Rocky Romanella – Avoiding a Culture of Lies and Hidden Truths

After an illustrious career spanning nearly 40 years focused on supply chain, logistics and transportation, retail, sales and operational excellence strategy at UPS – including The UPS Store franchise network and UPS Supply Chain Solutions – Rocky Romanella became the Chief Executive Officer and Board of Director for UniTek Global Services, a provider of engineering, construction management and installation services to companies specializing in the telecommunications field.

Rocky is currently the Founder and CEO of 3SIXTY Management Services, LLC, a management consulting firm specializing in Executive Speaking, Leadership Development and Consulting Services.

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[00:00:00] Michael King: Hey everybody, welcome back to another exciting episode of In the Trenches with Michael King, where we talk with business owners, leaders, and executives about the lessons they've learned while fighting in the trenches of the business battlefield. I am your host, Michael King.

[00:00:25] As leaders, I think we all say out loud and to ourselves that we want to create the type of culture where good news and bad news are freely shared with us. That we trust our team to bring us information about what's going right and what's going wrong, so that we can really stay on top of the health of the business.

[00:00:45] It makes sure that we're solving the biggest problems and that we're aware of all the things that are going on. However. I think that if we really want to set that type of culture, we have to be deliberate about how we respond to news, whether it's good news and definitely to bad news. I know for me, particularly when I was younger in my career, when bad news would come my way, I tended to be the type of person that would fly off the deep end, yell and scream and curse.

[00:01:15] You know, what the hell is wrong with you? Why didn't you get this done? But what I've learned over the years is that when you respond that way two things happen. One is people just stopped bringing you the bad news. They don't want to be the one that triggers you into asshole mode.  Number two, which might be even worse than that, is people start to lie.

[00:01:36] Instead of not just bringing you the bad news, they'll lie to you about how things are going and just hope that nobody's the wiser for what's going on. Obviously that's an absolutely horrible way to run a business or how to really run a team and it's all on you as the leader to correct that.

[00:01:53] So today, I'm talking with Rocky Romanella. Rocky is an honest kind of a baller in the leadership world. Rocky is the former president of the Southeast region for UPS. He's the former president of residential and retail operations for UPS. He's the former chief executive officer and director of United Global Services, which is a publicly traded company, and now he's the founder and CEO of three 60 management services.

[00:02:20] Rocky is an absolute genius when it comes to helping you become the type of leader that's going to set a culture where people are willing to bring you not only the good news, but the bad news, and he has an awesome framework for helping you ask yourself the right questions and ask your team the right questions so that you don't slip into a culture where bad news is either lied about or hidden.

[00:03:04] Without further ado, here is my conversation with Rocky Romanella. Rocky, Good morning, thanks for joining me.

[00:03:12] Rocky Romanella: Well, good morning. It's a pleasure to be on the show with you and I look forward to speaking with you today in your audience.

[00:03:17] Michael King: Likewise, so before we started the interview, you were telling me about a time a few years ago, there was a company that you were working for, and there were some really smart people on the executive team that were not asking some really basic questions.

[00:03:33] And as a result, nearly 3000 employees were out on the streets. Is that right?

[00:03:39] Rocky Romanella: Well, they could've been. Fortunately, we were able to, you know, fix the problem before it got to that point. But that was the potential situation that we were looking at. And I think when you look at any of the situations that potentially happen, you know, think about in the news today or in the past year or two.

[00:03:57] Some household name companies that have gotten themselves in situations. Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, you think of those types of companies, and we were a smaller company at the time, but publicly traded.

[00:04:08] Michael King: Well, before we dive into the details, why don't you give us a little backstory about how did it lead up to that point and how did it get to the point that, Oh boy, if something goes just a little bit more wrong here, 3000 people will be on the street.

[00:04:22] What was the backstory.

[00:04:23] Rocky Romanella: Well, the backstory is we're getting ready to do our final close of books and then we found a discrepancy.

[00:04:29] Michael King: What does a final close of books mean for the non finance and accounting types out there?

[00:04:34] Rocky Romanella: So you're getting rich. Your year ends, you're going to, you know, you're going to have your earnings call.

[00:04:38] If you're a publicly traded company, you have a public earnings call. If you're a private company it's less, but you still have to, you know, file all, you know, you get a clean audit, you know, whether it's a grant or in, or whether it's, you know, one of the big four accounting firms, so can close out your books.

[00:04:56] Michael King: So just tidying up the financials and reporting on what happened for the previous year.

[00:05:00] Rocky Romanella: Yeah. Okay. And you can see right now, for example, it's earning season. If you're watching any of the financial news channels, it's everyone reporting their earnings now. And so you have to get that clean, you know, closure of your books.

[00:05:11] And so in that process, which is a very long and tedious process, when you're through that process there, your CFO walks in and says, Hey, we've got an issue.

[00:05:20] Michael King: That's never a good day. When the CFO walks in, we have an issue. Okay. So what was the issue that the CFO discovered.

[00:05:28] Rocky Romanella: Well, I can't go into too much detail because we're a public company and I don't want to get, you know, I don't want to breach that confidentiality.

[00:05:34] However you can imagine it was, it was a problem with the reporting of some of the numbers. And so now the question is, you've got to go back and you've got to, you know, do your research and find out what took place there. But I think the key part of that whole process is. Way up the line.

[00:05:53] Someone could've asked the simple question, hey, we either have the equipment or we don't have the equipment. We actually bought it or didn't buy it. Those are the kinds of things that happened in business today that you know, there are opportunities for people to raise their hand and ask critical questions.

