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The Stories We Tell – Worst Enemy or Best Friend

Sheila Spangler

Dear Friends,

In this edition of EAGLE TALK, I believe you will find the insights of my good friend, Sheila Spangler, useful, beneficial and valuable. I first met Sheila when she was a client working for Zions Bank here in Boise. Drawing upon her wisdom in my business career, has helped me in the role as a Trusted Mentor and Advisor.  Happy Spring!

— Bob

Sheila Spangler
Sheila Spangler

Sheila Spangler has spent her career in finance as a business broker, commercial lender, business appraiser, and valuation analyst. She is a professional business intermediary and business appraiser with Murphy Business & Financial, specializing in business sales, business valuation, financial analysis, negotiation, deal structure, and financing. Prior to joining Murphy Business & Financial, she launched and led and her own business brokerage firm for over six years. Additionally, she founded and launched the Zions Bank Business Resource Center, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) funded Women’s Business Center, two business-consulting organizations focused on financial counseling and training for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs seeking to start, grow, and finance their companies. She received a master’s level degree from Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington, and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boise State University. For 20 years she held the position of Vice President-Commercial Lending with several large banking institutions.

It is our nature as human beings to be inspired by stories. The old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a fallacy.  Our spoken and written words stir emotions that can lead to destruction or creation.  We know this instinctively.  However, sometimes, this knowledge is temporarily forgotten. Let me explain. 

I work as a business broker and appraiser focusing primarily on business owners who want to sell or buy businesses. Generally, the first step in that process involves asking questions and listening to the owner’s “origin story” about various successes and challenges along the way.  This story typically follows the mythological “hero’s journey” which is as follows.  The hero goes on an adventure, survives a decisive crisis, and returns “home” victoriously or is somehow transformed by the experience. This “hero’s journey” applies to business owners who either start a business and build it from scratch or purchase one and grow it.  They all suffer gut-wrenching challenges both real and imagined.  Somehow, they persevere when all seems hopeless.  A big customer is lost; there is no money in the bank; employees must get paid; a partner embezzles; a bank denies financing; a key employee takes confidential information, etc.  Through grit and determination, these obstacles are overcome and the owner steers the ship to calmer seas and for a time sails smoothly along until once again, a sea monster emerges.  Yet this time, our hero is an experienced warrior, who handily slays the leviathan and heads home arriving to the roaring appreciation of family and friends.  Okay, perhaps that’s a little dramatic yet my point is all business owners have a hero’s journey story and it’s important to know and appreciate this when selling (or buying) a business The owner’s final adventure is the business exit where the wheel is turned over to a new captain. Perhaps it’s a family member, perhaps someone unknown and not yet trusted.  This new someone must sufficiently appreciate the struggle and sacrifice that the business seller has endured and must commit to continue the journey while not marring the seller’s legacy. At least, that is what the seller believes.

The business selling process is an emotional journey for the owner not unlike a parent whose child has grown up, left home and no longer wants advice from the parent. The parent, like the business owner, has little control of what happens in the future yet often feels proud, excited, scared, angry, unappreciated, hopeful, forgotten, while eventually reaching acceptance and some degree of happiness. 

Recently, a client asked if there was some way he could avoid spending time answering a prospective buyer’s questions.  I wondered “how did that perception come up?”  So, I said, “Spending time with the buyer develops trust between the two of you which helps the buyer determine if she wants to move forward and buy your business.  I’m not aware of another way to accomplish this without talking.  What do you think?”  The owner’s response was “Yup!! Sounds fine.  Thanks.”  Hmmmm.  I’m not sure that he is fine and I’ll be following up to find out what caused him to ask this question. The “story” he believes about my answer or the reason for his question may or may not be the truth about the situation. 

The word “truth” reminds me of a college course on rhetorical theory that I enjoyed.  The gist of the course was to examine the meaning of rhetoric throughout recorded history.  According to Merriam-Webster, rhetoric is “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.”  Rhetoric is used to teach, sell, encourage, defend, motivate, hurt, control, manipulate, or frustrate among other things.  Words are used by humans for good or evil purposes. In this case, the professor explained that the purpose of rhetoric was to uncover the “truth” of something.  However, “truth” as described by Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and others was not the same as “Big T Truth” later divined under monarchies and various religious factions.  In other words, the truth changed over time depending upon who was telling it. The Greeks encouraged discussion and debate to determine the possible “truth” of a situation, person, or event. Whereas, later in history, a king or a church leader informed the masses that there was only one “Truth” and that all must accept that or face the consequences.  My purpose in sharing this is not to stir up any religious or philosophical debate, it is to illustrate the point that perception (i.e. truth) is often a matter of opinion.  Sometimes “truth” is backed by reason and discourse and sometimes by edict and force.

