Today’s episode is going to help us understand what it takes to be a great leader.  We have Bob Nolley from Labrador Leadership with us today to help us think about what it takes for you to be a great leader.

Here’s some of the things we’ll learn today:

  • How you can create enough time to work on leadership activities in your business.
  • Why chunking down how much time you spend on leadership makes it a doable proposition.
  • Learn what emotional intelligence is and how you can use it in your business.
  • Learn why your relationships might be the most valuable asset you have.


Narrator:         Welcome to the Sustainable Business Radio Show on podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. The Sustainable Business is all about creating great outcomes.

Here’s your host, certified financial planner, student, entrepreneur and private business expert, Josh Patrick.

Josh:                Good morning. Today, we’re going to talk about leadership with Bob Nolley. Bob and I have one thing in common which has absolutely nothing to do with leadership, and that might even be a good thing, it’s our obsession with folk music in the 60’s. I don’t know about Bob but that was something that we did as a family and it has incredibly fun memories for me.

Right now, he’s an adjunct professor at several schools. I’m sure we’ll find a little bit more about that as we talk. I’m going to bet it has something to do with leadership. He might even have something to do with financial services and technology. Right now, Bob’s main focus is coaching other executives on leadership skills. He works with leadership development through the use of emotional intelligence. I’m sure he’ll tell us what that is and how that works. He uses that to help leadership in conflict resolution. Let’s get right to it and talk with Bob about what a labrador leader is all about.

Hey, Bob. How are you today?

Bob:                 Josh, how are you? Thank you so much for having me on.

Josh:                Oh, it’s my pleasure. It’s my pleasure. So tell me, what is a labrador leader?

Bob:                 Oh, my gosh. It all came about as part of the branding when I started. I originally had called the business—I wanted to call it the Leadership Retreat because I had this vision of sitting down with folks in a casual setting. I think, the branding – I had a picture of a mountain range in the distance and I could just see us sitting on the front porch with a glass of soda pop, or a bourbon, or something in our hands and talking about issues of the workplace that we had and building and leading teams. So, it was going to be called the new leadership retreat. I went to get some marketing coaching on that and the coach I had just went blah, blah, blah blah, blah. I was like crestfallen – totally crestfallen. He said, ‘You’re going to have a blue website and it’s going to be like a thousand other corporate web sites and you’re not going to stand out.’ I said, “Okay, what should I do?” And we went—

It took a long time. And when somebody’s starting a business, this does take a long time, and it’s a source of frustration coming up with what your brand actually is. I had a session with him one day and he goes, ‘What about an animal? What about dolphin leadership? What about dolphin leadership? Why don’t we just call it unicorn leadership?’ So, we actually looked up dolphin leadership and was already taken. And if you go out there – I’m at the risk of offending somebody here. The website just seems a bit dated but I’m sure they are fine people and doing good work there. But it just didn’t sound right. And then he said, ‘What about labrador leadership?’ Number one, I liked the alliteration and number two, as a kid growing up and I was the oldest child in my family, we had a labrador. That lab was the best dog we’d ever had. And he said, “Okay great, why was he the best dog?’ I said, “He was so strong. He was so fast.” And when we as kids would be playing in the neighborhood, he was always with us and through that he just became our most beloved pet. That kind of translated into power and that was our tag line – Labrador Leadership – strength, loyalty and power.

In the beginning, labrador leadership – people say ‘You sound like you’re going to take over Newfoundland here.’ and I went, “No, it has nothing to do about Newfoundland.” Like I said, it’s all about the dog. And I think, if you have strength – strength in your core, through your sense of values, and the value system you have that’s hardwired in your system, you’ll generate loyalty in your team and your followers and all your key relationships. And that source of internal power, the great leaders all need.

Josh:                Cool. I’ve got to tell you. I agree with the marketing consultant you had. Your original name was not especially great but I do like the name labrador leadership. It could be because I’m a dog person also.

Bob:                 Yeah. That’s a big thing. And people say, ‘Oh, do you have a lab now? Post a picture.’ “Well, I don’t have a lab now. I have a little silky terrier that we rescued and it is the smallest dog we’ve ever had. She’s virtually running the household. She’s here at my feet now looking at me, as if to say, ‘Alright Bob, you only have 60 minutes for this interview then we need to move on’. But yeah, dog people will understand all of this. But if you’re not, you’re really missing out on a good slice of life.

