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The Balanced Leadership Process With Rocky Romanella

FIF 34 | Balanced Leadership

The best leaders in an organization are the ones who connect the dots and see where their people are going and train and develop them. Joining Robert "Fireman Rob" Verhelst on the show is Rocky Romanella, the Founder and CEO of 3SIXTY Management Services. Rocky has over 40 years of “boots on the ground” leadership experience, from his successful long stint at UPS to starting his own business. Today, he talks about his balanced leadership process and what it takes to make the people who work for you enjoy their work. At the end of the day, your brand is represented by the people on the frontline. When you take care of them, they will take care of your customers.


Listen to the podcast here:

The Balanced Leadership Process With Rocky Romanella

I've got a great guest. He has the name that when you hear Rocky, you think of running up the steps and fighting Ivan Drago. This gentleman has even more leadership qualities than Rocky does. It's great to have you on the show, Rocky. Thanks so much for being here.

Fireman Rob, it's a pleasure to be here. With a name like Rocky, you get a lot of different looks. In fact, I went up during my career at UPS. I moved around quite a bit. I was living in Des Moines, Iowa, a great city, you’ll love living there and you can imagine when I introduced myself as Rocky Romanella, the first question I got asked by everybody was, “Are you in a witness protection program?” It does conjure up some different things to different people, but a great place to live. I know you're a Midwestern guy yourself and I love living in Iowa, a great family place but it was funny to see people's faces like, “Is that your real name?” “It is. It's Rocco technically, but it's real.”

I go on to I see right there, Rock Your Audience. You can't get it better. Your parents knew exactly what they needed to do for you.

I don't think my mother would say that. She'd say I had no choice. I have to thank the family. We grew up and I have no choice but to name me Rocco. In fact, I'm Rocco and my son is Rocco. We had his first boy and he named him Rocco, so we have Big Rock, Little Rock and Kid Rock. We’re set to go here.

It's fun to find the person behind the greatness because you had over 40-year career boots on the ground leadership from 36 years at UPS, starting as a part-time loader and unloader. I did that job for a little while. That is a difficult job, but you moved your way all the way up to the president and general manager of UPS Supply Chain Solutions. Tell me that transgression because you go from a working frontline so you understand the philosophy of what it takes to have leadership, to be able to make those individuals want to work, or enjoy work. What is that brought you to that pinnacle from starting at scratch in essence?

It started out when I went to college ironically to be a high school history teacher and a baseball coach. My dad said, “One of my kids is going to college but we got no money.” UPS gave me the opportunity to work my way through college, as I'm sure you did as well with that part-time job. One of the things that I noticed is that the leaders inside that organization, whether they were part-time or full-time, were the people who get their people that connect the dots and see where we were going. We're training and developing people. I never gave up my teaching or coaching passion. I went from the classroom in a traditional setting to a business setting.

The essence of being that teacher or coach never left me. My dad hone with two things when I got the job. He has lived with me my whole life. He’s the backbone of everything I do. He said to me, “Whatever they ask you to do, say yes, and thank you. Learn your job and learn some more. The day you think you understand it, or you're the best at what you can do is the day that the world's passing you by.” I never forgot those two things. UPS had this promotion from within policy and as they tapped me on the shoulder for different responsibilities, I remember looking at it and we purchased Mail Boxes Etc. I got a call to come to the corporate office and the CEO at the time, Jim Kelly, who said, “We want you to run this newly acquired business.”

I’m looking at Jim, “You’ve got to have so much smarter than me in this organization to do this.” He looked at me and he said, “No, we think you're the right person for it.” What I learned that day stuck with me forever. That's that as a leader, there are times that you have to believe in your people until they're ready to believe in themselves. I think about it in the fire world, think about how that teamwork is so important. You get that person that came out of the Academy and you're believing in them until they're ready to believe in themselves. They may not have the confidence yet or have the skill, but you bridge that gap for them. To me, that was such a valuable lesson. The same way as it becoming a UPS driver and loading trailers was such a valuable lesson that every time you take a new job, the first thing you do is not send out orders or not try to change things.

The first thing you do is get down there in the trenches and find out what people do and take the time to learn the job. The first thing I did is when they gave me Mail Boxes Etc., I put an apron on and worked a day in the store. That’s what happens here. Those were the lessons I learned. We rebranded to the UPS store. I met some wonderful entrepreneurs in that assignment. What I learned is no one is more all in than an entrepreneur. No, one's more all into the small business owner. In a big company, you have P&L responsibilities. No one has more responsibility as a small business owner. Think about it, Rob. They hit the cash register at night, the drawer is open, they pay their people, and they pay their vendors. What's left is what they take home for their families. I gained such great respect for that small business owner. I looked and I said, “I don't know if I could do this.” I grew up in a company that had your back.

