How Gary Fazio keeps everyone focused on their goals at Mattress Firm Inc. - Page 3

Follow up

Fazio had a younger manager who didn’t tell him there was problem with a project that the manager was working on. Eventually, Fazio found out and had to step in and help fix it. He had to explain to the manager that the delay in fessing up only created a bigger problem, and now the manager has to give Fazio an update every day.

He said to the manager, “You just have to trust that I’m on your side. I’m not mad, I just want to get it done. I could have helped you because I have broader information than you do. I’ve been around longer. You have a chance here to learn from somebody that knows more than you do. “I might not know everything or as much as you do on certain subjects within your business, but I probably know more just because I’ve been around longer. I’m not smarter. I’ve just been around longer. So take advantage of that.”

You have to be diligent in keeping track of where managers are on projects, especially with managers you haven’t worked with that much.

“I have found that you can’t have the expectation with a newer manager that they are going to follow up at the speed that you discussed initially,” he says. “So you are going to have to follow up in the interim. If your date is 30 days from now, in 15 days you want to find out where we are at. If it’s a manager that you have been passing that ball back and forth with each other for a long time, you don’t have to check in 15 days. You can wait for the 30 days.”

When the manager didn’t come to Fazio with the problem, it bothered him because he wants managers to trust him.

“Newer people need a different kind of management approach than people you’ve been working with, because you may not be on that same page,” he says. “They may be reluctant to push back on issues and the clarity and communication isn’t there yet. You haven’t, what I call, ‘put deposits in the bank’ with that person and they don’t have that trust in you yet. It’s really up to you to develop that trust. It’s not up to them. It’s up to you. Then, once you get that trust, then you are going to have that real honest exchange, and clarity and communication are going to be crystal clear.” That trust is built through follow-ups and being able to show that manager that you aren’t going to fire them if they need help with something.

“Trust is going to be built over time when they are coming to you and saying, ‘Hey, I ran into some issues here,’ or, ‘I got this done and here’s where we’re going,’ or, ‘I changed my mind.’ You can tell when there is real, honest communications. When they come back to you is when there is trust.”

Since Fazio is so intent on following up and being involved, he has been accused of being a micromanager, and he’s fine wearing that label.

“I’m very involved,” he says. “I think every leader should be. It depends on the size of the company on how involved you have to be but ... it’s not a matter of micromanaging. “You’re abdicating leadership if you’re not going to roll your sleeves up, as well, and really help somebody. Two people can do things better than one, generally. It doesn’t mean you don’t hand out. It doesn’t mean you don’t delegate. It just means you stay on it.”

Though Fazio does want to be hands-on, he has to remember to move back up to the 30,000-foot level. “You can only be in one place,” he says. “It’s tough to be in both. I think sometimes I lose a little, because I’m so into the execution issues and pressing an urgency to the matter.”

Fazio says he should spend 10 percent more of his time at the 30,000-foot level. He tries to spend at least one week a year where he travels not on business but to learn. He will go to a conference or visit other retailers outside of his industry to get a broader look at the world.

“You try to broaden yourself a little bit and come out of that foxhole,” he says. “But I would rather take the chance that I wasn’t above it all, but I was in the middle of it, and if I couldn’t get it done, then I can at least fault myself for trying. But I can’t fault myself for not trying.”