Dr. Rob Bogosian: “The movement I would create would be to transform industrial era structures in organizations to ones that are more appropriate for the digital economy”
The movement I would create would be to transform industrial era structures in organizations to ones that are more appropriate for the digital economy. They would no longer be linear and hierarchical, they would be circular. This might seem simple, but it isn’t. Images and old paradigms have meaning and they are very symbolic and from where I sit. Old structures, need to dissolve. The whole idea that someone sits above someone else is a destructive concept. In the military, the idea is that you shouldn’t leave anybody behind. If they can espouse that philosophy in the military, they should be able to transfer in to the corporate world. The industrial era structures that once were are no longer. The entrepreneur should know that your employees will have your back at the exact and precise moment that you have theirs.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Rob Bogosian. Dr. Rob is the founder of RVB Associates, www.rvbassociates.com a consultancy that is dedicated to aligning business development strategies with leadership and culture development goals. The company uses proven, research based methods to help identify the root causes of talent gaps. Next, it builds action learning and transformational development experiences to ensure that talent is best prepared to execute business strategy.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path of coaching leaders?
It wasn’t planned when I launched the business of training leaders and consultants. Creating this boutique firm was not something that I even imagined doing originally on my own. I was what you call internal, working for a major financial corporation at the time and spending half my time in Boston as well as North Carolina when I just woke up one morning and said I’m going to have my own business because it would facilitate my ability to reach more organizations than the one that I am serving now.
I ended up having lunch with a dear friend of mine who had owned a consultancy for 10 years and told her what my plan was because she was one of the few people I could confide in. I told her my plan was go to the head of the company and ask him whether he would support my decision to leave in serving a higher purpose by becoming the business consultant to the firm. I needed his blessing first before deciding to take a leap of faith. I later gave my notice and on the following Monday I was contacted to serve the very company I had left. Two days later, my second client came from the friend I originally had disclosed my plans to with an offer to run a leadership faculty for a high potential high performer program being developed through the University of Boston and then from there it started and never stopped. I was lucky that I never really had a lull and even in the crash of 2008, and even during the time I was beginning my doctoral program at the George Washington University, I was fortunate to have been offered a contract to complete a project with the Department of Defense.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I was intent on the idea of launching my consultancy and knew it was going to happen for me. At the same time I went to visit my client who at the time was also the COO of the company and he asked me if I was scared. This was around the time of the stock market crash of 2008 and I remember saying to him, “scared of what? This place could turn on you in a dime, whereas “I am not going to turn on myself” This was to say that being an entrepreneur meant that I knew, I would never fire myself especially during a time when the idea of job security, or pension was shifting. The passion I had inside myself let me know that I was going to land on my feet. You can’t be waffling and wavering if you’re going to make it in business. I had a large financial services organization backing me at the time, giving me the foundation and provisions I might need for a rainy day. It rained heavily that year.
I had no marketing and no advertising experience and I knew nothing about publicity. I knew I needed a website and I knew I needed a advertising agency to assist me in getting my company out there. That first major expenditure cost me $13,000 and I did not know how to hire people to do the things for me or whom to hire. I began to look for help with my social media presence and with my collateral. I sought the help of writers, editors, publicists. I read and looked to learn from other people. My first publicity crash course was with the CEO of Zebra Public Relations at a lovely hotel room in midtown Manhattan. Together, we composed my first tweet and put together a plan for the release of a new book I was writing on leadership. Everyone behind me, working for me was committed and devoted. Humbled, I thought to myself, what I did in this life to earn this type of devotion. It occurred to me that one of the things that every entrepreneur needs to be good at is relationship management.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Now, I had made plans for that rainy day. With the stock market crash of 2008, it was pouring, and despite that, I knew that I would be ok.
It is hard to stay focused as an entrepreneur. The entrepreneur is constantly being bombarded by new information, various requests, new hires and industry best practices.
My drive came from the people I could rely upon to get things done. It was my team that served as the backbone to my consultancy as I alone could not be solely available to run entire projects in addition to developing the firm. My approach to leading people is to depend on them to do the job in which they were contracted rather than to micromanage or take over. If you do this, the results will surely follow. I must have done something right to have deserved this level of care. It is the work of the leader to treat people with the absolute, utmost respect, and if you can’t do that, pick a mother line of work.
It is a philosophy that I am very passionate about, that I care and am responsible for each and every person that reports to my business practice. I would certainly like to think that my vibrational karma carried me through when times were rough, and to know in my heart, that if I had mistreated them, they would not have taken care of me. If you cannot treat people with decency as a leader, pick another line of work.
So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?
My major milestone was a moment I had shared with my co-author during the time I was sitting on a patio deck in Naples, Florida working on my dissertation. While we worked, she turned to me and said “this is a book!”. I said no, this is a dissertation. With time she convinced me that I could spark a movement with the topic. Breaking Corporate Silence became the first extensively researched book that shows the causes and consequences of silence and voice in organizations. Corporate Silence exists when employees willfully withhold important work related information. It can have devastating consequence when it spreads through organizations. In today’s turbulent business environment, best leaders need the ability to stimulate new thinking, transfer knowledge at lightning speed and innovate, all of which requires a Culture of Voice. Breaking Corporate Silence provides diagnostics and practices that every leader can master to create and sustain a healthy culture of voice. My co-author became a great project manager. I locked myself away in a hotel suite and wrote the book in twelve days. Now you have this book and a practitioner guide for leaders.
