Following is part two of the transcript of the “In the Spotlight” interview with Pete Luongo, author of 10 Truths About Leadership. In his signature fashion, Pete speaks frankly about some key issues that managers and leaders must address to lead their people and their organizations to higher levels of success. Picking up where we left off in part one of the interview:
TSG: Talk about the difference between “rules” and “standards of excellence.”
Pete Luongo: “Rules are for the weak and uncompromised standards of excellence are for the strong.” That’s Truth #5 and I can’t imagine it being anything more straightforward than that simple truth. As Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman tell us in First Break All the Rules, “creating a culture of compliance strangles an organization of its flexibility, responsiveness, and most importantly, its good will.” I believe it goes even deeper than that. Anything that gets in the way of our imagination, ingenuity, and creativity is non-productive. Standards of excellence are about expectations. What is it we want from our organization? It’s simple! At the Berry Company we were only interested in two things: selling lots of advertising and satisfying every customer. Anything that got in the way of those two objectives was not valued. As I so often said, “the solidarity of intent fills the team with the strength of knowing its purpose.” All 2800 employees knew that every day they woke up their focus and responsibility was around accomplishing those two objectives. It’s about embracing simplicity and making certain everyone understands their role in meeting and exceeding these expectations.
TSG: What qualities have you found to be effective indicators of greatness – or potential for greatness – in evaluating prospective employees?
Pete Luongo: It’s not about greatness. It’s about finding the right match. Truth #1 says, “Past Performance Predicts Future Behavior” and that is the answer. What are those qualities, those behaviors that are required to perform a certain task? Once they are determined, it’s simply about finding those people who bring those qualities to the relationship. To be very specific, when we were rebuilding our sales force we knew that our best salespeople were possessed those attributes of competiveness, commitment, character, capacity to learn, and passion. Our challenge was that through the selection process, we only brought those people into the business that possessed those same types of behaviors. Assuming they found their sweet spot we know they had a high probability of being successful. It really is that simple! Knowing that you can’t change people is a precursor to effective selection.
TSG: What do you think leaders are doing better today – as a whole – than they were doing 10 or 20 years ago?
Pete Luongo: I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but I’m not sure we are better today than we were 20 years ago! I’m convinced we’re smarter and certainly more technologically advanced, but there is so much greed, so much winning at all cost that it’s taken its toll on every aspect of society from youth sports to our Fortune top 50 companies. Organizations and individuals are struggling with the question of how do we not compromise our core values as we chase the endgame, both individually and collectively, and personally and professionally. We all know the right things to do but l question the courage of leadership today to do it the right way!
TSG: What do you believe is the greatest challenge that leaders today must overcome in order to achieve long-term success in their organizations?
Pete Luongo: The answer is incredibly complex but it has to start with a fundamental belief that our individual legacy as both leaders and human beings will be willingness to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s about unconditional love! It’s about helping our employees find the courage within themselves to lead others and dismissing the belief that leadership is the unwanted burden of a privileged few – but rather it’s our most basic birthright. The deeper we drive leadership in an organization and the more we can distribute ownership throughout, the greater chance we have of being successful both individually and collectively.
TSG: You’ve got this book out there now. What else are you doing to spread the message?
Pete Luongo: It’s like any business – it’s about distribution! It’s about getting in front of more audiences. It’s about building a learning series. I’m convinced that while there are a lot of theories, models, etc. out there, not many thought leaders have been at the edge of the cliff and have implemented a model that not only has universal application, but also works! It’s a story that needs to be told and I’m convinced that we will get the exposure necessary to share The Leadership Pledge.
TSG: One last question: When you stand in front of a group of leaders as a keynote speaker, obviously you can’t work a miracle in 60 minutes. What is the take-home value you’re trying to deliver in that setting?
Pete Luongo: My message is this: As leaders and employees we’ve all got to accept accountability and responsibility for our actions. Only when we understand and accept our roles and responsibilities in each relationship can we be successful. The Leadership Pledge defines those responsibilities, but it must be up to each of us as individuals to recognize that only when we’ve learned to accept ourselves can we learn to accept others and in the context of differences and similarities, find better ways of coping as a behavior organization.
TSG: That’s a good message! Thanks, Pete, for taking the time to participate in this interview.
For more information about Pete Luongo:
Peter A. Luongo retired as President and CEO of The Berry Company in August 2003. His career at The Berry Company spanned more than 33 years. During his last nine years with the company, Peter was instrumental in guiding Berry through a period of record sales growth, numerous contract acquisitions and the perpetuation of the nearly 100-year-old company as an industry leader and “a great place to work.” Since retirement, Peter has dedicated himself to sharing this unique approach with audiences all over the world. His powerful message transcends business transformation, emerging technology, product innovation, corporate vision statements and strategic imperatives.