In my line of work as a business broker and appraiser, I’ve discovered that “truth” is often relative.  The first question a business owner generally asks me after I’ve heard the origin story is, “what is the value of my business?”.  My answer is, “That depends upon the situation”.  The value of a business is affected by more than the revenues and earnings.  The valuation also must consider the current economic environment, future opportunities for the company and its industry, its operational structure, financing availability, ease of transferability to a new owner, and continuance of revenues and profits into the future, to name a few.  Further, the business value varies depending upon the buyer.  For example, an individual financial buyer, replacing a corporate career may pay a different price than a private equity firm or strategic buyer.  So, what is the value of the business? It depends upon the buyer, the seller, the particular situation, and the flexibility of the buyer and seller and willingness to tell each other their relative “truths” about all of that.

Words are powerful. Our perceptions are formed from reading or hearing words.  Perceptions become beliefs and opinions which generate thoughts and actions regarding ourselves and others. The stories we tell ourselves and others determine the outcome of most things.  What stories are you telling?  What would happen if your story changed?  How would that impact your life or that of others?  That’s something to ponder whether you want to sell or buy a business or make any life choice.

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Reflections Upon Values Based Culture

Bob Mobley

Our Key to a Successful Nation and World

During the past several weeks, we are all being bombarded by stories from one source or another highlighting the “disagreements and disparities” within our Communities. Issues and topics of discussion cover a wide range, from wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of Covid 19, to States going on lock downs, with limitations placed upon schools being open and the closing bars and other businesses. The deepening division in our Communities over these issues, combined with the spreading intolerance for open discussion and listening to the other individuals thinking and reasoning, is creating a dangerous mindset and behavior impacting an expanding number of Americans. History has shown us time and again that the pathway leading to the door of Dictatorship is paved by the destruction of Shared Values and Community.

My great fear lies in several realities I see coming together during these demanding and stressful times. First, we are paying the price for the failure within our educational system to teach History with its important and valuable lessons. Too many of our citizens including many of our Political Representatives have little or no idea about the ways and means used by those individuals seeking to become all powerful and in essence Dictators. Our institutions are protected by the professionalism of our officials and our judges. These individuals hopefully feel guided and bounded by the values and standards laid down by those who proceeded them in their roles and offices. Yet as History has so clearly demonstrated, these values and standards can be manipulated by individuals who lack the character and integrity to be true Servant Leaders.

Our biggest threat to our democracy is from the leaders and government in power. Enterprising politicians have seized upon identity politics, and with this as a focus, the issues that can drive wedges into our beliefs, thinking, behaviors, actions and values. What are examples of these powerful wedges: rich vs poor, immigration, corporate monopolies, unfair differences in education, lack of “minority representation” in job roles and on and on. When a society builds

“Tribal Communities,” these can quickly turn into negative forces focusing on differences of identity and not on the successful outcomes required to build, grow and expand a Democracy for the success of all citizens.

My fear and concern is I believe we may be on this road to destroying the American Dream, and with it, the opportunities for creating a better, stronger, unified world based of the shared Humanity of Love and Faith. We are all in this together. Regardless of where you live, what language you speak, what Faith you follow the lesson from COVID 19 is we are all Human Beings living and sharing this world together. It is time we embraced our shared Humanity and stopped allowing politicians to drive us apart and fragment our Societies.

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Preparing for the Unexpected

Debbie Fliehman

Dear Friends,

Happy Holidays to all of our Eagle Talk Readers!

I believe you will find the insights of this month’s guest contributor very valuable in light of our ever-changing business and leadership environment. I have known Debbie Fliehman for a number of years since first meeting at Baxter Healthcare.

— Bob

Debbie Fliehman
Deborah G. Fliehman

Debbie Fliehman is an accomplished business professional with experiential wisdom in marketing, communications, advertising, and sales promotion, producing profitable results working with corporations, identifying marketing and communication improvement opportunities. Her cross-functional business acumen and advanced communication skills cultivate results-producing customer, employee, supplier relationships. With an extensive background developing and implementing comprehensive multi-media marketing and communications campaigns, national press releases, and digital, print and social media marketing materials, she works with executives and managers to elevate their teams’ sophistication levels and performance quality. Debbie’s experience includes working with hundreds of clients in over twenty industries, and on all levels within an organization to ensure effective development of training and education programs, presentations and workshops, content, strategy, websites development, and trade show exhibition.

When businesses face unprecedented challenges, the need for change becomes evident. Incorporating contingency planning into business processes keeps organizations forward-thinking, well-rounded, and able to turn on a dime. Negative impacts cannot always be avoided by forecasting the next economic upswing, for example, but this information can help to minimize risk. Identifying strategies and techniques for formulating responses helps to anticipate what will happen when something unexpected occurs. It’s critical to outlive the challenging times and evade staggering strikes to our businesses. Developing responses to scenarios helps to prioritize and plan.