Josh:                Yeah. We’re not going to do 60 minutes, so your dog will get you back pretty soon because we try to keep this at about 22 to 23 minutes for drive time.

Bob:                 Perfect. Yeah. I do to. That’s about the length of our show.

Josh:                In your bio, you talk about creating an environment that allow your clients to remove themselves from pressing day-to-day tasks. In my experience, I’ve been working with private business owners and I’ve been in an operating business myself for almost 40 years now. If I was to ask my clients to do that, about 97% of them would say, ‘I don’t have the time.’ How do you get your guys to have the time to remove themselves, to actually work on leadership issues?

Bob:                 It’s just the premise of “why aren’t you committed to investing in yourself?” It depends on the situation, whether if you’re talking to somebody in the C-Suite, he’s going to have a different set of issues than an entrepreneur who can look like a small business owner that’s post revenue and already created a success. Or, if you’re a multilevel marketer, if you have somebody—this is not meant to be degrading—but if you have a housewife that has lost their job and now says, ‘Gee, I’ve got to make some money in this marketing opportunity. It looks good to me.’ Then all of a sudden, he or she needs leadership skills and they’ve never had them. So, the conversation is you have to pull back and look at what you bring to the most important relationships in your life.

So, in the C-Suite, for example, I’ve worked with an executive that actually mentioned, ‘I’ve never written a performance review in my life.’ And I’d gone, “What?” I wanted to slap my forehead. “Now, you have got to be kidding me” because he just wouldn’t be as sensitive to what the best practices in that area or what he would try to get done. At that level, at the CEO level, it is almost not fair because the board of directors and any other stakeholders, or employees – they think that the person at the top – ‘Okay, he’s got all of the strategy down. He’s got all the financial side down. He knows what the vision is for marketing. He knows all the HR issues he has to address in building a team. He knows the legal issues that we have to operate within. He knows what’s going on in all of the externalities that we have to deal with.’ Holy cow, that is just not fair. But Boards of Directors, employees – they tend to expect that – intuitively somehow. So, what they have to do is they have to recognize and acknowledge they’ve got a blind spot somewhere on that list and go, ‘you know, I need some help.’

Josh:                Let’s down several levels because most of the people listening to this show are going to be small or private business owners. Maybe they’ll have 25 employees, maybe 200 employees, maybe five employees. Those folks really don’t have a lot of free time because they’re too busy running their business. What kind of recommendations do you make to somebody like this, how to create the time to do some leadership thinking and leadership planning?

Bob:                 Well, let’s talk about just about how much time they would need and what the feedback is. Somebody in that scenario and that size of organization, I don’t want to take you away for week and send you on a retreat and have you get out of the office for that period of time. I would like to just meet with that person and have an initial conversation and suggest that two 30-minute phone calls a month. Now, all of a sudden that’s much easier to swallow. That’s much easier to get on the calendar somehow. Particularly, when you talk to them along the terms of what we’re going to try to get done because I don’t come to them saying, “I have all the answers. I am a great—“ No, I don’t have all the answers but I am in a position to bring out the best in you.

Josh:                That’s something which I think folks who are listening really need to be paying attention to. We’re not asking you take a day or a week out of your schedule. We’re asking you to take 5%, 3%, 7% of your time and start thinking in a bigger way about your business and not just have your head down. Is that what I just heard from you, Bob?

Bob:                 Yes, absolutely. More often than not – entrepreneurs, managers of the small business area have their head down every day and they’re chasing a metric. They’re chasing a sales goal. They’re chasing some development goal of getting a product to market. They’re chasing some ROI metric that their Board or their investors have placed over them.