It was a company. You knew that they’re financially off but small business owners, great respect, they're the backbone of our economy and our country. You got to love the small business owner. There are tremendous energy and enthusiasm. We made about over twenty acquisitions that built UPS Supply Chain Solutions ran aside the world for UPS, retire at 55, 36 years. I had some wonderful opportunities inside the UPS and then I was the CEO of a telecom company. We built all towers and created cell towers. I had a sell there and then started my own business. What's the number one thing? I fail at retirement. I can't do it. I said to Debbie, “What are we doing?” She goes, “I don't know what you're doing. I haven’t seen you in a while. You’re not following me around the food store.” Figure out what you're going to do. I’d say. “What about this?” She says, “I didn't apply for your assistance job. You better figure out what you're going to do here.” I said, “Maybe I’ll get another job or I’ll start my own company.”

It's interesting when you talk about that whole transgression of how you went and worked at that Mail Boxes Etc. store. Starting at the beginning is one of the things that you say is remember who you are but move forward with a vision. Tell me more about what you mean by that, because that encompasses what you did is your life.

It's so important. My dad spent a lot of time instilling in me these values and these ethics. I think about him saying to me in Italian, he said to me, “It's what you do when no one is watching the accounts.” I looked at him, I said, “Dad, you’re ruining the best part of it. Nobody's watching.” He had that smile. He said to me, “There's always two people watching. The man upstairs and the person looking at in the mirror and you got to look in the mirror every single day. You may not achieve the things you want to achieve. You may not do all the things that you had hoped to do, but you have to look in the mirror and believe you did it the right way.” That's what I mean when I say that don't ever forget who you are. At the end of the day, I had a wonderful career, but I have the greatest title I’ve ever had in my whole life, grandpa. We're all good people trying to do the best job we have.

I used to say when I was CEO, I'm the Chief Enthusiasm Officer. You running a battalion of firefighters, they don't need you over managing when they know how to do their job. What they need is you given the authority that goes with responsibility. That's what I mean. Small business owners sometimes run into that. Think about what's your strength and we know your business better made you. No one's more committed than they are. No one cares more than they do about the business. What's their weakness? No one is more invested than they are. Sometimes you have to take that step back. Don't forget who you are. You're a good person doing the best job you can trying to build your business. You need to have that vision. Where's this business going to go? If I hire that next person, how do I train them properly? How do I give them the authority goes with responsibilities? Don't lose sight of who you are. We're all good people trying to do the best job we have. We may have different jobs. There are no easy jobs in this world. That's what's so important.

You hit it on the head when you were talking about you're the Chief Enthusiasm Officer because one of your favorite phrases is hard work without enthusiasm. A lot of people in society, as well as in the fire service or whether you're in sales understand that you have to have that common vision. One of the things that you talk about is having that unified vision to be able to move forward. How did you do that when you're in that position of being a president or general manager of this huge area of UPS Supply Chain Solutions? How do you make sure to try to unify the numerous visions to align with UPS?

The first thing was you have to take the time to clearly understand what that vision is. That you're being asked to either execute or the vision you've developed yourself to execute on. It's important to understand that. I developed this what I call balanced leadership process. It came about because as we were sitting in meetings or we were having discussions, I always wanted to make sure that the key constituents were represented. There are customer’s people, shareholders, and stakeholders. For example, if we're sitting in a meeting and someone brought forth a new product. They never articulated how they would do it. Of course, if they're salespeople, they're going to come with 700 pieces of paper and PowerPoint presentation, “I got it, I got the color.”

You’ve got stuff coming in and out. Let me do the animation. You know they don’t try to oversell you like, “I got that.” The CEO who leads, she's banging on the calculator and why we can make money at that price point. I would always ask the question, “How about our people?” At that moment, our people weren't represented. A lot of times on an organization, when you're looking, you'll have a strategy deck or you'll have a new idea that's coming forth. The customers represented most times shareholders and stakeholders, or from profitability represented but put the people who aren't represented. Do they understand why we're doing this? Do they understand why this is important? Do they understand what role they play?