[00:06:10] But they don't. And so what happens is the ball keeps moving along and then all of a sudden it comes to that critical point of, wait a second, we've got to close out our books, or wait a second. This is, you know, a customer thinks this is what's happening, but it's not happening. I think that's a critical component of the process.

[00:06:25] Who asks the right questions?

[00:06:27] Michael King: It seems like along the way, there's opportunities for maybe as many as dozens of people that are smart enough and have enough insights that they could throw their hands up and say, Hey,  this doesn't feel right. Based on what I've heard in meetings and from what I've seen in reports, why don't they.

[00:06:47] Rocky Romanella: Well, Mike, that's a great question. It's a combination of a couple of different things. So the first thing is, nobody likes to deliver bad news, and most people don't do a good job of accepting bad news. And I think it starts with you as the leader. It's a tone you set from the top and by that type of leader that when Mike has bad news, he's comfortable enough to walk in, close the door and say.

[00:07:11] Hey, you know, Rocky, I know this isn't what we were hoping to have happen or this isn't what we thought was happening, but this is what's happening. If I don't set that tone as a leader that I'm willing to accept bad news. Nobody ever brings you bad news. Well, nobody ever brings me bad news. I can't really ever fix anything.

[00:07:30] So that's the first big issue. Do you as the leader, set the tone from the top that you won't accept bad news, and then what happens to the person who brings bad news if they don't feel like that you want to hear it or there may be retribution if I bring you bad news. So it's the climate that you set inside an organization that you're willing to hear bad news and won't accept bad news.

[00:07:53] Michael King: Let's unpack those a little bit because I think the, I mean, as you identified, the, the onus is squarely on the leader to set that part of the culture. In your experience, rocket water. What are some things that when you think of the good leaders that do a good job of setting that tone, that bad news is.

[00:08:12] Not only, okay, but we encourage you to bring it. What are the good leaders doing to proactively encourage that?

[00:08:21] Rocky Romanella: I think they walk the talk, they're visible. They get out there, people know that they see them. Right. Cause part of, you know. Having that conversation is when people see you in the operation, for example, or they see that you're a visible person and they get to see how you interact with people.

[00:08:39] I think what happens is when something is starting to go bad or something's, you know, not going in the right direction, they look around and at their level they have conversations like, well, Rocky would want to know this. Because they think that they, you know, even though they don't really know you as well as you know, they would like to know you.

[00:08:59] They see you, they see you talking to people. They see that you're comfortable in your own skin, that you're, you're just like them. You're a regular person with just different responsibilities. And so that begins setting the tone that, Hey, I think he'd want to know this. I think he's the kind of person that would want to know this, or she would want to know this.

[00:09:16] I think that. That begins that process. I think the second thing that's important is, okay, so you bring me bad news. I think part of the problem is, is that, you know, people are busy at whatever level they're in. There are no easy jobs in any organization, any organization. So now you keep bringing me bad news.

[00:09:34] You know, it's kind of the old story. You just left the monkey on my desk. You know the monkeys, I might back down. Well. Part of what good leaders do, depending on what you're bringing me, I may say to you, okay, well I appreciate you bringing me that. That makes sense. What do you think we should do to fix it?

[00:09:48] So you didn't just bring me a problem. I'm starting to train and develop you on how to solve that problem. Well, if all you do is keep bringing me bad news and people realize, Hey, you know, you're the kind of guy that accepts bad news, people will bring you their bad dudes. And so then you get overwhelmed.

[00:10:05] So, I think the second part of that is being that type of leader, that sets a tone that you're willing to accept bad news. But then how do I handle that? Does that become a teaching moment? Now, if it's too big a deal, like the situation I was in, okay. Okay. Thank you for that information. Now you've got to start doing your research or homework from a legal perspective, you know, from reports and measures from what's your obligation as a publicly traded company?

[00:10:28] A completely different thing, but somewhere, well, before all of that, somebody brought someone some information and they didn't handle it right. And so now it just started to get bigger and bigger and bigger. But I think the second thing is how do you accept the bad news? And then do you use it as a teaching moment?

[00:10:45] And then do they walk out, trying to develop a solution as well as defining their problem too for you?

[00:10:53] Michael King: I couldn't agree more with any of that. I think in my experience, one of the key elements that I've learned a lot of times the hard way in fostering a culture where, People are willing to bring you bad news is around me being vulnerable and transparent as a leader and proactively letting my team know.

[00:11:12] If I give something up and say, you know, Hey guys. I got to raise my hand here because last week I handled this poorly. I signed off on something that I didn't verify and it was wrong and that caused these problems. And let me tell you how I'm growing from that. The lesson that I learned as a leader, I want to make sure you guys all learn from the mistake that I made and that vulnerability.

[00:11:32] Is one of the key components and other people trust you if, if they see that you're willing to raise your hand when something goes sideways that you've caused, oftentimes people are much, much more open to bringing you those, those bad news. And boy, it's so easy sometimes the way I'm wired. is I want to just, I don't know if it's a chemical thing or if that's just a bad excuse, but the way I'm wired is my blood pressure wants to go up and, I might want to fly off the deep end when something goes bad.

[00:12:03] But when people see that they don't want to be the catalyst that causes that thing. And so there, there has to be some emotional intelligence where you say, okay, I can't do that. Even if it was an egregious mistake or. The longer term repercussions of that are going to be that people just don't bring bad news because they don't want to be the reason that the boss flies off.

