Leadership Is About Not Just Accepting, But Confronting Reality

leadership mentoring by Randy Dobbs

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!

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

transformational leadership

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!

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Strategy is Critical, Not Casual, for Real Business Success!

executive leadership mentoring
I was very fortunate to have lunch earlier this week with a bright and articulate Investment banker this week. As we talked about business development and the rebounding market, I was quite impressed by a couple of his thoughts and they rang so true to my beliefs that it made for a wonderful leadership dialogue with a guy that is much more than an investment banker. He shared with me that he has many existing clients and as of late even more potential new clients who come to him and his organization looking to add to their businesses via acquisitions, raise capital to expand their businesses and/or potentially market their businesses to sell. His statement to me was that many of these clients or potential clients were not positioned to execute on any of these fronts because their businesses had be much too “casual” in their approach to their go forward business strategy. This approach had left them with slow growth, poor market position, declining earnings or in some cases all of the above!

As we discussed this situation, we both agreed that strategy is a CRITICAL on going yearly process that must be afforded both time and resource to develop and execute. As I shared in my book, strategic reviews are a cornerstone of the basic General Electric operating process and every business spent considerable time every year, normally in the first half of the year, to understand their market, their competition in the market, a strong SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) relative to this data, a plan for growth built on this data and a plan on how to resource the strategic plans that are developed. I subsequently used this processes in every business I lead outside of GE and it was a real driver of our growth and business development plans with USIS, the private equity portfolio company where I was CEO. My activity on this front that I describe in the book and all the years that I participated in this strategic review process in GE are witness to how critical strategy is to both defining how your business will continually succeed and what needs to be done to close the gap to get there.

In the end, I could not have agreed more with my lunch guest and I was excited to see how much he valued strategic planning and was driving it into the hearts and souls of small to mid-size business owners. For he knows as well as I do that long term business success does not allow for a “causal” approach to day to day operations or a “casual” approach to planning your long term future of your business. Both are critical to sustained business success!

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Are You Born A Leader Or Do You Become A Leader Over Time?

executive leadership mentoring

I had the great privilege to be a guest speaker at two college entrepreneurship classes over the past few weeks. One class was a group of college juniors and one class was a group of college seniors. it was so refreshing to be in the classroom and witness the vigor and enthusiasm that these young folks have for leadership and their future opportunities in the business world! I spoke for about thirty minutes to each group about transformational leadership and what I emphasized was the fundamentals of never quit, proactive communications, continual change and delivering results. The attentiveness of both groups was outstanding and their engagement in the insuing question and answer period was energizing for me. In fact, I took a couple of books and promoted strong questions by offering a free book to the student in each class with the best question.

In one of the classes, I recognized the winning question as the question that is the title of this blog, “Randy, were you born a leader or did you become one over time?” What a great question from an aspiring leader in his twenties and it helped me to address some thoughts to the class that were maybe the best moments in my time with them. My answer, which truly came without much thought, was as follows. I knew very early in my career (within the first year of leaving college) that I had the desire to lead. I do believe that desire has to be one that you are born with, especially if you are to succeed as a leader. Second, I shared with the class that I may have been born with the desire to be a leader but the path to being a leader is via the experiences, failures and learnings from other leaders that you have over time. In fact, no leader, regardless of how much he/she feels they are born with leadership skills, becomes an effective leader with coupling desire with the hard work of learning leadership over time.

I feel it is important to share in closing how impressed I was with these students this week. We hear so much bad about the uture but I am truly encouraged about the future leadership of the business world based on the interface I had with these seventy future leaders.

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In These Days Of Mediocre Service It Is Hard To Be A Committed Customer

executive leadership mentoring

In my book I write about the fact that customers will never be blind to poor service, poor quality and poor relationships. While I think most business owners embrace this as true, I am amazed more every day how haphazardly the associates who work in various capacities so poorly represent any regard for great customer service! I suspect that it is some what related to training and lack of measurement on customer service in various businesses but I also believe there is a lack of real desire to listen to customer needs and discover a way to fill their needs which in turn is driven by organizations where empowerment is just not embraced. So, what you get is customer service similar to my latest two examples.

First, I had been using the same dry cleaners for more than a year since I moved to my new location. On more than one occasion I asked for the amount of starch to be lessened in my shirts. Each time I asked, I was told no problem we can change that. However, after four times requesting this same thing it had not changed. Finally, one day I said this is the last time I intend to ask about the starch and they apologized for the continuing issue and promised a change this time. As you have guessed by now, nothing changed but where I now take my laundry! My new cleaners completes the task as requested but they go the extra mile every time I go there. If a button is missing or a stain will not come out they make sure I know about the problem and do all they can to resolve it before I ever even ask or know about it. I am thrilled to have made the change and I am happy to pay on average 10% more for the same work because the quality and service exceed my expectation!

