Sunday, September 16, 2018

Leadership and Marathons

Last Sunday,  while running the Erie Marathon (26.2 miles), I was reminded of Dan Rockwell's words:
"There is no permanent cure for leadership loneliness, only regular treatments."

That statement got me thinking about how running a marathon and leadership loneliness had a lot in common.

Now I'm not talking about the professional runners who cross the finish line in 2.5 hours. I'm talking about the majority of marathoners who are out on the course for 4, 5, or even 6 hours.
Let me tell you, not only are we out there twice as long as the elite runners, it can often get lonely.

When I run a marathon, I like to chat with others who run at my pace. Over the years I've heard lots of heartwarming stories. From people running for a loved one that has passed, to celebrating their 50 race, to a special young lady who was recently cured of a terrible disease.
Hearing their stories is my regular treatment for loneliness.

As leaders, we need to find our "regular treatments" for leadership loneliness.

Here are 10 best practices from established leaders I've know over the years:
(not in any particular order)
1. Become a member of a mastermind group.
2. Hire an experienced coach as a sounding board.
3. Ask for sincere and candid feedback from your team. "How am I doing?"
4. Meet with leaders outside your company on a regular basis.
5. Attend networking events.
6. Join a networking group.
7. Volunteer for a non profit.
8. Become a mentor.
9. Find a mentor.
10. Run marathons.

....and yes, I'm sure there are plenty more...please share what works for you in a comment below.
 thank you

Sunday, September 2, 2018

"They Are Not Here For Us...We Are Here For Them."

"They are not here for us...We are here for them."
John Susan, (God rest his soul), shared these words when he was mentoring me in leadership.

"Leadership is giving", John would say, "As leaders we need to give our wisdom so that others may grow. Our young team leaders are not here to make us look good, we are here to make them look good."

I asked John, "So how do we know it's working?"

"You will know Bob, yes... you will know." John replied in soft confidence.

Several years later my leadership lessons from John were put to the test:

---- It was a year of change. Giant Eagle had a new CEO with a new vision. He created awards for store teams based on seven Key Performance Indicators.
 Then all of a sudden, I was asked to take a temporary assignment, which meant leaving my store right in the middle of a banner year. (I had been Store Director there for the last 2 years).
AND,  we were running 3rd and 4th place in all the performance categories.  The company was not sending a replacement for me, my senior team and co-manager would be in charge...this would truly be a test of trust and leadership.

My team all joked with me... "Well Bob, I guess we will be hearing from you several times a day while you are away. We all know you need to check in on us."
They were all surprised by my answer. "How about this... If you need me, what I mean is, if there is problem you can't solve as a team, then call me."
With surprised passion several of them asked... " what about the 4th quarter strategies for all the KPI's?! we are so close to winning!"
"And you will." I replied with soft confidence.

Off I went to Ohio on my special project.
The weeks went on. The only communications I received from my team was an occasional friendly hello or how are you doing?


Fast forward...The year came to an end. The 4th quarters results were in and the year-to-date KPI's,  along with the winners, were published company wide.

This was the most gratifying day of my leadership career... the team I empowered and trusted were champions:
# 1 in Safety
# 1 in Customer Satisfaction
# 1 in Sales increase over budget
#1 in net profit improvement over budget
#1 Most profitable Bakery
#1 Most profitable Kitchen at Giant Eagle
Tied for #1 in Employee Satisfaction

Did my team struggle during the last 3 months? ABSOLUTELY!
Did they learn from their struggles and pressed forward as a team? YES!
Did I learn a lesson? I sure did...during those 3 months I can't tell you how many times I wanted to pick up the phone, how many times I wanted to make sure they were implementing my strategies...
...but I didn't.


A month later the new CEO as well as several other company officers held an on-site celebration at our store.
Darlene spoke on behalf of the store team-
".. Bob is a leader in the truest sense of the word. He taught us, inspired us, challenged us, held us accountable, empowered us, and most of all he trusted us. We are champions today because Bob Gambone is a champion. We are leaders today, because Bob Gambone is a leader."


Leadership is giving. Giving people the opportunity to do things they may not necessarily want to do, but need to do...including ourselves.
Did I want to "let go" of the control over my team in that final 4th quarter, hell no!...but I needed to.
Like John Susan said, "You will know Bob, yes... you will know."