[00:12:22] So I think having that awareness and the emotional intelligence to, to take it, digest it, and like you said, turn it into a teachable moment rather than as a reason to yell and scream and cuss and tell somebody that they're stupid.

[00:12:35] Rocky Romanella:  I think that, I think, I think those are some great points that you're making.

[00:12:38] And I think. The third piece though is the one that I find the most interesting. So the first two are kind of obvious. Do I set the tone from the top as the leader that I'm willing to accept bad news? And then how do I handle it when you bring me bad news? But I think there's a third piece of it, and I think the third piece of it is, is this kind of silent sanction bad behavior?

[00:12:58] I think the mistake that leaders make is that you silently sanction bad behavior in the way you handle things. So for example. If safety is a core value in our organization and you're, you're moving a vehicle from just one one parking business into another parking position, and I'm happy to be standing there and you get in a vehicle, you move it when I put your seatbelt on and I don't say anything to you.

[00:13:20] Well, I just, I only sang some bad behavior. So some day down the road, and I have that conversation with you about, Hey, you gotta put your seatbelt on. And you say, well, you saw me without a seatbelt. It was, it was okay that day. Right. So you just silently sanction bad behavior. I think that happens more.

[00:13:37] Take the safety. That was just the example. I'll give you a quick example without using the name of a company. So my wife's been doing some work with this service company, and one of the things that they want to do is when you enter their, their, their operation or their place of business, they want agreed, they want you to greet the, the individual and maybe spend, you know, 40 to 50 seconds, you know, saying hello.

[00:13:59] Sure. So far, so good. Right? And part of it is, is they have a greeter. Right? They have a person that greets, well, you know, after 40 people in this meeting show up, you need a second person greeting, right? Well, no, they don't really want to spend the money. So now, she and I are talking about it, and I said to her, well, well that's just bad leadership.

[00:14:21] She goes, well, I'm confused. What do you mean it's bad leadership? Is it me? I'm doing something wrong. Is it the greeter doing something wrong? No, it's math. If you want me to spend. You know, 50 seconds with a person and you're, and the average number of people there is 40 it's X amount of minutes. Do I have that many minutes to do it?

[00:14:38] Well, no I don't. Well then I just gave you, I'm going to hold you accountable to greeting everybody for 50 seconds. You don't have a chance of doing it. I'm going to tell you, Hey, you know, you gotta agree to it. Did you greet everybody today? No, I missed 10 people. You know, you gotta, you gotta meet 10 people, you gotta make sure you get those 10 people, but I don't physically have a chance to meet those people.

[00:14:59] You just put me in a position to maybe make a bad decision. Like I'm just going to finally just tell you. I greeted everybody. That's when leaders silently sanction bad behavior. That's the problem, right? That's a third part of it. That I think is a bigger issue. You put me in a position, so now I have to make a decision.

[00:15:18] Well, I'm either going to get fired for not greeting all the people, or maybe I don't get caught for a while and enough people come that they give me the second grader. You know, if I get the sixth day, I get a second grader, so between 40 and 60 you put me in a position that I'm either going to have to lie to you or I'm going to get yelled at every single time, and then you may lose your patients.

[00:15:37] Let me in fire. That is the third spot, and I think that's the one that is absolutely poor leadership and that's when leaders silently sanction bad behavior. I know you don't have a chance to do this, but I don't want to make the decision to add the second person.

[00:15:53] Michael King: Your story makes me think of a leader that I had when I was in the Navy back in my submarine days. One of his favorite sayings that used to drive me up the wall at the time, but, but now it really resonates with me is every time you fail to correct an infraction, you endorse a new lower standard.

[00:16:12] Rocky Romanella: Ah, I like that.

[00:16:13] Michael King: Right? So it, and it hits right with that silently sanctioning bad behavior.

[00:16:17] So it's a lot of times easy to ignore it. We're busy. We have other things going on. There's competing priorities. But in your example, you know, if safety is really truly one of your core values is that other thing, that meeting you're going to, as an example, really more important than stopping and saying, you know, Hey buddy, come here.

[00:16:38] Like we need to talk about. You know the seat belt thing, right? This is really important to us. And so not only are you showing them through your words, you know in that moment, but you're showing them what their axis is, there's an executive, I'm stopping what I'm doing to have this conversation with you.

[00:16:52] So you get them both with words and actions there. It's, it's an interesting dilemma though, because. I think that it can be hard as leaders, in the example you used with the greeting, how would a leader know? Can you give any, you know, say, all right, I'm, I'm a busy guy and I have a big team and let's, let's stay with that greeting example.

[00:17:11] How would I as a leader know that you're over task, that you're getting 60 people a minute or whatever the number is and that it's mathematically impossible for you to do a proper greeting? How would I know that?

[00:17:24] Rocky Romanella: Well, I think it's two ways. Either a, you've gone up through the organization and you understand what you're asking people to do, but you're choosing to not accept that answer.

[00:17:34] And so you're S you know, you, it's kind of what we all kind of grew up with, the famous line, Hey, do whatever it takes. Well, there's mean, do whatever it takes means that I don't, I don't greet everybody, but I tell you I did because you don't really want to hear it. So I think the first step is, is, you know, do I understand the business well enough to be able to.

[00:17:53] No, I asked that question. A good example is, you know, we, you know, as you know, I worked for UPS for 36 years prior to the role I took on as a CEO. You know, for us it was every package, every day. That was your response. Even if you had as a, as a manager, we used to call it Brown it up. Even as a manager, if there was a package that you put your Browns on, you go deliver it.

