in mind I proceeded to ask lots of “what if” questions and waited for the CEO to form his own opinions about what would be needed in each of these areas. If I thought his responses were off the mark I would steer him hard to think about alternatives. In fact, in one instance I insisted that he was missing a pricing opportunity and walked him through why I thought that was true and how to do it. The longer we dialoged like this the deeper I was able to probe into some of the real issues and opportunities that were deeply rooted in the business and clearly preventing it from growing.

We ended our session with numerous short term actions to drive margin and revenue growth and many longer term possibilities to strengthen his team, his market position, his sales efforts and his own leadership style. At the end, he asked me for prioritization as he clearly felt thia was a very valuable session but one where he ended it with his mouth on the proverbial firehouse! I shared with him that I would be happy to meet again and discuss his decisions on action prioritization but as the business leader he will need to think and act with the inputs from his team for their real buy-in to all our work. In other words, I had forced him to think beyond his constraints and now I wanted him as a leader to pass that on to his team. Then the actions will be the commitments of a leader and his team who were both encouraged and allowed to think and act!!


The One Thing That Maxmizes Organizational Results……Is Collaboration!

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When my son was in high school and playing on the baseball team, I volunteered to take on a significant leadership role in the Athletic Association for the entire high school. At the time, I was working for GE and had moved into a much bigger leadership role as well. In GE where I had hundreds of people reporting into my organization, it was easy to make things happen, because even if your hard work as influencing leader did not always work, you did still had the authority to drive consensus and get things done. However, in this athletic association there were hundreds of parents who all had good ideas and their own agendas depending upon the needs of the sport in which their child participated. So, not only was consensus impossible to drive because of lack of authority, it was also very difficult to drive because of so many conflicting opinions about the priorities for the funds raised by the association. The only real way to ever get anything done over the course of that year in that leadership role was by finding ways to drive collaboration among so many different people with so many different needs.

So, what is collaboration? Collaboration is the process of people thinking and working together to discover ways to solve problems and address complex issues/needs via the exploration of multiple options from various perspectives. Most of the obstacles to effective collaboration in business, public service or private functions are within the collaborators themselves. One of the most common issues is a negative or it can not be done attitude. I believe the second most common issue is the self-serving attitude found in various collllaborators. When we discussed fundraising in the association and pushed to think big, it was amazing how the same folks always were convinced that it could not be done long before we even started to achieve the goals. When we discussed the budgets for the association there was little regard from some folks as to what sports provided the most revenue to the budget. They wanted more than their fair share of the budget just because their child and their particular sport was more deserving in their opinion. These same attitudes exist in the business setting and sometimes even more pervasively. It is a much more effective way to impact the thinking of these few through the power of many positive people collarorating than just taking them on yourself as the leader of whatever organization you are driving forward

Collaboration is a way to energize people to work and think together and to have them see the value of broad engagement and experiences on various issues. Complex business issues that seem almost impossible to resolve in several businesses that I have lead were moved to a real breakthrough status by driving collaboration of a mix of business capabilities and divergent viewpoints on these major business issues. It is clear to me that finding solutions and a better way in today’s world of challenges is almost always much more than what one leader’s mind or a select group of leaders can handle. By pulling many in to the day to day process of collaboration as a business team, I think it drives better business speed, output, quality and ultimately profitability. My old adage has been to have the best business possible all your associates “must bring their brain to work and they must be allowed/encouraged to use it!”


Preparing To Make Decisions Is Driven By A Couple Of Key Actions

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In my last blog, I wrote about the power of acting or making decisions in the day to day life of a business and I stated that I thought this was the most critical aspect of real leadership to force action versus ongoing debate on issues/opportunities. Then this past week I was participating in a meeting where I was not the one who had the authority to make the decision and another important attribute that drives this decision making process became so clear to me as I observed the leader in charge of this session. I truly felt bad for this leader because he was listening to some emotional input from a meeting participant that was real rubbish! Then it dawned on me that a leader has to ask TOUGH QUESTIONS to expose the facts versus weak opinions.

I believe the tougher the questions the more it will not only expose the real critical facts for decision making but it will motivate those attending a meeting or discussion on issues to come prepared with facts not just opinions. As I discussed last week, ongoing discussions and meetings without timely decisions can really hurt business performance, caused missed market opportunities and demoralize a team. However, a poor decision by a leader because they listened to someones opinion who dominated the conversation/meeting without asking tough questions to validate the inputs can cause an equal amount of damage if not more.

In every organization, the really strong people want to participate in the decision making process and they are willing to work hard to help that process. They want the leader to make a decision that is not only timely but that is responsible with clear direction and action on the issue/opportunity. As a leader you can not make that kind of decision and really utilize the best people if you fail to ask tough questions to drive preparation, separate opinions from real facts and separate the people who are focused on helping from those who just want to drive their own agenda.


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.


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!


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!


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.