A commitment to contingency planning and response analysis involves laying the groundwork to strengthen the organization and make it lean and productive. Embedded within business processes are ongoing activities that include competitive intelligence, customer engagement, employee communication, shareholder expectations, market and environmental requirements, and social, political, and economic awareness. Consider reputation when assessing impacts the business will have on the community, workers and families, supply and demand, the industry, and the ability to thrive and prosper.

Once these contingency plans have been developed, analyzing the impact of responses includes identifying improvement opportunities, making organizational adjustments, reallocating resources, prioritizing merger and acquisition activities, and increasing quality, service, and products, elevating performance and improving productivity. Focus on earnings instead of revenue, and favorable results will emerge. An algorithm for organizational readiness, cost management, and growth through product and service offerings keeps an organization on target. Pliability requires ongoing research, communication, scenario development, and response analysis.

With the new reality of remote working environments, virtual meetings with employees and customers demand mastery of technology and communication finesse. Toss into the mix of employees working on-site and those working remotely, and the result is a set of unique communication requirements. Leadership needs to re-assess their style and further develop their workforce in effective and efficient conversation, collaboration, honoring and valuing others’ expertise, receiving feedback, listening to and hearing the ideas of others, and enabling accountability and ownership of individual and team performance.

Thoughtful and well documented emergency execution plans for a financial crisis, a pandemic, or a natural disaster buffers the jolt on an organization, recalibrates its functionality, and stabilizes its profitability. The goal is to reduce disruptions when the unexpected threatens the integrity of the business. The ultimate success depends on its ability to harness talent, develop relationships between and among teams, and respect the time needed to achieve performance excellence. Attention needs to be given to recognizing and motivating each employee’s flexibility and contributions as an integral team member.

The conclusive objective of a business to thrive and prosper amid a changing environment is to maintain employee focus on the job at hand, inspire creativity, and continuously improve output quality. Alleviating misused and misspent time provides employees with the freedom to identify with, nurture, and sustain the business’s heartbeat. During a sheltering in time, many employees will spend more time on their jobs because of time gained from commuting and working in a home environment, albeit a frequently conflicting one, producing a frustrated and exhausted employee. Incorporating new technologies and acknowledging what the new workplace looks like improves and facilitates employee engagement.

Developing scenarios and analyzing results remove the knee-jerk reaction to an emergency by restructuring an organization. With proper planning, it will already know how to respond. Internal and external communication practices will be in place ensuring stellar collaboration and efficiencies that will elevate productivity. All of this is necessary for a business adaptation to occur. Instilling process improvements requires hiring the best talent and developing all talent to anticipate and respond to the need for change. An unexpected occurrence is not a time for complacency in a business, nor is it a time to ignore, neglect, and postpone solid and quality employee and customer communication.

Succeeding, thriving, and prospering amid change is possible. Inciting a climate where differentiation and distinction are the business model spurs action. When a business becomes more significant than its physical surroundings, its identity and brand are surrounded by the humans who live and breathe the company’s spirit. Activities align with the mission, vision, and values. Employees can ensure reliable and necessary products and services that improve customers’ quality of life and their communities. This enormous task cannot be achieved solely by the leadership, but through the leadership’s ability to unleash all that’s possible.

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Sustaining and building client relationships during a pandemic

Kevin Winters

Dear Friends,

In today’s challenging and complex world, I believe you will find these “words of wisdom” from my client, Kevin Winters, extremely valuable and well worth taking the time to read and reflect upon as you go forward seeking to navigate your own Best Action Plan in this Pandemic Environment. To each of you I say, be astute, be wise, be safe and be a Leader in all you do.

— Bob

Kevin Winters
Kevin Winters

With more than 21 years of investment, relationship, and product management expertise, Kevin Winters has earned a solid reputation for developing strong and trusted partnerships with Institutions, RIA’s and family office clientsproviding strategic insight, guidance, and plans for growth. Kevin started his career in 1999, as a Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley, and held a number of increasingly responsible leadership roles with nationally recognized investment management firms before joining PIMCO in 2006—where he excelled to EVP and RIA Channel Head in just six years. In this role, he personally managed RIA and office family clients, in addition to overseeing a team of account managers across the U.S.—with assets under management totaling $75 billion. Currently, Kevin is an alternative and private credit strategist specializing in distribution of PIMCO’s registered and private market strategies to global wealth management clients. Drawing upon experiences from his accomplished career, Kevin is best known for his visionary leadership, keen strategy skills, and ability to develop new business.