[00:18:12] Cause that package

[00:18:12] Michael King: has to get delivered around enough. I like that. I've never heard of that.

[00:18:16] Rocky Romanella: I got a Brown up. Well. But, but if, if you're a driver that starts at nine o'clock in the morning and it takes you half an hour to get to your first stop, it's nine 30 already, and you would have air packages delivered at 10 30 and you can only do 15 in an hour.

[00:18:31] And I gave you 17. I know when you leave, you don't have a chance to be successful. So my responsibility as a leader is to not put you in that position, but I either have to get another driver. Or I have to Brown up myself. So I let you go in the hope that you'll get it delivered. Well, hope isn't a strategy.

[00:18:52] That's the issue and I'm making that up. But I mean, I mean, that's the story I'm making up, but my point is, my knowledge of the business was, tell me you can't get it done on your best day. You can do 15 stops in an hour, but I gave you 17 and I only gave you an hour to do it. You couldn't even cheat.

[00:19:09] I mean, you could, you, you know, you can't even be unsafe by running or driving too fast. You just physically can't get it done. Well, I didn't put you in a position to be successful. Hey, look, I'm a giant fan, a struggling giant fan here in Jersey. You know, my, my only, happiness is that we beat the Patriots twice.

[00:19:28] Right? Wrong or different, whether you like the Patriots or not. The guy puts Belicheck in a position to be successful. That's what makes him a great coach. Well, that's what makes you a great leader. Do you put your people in a position to be successful? Your commander on that submarine, his goal was to make sure that every single person in his care.

[00:19:49] Had the ability and opportunity to be successful, whether it's through the knowledge, whether it's the way he communicated. But if you are working 36 48 hours, it's really hard for  you to be successful if you're starting to diminish your skills. So that's, I think that's the key is do you put your people in a position to be successful?

[00:20:07] So either a, you know, the job well enough, or B. I'll give you my second thing. So when I started at UPS, we all had a drive. So I was a driver, loved the job, and drove in Plainfield, New Jersey. That lesson that they taught me was any job I received that point forward in my whole career. The first thing I did was go to work a job.

[00:20:29] So when I was given the responsibility when we purchased the mailbox, et cetera. To be a direct report to me. We, and then we rebranded to us today, the UPS store. First thing I did, I looked at our CEO at the time and I'm like, okay, I don't know anything about franchising. He said, look, you'll learn it. So the first thing I did was go work a day in the store, put an apron on, a work day in a store.

[00:20:50] You know, I started on the supply chain side at UPS. One of the first things they did was go pick it. Order. All right, how does this work? So, yeah, my proficiency wasn't like a, you know, like any of the people that own the stores, I will never be as proficient as them there. They're world-class entrepreneurs.

[00:21:08] But I took the time to try to learn the job. And. Hey, I got a sense of what was going on. And B, I got their respect that I was willing to take the time with you. That so, so the, the answer in this long winded way is simply either, a, you know it because you've done it, or B, go figure it out because you will do it.

[00:21:25] Those are the two best things you can do to never get yourself in that position

[00:21:28] Michael King: again. I think the importance of the answer warrants. The long-winded part, I think it's something that is, is business owners. As we grow, it's easy to lose sight of, you know, in early days of a business, most of us.

[00:21:43] Or doing it all ourselves. But as we grow and we get to 10 – 50 employees, it's really easy to lose touch with what's going on. And honestly, things change. You know, on the, on the boots, on the ground level, there's frontline leaders that are doing things. So I think it's, it's hyper important that we get out there and, and work alongside our, our teams every so often just to, again, for their respect, to know what's going on.

[00:22:06] Are they. Mathematically unable to be successful. What are their challenges? And like you said, just to gain their respect that you're not too cool for school, that you know, every so often you're willing to Brown up, as you said, and do the work. Another thing that I thought of is you were explaining that so well I heard an interview years ago with the first female general in the air force.

[00:22:30] And, the interviewer was saying, wow, how in the world and this very male dominated, you know, industry. Did you rise to the rank of general when no other female had been able to do that before? And she said, you know, from the days that I was a first Lieutenant, up until today, even, she said, as I'm driving to work.

[00:22:50] The thing that I'm thinking about is what hurdles do I have to remove from my team today so they can be successful? And that's my top priority of the day. And before I leave every single day, I said, are there any remaining hurdles that I need to remove today for my team to be successful? And she said, you know, it's not because of what I've been able to accomplish.

[00:23:10] That's, that's taken me to this position. It's that I stand on the shoulder of giants because I've simply removed hurdles for them along the way. And then this is a side effect of that I have become a general, and I think that that really speaks to the heart of servant leadership, which is exactly what you're talking about is, you know, getting down and finding ways to make people successful, beyond just saying, get it done.

[00:23:33] It just doesn't work that way. It doesn't work in the long term that way. I don't think.

[00:23:38] Rocky Romanella: Well, I think you're absolutely correct that I also think it's what puts people in those situations that then they make some bad decisions and you're, you know, and you think, well, why would you make that? I think what ends up happening is, is that once people start to feel that pressure to where they believe that they have no alternatives, my only two choices are either.

[00:24:00] You know, I have to, you know, kind of do some, you know, having an integrity violation or I'm going to get fired. You really gave him no choices at that particular point. Now that's the drastic end. That's kind of the end of the line situation. But along the way, things are happening and as a leader, it's what is the right, kind of what we started with.

