Executive Orders: Achieve Results

After a legendary coaching career in college football, John McKay wasn’t enjoying much success at the helm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, their dreadful first season, when the team was held scoreless in five games. Asked after one contest how he felt about his offense’s “execution,” McKay offered up one of the most memorable quotes in NFL history: “I’m in favor of it.”

I’ve seen my guest this month, Ray Greer, grow divisions and companies exponentially for years by having a no-excuses attitude about getting things done the right way and pushing others to do the same. Currently the president of BNSF Logistics (managing a worldwide network of transportation services to ensure that clients’ goods get where they need to be), Greer knows how to make things happen, no matter the challenge.

Tony Jeary: To operate a logistical solutions company, you have to be a master of execution. How are you able to achieve results?

Ray Greer: I believe strongly in the motto “plan your work and work your plan,” so I spend a lot of time lining out the “significant few priorities” we should focus on as a team, and defining how we are going to get there. The rest takes care of itself with regular and frequent updates and reviews to make sure we are staying on track or, if necessary, make midcourse adjustments.

TJ: What are some of the challenges you run into as a company operating on the global market? Are they some of the same challenges small companies face?

RG: We are a non-asset third-party logistics services provider, which means we do not own any of the trucks, boats, planes and trains that physically ship our clients’ products from point A to point B. So we depend on the companies who do own those means of transportation. Because of this, our real asset is our people, and one of the greatest challenges we face is attracting and retaining the best people in the industry, so they can carry us where we want to go.

We also have to make sure we attract and retain a base of qualified cargo carriers to support our business
expansion objectives.

TJ: What are some ways you reach out to your staff to make them feel valued and motivated?

RG: First, from top to bottom, we create an understanding of our organization’s significant few priorities, and the status (good or bad) of each. We don’t sugarcoat these things to our people.

Secondly, we hold each other accountable for success or failure, but at the end of the day everyone knows we win and lose together as a team. Their incentives are aligned in that regard.

Lastly, I recognize individuals’ successes, contributions to the business, birthdays, anniversaries and so on. I want each of them to know I care and appreciate what they do for the business. It matters, and when people are appreciated, it makes them want to do more.

TJ: Appreciation and communication are certainly important elements. What are your keys in communicating with your team, or any team?

RG: It’s important to have a clear and concise agenda that everyone agrees on and knows what is expected of them to accomplish that agenda. From there, you want to frequently review how things are going.

Full transparency is important. When people trust you, they will respond positively. They aren’t going to be afraid of bad news. Everyone just wants to be respected and communicated with as openly and honestly as possible, and then you can work together as a team to execute.

TJ: When talking about having a concise agenda and significant few priorities, item No. 1 for any company has to be meeting and exceeding customer expectations. How do you gauge what each client is looking for?

RG: We define those by working directly with the client on the front end of any deal. The challenge then becomes monitoring how we are doing.

Besides holding quarterly reviews with our clients to report and review our performance against their expectations, we use an outside firm to survey our clients, so we have an understanding of how they really view our performance. The survey keeps us from having surprises.


Tony Jeary is an author, executive coach and presentation strategist. Jeary has published more than three dozen books about making presentations and strategic effectiveness. He coaches the world's top executives from companies such as Wal-Mart, Ford, New York Life and Texaco.

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