The current global pandemic has set in motion a wave of new client engagement methods. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams, Blue Jeans and Webex, we have all grappled with “true” connectivity with our clients, associates, family and friends.  We now rely on the business relationships we have worked to build over the years, to be a platform to continue to deepen client relationships.   However, this path of sustaining and building has shifted from a transactional path, to one of emotional breadth and depth.  This leads us to a discussion on building and nurturing emotional ties with clients to the benefit of both parties, business opportunities and individual careers.  Over the course of 25 years in building client relationships, I have found that solid emotional engagement leads to longer and more sustainable relationships.

Clients want validation that they are seen and heard.   Countless times I hear colleagues ask surface-level questions and not express a real interest in the response given.  For example, “How are you?” is a simple question to begin a real dialogue or elicit a polite banter.  I have found that asking a common question as such, enables you to gain perspective on their point of view or begin to see the environment they are currently facing.  Furthermore, asking follow-up questions (i.e. certain projects at work, homeschooling, work/life balance), often times opens up a variety of topics to build a common ground and sets the stage for earning trust.  Most importantly, it shows you are listening, engaged and interested in what they have to say. It is the most basic, and yet most effective, way of communication, particularly in such a digital world.

Another reason emotional engagement with clients is so important, is that it allows you to really get at the core of what is motivating them. One way to do this is by engaging with clients on how they measure success both personally and professionally.  This cannot be done without knowing their short-term and long-term business and personal goals.  It is crucial to learn the “why” behind what they do.  Now, you can gain a better understanding of how you can help them with that goal. 

With “Virtual Meeting” fatigue setting in, I ask more personal questions to strengthen client relationships.  Specifically, questions that you have already touched on in prior discussions, to keep building the relationship and before diving into future business and another power point presentation.  The mistake I see people often make is to assume that the other person has tunnel-vision and solely focused on their job.  However, we often fail to realize that they have much more on their mind like the rest of us (i.e. their job, family, health, kids returning to school) and various other factors that drive their day, week and month.  In my experience, this personal approach generates better outcomes when you take the time to demonstrate a level of empathy that builds trust.

In closing, I challenge the readers of Eagle Talk to build a comprehensive overview of their top business relationships and friendships, to determine what you really know about an individual both personally and professionally.  First, create a document that demonstrates your knowledge of the individual. Second, revisit the document two months from now, and again six months later. Third, track what are the common “gaps” that are consistent across the list.  This will provide some insight on where to further engage or alter your true commitment to really understand someone.  Remember, it is human nature for individuals to do business with those they like and trust.  Your path to gaining trust is demonstrating that you truly care about that individual at the personal and professional level.

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Interview with Matt Fawcett

Matt Fawcett
Matt Fawcett

Bob has a really thoughtful and complete sense of the person with whom he’s working. He engaged with my team, too. It wasn’t just a one-on-one relationship but more like a bicycle wheel with hub and spokes.

Matt Fawcett

When did you meet Bob?

I met Bob decades and decades ago because he was a family friend. He’s known me since I was a child.

Bob has been very helpful in counseling me to pause and take advantage of silence, and not always feel the need to fill spaces with my voice. When you put that idea into practice you can see how it pays off very quickly.

When did you start working together?

That was in about 2014, 2015 maybe 2016.

How has he helped you build a winning team?

Bob spends a lot of time thinking about the characteristics and traits of the individual with whom he works and that helps him provide guidance to the kind of team that’s likely to be successful with that leader. He has a really thoughtful and complete sense of the person with whom he’s working. And the other is he engaged with my team, too. It wasn’t just a one-on-one relationship but more like a bicycle wheel with hub and spokes.

The characteristics of leaders can be very different but the one aspect that is consistent and had been overlooked for a long time was the nature of authenticity. Bob was one of the early advocates of authenticity, and that if you don’t operate from a base of self-knowledge, your actions may not be consistent and the desired results may not be there.

What are the most valuable aspects of his coaching?

With respect to me and my own individual tendencies and characteristics, he’s been really helpful in counseling me to pause and take advantage of silence, and not always feel the need to fill spaces with my voice, so to speak and when you put that idea into practice you can really see how it pays off very quickly. It’s quite interesting.

There’s a common misconception among people that the people who are the leaders are expected to do the most talking and have the most answers, and in fact. oftentimes it’s the ones doing the most listening and asking the most questions.

How has Bob's key coaching concept—to be yourself—helped you the most, both professionally and personally?

You know the…I think as the philosophy of leadership has evolved over time, and the literature around it has evolved, it’s become clear to me, at least, that the characteristics of leaders can be very different but the one thing that is consistent and had been overlooked for a long time was the nature of authenticity. Bob was one of the early advocates of authenticity not just for purposes of leading teams but also for deriving the fact that your self-knowledge is key to the actions that you drive and the results that you get and that if you don’t operate from a base of self-knowledge your actions may not be consistent and the desired results may not be there.