[00:24:20] What are the right questions that you ask? Like, you know, thinking about the whole Wells Fargo thing, you know, here's an organization over 150 years. Great. Brand. Everybody knows it. Well, how do you get to this position where all these people are making up accounts and now there's people getting fired and, and so how about the simple question that, how is it that our accounts are up.

[00:24:40] Exponentially, but our revenue isn't. How about Volkswagen? You don't think somebody inside an organization was driving home one night and said, you know, hon, how come we don't get 30 miles to the guy? How come all we get in 24 I thought we get 30 that's our hours that, you know, those are like, there are simple questions always along the way that people could ask that could, you know, save people's careers, prevent these things from happening.

[00:25:04] And it's a question, but nobody asks a question because they don't want to hear the answer. I always, I always say to people, you know, I met leaders, never leave their office. There's no problems in their office. You know, once I leave that office, I have to, I have to address the problem, right? So I've never been going to leave.

[00:25:18] If my office is great, right? I got pictures of my kids and everybody here likes me inside of my office, but when I leave, I have to address the issues that are there and I know I will want to address those issues. So I think that that's, you know. An important part of who you are as a leader. You know, are you willing to be nailed to a diamond?

[00:25:37] And I am. I said, his favorite song I have, my set is who I said I am, but am I that person? Do I walk the talk?

[00:25:43] Michael King: I absolutely love that. Do you know why leaders never leave their office? There are no problems inside their office.

[00:25:51] Rocky Romanella: When

[00:25:52] Michael King: I leave, I have to address the issues that are out there and I don't know that I'm willing to address those issues.

[00:25:57] I'm immediately thinking of, I don't know, two or three examples in my career where I've seen that behavior. And honestly I can think of a couple of examples where I've seen that in my behavior. You know, earlier, earlier on I didn't want to leave the safety of the four walls cause I knew there were problems out there that I just didn't want to deal with.

[00:26:16] That's, that's incredibly insightful. Let me ask you two questions. One is, how do you think a culture gets to the point. That senior leaders do that kind of giggle, like, I don't know why we're not getting 30 miles per gallon. That's crazy. You know? And, and they know that they know what the right answer is.

[00:26:34] Maybe they know it, or maybe they just kind of know it, but they know that there's something going on. So how does the culture, a company culture, get to that point? And then number two is how do you get out of it? How does it, I know it starts at the top, and that's a good generic answer. That's correct.

[00:26:49] But do you have any tactical advice on how to pull yourself out of that?

[00:26:55] Rocky Romanella: I think so. So on the first or the first one, I think it really comes down to, you know. This concept of your strength becomes your weakness. So if your strength is, is that your performance organization or you get things done, you, you know, those kinds of things, we'll then hook by everybody hitting their numbers or everybody hitting their targets.

[00:27:16] You're just reinforcing. You know who we are, right? So you're all excited about those kinds of things. And so that's your strength. Your weakness is you're so excited about the fact that you're hitting your targets. You hit in your performance that, you know, nobody ever wants to look past that and say, wow, wait a second.

[00:27:32] You know, maybe we're not really hitting those targets. I think that that's, that's, that's so important. The second thing is, is. Simple things that you do as a leader. So for example, you know, we would sit at a meeting and someone would do a presentation and they're now finally starting to hit their targets.

[00:27:48] You know, they're hitting your business plan, you know, if they're hitting a rep, whatever the numbers are there, everyone's excited. And I lean over to the CFO at some point, or the engineering manager, depending on who I thought would be in their area of responsibility. I look at them and say, Hey, do me a favor.

[00:28:04] These are great numbers. It's exciting to see these guys finally make it, you know, making some success. Do me a favor, go quietly, double check these numbers, make sure that they're right and if they're not getting better, go have a conversation. What's your, what's your peer here? And make sure they understand we've got to get this thing, we want the right numbers.

[00:28:22] You know? And sometimes it's something as simple as everybody rounds up, right? You know, you were 19 for 19.2 for set F you know, a growth, but you want to be 20 so you're making 20 it doesn't seem like that big a deal. But you know, 20 sounds a lot better than 19.2 so, and you're saying yourself. It's not possible that we could grow that quickly, that you know or that you know those numbers can be right.

[00:28:46] So you kind of quietly say to your CFO, Hey, go check that number and if it's wrong, go have a conversation with your buddy. Now, if it's, if it's really bad, you've got to come and see me. But you can save that person, you know, if you can solve problems at the lowest levels. That's what I think. You can save people.

[00:29:03] You can give people an opportunity. It can be, to your point, before it could be that learning experience that, Hey, maybe I probably should have not rounded up. Okay, look, don't ever do that again. You know, we can get that fixed. Not that big a deal, but. You know, but if I started accepting those numbers, now you've got a pattern of conduct that says you always round up.

[00:29:20] Now that's a problem. So I think that's, it's a question that you asked and the things that you do. And then sometimes I just go look. Sometimes I'll say, if something doesn't feel right here, Oh, I get up in the morning, I go visit it, operation, Hey, explain to me what's going on over here. You know, that kind of thing.

[00:29:36] So, and then what happens is. You know, people start to correct themselves because of the questions that

[00:29:41] Michael King: you ask. I think that questioning behaviors is critical with that. It's amazing, you know, Hey, let's go, let's, let's take these numbers. These are great. I want to go talk to your shift leaders or your subordinate managers, and I want to understand their opinion, like how did we achieve these goals?