It wasn’t easy to stow myself away for twelve days. As an entrepreneur, you’re always tempted by the next biggest thing. I asked myself what was the best way I could help people and make the lives of leaders easy. How could I more positively impact the lives of others. We did a lovely launch party for the book and it was a landmark event for my career. The publicists at Zebra put together an event at the Prudential tower in Boston and and my requests for speakership catapulted from there.
So, how are things going today? :-)
The business is always changing and entrepreneurs need to come ready. I am trying to be that. I am seeing more instances of micro learning. Micro learning is a concept I have adopted in every arena of managing my business. Right now, I am bridging the gap between all the research we have compiled on the art of great leadership and bringing it to a learning platform that aggregates this content for others to consume. The work of bringing learning and content together is an intricate one. This is a whole new, exciting territory to me. I am more confident than ever that I will be able to impact many more people with my knowledge and I am very pleased about that. 🙂
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first started teaching entrepreneurs? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m big on integrity and honoring my word and especially my rates so that my fees don’t vary from one client to another but one time, I didn’t account for concessions in my rate plan and lost the client because of it. My inability to adjust my mindset is what cost me the business. Another time, I had been asked to give a keynote, gratis, to 600 successful black leaders in New York at the Black Leadership Conference sponsored by Prudential. The organization does a lot of great work for people. Bashful, I though to myself, what a white guy like me could possibly offer to members of the African-American community. But it turns out, it was one of the most rewarding appearances I had ever done. It actually paved the way for more business in New York. You can’t be so high on your horse that you can’t give of yourself when you are called upon to lead. Now I give 10% of my time away to volunteer work.
What do you think makes some companies stand out more than others? Can you share a story?
Companies that are big on integrity are the ones who will succeed in the final analysis. I am in the process of starting another book about what leaders have stated in terms of their proclamations about their company culture but who in reality don’t honor their stated values. My issue is with leaders who proclaim to know certain things about leadership but who actually work to sabotage the value of their organizations and assault their human resources routinely. I remain astonished by leaders who are the antithesis to what they proclaim. Daily, I hear leaders articulating ideas such as:
“There are no dumb questions” (when in reality, management cares nothing about what the staff have to say).
Another one “Our employees are our most valuable asset” meanwhile, the actions of corporate leadership conveys a complete lack of interest in the value that can be harnessed by workers on the front lines and the culture inside the company says, I don’t want to hear what you have to say, and I’m not really interested in what you have to say.
And yet another: “there is no such thing as a dumb question” when the culture actually reads, we don’t really want you to comment and we aren’t answering things we think you should know.
The Seven (or eight) Myths of Management is a book about what leaders proclaim as it compares to what the actually do. It’s a bit of a piece where I call them out on some of the outlandish claims I am seeing in leaders today. You’ll have to read the book for me to call them out by name.
Companies that stand out more than others are those which are anchored to ideas, creative ones especially, that will serve to help others. Look at the Calm App for instance. Someone had figured out how to help busy executives to relax and calm down. It’s the number one app out there and so in the old paradigm, we can see technology as a hindrance whereas, the new school of thought looks at technology much as a way of solving problems.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the industry of entrepreneurship to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s hard to turn it all off when you are an entrepreneur. The business leader is on seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Routine is key for the entrepreneur. Characteristics of being a driver is critical to the development of any organization. My advice for people who do what I do is to love it first and it will drive the enthusiasm and the connection to the work. I see a lot of commercialism in my business. I tell people, for what you pay, you’re not going to get the op-ed newsstand version of what I teach. Rather, you are going to receive throughly vetted research that you can bank on if you are going to lead a national or multi-national organization with grace.
You have to choose three to five things that can serve as your anchor. You have to trust your gut. For me for example, the concept of writing a blog does not ring true. I am not able to do that and frankly, it doesn’t interest me. But I can write a book that will spark a movement about leadership.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Support people along the way are the ones that helped me to get by and there are so many people to thank. My father was always expanding my horizon. He was eager to help me explore. My father never said no. I never heard, you can’t do that, that’s not going to be good for you. I would say I really want to try this dad, and he would say “I don’t care about what it is that you do, just love it, make it your hub.” Those words shaped me in my formative years. The sky is the limit mindset is what gave me the verve to be who I am today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My affinity comes from having a genuine love for diversity and inclusion. You can’t be a leader telling people every day to work harder without having an emotional commitment to the outcome and to the growth of the people you lead. My keynote at the Black Leadership Conference was a way in which I could give of my time and knowledge and that made me most happy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I would create would be to transform industrial era structures in organizations to ones that are more appropriate for the digital economy. They would no longer be linear and hierarchical, they would be circular. This might seem simple, but it isn’t. Images and old paradigms have meaning and they are very symbolic and from where I sit. Old structures, need to dissolve. The whole idea that someone sits above someone else is a destructive concept. In the military, the idea is that you shouldn’t leave anybody behind. If they can espouse that philosophy in the military, they should be able to transfer in to the corporate world.
The industrial era structures that once were are no longer. The entrepreneur should know that your employees will have your back at the exact and precise moment that you have theirs.