Today our interview is with Bob Littell, who created the concept of NetWeaving. Read on to find out how Bob solves team conflict, the valuable leadership skills he learned in college, and why he thinks being content with the status quo is the mistake that’s made most often.
Thanks for doing this interview! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today – where you’re from, your educational and/or work background?
- Had a paper route as a kid – still get up at 4:30 am, which is the most creative time for me.
- Boy Scouts – I was an Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow. That’s where my passion for ‘nature’ and hiking began.
- Fraternity. There were three factions. I was the ‘connector’. We were all-school sports but only about 1/3rd were jocks and another 1/3rd were intelligentsia. Although I led the 1/3rd ‘partying’ faction, I was partly responsible for keeping the 3 factions communicating with each other.
- Most valuable skills I learned in college – active listening, speed reading, and note taking . I made a bet with someone in a bar my sophomore year that I could make it through that year without buying a textbook and after pulling a 3-point that semester, I went all the way to 2nd semester Senior Year doing the same. That last semester, I made the Dean’s List.
- I had three great mentors. The first one was training and honing my technical skills; second one was for marketing and team-building which I didn’t do well at that time – not his fault. And the third was for ‘strategic planning’, ‘leadership’, and building a successful company.
- One of my great disappointments is that I went through the Harvard Business School’s MMP (Marketing Management Program) on-campus. Back in my early 30’s. I was in with CEO’s of major companies and it was fantastic, but I just wish I had gone at a point about 10 years later in my career.
- NetWeaving saga – 1999 to present – just Google the word to see how the concept is spreading.
What made you interested in leadership?
I was a very poor leader in my first management role. I was too concerned with my own upward mobility, and did not have enough concern about growing the members of my team. Luckily, three of the four were good enough all on their own that they did well without me, but they could have done much better had I been a better leader.
The two I have stayed in touch with have done very well over their careers.
The one thing I did right was that I personally interviewed over 10 people before selecting each of the three people who eventually made up my team. The one time I made an exception to my own rules, it was a disaster.
What do you believe is the key to effective communication with your team?
- Having a mission and goals they can be passionate about achieving or exceeding
- Being transparent and genuine
- Emotional Intelligence
How do you keep people motivated despite obstacles or setbacks?
- Get the right people in the first place
- Get rid of the glass is always ‘half-empty’ ones early
- Lead by example and be transparent and genuine.
- Lead with passion and make it clear that obstacles and setbacks are but the next steps to success. How many times have you failed lately and WHY?
Which mistake do you believe leaders make most often, and how could they avoid it?
In today’s world, it’s being content with the status quo, especially if the company is successful – don’t rock the boat. Let the next leader take the real risks. You have to be in a constant innovation mindset today and somehow stay plugged in with technologies as they evolve. “You also need to have your ‘fishing lines’ in separate ponds, even some where they aren’t biting today.”
Make sure someone you put in a particular role has the qualifications – character, skills, and if they’re supposed to be seasoned, their successful track record. If they are not there yet, but have super-star capabilities, make sure that you give them guidance and encourage them to ask for it.
Make sure there is diversity of thought in teams, but also thought to diversity in the usual ways. Find ways to draw out the introverts who often have the best ideas.
What do you believe is a quality that a leader should try to eliminate from their team?
The ‘glass is half-empty’ thinkers
People who don’t ‘follow up’ and ‘follow through’ – both are important
Is there a particular well-known leader or company that you find inspiring? If so, why?
- Truett, now Dan Cathey – Chick-fil-A
- Hire the right people in the first place – Quality, Drive, Passion for Service
- Constantly ask your people to come up with better ways to do things
- Their motto for how to be remarkable: Believe the Best IN each other. Want the Best FOR each other. Expect the Best FROM each other
Are there any specific apps, tools or software that you use for productivity/communication?
- I’m old school – weekly to-do list “A’s, B’s, C’s”
- I’m the ‘enemy of the forest’ – I’m a ‘priority’ printer-outer – trying to improve- I sort through a foot-high year of important emails that remind me the ones that I need to follow back up on.
- Key Accomplishments Last Week (no more than 2-4)
- Key Actions/Goals to Accomplish in the Following Week
- When in doubt, chip at an “A”
How do you resolve conflict within your team?
No longer have a real team but best way is to help them realize ‘productive conflict’ is healthy. Personal conflict or attacks are destructive. Promote open communication and resolve differences early. Too often, conflict festers, then explodes.
What advice would you give to upcoming leaders?
- Create trusted relationships both internally and externally
- Manage by ‘walking around’ get to know the janitor
- Give first, before asking, and always look for ways to ‘add value’
- Constantly grow and encourage your team to do the same
Do you have any particular hobbies or interests?
- Hiking with our dogs
- Golf – finally took it up after age 65 and loving it. Most exciting – in Sept. I run 70 and get to hit from the Gold Tees. Hitting it as far as I do now, I will be a popular addition. That’s due to running and strength training during my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. It never gets easy.
- Landscape – gardening, building ponds
- Writing consistently
- Connecting other people – people forget how energizing that can be. The NetWeaver’s 2nd Motto: “When you open the door for someone else, you never know who YOU will meet as a result.
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