Second, I recently called my regular pest control service with a rodent problem which I had no idea if it was covered under my contract. I originally solicited there service when I moved to my current location (just like the cleaners) and I have been loyal to their continuing quarterly service. However, when I called with my current issue, I was told not only do we not cover that in your current contract. We do not perform that service. I said fine but can you help me with who I might contact to take care of the issue. They said no they did not have a contact but hoped I could find some resolution by finding that kind of service. They did not offer to help find a service nor did they offer any immediate suggestions to deal with the issue. So, like the cleaners, I intend to have a new pest control service in the near future.

I assume that my dollars of business will not be missed initially in either business but I do wonder how many customers they will lose before they lose their business all for the lack of customer service/attentiveness. It is really hard to be a committed customer these days but where I find committed service attitudes I will have great loyalty even at a premium!

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When Working Hard Is Just Not The Only Answer

executive leadership mentoring

I have always believed that hard work is the key to getting ahead and I believe that the folks that really win do so because they commit themselves to do whatever is required to succeed. With that said, I have learned some hard lessons about believing that all my issues and opportunities could be resolved or realized just because I was willing to do whatever it would take to win. I am writing about this because I had the opportunity to talk to a very hardworking individual his week who is making his business a real success but he is working so hard that he does not have the time to reflect on how the business could be even stronger and more successful.

My friend has an “event based” business which means his revenue stream is dependent upon finding his next customer, closing the transaction, executing the service and collecting the payment. He believes that his hard work and oversight of each transaction is required to assure excellence in customer satisfaction and a referral base for new business. While I greatly respect his work ethic and his focus on customer satisfaction, I worry a lot that my friend will never be able to sustain his business success because he is working hard but not working hard enough to think about how to grow his business based on the success he has already established.

As we discussed his business, I asked him a couple of questions about all the customers he had already established and how much effort he was making to sell follow up services to what I call his “installed base”. In all sincerity, he said I will do whatever I need to do to help an existing customer when they call, but I am much too busy creating new business to do more than respond when an existing customer calls. We continued to talk and I shared a couple of thoughts about how to sell most of his existing customer base some follow up services on a regular every three year basis. In fact, I shared that if he was not comfortable doing this himself, it would be a great business expansion that would allow him to bring in the skills to do this, grow the business and perhaps see that the need to always work so hard could take a turn for the better in the near future.

As you have heard before, sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Likewise, it is often hard to see anything but hard work ahead because we don’t stop and think about other solutions beyond hard work.

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Leadership Is Not Easy But It Is Powerful!

executive leadership mentoring

As i shared with you in the last blog, my speaking engagements allow me to get real time feedback and questions about Transformational Leadership and some of the recent conversations have been eye-opening to say the least! It just never ceases to amaze me how many so called “leaders” believe that their associates work hard for their business during the week so they can do what they want to do on the weekend. I am blown away that they just don’t get that associates want a life that has challenge, reward and learning during their working hours. Without that opportunity to be challenged, the associates become bored, unhappy and dissatisfied which leads to poor quality, poor service and many human issues. So, how do we change the leadership environment ?

I assume you already knew that I would say it can only be changed with real leadership and you could not be more correct in your thinking. It may sound very simple but the more we get our associates feeling good about themselves, about the contribution their work makes and about their involvement in resolving issues/needs, the more you drive business success. The old, autocratic ways of a manager are done. The new ways of leading are begging to be utilized and sustained by confident and committed leaders!

This whole thought of leadership with a focus on the future needs of the organization is leadership with a commitment to improve and be better versus just showing up. Transformational Leadership at it’s very simple core is a person or associate centered leadership that once a leader gets started it is like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill in that it grows and can’t be stopped. While this is not necessarily easy to do because it takes focus versus just mindless management techniques, it is much more simple than many believe it is and it is the game changing and powerful way to create success beyond what many believed was achievable in any organization.