[00:30:00] I want to go talk to the frontline people and congratulate them and pick their brains on, you know, how did we achieve this? It's amazing. You don't normally have to peel the onion back very far before somebody says. The fuck are you talking about? That's, that's not right. You know, and cause people, people will try to keep that secret pretty high, so you don't have to pull the string too far to find that out.

[00:30:21] But I think just, you know, having that questioning attitude and that, that genuine curiosity of why are we successful and showing that you're gonna ask questions and. You're going to ask questions not only in failure, but also in success. I don't believe that, you know, a lot of times we have this tendency that when we don't hit our targets and we don't hit our goals, we do these CSRs and let's pick it apart and diagnose it.

[00:30:43] What, went wrong? Why didn't we hit our goals? But if you don't do that on the successes as well, it becomes very easy. To start rounding up, you know, ah, it was 19.2. The goal was 20. If I tell the boss we hit 20, then they're not going to go. Getting into our dirty laundry, things will be a lot better.

[00:31:01]So I think it's important to do the CSRs and the deep dives on successes just as much as it is failures, but do it in a way of genuine curiosity, not in a way of. I'm out to get ya. And people will sniff out the difference pretty, pretty quickly. So it's, it sounds like you've put a lot of thought into these, these questions, the three of them, lots of years of experience under your belt.

[00:31:24] What have you done to bring these three questions to the rest of us? It sounds like there could be a book.

[00:31:32] Rocky Romanella: Yeah, there's a book, I think that's called tighten the lug nuts. It's a principle about its leadership and. In each chapter, there's a story I like to tell stories as you can tell through our interview.

[00:31:41] I think nowadays, and stories I think are always great ways to learn, but there's a story in there about this whole concept of tightening the lug nuts. But in a short, you know, kind of a high level is, you know, when lug nuts are loose, they're important. You know, if I walk by a vehicle and there's loose lug nuts and I say, Hey dude, be fair, Mike.

[00:31:57] We got some loose lug nuts over there, and at that moment it could take you five minutes to tighten those lug nuts, but you don't. You get sidetracked. You have other things that come up. So now something that was important becomes urgent, one of the tires falls off, and now all of a sudden you're like, ah, I've got no luck.

[00:32:13] Nothing ever goes my way. What happened in the front, you know. The tire came off. Wait a minute. Why don't you just tighten the lug nuts? So the concept is don't allow important things to become urgent. When you think about when people make bad ethical moral decisions, sometimes it's because they had loose lug nuts, they didn't tighten the lug nuts, and now all of a sudden they get so far behind.

[00:32:35] That's when they have to round up. Right. Wow. I didn't do it. Why did you send me an email? Can you, can you follow up on this for me? I say yes. And then all of a sudden I get, I get sidetracked and three weeks later you're saying to me as the boss, Hey, stop everything. I got to get this fixed. Or you just tell me you gotta fix it.

[00:32:53] You really didn't. So I think don't allow important things to become urgent because you can only handle so many urgent things. The second thing I talk about a lot, not only in the book, but in general, and then I hope through my leadership style is I think every person has a leader. And every organization has to answer three key questions.

[00:33:13] The first question is who am I? The second question is, what do I stand for? Those two, I think. Can be easily described. You know, companies can easily describe who we are, what do we stand for? I mean, you know, you walk through any organization, the cafeteria, it is, there's, there's all kinds of posters up all over our values, our mission statement,

[00:33:33] Michael King: whales jumping out of water with, with clever values.

[00:33:40] I have no idea if people still buy that shit.

[00:33:42] Rocky Romanella: I know. So you got the first two, but number three is the question that I think is the one that you'll get challenged on. So question one is who am I? Question two is, what do I stand for? A question three has,

[00:33:54] Michael King: what won't I compromise?

[00:33:56] Rocky Romanella: And you have to clearly understand that.

[00:33:58] So for example, as an organization, if somebody brought me a new piece of business and we're discussing how we were going to handle it. In my mind, okay, well, who are we? What do we stand for? What will we compromise? So, for example, if it's something that could be safety related, Hey, look, we're in. If we're climbing towers, Hey, if we're not in the cloud Motown or over 40 miles an hour, I don't care if it's 41 miles an hour, we're not climbing the tower.

[00:34:23] Well, there could be a lot of pressure put on you for missing that. Last tower client for example. It's making this step up. The point though is if you're going to get challenged on number three, what won't I compromise? That means I might have to report bad news to wall street when I do my earnings calls.

[00:34:38] I may mean I may have to report bad news for the largest investor, sir. Whatever those things are, I may import bad news to our people that there's not a bonus this year, but I have to know what number three is. Whoa, what? What are the things that I will not compromise as a person, as a leader. And as an organization, and I think those three questions are very, very critical to you as a person, as a leader in that, as an organization.

[00:35:04] Michael King: Wow, that's, that is incredible. So how do you answer that then? What I mean is when I say, how do you answer that. Do you, do you think that it's a best practice for the C suite to sit down together if you're a larger company or maybe the, the top one or two key players for smaller companies, and maybe if you're a really small company, it's just the CEO, but they sit down and they really think about that and they write it down and communicate it or what, what do you have you found to be the best practice for identifying and communicating?

[00:35:35] What won't we compromise.

[00:35:37] Rocky Romanella:  I think you really have kind of articulated the approach that I really take, which is, okay, so what I want into my new role as a CEO. We sat down, we said, okay, we have values, we have values, statements, we have mission statements. Okay. We had a whole staff meeting and talked about let's talk about this.