My contention is, a part of the success – technically, of course they’re very strong. They built this thing in their garage, or they bought it, or they dreamed it – or would that be they dreamt it? They dreamed it – they dreamt it. At any event, they’re bringing it to the market but they have to step back long enough to look at their relationships with their customers because that’s why we do business with you. And part of it is the fact—of course, the technology of the web allows us to do so much and be plugged in by networking all the time. But between that and the freaking explosion of social media over the last decade, as a society right now, we crave a real relationship. You have to be able to have that kind of relationship – well, number one, with the folks that are working for you and know how to handle those relationships and really polish them and treat them as almost a sacred thing to you. You should treat that relationship the same way it does with your partner, your spouse or anybody on the home front. I remind folks, “You don’t have a work life and you don’t have a business life, you’ve got one life.”

Josh:                Well, that’s something we could talk about at some point at length because that’s a hugely big deal that I think business owners are made to feel guilty about by the general population which is work-life balance. But before we go there, I have another pressing question for me because I hear this term a lot and it’s a term I actually like a lot – emotional intelligence. First, can you tell me what emotional intelligence is? And second, why should a leader be concerned about it?

Bob:                 Well, that’s a great question. This is the topic that I actually think is at the core of the potential for success with leaders and business no matter what size the business is. Emotional intelligence (EI) or EQ as it’s called, just so it stands out different than IQ. EQ is about your ability on two fronts. First, the internal front is for you to be able to recognize your own emotions and just be able to step back just a bit from the moment and realize not just that you’re angry but to realize, “Holy cow, I’m angrier than heck” and then your ability to regulate those emotions, so that they’re not always on your sleeves, so they’re not counterproductive. It’s that internal part. The external part is for you to be able to recognize the emotions in others and to influence them. Not in a Machiavellian way, but just to recognize them and influence them to move forward toward the goals of the organization, or the transaction that’s at hand.

And then on top of those two, there’s also the social skills. Now, we talked earlier, I don’t know if we were on the air yet or not, about the difference between where you are up in Vermont and me down here, further to the south – Virginia, but I’ve talked about that concept with lots of groups down here. I had somebody come up to me once and go, ‘emotional intelligence, that just sounds like good manners to me.’ Well, in a way yes but it’s not. It’s something much more and much bigger. Because if you come home from work, you listen to a husband or wife, or your partner that comes home from the job and goes, ‘That person really is ticking me off. What’s the matter with him?’ Well, more often than not, it’s unmet needs. They have goals they’re trying to hit that they’re frustrated with. You think of Maslow’s needs hierarchy and somewhere up the line, they got a gap and if their needs aren’t being met, their behavior may be a little out of line, a little bit of aberrant behavior there. But with emotional intelligence, you can recognize that’s happening to you and others and you know what to do to influence that, so that’s a lot to consider but the payoff is this – it’s like going to the gym, you pay attention to it, you work at it, and yours gets better.

Here are a couple of key points. Research is showing us, number one, that of everything we’re worth – and I mean financially, every dollar we have in the bank, everything we have – if 15% of that is attributable directly to our technical skills, knowledge and expertise and the other 85% is due to our relationships, our networking, our ability to get things done with business partners, with others. I mean, which half are you going to invest in?

Josh:                Well, here’s a question for you then, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, if I look at the stars in Silicon Valley – now, granted most of us aren’t in Silicon Valley so this may not be applicable. But if I’m looking at the stars a Silicon Valley and I look at Steve jobs, and I look at Elon Musk, and I look at Larry Ellison, it appears that none of these guys have even a little bit of emotional intelligence and, in fact, you might say they’re about as abusive as any employer that ever existed. How do you square that with the need for emotional intelligence within a smaller company?

Bob:                 Those are some really big names, some really big stars in the sky. I’ve been a fan of Steve Jobs. The whole time I was aware of him during his life. I’m a big fan of Apple and their products and I’m a user. That having been said, folks like him – it’s been documented, they’re almost narcissistic. There’s a huge ego piece there. The difference is, in spite of the shortcomings associated with that, they have some great positives that allow them to kind of make up for that. But, if their EI had been or could be higher then what they could have done would have been even greater because there are stories about Steve Jobs having product managers in meeting rooms out of Cupertino in tears – men and women, because they were just being berated, because the gloss on that icon for that application just looks flat and horrible. ‘Is this what I’m paying you for?’ and when that comes from the big guy at the top, that’s just cutting you down at the knees.