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It Just Does Not Seem That Hard To Do

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I had the opportunity to serve as a keynote speaker for a couple of great meetings over the course of the past two weeks. One meeting was focused on diversity and inclusion and the other meeting theme was collaboration. Both meetings were very successful and I was honored to be a part of the agenda; and to share with the attendees at both meetings the critical role that leadership plays in the success of both diversity and collaboration. What really struck me in both of these meetings with the folks, as I talked to them during the book signing time was a the old saying, “it’s not really as hard as it looks.” So, what is it that I felt is not as hard as it may look or sound? The “it” is real, open and committed leadership. The type of leadership that the book and my career has been centered around. Yet, I am always so surprised to the degree that is lacking in many organizations.

If I could say in this blog that the one thing that attendees at both of these meetings had in common which were hundreds of miles apart, it was the desire to have and the frustration with the lack of real, open and committed leadership. Here is where I feel that it is just not as hard as it might look to many leaders who fail to deliver this to their organizations. Real leadership does not mean you are not in control nor does it mean that you have to be too soft with your organization. However, what it does mean is that you have to be committed to regular communications with the entire organization and that the communications contains sufficient clarity as to the business’s/ organization’s needs, issues and future direction. Employees, for the most part, want to feel they are knowledgeable, involved and a part of the organization’s critical resource!

In the book, oner of my favorite pages is the chart that talks about the difference between managers and leaders. It always gets great reception in my talks because there are still way too many managers in many organizations. People are looking for leadership and let me tell you again “leadership is not really as hard as it may look”

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How Important Are Communications?

executive leadership mentoringI got into very healthy debate over the weekend with a good friend about the most important aspect of real game changing leadership (Transformational Leadership!). We were in violent agreement that having the right, talented people is critical and that a compelling vision married to a strategy is fundamental to any business’s future. However, we debated more than I ever expected about my belief that those and so many other critical needs are all secondary to the ability to execute real strong, clear communications. We ended up agreeing that most of what works in our lives, or fails for that matter, is the result of the job we either perform or miss on the communication front. Now that I think about the conversation, it is funny but we were able to have a healthy debate because we are both good, clear and honest communicative leaders who care about each other.

In my book,the first chapter in the secret sauce of Transformational Leadership (chapter4) is actually titled “Win Them Over–Communicate, Communicate, Communicate”. I make many critical points in this chapter but the main message is that the leader must drive the communication process, establish his presence and become a real caring open leader to the broad business team. As I point out, this complex process consists of many steps but the first step is really simple. You must become totally open as to who you are, where you came from, what you know or want to know about them and the business, how you operate and what you expect from them. The more this can be done with candor, humility and conviction the faster the transformation will start!

The most important part about communication as the catalyst for change though is not just this front end work but the ongoing consistency of the communication. How are we doing? Where are we going for future success and job security? Why are the metrics so important? What is the value of productivity to my future? What do our customers think and a they satisfied with our work? Will I share in the future success of the business? These and so many more questions are constantly on the mind of your organization. They deserve to have answers and they deserve it without asking. The bottom line, the more your organization knows the more they will see the need to constantly change and drive the needs of the business from their own informed perspective. Communications the real key to Transformation!

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Authentic Leadership Attracts, Retains and Grows The Best Talent

executive leadership mentoring

Within the last couple of days I was talking to a really focused leader in a well known private equity firm and the more he described a current leadership issue in one of his portfolio companies, the issue became really clear to me. This is a problem that is all too common in business leadership but with some of the recent economic challenges it has become more pronounced in many businesses. The issue is that many business leaders believe the best way to deliver results is to control virtually every aspect of the business and those who have been charged with leading in respective areas of the business. In other words, the trust and real openness that are so critical to any organization’s development are compromised by the belief that control is more important than people, creativity and clarity/openness of thought.

Learning to be a real leader who is open to not always being right, one who can accept failure and one who can trust those in the organization is not necessarily easy but the payoff for the organization and for the leader is significant. Your best people in an organization are first recruited to an organization but over time they choose to remain and perform because they are attracted to it and the opportunities it gives them. In all my experiences, my best people were attracted and retained because I had enough trust to allow them to call their own shots and own their objectives that supported the overall business results at all levels of the organization!

The heart of an organization is driven to a strong beat by the openness and authenticity of its leaders. When a leader ignores the needs for empowerment and the organization’s desire to feel successful via their own efforts, it inevitably means we are ignoring the the development and retention of the organization. So when the leader fails to be authentic and really care about the organization’s needs and development, the organization will stop being authentic as well. It stops bringing its talent and energy to the workplace and quickly loses sight of the vision and objectives for the future of the business. I think that being a real person who understands the needs of the organization and conveys that regularly is one, if not the most critical, skill required in high performance leadership.

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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.