There’s something more personal than what I have seen or experienced or read from other people who are known as coaches for executives… Bob starts from a more personal point of view and then works outward from there.

Do you find that Silence is indeed a key skill for being an effective communicator? WHY?

Yes. There’s the old saying that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason, you should be listening twice as much as you’re talking. I think there’s a common misconception among people that the people who are the leaders are expected to do the most talking and have the most answers and in fact oftentimes it’s the ones doing the most listening and asking the most questions.

Bob teaches you to listen. Not to hear, but to listen.

From your perspective and viewpoint why is Bob's coaching approach effective in helping individuals build and develop their "Own Best Games?"

I would describe his approach as…there’s something more personal than what I have seen or experienced or read from other people who are known as coaches for executives. There are a lot of very popular coaches who basically talk about an operating system that starts from here’s your operating dashboard, and here’s how you’re going to manage your actions and Bob starts from a more personal point of view and then works outward from there.

Bob doesn’t have an agenda that goes beyond
actually seeing the growth and success of the person he’s sitting across from. I feel, and I imagine other people who work with him feel, that he sincerely, honestly, transparently, wants the success of the people with whom he’s working.

Does Bob's key theme, "You are always at your 'Best' when you are Being Yourself " help you achieve your leadership goals?

Yes, absolutely. Because if you start from a point where you’re not going to be your authentic, true self you’re likely to get actions and behaviors that are not consistent with what you’re really seeking.

Based on your own experience, why does Bob's coaching and mentorship work for you?

I don’t feel he has an agenda that goes beyond actually seeing the growth and success of the person he’s sitting across from. Again, I, in various contexts, have seen lots of different coaches and coaching philosophies. And I think with Bob, just going back to people being their true authentic selves, I feel, and probably other people who work with him feel that he sincerely, honestly, transparently wants the success of the people with whom he’s working.

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Interview with Elizabeth Dillon

Elizabeth Dillon
Elizabeth Dillon

Bob doesn’t hold back in getting out the best of you. He really wants you to learn. He’s there to achieve something. As he puts it, our success is his success.

Elizabeth Dillon

When did you meet Bob?

Oh, gosh, I met Bob twelve years ago? I was managing a small team of about four people including myself, and one of the guys on the team, Simoni Gallio, he had worked at Goldman Sachs, and he really liked Bob a lot and said that Bob was what we needed. So Simoni put me in touch with Bob and Bob came over to London and spent an extensive week with our team and essentially became a big part of our DNA.

Bob is no-nonsense, no fluff. When you work with Bob, you know you’ve achieved something. You know you’ve got more tools that you can really use.

How has he helped you build a winning team?

It all started with the training which is very extensive. It’s not easy to do. He really pushes you. We did that each as individuals and worked on our own individual styles and techniques and then he put us together as a team where we worked together on things and that created a very strong bond. Bob exposes you, but you’re safe. He will always challenge you; he will always push you. We, together with Bob, were all exposed to each other. That made us stronger together because we all knew we’d keep each other honest. We developed our own language as a team. That carries on today. Throughout the years as new members joined the team, I have had them meet Bob because he’s very critical to functioning well on our team.

Throughout the years as new members have joined, I have had them meet Bob because he’s very critical to functioning well on our team.

What are the most valuable aspects of his coaching?

Because he’s so forthright and he pushes you, and he’s direct. He doesn’t hold back in getting out the best of you. He really wants you to learn. He’s not going through the motions. He’s there to achieve something. As he puts it, our success is his success. He almost makes you feel like you can’t let him down.

Bob believes in people as individuals and he’s trying to make the best “you.” He’s not trying to change you so much as he’s trying to get the best out of you. He lets your own personal style come through.

How has Bob's key coaching concept—to be yourself—helped you the most, both professionally and personally?

He doesn’t have a set of generic rules. He believes in people as individuals and he’s trying to make the best you. He’s not trying to change you so much as he’s trying to get the best out of you. I’ve been with coaches before that say, “take two steps, pause. Look at the audience. Take two more steps.” That’s unnatural. Bob doesn’t make you do anything that’s unnatural. But he makes you try things you wouldn’t have done, and he insists you do it. And he lets your own personal style come through.

Bob doesn’t ask you to do anything unnatural. I believe that’s very important. That’s different from a lot of coaches. And he gives you a treasure chest of tools.

Do you find that Silence is indeed a key skill for being an effective communicator? WHY?