FIF 34 | Balanced Leadership
Balanced Leadership: You may not achieve the things you want to achieve or do all the things that you had hoped to do, but you have to look in the mirror and believe you did it the right way.

Do they understand how to handle a service disconnect? I started to feel like in many cases, our people weren't always represented at the table. As long as I knew the customers were represented properly and I knew the shareholders and the stakeholders are represented, they didn't need me to be at the table asking those key questions because they were well-represented. I had to make sure our people were represented. When you think about strategies, how organizations change and try to reposition themselves based on the events that are taking place, you need to make sure that all three constituents are representative. Most times, Rob, it's the people who don't have that seat at the table. People assume they'll do it. They understand it's a good thing to do, or they believe it's the right thing to do. They have faith in the company. That's all well and good but it's also nice for them to know that you took the time.

It was always about communication. It was always about them understanding getting out there and walking the talk. I remember one time, it was a conversation about potentially someone had asked me, “You'd be great on an undercover boss. People were talking to me about it.” I'm like, “No. First of all, nobody wants a short little Italian that looks like Super Mario Brothers.” The real reason why I would never do it is because it would break my heart that nobody knew who you were. Why would you want that? Don't you want to be cheers that everybody knows your name? To your question, when you manage a large geographic organization or a large number of people.

Not everybody knows you intimately or knows you as well as you'd like them to, but the fact that you're walking around and you're approachable, it means so much to people because they realize that your span of control was so large, but you took the time to come out. You took the time to talk to people. You say good morning to people. You say hello to people. That's what sets the tone. It's your ability to communicate at a timely and effective basis as well as being approachable. That's you personally. You can write all you want about being approachable but if you've never left her office, you're not appropriate.

Open door policy with a closed-door.

When you don’t leave your office, there are no problems in there. Unless the air conditioner is broken or the coffee machine is not working, you've got no problems in there. You got to leave. You got to get out of the office.

A transitioned from that question to a story that I heard that you told about as a child. You used to take vacations to the Hershey Factory. Tell us more about the revelation that event in your life changed to you leading differently when you were growing up.

As a kid growing up, that was our big vacation. I grew up in Jersey so the Hershey Factory was a couple of hours away. We would go to Hershey, Pennsylvania. In those days, we visited the Hershey Factory. We saw them making the chocolate. Thinking about the factory under glass. As a kid, they are making chocolate all over the place. It was great. I still remember the smells and those kinds of things. It was the joy of seeing them making chocolate. As an adult and as a business person, I'm walking around my facility in Chicago at that time and I stopped there in my tracks. The whole Hershey experience came to life for me. It was my a-ha moment, I call it, where I’m looking around and I thought to myself, “If my customers walk in here at any time, will they ever ship a package again?”

I thought to myself, “I’ve got to go to Hershey Factory. I’ve got to be under glass.” I’ve got to run a place that my customers can come in and visit at any time. They will be proud of how we're handling your packages. That was my a-ha moment. If you think about it in a restaurant, I don't ever walk through the kitchen. In my Hershey Factory, we've walked you through the kitchen. We'd want you to see how we make the sausage. We want you to see how clean the kitchen is. Post-COVID-19, you’ve got to do that now to make people feel safe, secure and those kinds of things. The Hershey Factory and the Hershey story was that a hormone with that, I have to run that type of a facility or that kind of operation where people can come in at any time and know that I was taking care of their goods and services.

From then on forward, I challenged all my people all the time in my care that, “Run your Hershey Factory. Could a customer walking in here at any time? We used to be in conference calls because I'm sure your listeners will call us all the time at work and stuff like that.” Every now and then, I stopped the call and I’d say, “Let me ask you a question. If one of our customers came in and listened to this call, do you think they'd ever use us again?” We were fighting. Think about it. Can we get ourselves together here? That's what you have to think about. What does the customer think is happening inside our operation? No matter what it is, whether it's a small business, or it's a major corporation inside your firehouse. Do they think that we're running around here doing this and this versus what they think is happening?

That's what you're trying to bridge that gap. You challenge your people in a positive way to build their own Hershey Factory. Think about when you get a contractor and you say, “Do you have a referral?” “Yes.” “Can you call Joe Scafone on Thursday at 2:00?” I’m like, “I can only call one person at 2:00 in the afternoon. Can you go ask five customers you did business with? Call this guy at 2:00.” “The guy named Rocky from Jersey. Call my guy, Joe, at 2:00.” You want that to be, “Here are the last five people I did. Call any one of them. You'll see that we’re people of our word and we do the best we can and executing on what we told you we were going to do.”