[00:35:55] And they kind of look at you like, yeah, I know, but that's what's on the website. That's what's on the posters. Okay? But that's who we are. Okay, so let's talk about who we are. All right, so this is what we do. This is how we do it. What do we stay at? Four Oh, you know, world class service, going through all these different things.

[00:36:10] You know, thinking about the mission statement, value statements you've seen. No. You know, we're going to value diversity. We're going to go through all the classic things that you and I've seen through and people listening to your podcast have seen all over. Okay. So that's, you get through that pretty quickly and everybody, you know, talks about it and you know, they get through the awkwardness or why, why are you putting up the mission statement?

[00:36:29] Why are you putting up the value statements? But you know, then the number three is, okay, we'll only compromise. So they kind of stare at you at first. Well, what do you mean? Well, I'm like, well, only compromise a service. Okay, well what does that mean? Does that mean that, okay, you won't compromise service, so you're going to do something illegal or you're going to eat or you're going to speed to get there?

[00:36:49] I mean, what are the things you won't compromise? And then you really start to get to what are the things safety, integrity. Those are the things you won't compromise. Right? Cause if you compromise safety, there are going to be times when you won't complete a task because you won't do it safely.

[00:37:04] There is going to be a time where a driver's over got hours and you're gonna say, Hey, I'm sorry you can't drive. Yeah, I know, but we won't, we're not going to get these packages delivered or we're not going to get this, this, this task done. Okay, but I'm not going to allow you to drive on safely. I'm not going to allow you to violate your DLT hours.

[00:37:19] Those are the critical decisions, right? Because if I say I'm always going to be, I'm always going to have 100% service. Well, that may mean the only way I can get 100% services I violate what. Integrity safety could be. So that I think that third question, then you start to get really deep, and so when we look at each other and then we're like, okay, these are the things, this is a commitment we're making to each other as a C-suite or we're never going to compromise it.

[00:37:43] Safety's a core value in our organization. We would rather call a customer and say, I'm sorry I couldn't get this completed. Then get it done and do it in sequence. And nothing says you care about your people more than you won't let them work unsafely. You're never going to let them do that.  It'll stop everything and say, you can't do this.

[00:38:03] Same thing with integrity. I'm not going to round up, and I think there's two types of integrity. If I could just say this quickly, one is the obvious integrity. You know what number two is the integrity of your word. I said I was going to do something. Did I do it? I told you I was gonna call you back and I called you back.

[00:38:17] Did I answer the email that you sent me two days ago that was important to you? That's integrity over your word. It's hard to run an organization where everyone's working together and we're all on the same page. When you don't have integrity of your word, if I can't trust it, you're going to be there for me.

[00:38:34] It's hard for me to take the really kind of be a team of a team in harmony,

[00:38:41] Michael King: So I'm going to challenge you. Here, I'm going to ask you that. I'm going to ask you the hard question, right? Larry King style. So let's say that, let's, let's use the example of safety. You know, what will we compromise? We won't compromise safety ever, period.

[00:38:56] And, let's say that you're, you're the CEO and you find that there was a compromise of safety. And let's just say that one of your drivers violated the DOD rules and they drove more hours than they should have in a given period of time. How do you handle it?

[00:39:14] Rocky Romanella: I think you start with. Okay. What are the checks and balances that we have in place?

[00:39:19] Was it a mistake or was it a bad decision? So I always start with, was it a mistake or a bad decision? If it's a mistake, then you talk to the individual, your work with them, you know, and you correct the mistake. If it's a bad decision, that's now that you've got an issue of, you know, as leaders, we were paid to make good decisions.

[00:39:36] So why did we make this bad decision? You know, what were the checks and balances in place? When did somebody know that there was a DMT violation? You, did they move it up the chain and say to their manager, Hey, look at the DLT violation. Okay, well what happened? So I think you have to understand it wasn't a mistake or a bad decision.

[00:39:53] Michael King: So let's call it a bad decision. And this fictitious example, that was a bad decision. The driver knowingly drove longer than he knew he should have.

[00:40:03] Rocky Romanella: So then, so there's two parts of that. A, the driver has a responsibility to fall on his log book, and so you'd have that conversation with them. Hey, I appreciate it.

[00:40:11] If it's a good driver that really wants to do a good job, that's when you're saying, look, I appreciate your energy and your efforts. I appreciate you wanting to. You know, hit our service targets, but don't ever put yourself in harm's way. You could never get fired for you. Can never get yourself in trouble, is a better way to put it.

[00:40:26] You can never get yourself in trouble by coming forward and saying, Hey, I'm out of hours. I'm sorry. I'll accept that. But for you to fill out your life, probably that's going to get you in more trouble. So. So your safe Harbor is to come forward and say, Hey, I've got some, I got an hours violation and we'll work through that.

[00:40:43] If you, if you come right to us, we may be able to fix the service by sending another driver out there. Right. Right. I can fix it when you bring it to me. I can't fix it once it's after. So don't ever feel so, so I appreciate it. So if it's a good person, you want them to know you appreciate their energy and efforts.

[00:40:57] You appreciate their intentions were good. But Hey, we don't compromise safety. It's okay for you to come forward. You can never get in trouble. But coming forward and bringing us to a situation we can help you with, if it's a person who's just, you know, not doing a good job or just lazy about it, say it doesn't really care if they, I don't really care about that.

[00:41:14] I was feeling good. Okay, that's a bad decision. You don't have a right to put yourself in harm's way or our company in harm's way because you didn't. So that's the employee side of it. As the leader, as the manager. You know, the amount of hours the person works. Right. So, you know, but based on his, you know, his punch in punch out time that you work more than your hours.