Silence is power. It sows confidence, it sows thoughtfulness. Silence is a very powerful tool when used naturally; it is very effective. Bob instills in our sales team the most important skill, maybe more than silence, is listening. He teaches you to listen. Not to hear, but to listen. If you don’t know how to use silence, you’re probably not listening. You’re just filling gaps, and people pick up on that. Silence and listening makes people like you because they feel they’ve been heard.

From your perspective and viewpoint why is Bob's coaching approach effective in helping individuals build and develop their "Own Best Games?"

Again, it’s his directness, he doesn’t give difficult messages. But it’s also a caring and warmth with Bob. It’s tough love. And he pushes people’s boundaries. He had an exercise where he said to me, “ask a client a question and then hand him a pad of paper and a pen and let them write out their answer.” I tried it first practiced it on him a couple of times. Then about three or four months later I was in a meeting and I did it and it worked! And it was natural. He doesn’t ask you to do anything unnatural. I believe that’s very important. That’s different from a lot of coaches. And he gives you a treasure chest of tools.

Compared to other coaches, Bob isn’t trying to
change you into something you aren’t, which helps a lot with confidence. Being told by someone that “you’re good, let’s make you better,” is so much better than we’re going to “change” you or “fix” you.

Does Bob's key theme, "You are always at your 'Best' when you are Being Yourself " help you achieve your leadership goals?

Absolutely. That’s because compared to other coaches he’s not trying to change you into something you aren’t, which helps a lot with confidence. Being told by someone that “you’re good, let’s make you better,” is so much better than we’re going to “change” you or “fix” you. I believe he understands that you’re at your level because you’re talented. Instead of making you feel all self-conscious, he builds on the talents that you have. And particularly for women that’s very important because we’re often criticized for not being like men. He definitely doesn’t do that.

Based on your own experience, why does Bob's coaching and mentorship work for you?

It works for me because, again, he’s no-nonsense, no fluff. When you work with Bob, you know you’ve achieved something. You know you’ve got more tools that you can really use. Often after a session I reflect upon what I’ve learned. Proof in the pudding is that after you meet with Bob, you’re having dinner with your husband and you’re excited about all that you’ve learned. I don’t think that’s the case with other coaches. There are tangible things you that you achieve. You didn’t waste time. Also I’d say Bob is effective because he’s direct. Because he’s tough. Because he’s invested in you and your success.

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Creating and leading High Performing Teams

Bob Mobley

Dear Friends,

There are thousands of books written about Leadership. Many of them promote a process formula, which if followed, can effect leadership qualities. In my experience working with a wide range of highly successful men and women creating and leading High Performing Teams, it always comes back to the following great Truth. Sharing a core set of Values and Behaviors is the DNA enabling them to be inspiring, successful individuals. By living their own Values every day, they build trust and inspiration, attracting others who want to follow them. I believe this confirms that successful leadership is based on each individual’s own capacities and determination.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Gandhi

Here are some of their key shared behaviors and skills. These are never a set formula or cookbook-type list. These skills are all grounded in clear core Values and the fact that each successful individual can achieve their maximum impact by always Being Themselves. Sound familiar?

  • Listen, Learn, Lead!
  • Accept ownership and total responsibility for your decisions and the actions you are making and taking.
  • Personal Relationships are the heart and glue of Great Teams; they are the DNA upon which Trust is established, built and embedded within an organization’s Culture.
  • Absolutely “Keep Faith” with the individuals below you. Always have “their backs.”
  • Get things done. A key to this is self-discipline and clear priorities.
  • Moral Courage is the most important Value a leader can have. Moral courage builds and transmits powerful perceptions to all those around you who are looking to you to help them find and achieve their own “personal success and fulfillment.”
  • There is no substitute for success. It comes through hard work and dedication for becoming the very best you can be. The greatest limitation we can place upon our leadership journey is are own self-doubts. Two of my favorite personal reminders as I seek and search each day for ways to become a more impactful Servant Leader.

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Winston Churchill

Best wishes in this difficult, challenging time.

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A Devious Use of History

Bob Mobley

Late winter greetings and thoughts,

A major challenge we are facing in this nation may be summarized by the turn of phrase, ‘twisting historical facts to fit your political agenda and making them seem true.’ We are surrounded by this devious use of history to change people’s minds and their perceptions of what is truth. 

Yes, America was built by immigrants; all of us descend from immigrants. We arrived here, still retaining our roots, but came with the dreams and hopes that if we worked hard and were successful, could make it in America. We stood together as Americans in supporting the dreams, hopes and goals of a new land fashioned upon Western culture decisions, literature, strong influences of being responsible and accountable for our own successes and achievements. We were united in believing and behaving like citizens in a special new world.  

