Born: Covington, Ky., 1949
Education: Civil engineering, University of Cincinnati
First job: I grew up in a little family construction company, so my first job was going to work with my grandpa on a construction project.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
The person that influenced me the most was a gentleman that started in this company as a water boy and retired as the vice president of operations. His name was Joe Glassmar, and he impressed me the most because Joe taught me the joy of finding success through other people succeeding.
He was the original guy that proved to me that this is not a zero-sum game, that everybody can have more if you support each other. He cared about me when I wasn’t smart enough to particularly care about myself.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
To let other people do their jobs. Every time I got a promotion, I didn’t know exactly what the new job involved, but I was a crackerjack at doing the job I did before. So I’d go and interfere with the people who were now trying to do it.
And I was blessed when I got this job. I sure didn’t know what a CEO did, but I was a crackerjack vice president, so I went around and interfered with anybody trying to be a vice president. Some other leaders in this company sat me down and explained to me that you’re going to have to find your own job instead of trying to do ours.
And the most powerful belief that I’ve developed is around what truly is the highest leverage in terms of strategic leverage the most powerful advantage you can have in the marketplace can be described in one word: trust.
Trust is to human performance what water is to human health. You get a lot of it every day, you might thrive. [If] you’re deprived of it, it really doesn’t much matter what you’ve written in the business plan.
What has been your biggest business challenge?
I think the biggest challenge any of us faces is the leap from doing to leading. That, especially for folks who have a high-energy budget and some capacity for doing, we tend to want to do things for people, and that’s not a very effective way to lead.
It certainly has been a problem for me to step back and let people take their own path to success over the problems rather than wanting to tell them exactly how to do it.