You talked about your dad telling you that it's what you do when no one else was watching the counts. That speaks volumes to what you're talking about, having that confidence in your people, in your process, and in your facility.

Sometimes, what we forget is that the brand is represented by that frontline person that's closest to your customer. Those are the things that people do when no one was watching. It's that person who helps somebody when no one was watching. That's what's so important because they're living and executing your brand promise. I tell people all the time, I get the opportunity which is a lot of fun for me to address juniors and seniors in college and high school. When they're talking about their careers and starting their careers or what school to go, and what major to take. I always tell them that companies have brands. If you yell out, everyone knows what you're talking about. I say that's the brand. A brand represents something. What does your brand represent as a person? It's what you do when no one was watching that either enhances your brand because as you know, word of mouth still the best advertisement.

It's people talking about, “I had this interaction with so-and-so. I had this with this brand.” It's no different than a brand. If you break your brand promise, it's hard for you to get that fact. You think of those companies that have their issues with Wells Fargo and some of those companies that have their share of problems. There were a 150-year-old company that may take two generations to get back to where they want to work from a brand and the way their brand suffered from that. It’s the same with us as people, if I'm a leader or I'm a person and I violate my brand promise, I may lose my credibility with those individuals for a long time after. Those things tend to happen when no one is watching and they look backwards and they say, “I can't believe that's how you would handle that.” Someone in your care at the firehouse needs a day off because someone in their family is sick and you can't do it. That's what they're going to remember, the one time I needed that day off. Let's say down the road you say to him, “Why didn’t you take a day off?” They look at you like, “I needed it two weeks ago, not today.” They remember that. It's what you do when those moments that define your character and your brand that defines your brand promise.

I love that philosophy and that lends itself into the book that you wrote. I wish it was you in that little car. If anybody wants to check it out, they can go to You can see the caricature of this guy in this little vehicle going across. It would have been much better with you in there, Rocky. Tell me more about this book, Tighten The Lug Nuts, The Principles Of Balanced Leader. Where did this come from?

I believe in this concept of legacy being an important part of who you are as a person and what is your legacy? This concept of legacy is, do I leave things a little better when I found it? Are people better because of their time with me? Do the customer is better because of our interaction with our company? The shareowners and the stakeholders, do they feel better about the fact that we're running the organization on their behalf? I felt like I had this opportunity through a wonderful career to learn from some wonderful people and hopefully mentor some people along the way myself. The book was my opportunity to leave things a little better. I found them from the lessons I learned and the people I interacted with. They gave me a chance to recognize my dad for the things he taught me as a child.

Frankly, my wife was such a huge influence in my adult career and my business career. The book gave me the chance to do that. As you can tell, I love to tell a lot of stories. There's a lot of stories in a book. In each chapter can stand on its own from a lesson but also as a whole story of my career. The main character is a gentleman by the name of Joe Scafone. You almost created some years ago because I would sit in a meeting and, Rob, you bring an idea. I never liked that feeling of saying to you, “That's a good idea, Rob. What if you look at this or what if you did that?”

I always felt like that, but word always closed conversation or took you back a little bit like, “I didn't think it was a good idea. Maybe I didn’t do all my homework.” I never liked that feeling. I created this character, Joe Scafone, “I think that's a good idea,” but you think Joe Scafone thinks that's a good idea. Do you think Joe was a little bit different? You’d say, “We're going to take a look at it.” It was my way of challenging you not to stop at the first right answer and look past that first right answer, but not in a way that made you feel like I didn't think you had a good idea or I wasn't pleased with the fact that you were bringing these ideas forward. Joe helped me do that.

Joe was the person that allowed me to challenge you without making you feel bad and tell you it was not this type. That's one of the key things you do as a leader is you challenge your people not to stop at the first right answer. That's how you live past that it's the right answer. If you can look past it, you can find some unintended consequences, you can go deeper and more. Joel became a good friend and a person with me all the time. In fact, people would come to meetings and say to me, “I covered this with Joe already. Joe think that's a great idea.”

Balanced Leadership: Not everybody knows you intimately or knows you as well as you'd like them to, but the fact that you're walking around and you're approachable means so much to people.