Were there challenges? Absolutely.  Were there disjointed groups and feelings of being left out or not even being seen? Yes. But, there weren’t the polarizing debates between individuals or political groups around the separatist thinking of identity politics. These cultural backgrounds were rich in the facts and ways communities supported each other, BUT always with the recognition that “we are here and we are now Americans embracing this land of dreams, opportunities and hope for success because we can earn it.” This is a land of opportunity for those individuals willing to be accountable and responsible for their own success, all the while embracing their diverse immigrant backgrounds. There was no expectation of a “free lunch.” You earned you way forward, sometimes by hook or crook. Still, you owned your own experiences and developed your own competencies. 

We are watching all this history be destroyed before our eyes. It takes the form of gutless and guilty politicians who lack the Moral Courage to tell the truth and be held accountable.  Their goal seems purely to appeal to voter base and be re-elected.  Added to this is the failure of our schools to teach history at all in its factual entirety. Today, young men and women have no reference point stemming from the history that is this nation. 

Today’s political environment is using social conflict as a force to destroy and drive apart the idea of Americanism. I believe that under the guise of inclusion and equality we are creating anger and dissension and hatred, and there is coming a terrible price to pay. People fly their flags, but not alongside the American flag.

The political system is broken.  One way to fix that is to talk about it, and be open, but that is not possible in this polarized political climate. Truth is truth and you can’t falsify it.  Facts are facts, but it doesn’t mean you can’t see things differently. At least listen to the other person.

It is important for people to take accountability and responsibility for themselves. The truth is, there is no free lunch.  Candidates are sounding off about what they are going to pay for, and what they can do for you, yet now our deficit is nearly $1 trillion.

We are mortgaging the future of our country and our children. And there’s a terrible price to pay.

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The DNA of Successful Leadership

Scott Millimet

Dear Friends,

This issue of Eagle Talk features Scott Millimet, who was a client at PIMCO for a number of years. We developed a strong sense of Shared Values which became the cornerstone for the work we did together with his superb Client Team. His experience, wisdom and commitment to excellence made him a standout “Leader” within PIMCO. He is a good friend and a wise mentor for me as well. I believe you will find his ideas well worth reading and reflecting upon.

— Bob

Scott Millimet
Scott Millimet

Scott Millimet is responsible for developing and incorporating practices that broaden and deepen institutional client relationships with a focus at the C-suite level. As a top-performing Investment Specialist with over 40 years of experience, he brings unparalleled expertise in propelling growth in revenues and assets under management.  Scott recently retired from PIMCO and is the Founder and CEO of Institutional Client Management LLC.  In his role as Executive Vice President and Head of the Insurance Channel at PIMCO, Scott provided visionary leadership and built and mentored successful teams that continue to drive growth across the organization. Scott is a champion for advancing influential service organizations; he served as a member of the Board of Directors, and Secretary for Services, for the Underserved in New York City, and previously served on the Advisory Board for Operation Homefront, Northeast Region.  He has received broad recognition for executive leadership and his ability to provide solutions to maximize and achieve results. Scott has a BS in Economics and an MS in Agricultural Economics (International Trade), both from Texas A&M University.

I have been asked by Bob to address the lessons of leadership – learned and imparted – during my nearly 20-year career at PIMCO, developing and growing a team-servicing insurance companies and their balance sheet assets.  The lessons are many, but generally follow the same theme – “do the right thing.” This means at all times maintaining the highest levels of integrity (internal and external to the firm) and understanding what “the right thing” actually is. 

PIMCO is one of the world’s largest fixed-income asset managers with an historical focus on total return (TR) management.  More specifically, TR means managing portfolios by buying relatively low-priced bonds and selling them when they appreciate to a relatively rich level. Capital gains are thus a large component (together with the bond’s coupon) of a portfolio’s total return. Insurance company balance sheet assets however, are managed with a unique investment function – stable, consistent and high quality income. Since capital gains may not be repeatable  – particularly as interest rates have moved to record lows post the financial crisis – maximizing the coupon or yield of the portfolio, while minimizing losses, becomes the preeminent investment objective.

Convincing PIMCO to segue into a new area of (insurance) asset management, particularly one known for paying low management fees, was no easy task.  Importantly it required convincing firm leadership that it was “the right thing to do.” This required numerous presentations on facts, such as the size of the potential market, stability of the potential client asset base, and access to large pools of assets that were (are) higher return seeking and that were aligned with PIMCO’s objectives and aspirations.  With a green light from senior management and a business plan that defined “success,” the fun part began – building a team, growing a client base, and running a business.

Pulling together a team that operated somewhat outside the mainstream or “factory” of PIMCO’s TR management style required self-starters that were interested and capable of operating independently but within the context of team. It also required risk-takers that were willing to be part of a start-up within the walls of PIMCO. As a leader, defining our mission was simple – develop relationships with each client such that PIMCO, and the individual client service representative, was always the first call, regardless of the client question (be it a good restaurant in NYC or risk metrics within their portfolio). To achieve this goal the members of my team were required to learn the nuances of managing insurance portfolios, provide unparalleled client service and face-to-face interaction, all while supporting each other. My role as mentor, coach and manager was to provide a fun environment, conducive to long hours anticipating and meeting client needs, learning from our clients and each other, and aiming to be the best in the business. 

