Caterpillar Exec Ed Rapp on leadership lessons and staying strong against tough odds

Ed Rapp

If you don’t plan your personal life with the same rigor and discipline you do your professional life, your personal life will suffer, says Ed Rapp. As a Group President and former CFO for Caterpillar, Inc. during the financial crisis, Ed was a high-level, globe-trotting senior executive who never forgot the importance of keeping family front and center.

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Ed and I go back more than 30 years when we worked together at Caterpillar. I left after a few years to go to grad school while Ed quickly moved up the chain and eventually became one of the top 3 executives at Caterpillar.

In today’s conversation, we discuss the importance of having a clear definition of winning, his keys to being a successful executive operating at the highest level, and staying connected to your family.

At the pinnacle of his career, life threw Ed a curveball and I encourage you to listen to this episode to the very end to learn what happened.

There are many great lessons in today’s show and I’m very grateful to Ed for taking the time to share them.

Listen to the convo with Ed Rapp

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Transcript

Key Quotes from Ed Rapp

Ed Rapp
Ed Rapp: If you don’t have ways to maintain a connection with people at all levels of the organization, I don’t think you have a good understanding of reality and as a result, you can’t make good decisions.

During tough times, I simply deploy the formula I learned along the way – have a clear definition of winning, pull together the right team of people, identify the key work streams that must be executed and drive a focused execution model.

If you don’t have clarity around the definition of winning, the organization can have their separate measures in different parts of the business and it’s like trying to play a football game. If part of the team is focused on most field goals, and another one most touchdowns, and another one most yards gained, you’re going to get compromises based on their individual measurements. The fact is, the only measure of success in football is more points on the board at the end of the game than your competitor. Having a clear definition of wining keeps everybody focused on that measure of success. I think the same principles apply in business.

One thing about leadership in general is most of your lessons learned are actually painful lessons learned. Anybody can manage an upturn, but I’ll tell you, you find out who you are in the toughest of times.

Identifying those places where you’re destroying value and then having a very explicit plan to fix it, I think is an opportunity to drive tremendous improvement in the performance of the business.

The only way that you’ll really move something forward is if you get every employee to understand what role they play. A guy who owned a marble quarry walked into the quarry one day and he looked at one of the young men and he says, “What do you do?” The young man said, “I shape stones. I shape stones from the time I get in here in the morning until the time I go home at night. I just shape stones.” The quarry owner went home, reflected on it that night and just didn’t feel good about his employee’s view of his job and so the next day, he went into the quarry, took him down into the village where they were building the great cathedral and showed him where in the great cathedral they were placing his stones. Of course he walked into the quarry the next day. He asked the young man, what do you do and the young man said, “I build great cathedrals.” I think as a leader, people can get caught up on the vision and the mission and all the other stuff and not understand that it’s all for naught unless you can connect it to every employee in your organization where every person understands what stone they’re shaping.

Resources

Free copy of Ed Rapp’s e-book, Measure Twice, Cut Once

Ed’s Striking the Balance presentation on succeeding in business and life.

Ed Rapp delivering the Striking the Balance presentation

Ed’s Stay Strong Vs ALS Mission

Please help in the ALS fight by raising awareness and securing needed funding to support collaborative and dedicated institutions in search of a cure.

To learn more, please visit www.staystrongvsals.com

Financial Advisor Coaching

I offer coaching to a select number of financial advisors who are interested in making substantial, positive improvements in their business and their life. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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Steve is the founder of Belay Advisor and a NYT bestselling author, podcast host, speaker, and financial advisor coach.

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