Robert W. Mason is a corporate strategist, manufacturing operations expert, and change management guru who is currently leading RLG International’s offshore Oil & Gas practice; focusing on interim management and leadership coaching.
Internationally recognized as a leadership expert, Robert sees people and relationships as key drivers of performance. From this perspective, Robert is passionate about turning adversities into opportunities and championing success for everyone to participate in. His accomplishments include improving safety at ConocoPhillips, subsea reliability at BP and creating entirely new businesses for GE. These are just a few examples of his passion in action that has impacted billions of dollars to the bottom line.
His past roles have included CEO & Emergency Financial Manager for the State of Michigan’s Treasury Department, Managing Director at YorkshireAmerica, Strategic and Operations Consultant supporting NASA’s Mars mission, and Strategy Manager for the Office of the Chairman & CEO at Chrysler. Robert’s insights and interviews have been featured by Fox Business News, Crain’s Detroit Business, Fox & Friends, The Michigan Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, The Review, Your World with Neil Cavuto as well as Forbes.
What inspired you to become a coach?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work in many different industries and corporations; generally, as a member of the senior leadership team seeking to improve performance. Some organizations had great cash flows, tools, systems and processes while others did not. However, I realized these were not the major determinants of success. The businesses that did well had a culture of accountability, clarity around goals, and provided feedback continuously while they were achieving their goals. In short, these companies had great leaders!
Having the opportunity to work with great leaders (and working with others who were not), showed me the tremendous impact that leadership has in creating a culture and driving an institution’s performance. Clearly there’s a financial benefit to having great leadership, but the human economics are just as real. Succession planning, employee morale and the ability to attract and retain top talent are a few examples where these realities eventually impact the bottom line.
If leaders are shaping their corporate culture (either intentionally or by accident), shouldn’t they be cognizant of their behaviors that are driving or destroying the firm’s performance? Shouldn’t they have an opportunity to improve their leadership capacity, thereby improving the lives of each and everyone one of their employees as well as the company’s performance overall?
My answer to these questions was to move beyond just helping organizations create great cash flows, tools, systems and processes, and to build upon their human capital. Helping good leaders become great can truly motivate and transform a workforce.
Motivated, passionate people always find a way to succeed despite the obstacles, whereas disengaged personnel will falter no matter what resources are made available. It was for this reason I chose to coach leaders on being great and helping them drive performance. This was the best way I could create success for the largest number of people possible; literally supercharging companies, but more importantly, changing people’s lives for the better.
What one piece of advice do you find yourself relying on most? Why?
Go slow to go fast.
Emergency response, crisis management, restructuring and cultural change have very different frameworks. And yet in executing these activities, I’ve found many similarities.
Each requires a fundamental shift and move for an organization from where they are now to a much better place. The frameworks are also along a spectrum in terms of urgency, but all are still important to those involved. They require people to willfully give more than their nominal effort.
To be successful, people’s discretionary efforts are required as well. Most leaders know that to get this discretionary effort from employees, they need to provide timely constructive feedback, positive reinforcement, and get people invested in the outcome. This is where my go to piece of advice, “go slow to go fast,” comes into the frame.
When circumstances allow (and 90 percent of the time, circumstances do allow), going slow to go fast is key. It allows everyone to synchronize their vision, get clarity around their goals, ensure roles and responsibilities are defined, and show that visible metrics are in place to measure progress against the well-communicated plan.
Most importantly though, going slow to go fast allows you to get buy in. When people believe in the objective, feel invested in its achievement, and are empowered to execute, they will freely give that discretionary effort. People with buy in are motivated, and if they’re motivated, passionate people will always find a way to succeed. Therefore, investing in a “go slow to go fast” strategy is well worth the time and effort.
What is the biggest hurdle your clients face? What advice would you give others struggling with this issue?
The biggest challenge my clients face is overcoming organizational inertia. There are entire libraries that define what organizational inertia is and why it happens, but not nearly enough action orientated discussions that detail how to overcome it. One would think that companies on the precipice of bankruptcy or others constantly managing crises would break free of the shackles of organizational inertia, but they too are often trapped.
For those seeking to escape that energy sapping black hole, which holds momentum itself in its grasp, I offer these five suggestions.
1. Why Change? Understand, quantify, qualify and clearly articulate the value proposition of changing direction in terms your organization appreciates and responds to. What pain does this shift address? What opportunity does it create?
2. Who Cares? Pull together leaders, influencers, change agents, forward thinkers and stakeholders that have a vested interest in changing your company’s course and create with them a path to greener pastures.
3. What’s the Message? Make the need for change transparent and obvious. Change your language, actions, employee recognition, Operating Rhythm™ and visible metrics to realign with where you want to go.
4. Where’s the Party? Always take time to celebrate the successes. Even if they seem small and trivial, doing so in the early phases will help create the excitement and momentum you need for when the challenges arise.
5. No Fear. Remove the fear of failure for your team and yourself. You are all embarking on a journey no one in your organization has ever taken. Give your team the space to experiment and honor their failures by turning them into lessons learned.
Keeping these five points close to heart won’t address all your challenges of organizational inertia, but they will go very far in addressing the majority of them.