When I wrote the book, I never wanted to write a book saying, “You can do this or you should look at that.” It was always Joe narrating. It took the eye out of there completely and it became a person that could help give you tilt of the head a little bit or have an a-ha moment along the way. The title of the book comes from a story in a book. I won't go through the whole story, but when the lug nuts are loose on a vehicle, they're important. You can quickly tighten those and be fine, but you get distracted and something takes your mind off of it or something else happens. You don't tighten to lug nuts at that moment. At that moment, they’re important. If you don't tighten the lug nuts, they become urgent and people can only handle so many urgent things. Don't allow important things to become urgent.

When I read an article about this book and you were talking about it's not a leadership book, it's the simple acts of kindness that make a difference in people's lives, that's such a powerful statement because it's so true nowadays. It's so true even going into the future is those simple little things. Simple acts of kindness create that power to understand your role more to move forward and have that freedom to accept responsibilities that you may not have accepted before. How powerful was that for you to write those concepts because as a father, I want to be able to teach my kids those concepts. How important was it for you to be able to write those concepts in this book?

For me, that’s what the book was all about. The book was about leadership. We're all leaders at one time or another. It's not the title of CEO, manager, or supervisor. My example of that would be if I'm doing a keynote speech, which I have the opportunity to do quite often, and I'm in a room with 300 to 400 people, and I said, “Who's your state representative or who is the head of your board event?” Most people couldn't answer that question. What if I asked a question, “Who's the leader that made a difference in your life?” Everybody stopped toaster head. Fifth grade, Mrs. So-and-so and in fourth grade, Mr. So-and-so. By that extension, teachers are some of the greatest leaders because they make a difference in people's lives.

They leave a legacy. All of us have that opportunity. Even individual contributors in an organization, they'll say, “I'm not a leader.” People go to you and ask you, “How do you do this? How do you do that? How do you set up this machine shop? How do you set this up?” By that extension, you're a leader. It was a concept of leadership as we're all leaders at one time or another like coaches or cheerleading coaches. We're influencing people. It starts with your values, your ethics, and your ability to have those simple acts of kindness to be generous with your time to understand that it's never about you as a leader, it's always about your people. It's always about the people in your care.

That's what changes. How many times have we worked for a person or we've been in an organization where the person sitting there saying, “You don't know how difficult I’ve got it. You don't know what it's like to be me? You're thinking itself.” “How many get paid the day job? You asked for the job? It wasn't like they driving you to this job. We couldn't believe it either.” When you make it about yourself, you start to lose your people and you lose your focus. You start to make it about yourself and it should never be about you. It should always be about the people in your care, the people that you're interacting with. I didn't want to write a book about success or how to become this, or how to become that.

I wanted to write a book that was about leadership that talked about how to become the best person you can be. That’s what's important. It didn't matter the title I got to or the level I got to. What mattered was I true to myself that I treat people with dignity and respect. It doesn't mean I was perfect. It doesn’t mean I made all the right decisions, and there's somebody out there listening that says, “I worked for that guy. I don't know if I liked him as much as he thought I did.” When you're managing a long time with people, don’t think it was going to be happening or going to happen but if they look at you and say, “It may be wasn't the best relationship but I do think he did it. His intentions were good.”

As I was saying before, I get the opportunity to speak to juniors and seniors in both high school and college, organizations that are starting out in their careers. We'll talk a little bit about what are some of your thoughts or do you have any best practices. It always comes down to this and even if you're in the middle of your career. I always tell them, “Think of the word you want someone to use to describe you at the end of your career.” It could be firefighters coming out of the Academy. What's the word you want someone to use to describe you at the end of your career? It could be small business owners or starting their businesses.

The word was thoughtful. I wanted to be considered a thoughtful leader. Some people, it's ethical or integrity. Once you identify that word then your whole life and career is building that mosaic to that word. The decisions that you’re making, for me, it was thoughtful. I thought about how it impacted not only your customers but our people and our shareholders. That decision on rightsizing the organization, we all understand that the impact on the bottom line, but what's the impact to our people? If we have to do it, what's the right way to do it? What's the proper way to do it? If it's something we have no choice but to do, we do have a choice in how we conduct ourselves. We do have a choice in the way we communicate these things to our people. If you can pick that word that describes you at the end of your career, what you're doing then is building that mosaic throughout your career. That is the word that when people talk about Rocky Romanella, hopefully they'll say, “He had his moments, but a thoughtful guy.”

Just like what I read, it’s a humble Italian charm and innate charisma. It’s true story.