Josh:                Well, all those guys do it. It’s not just Jobs. Jobs actually may be the most human out of those four but that’s a conversation for a different time. Let’s go back to the smaller private businesses that we probably deal with, what is the biggest problem that you see with private business owners as it relates to leadership?

Bob:                 I think they need to just be reminded of the importance of their relationships. That’s the key. And to just, in the back of their mind, have a little observer or an editor that could tell them, “Hey, you could’ve handled that a little bit better.” Think about the worst thing that could possibly happen if you come home—this happened to me. I’ll share this. I came home one day and I was in a tear about something. Now, I wasn’t knocking the children around and kicking dog or any of that but my wife just said to me, she goes, ‘You treat everybody at work better than you treat me.’ Oof, oof – I mean, what an eye opener. So, think about the fact that I have certain skills in the workplace and that at home I feel like it’s safe for me at home so I don’t have to do that. That is wrong. That is a wrong.

In the small business world, I would encourage people to just self-monitor their relationships. If you have a shop with 11 people and it’s a physical shop, you’re not managing them virtually. At the end of the day, whether the end of your day is 6:00 PM, or 5:00 PM, or 7:00 PM, or 8:00 PM just walk around and sit down with a chair next to somebody in a cube and go, “How’s it going?”

Josh:                That’s a great suggestion.

Bob:                 And just ask them, “What are you working on? How are you doing? Do you need anything? Is there anything I can do for you?” It’s good. It’s all about being approachable. In fact, the Labrador leadership – even though we went through the leadership retreat and dolphin leadership, at one point, I talked about approachable leadership and that didn’t score as well for me so I set it aside, but that’s what it is. It’s being approachable. You want everybody on your team of a dozen people to be able to come to you and go, ‘Hey, we’ve got a problem. Or, hey, I’ve got a great idea.’

Josh:                I’ve got time for one more question and I just want to bring up something here which I find is really interesting, I find that most small businesses have a really hard time growing past around 25 employees. In my experience, it’s because of two things – one is, the owner hasn’t learned to trust in their employees and the second, the owner hasn’t learned to accept mistakes and allow other people to make mistakes and learn from them. How would those two things fit in with becoming a better leader?

Bob:                 Those are great points. One of the recommendations that I end up making more often than not is to do a little work on your ability to delegate and that’s tough. That’s tough for people that are bringing this product to market, bringing this idea that they hold so tightly to their chest with almost a parental protection of and to delegate is very difficult for them. When you learn to do that, it makes you better at those two things.

Josh:                Well, Bob, we’re pretty much out of time and I’m going to bet there’s some people here who’ll love to get in touch with you. Can you tell us how we can do that?

Bob:                 Sure. Absolutely, Josh. Thank you very much for that.

Come to our website and click on the big orange button to join the conversation. I’ll tell you what I’ll do for your folks that are listening; I’m going to start a new initiative called the New Leaderati. It’s so important for me to get the word about leadership out and make it accessible for everybody. I know everybody doesn’t have thousands of dollars to hire an executive coach to sit with them so I want to make it accessible to a lot of people. I’m going to be rolling out the New Leaderati and it’s going to be very affordable. The folks that get in first – my tribe, I’m giving a great break on. It’s going be out for the end of the year. If your guys are on my list, I will give them that break. If they don’t get to the website, they can text Labrador to 33444 and I’d love to talk to them. There’s a place on our web site, if you want talk to me now, just drop me a message and I will talk to you right away.

I love talking to you Josh and your folks about all these issues because I think they’re so important.

Josh:                They are and I really appreciate you taking some time to do that today, Bob.

For those who are listening, go check out Labrador leadership, you find that, you’re going to learn some new stuff about leadership that you didn’t learn before and I can tell you that being a good leader puts real dollars in your pocket. And more importantly, it puts more joy in your life.

So, Bob, thanks so much for taking the time with me today and hopefully we’ll have a chance to speak soon.

You’ve been listening to the Sustainable Business Podcast where we talk about what you need to do with your business if it was to be here 100 years from now. If you like what you heard and want more information, please contact me at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2 or visit us on our website at or you can send me an e-mail at

This is Josh Patrick and thanks for listening. I hope to see you soon for another edition of The Sustainable Business.

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