[00:41:38] So did you raise your hand? Did you go and talk to the driver? Did you say the supervisor, Hey, Rocky worked 14 hours yesterday. He's gotta be, you know, based on his weekly logs or whatever. I mean. Did you ask the question or no, I don't really want to get involved in that. So then, once you have that conversation with the, you know, with the driver, and I think going to the leadership team and say, Hey man, this guy's getting himself in trouble.

[00:41:59] You're getting yourself in trouble by looking the other way. You should be asking the right questions. It's not logic, all that he's not in violation based on the amount of hope, but based on the time he punched in upon style. So you want to have that conversation with that, with the leadership team to say, Hey, you know why what's your double checks?

[00:42:14] What's your reports and measures? What are the things that you have in place to prevent this from happening and help me out. It's kind of Jerry Maguire. Help me help you.

[00:42:23] Michael King: To what extent though? So where I'm driving with the question, Rocky is so you, you say out loud like, Hey, we're, we're not going to compromise on safety yet in this made up example, you've got a driver that compromise on safety.

[00:42:37] There was a manager that compromised on safety. So at what point do you say, all right, you can't be a part of this team. We had this, this value that we won't compromise and it was compromised here willingly, and this, this made up example. Is that a fireable offense or not yet?

[00:42:55] Rocky Romanella: Well, I think, I think so. So that's a great question.

[00:42:58] So I think, so then what I, for me personally, now this is me. I would take a step back. And so when I originally went to college, I went to college being a high school history teacher to baseball coach. And one of the first classes a professor has said, if everyone in the class fails, you didn't teach. But if you have one or two people who failed a test.

[00:43:17] Then you've got to get what those one or two people. So I bring that example up because that's my, that's my line of thinking. So I would take a step back to answer your question and say. Well, is this a problem that everyone doesn't understand, that, that this is a core value and that I really, we haven't done a good job as an organization to reinforce that this is a serious situation right here, that we will never compromise this.

[00:43:41] So did everybody fail the task because we didn't train them properly, we didn't educate them properly, or does the communication issue, or is it one or two people? If it's one or two people and then, then you got to go to the leadership team and say, Hey, look, you know, you've, you've used your get out of jail cards here.

[00:43:56] All right? We're not going to discuss this any further. Your responsibility [00:44:00] is to never compromise safety and put things in place to protect you and your people and our organization. So, and I think you gotta go to that driver and say the same thing. Appreciate everything you've done, but don't put yourself in harm's way.

[00:44:12] Raise your hand. But if it's a situation where you think that, wait a second, we have this issue, then I think it's time to have that conversation where you. Maybe Gavin general now, today by halo, you know. Well, a good example was before Christmas. We would always send out, reminding everybody, cause you work a lot of hours at Christmas delivering all those packages, right?

[00:44:33] They reminded everybody, make sure you keep good logs, make sure you, and we tend to the management team, you better keep track of you. They are ours. We don't want anybody though hours violations because we didn't do a good job. So you, there's ways for you to anticipate things that are going to be happening along the way.

[00:44:49] But I think you want to know, is it, is it isolated to one or two people or is it, I didn't teach properly and so everyone fails a test, and if everyone failed a test, and I have a responsibility as a leadership team to make sure that, okay, I got to go back and do that lesson again.

[00:45:03] Michael King: Fair enough. So tighten the lug nuts, the principle of balance leadership.

[00:45:08] Where can people buy it?

[00:45:10] Rocky Romanella: Thank you very much for asking. It is a barn. It's, at best places, Amazon online. They do a great job fulfilling for me and, and Barnes and Noble online. Certainly on our website, www is a number three and the word 66 T Y management for every book sold. so some years ago I got the opportunity.

[00:45:32] To sit and have a four hour conversation with legendary coach John wooden. Wow. Yeah, it was amazing. And so I have that. I have the actual interview on my website, if you get a chance, it's on under coaches corner and it's the actual conversation with coach wooden. And in 1999 but when I met with coach Wooden and we talked a little bit, and of course at the end I said to him, coach, is there anything we can do?

[00:45:55] And at that time I was working for UPS, so I was actually speaking to him on the app. Ups and he was going to be a speaker, you know, as a recording on one of our, one of our management conferences, he said to me, no, no rock. You asked me if I could help you, and certainly I have no problem doing that. I said, well, can we donate?

[00:46:10] Or he said, can you donate to the Jimmy Valvano fund? And I, you know, I was so touched by his humbleness and his desire to help someone else. And of course, coach Nevada passed away at that time, but, so, so for every book sold, we donate $1 to the GBV foundation. So, I think it's a great read, but

[00:46:28] Michael King: if I.

[00:46:29] Rocky Romanella: Well, I shouldn't say that. Sounds boastful. I think you'll think it's a good read. I think you'll enjoy it, but at the very least, you'll be building a tower to the Jimmy V foundation.

[00:47:31] Michael King: Awesome. Well, Rocky, thank you so much for coming on today.

[00:47:34] This was a great lesson for me today and, I'm sure for our listeners as well, and I, I can't thank you enough for being here.

[00:47:41] Rocky Romanella: Thank you. Pleasure talking to you.

[00:47:51] Michael King: Thanks for joining us today. Please don't forget to subscribe to in the trenches with Michael King on your favorite podcast platform like Apple, Google, or Spotify. Once again, I'm Michael King with KFE Solutions. We'll see you again next week.