Rocky Romanella – Leading with 3SIXTY Vision

Insights on Leadership, Adaptation, and Customer-Centricity from a Seasoned CEO and Author

Rocky Romanella shares leadership insights emphasizing holistic approaches, adaptation, collaboration,
customer-centricity, and personal growth, drawn from his diverse industry experience and bestselling book, Tighten The Lug Nuts.

By Acacia Baldie

Entrepreneur Prime Magazine is privileged to present an exclusive interview with Rocky Romanella, a titan in the realms of leadership, business strategy, and organizational transformation. With a career spanning over 45 years, Rocky has left an indelible mark on industries ranging from supply chain and logistics to retail and telecommunications.

As the former CEO of The UPS Store, Rocky orchestrated one of the most monumental rebranding endeavours in franchising history, reshaping the landscape of the retail shipping and business services market. His innovative approach didn’t stop there; he spearheaded UPS’s foray into the healthcare industry, pioneering a customer-centric mantra: “It’s a patient, not a package.®” 

Now at the helm of 3SIXTY Management Services, LLC, Rocky continues to inspire leaders worldwide with his concept of “3SIXTY Leadership,” advocating for a holistic approach that encompasses every facet of business and personal development.

In this insightful interview, Rocky delves into key principles and strategies essential for navigating today’s dynamic business environment. From fostering collaboration and motivation within teams to advocating for a customer-centric ethos, his wisdom resonates deeply with leaders seeking to thrive amidst uncertainty and change.

Join us as Rocky Romanella shares invaluable insights gleaned from a lifetime of leadership, offering a roadmap for success rooted in integrity, resilience, and unwavering commitment to excellence.

You emphasize the importance of 3SIXTY Leadership, which involves leading in every direction. Could you elaborate on what this concept means to you and how it shapes your approach to leadership?

Its concept means leaving no aspect of business behind. A successful leadership team won’t find and create success if they don’t focus on the business and the employee as a whole. This means as a leader you need to focus on everything from changing the business landscape, and developing strategies, tactics, and metrics to drive desired results, as well as, personal development: time management, self-sabotaging behaviour (like procrastination and distraction), finding clarity, decision making, and getting into action. It also means when a problem arises, finding the answers from within yourselves and the organization.

In today’s fast-paced business environment, adaptation is key. How do you advise leaders and organizations to navigate change effectively, especially when faced with unexpected disruptions like those seen in recent times?

When there are unexpected disruptions, you have three choices: lead, follow or get out of the way. Unexpected disruptions are what sets apart the good companies and the great companies. During challenging times, and periods of rapid changes, good companies and leaders view consistency as their high-water mark. Great companies and leaders emerge from these difficulties a stronger and more competitive company positioned for great success – like a phoenix. In many cases good companies are in a maintenance mode and are happy with relative results, whereas great companies and leaders are highly motivated with a strong commitment to growing and having exponential results.  In the event an unimaginable detour arises, good companies will manage tactfully and consistently. Great companies will be the architects of their own destinies. They will decide; What are the steps we will take to build back our company?  What will our brand stand for in this evolving time? And what will our brand promise be? Good companies rely on what they know to do, Great companies prepare for what they will need to do. 

Your experience includes leading teams in diverse industries. What strategies do you find most effective in fostering collaboration, motivation, and high performance within teams, particularly in challenging or competitive markets?

First and foremost, Leadership is not a passive duty, it is an active responsibility. In other words, get out from behind your desk and walk around. You must have personal integrity, live your word; establish open, candid, trusting and respectful relationships at all levels and especially with your direct reports. When you treat all people inside and outside of your organization fairly and respectfully, you will see others bring their own discipline, hard work, and enthusiasm to work each day. True empowerment is when people discipline themselves.

Also, as a leader you must be able to handle differences in work styles effectively when working with co-workers and capitalizing on strengths of others on a team to get work done even when they are your peers. It will be important to anticipate potential conflicts and address them directly and effectively before they become a problem or distraction.

Customer satisfaction is a priority for any successful business. How do you advocate for a customer-centric approach within organisations, and what steps can leaders take to ensure that their teams consistently deliver exceptional customer experiences?

One of the biggest differentiators between good and great is the superior customer experience that is provided on a consistent basis. During every customer interaction, your reputation is on the line. Remember, as a leader, your customers are also the people in your care and supervision. Whether on the phone, in person, or via electronic communication, genuinely interact and connect with customers; ensure a positive experience and exceed expectations. Anyone who comes in contact with a customer needs to actively listen to a customer’s needs and consistently demonstrate to customers that they are in tune with their needs and are operating in their best interest. Never underestimate the power of your brand and your reputation in the marketplace. Wherever your strategic path takes you, know that your brand and trustworthiness is your highest honour.

Can you share more about the significance of the title Tighten the Lug Nuts and how it reflects the principles of balanced leadership outlined in your book?

The phrase, “Tighten The Lug Nuts,” simply means, do not allow important things to become urgent. You can only manage a few urgent things at a time so do not let important items that can be quickly taken care of become urgent, they can and will overwhelm you. Urgent problems often become what people refer to as “fire” in the workplace. It’s okay to have urgent situations once in a while. But often, these dire circumstances are created when people don’t “tighten their lug nuts.” It may be a common pattern occurring within the same department or caused by the same leader. The frustrating thing for many employees is that if the problem were taken care of when it was important, it wouldn’t get to a state of urgency. Because as things move from “important” to “urgent,” people begin to get overwhelmed and make decisions that may be rash or add to the fire. 

The key to tightening the lug nuts as a leader is to recognize when an important problem does arise. Then stop and react quickly to establish a course of action that will drive desired results. Create a way forward, and implement a measurement process to monitor progress.

In urgent situations there are three important questions you can ask your team: 

If we had taken care of this sooner, when it was important, would it have risen to this level of urgency? What role did I play in causing this to become urgent? And how can we make sure this doesn’t happen again moving forward?

Your journey from a part-time package loader to President of The UPS Store and UPS Supply Chain Solutions is quite remarkable. What were some of the key principles or strategies you employed along the way that you believe contributed most to your success?

  • You can disagree, but you should not be disagreeable or disrespectful.
  • Be humble and learn everything you can about your job, and then learn some more 
  • Recognize it is what you do when no one is watching that counts most because it’s the true measure of your character.
  • Don’t let your highs get too high and your lows get too low
  • Don’t always stop at the first right answer

In your book, you emphasize the importance of mindset and attitude in distinguishing successful leaders. Could you elaborate on what this mindset entails and how aspiring leaders can cultivate it to achieve their career goals?

 You have a responsibility to yourself and to others to use your best judgment, weigh your options carefully, and make the right decisions—even if they’re not the most favourable or popular, even when no one is watching! When you do that, you honour yourself and your values. Wherever your path takes you, know that your trustworthiness is your highest honour. For if you are a trusted leader, others will believe in your vision, mission, and values and will trust in you enough to follow you. That will be your legacy. As a person your core beliefs are not what you would like them to be, but rather what lives and breathes in you as a person.