One measure of success was the number of times a client referred us to a prospective client (making clients one of our best business development tools).  Another measure was growth in assets under management – from under $5 billion to several $10’s of billions during my tenure.  Perhaps the most personally satisfying measure of success was the number of PIMCO employees from other divisions seeking to be part of the “insurance team.” 

Let’s take a micro-look at several of the underlying factors behind PIMCO’s insurance client servicing team and its success. 

Leadership Skills:

  • Agree on the achievable and stretch individual and team performance metrics, and provide the environment necessary to accomplish those objectives; exceed management expectations;
  • Provide clear professional (and career) guidance with sufficient independence granted to each and every member of the team; encourage team members to “manage up”;
  • Read books by successful leaders – be they in traditional business or from a military background; (there is a reason the military has required reading lists!)
  • Have and express opinions based on sound premises – but hear out and respect the opinions of others that may disagree; have conviction;
  • Address areas of disagreement and/or conflict head on with a high degree of urgency.  Ensure the rationale behind resolutions is clearly understood such that there are no lingering frustrations;
  • Mentor and coach. Mentor and coach. Mentor and coach. Ensure every member of the team (including me as manager) is learning and advancing their careers; management should always learn from the members of the team and listen to their ideas and input;
  • Embrace the team’s differences and diversity – and ensure every member understands their opinion is necessary to enhance good decision making;
  • Have fun – the team spends too many hours together not to have fun, even when pressures are mounting. Arrange frequent but optional social events.

Client Service Guidelines:

  • Each client is unique – understand the nuances that make this so;
  • The clients’ interests always come first; this is different than the client is always right, which is not the case;
  • Communicate extensively, face-to-face when possible, by telephone, and lastly by email;
  • Exceed client expectations by providing an aggressive time-frame for meeting client requests – and then beating it;
  • Arrange professional client events to ensure clients meet other clients and have the opportunity to sing their praise to each other;
  • Make sure clients understand the sincerity of the appreciation we have for them; the team is nothing without them;
  • Develop personal relationships when possible and practical – enhancing the likelihood of being the first call for all matters business or not.

While some leaders are indeed born, the majority are developed by successful leaders themselves. They mentor and motivate, listen and guide, all while creating an enthusiastic team of future leaders that primes the pump for the continuity of success.  Developing a team of industry-leading client service professionals requires a strong, motivating leader, a simple set of guiding principals, and the conviction that the team is “doing the right thing,” always in the best interests of their clients.

Following these guidelines on management and client service can facilitate the growth of a best-in-class operation that exceeds the expectations of a company’s stakeholders.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

I wish each of you, and your Families a very happy, loving and fun-filled  Thanksgiving Holiday.

We all have so much to be “Thankful For” in our lives. Below are some key thoughts as we go forward toward the December Holiday Season. I hope each of you will reflect upon your own Wisdom as Leaders and the crying need our entire World Community has, searching for individuals with strong core Values whose personal character and DNA
embraces Moral Courage.

Over the past several weeks I have been reading, watching and listening to a wide range, scope, and community of individuals all offering opinions, statements, and analysis on the broad spectrum subject: Impeachment.  I find it interesting, and in many ways dumbfounding, that most of this broad collection of “Expert opinion-setters” has not once used the words “Personal Values.” I am increasingly concerned about the “loss” of this idea from our discussions with and about Impeachment. Taking this idea to a much broader place,  I believe much of our own lives shall be impacted by the continuing crisis filling our country and our Global Communities. I refer to the destruction and elimination of the Core Values upon which we live our daily lives, base our communities and grow, develop and nurture our institutions which are the “DNA” upon which this Republic was founded, based and built.  This rising poltical storm and polorization of our lives, “rewriting” of our Nation’s history and simplistic approach to finding answers for highly complex problems is, in my opinion, the outcome of a political crisis that has been growing since the end of WW II. Leadership no longer is about Moral Values and an individual’s own Character.  It’s about money, being elected, staying in the “office,” surrounding oneself with “yes men and women” and seeking instant access to “fame.”  My biggest concern is simply stated, “Where have all our leaders gone?” Why do we not see and find them filling our country with their Wisdom, Trust, Truth, Integrity, Caring and Moral Courage? Now is the time for each individual citizen in this great Republic, and across our Globe, to stand up, be involved, be outspoken, and live and practice that most important Value of all: Moral Courage.