When people read the book, this are great story. You can't say great. That means you think they are but it’s not. I hope you'll enjoy the book. Growing up, my dad as we talk and he told me the things that we spoke about but my wife, Debbie, has the number one story in my adult business life.

What was that?

She's the social one in the family because we moved so many times. I would say to her, “Why are we meeting anybody and making friends? We're going to say goodbye and you're going to be sad.” “No. We’re going to make friends.” You go to church. How much are you allowed to do it anymore? You'd have to take a piece, would meet this couple, go out to dinner or whatever. The wife looks at Debbie, “We have four kids.” I say, “Which one of your kids is your favorite?” Debbie says, “I don't have any favorites.” I leaned back. I want to hear the answer to this, “Is it, Jamie, Nicole or Rocky?” I want to tell her, “Your mommy said he was the favorite one.” She says, “No. How could that be?” She goes, “They're all my favorite because each of them gets what they need when they need it.”

I thought to myself, that is such a brilliant thought. From that moment forward, that's how I manage. Each person gets what they need when they need it. You think about me, if I'm managing this organization, if I have a controller, he or she is very good at their job and very seasoned. They don't need me to overmanage. Me not spending as much time with them, it doesn't make them feel like they're left out. They feel good about the fact that I trust them enough to let them do their job. Those are conversations. I have a new director of sales. He or she needs me to spend time with them to go out with them and close a deal.

They need a different amount of time for me. They feel good about the fact that I'm spending time with them. From that moment forward, I thought about as I manage, as I led that each person should get what they need when they need it. Therefore, they all feel like they're the favorites. That was such an impactful lesson for me. I always tell them all the time, the greatest lesson I learned through my leadership was to give each person what they need. You think about as you're managing a fire station, everybody in that fire station has different skill levels at different times based on their experience, but based on the things they've been through. In some cases, based on what's going on outside of their personal life. Think about that. You know better than I do. That's the ultimate team experience. The harmony of which you fight a fire, people lose sight of the fact of how synchronized that whole process is. Your lives depend on other.

It's not just our lives, it’s others. It's a fine dance. You put it perfectly is that there's a lot of different things and different factors that go into employees or a team and making sure that all those little aspects. Your wife is a very smart individual.

I married up. This is simple to get. I got lucky.

FIF 34 | Balanced Leadership
Tighten the Lug Nuts: The Principles of Balanced Leadership

Rocky, it's such a pleasure to be able to talk to you. You are a great individual and I love what you do. You can either go to or and find this great book. I'm sure people will enjoy every single story within that. I always end the same way on all my show. I have three questions that I’ll ask you and then we'll have a rapid round. Here's the first one. What is one thing you haven't done but is outside of your comfort zone?

She says, “Eat food that's not Italian.” I can't take this on the restaurant. I moved the food around all the time.

That is a comfort zone.

When we go on vacation and when you go to different countries, she's like, “We're going to try this.” I'm like, “They don't have pizza here. Everybody has a pizza.”

Here's your second question. What's your favorite quote and why?

It's a little bit more than a quote, but it's from Coach John Wooden, and it's not competitive greatness, which is, “Competitive greatness is being your best when your best is needed.” It reminds me to decide that I wouldn’t have one really quick before we got one. In 2000, when I was at UPS, we had this management conference. Each of us got assigned a task and we were looking for someone to speak on leadership. I had seen Coach Wooden speak and those days at the Anaheim Pond, that was out in California. I say “I think Coach Wooden would be a great speaker for us.” They said, “Good luck. See if you can get him.” I'm in California. I called the UCLA Athletic Department and get this athletic director and tell him what I'm wanting to do. They go “I don’t think Coach Wooden might talk to you. Here's his phone number.” They gave me Coach Wooden's phone number and they said, “Don't call him. Send him your proposal, wait a week or two and then call him.” I sent my proposal, what I was hoping for. I waited two weeks and I called up Coach Wooden and left him a message.

They said, “He won't answer his phone and it will go into the answering machine and then he'll call you if he wants to.” I do all that. A couple of weeks ago, I haven't heard from them. The UPS said, “This is a great idea but if you don't hear from Coach Wooden, we got to move on.” I called one more time. I said, “Coach Wooden, I’m Rocky Romanella, I'd love to talk to you. Coach, I went through the pyramid with them on a phone. I know the hard work and enthusiasm. Coach, I’ve got four kids. I need your help.” I hung up. I go to the hockey rink with my son, Rocky. He was playing hockey at the time. My daughter, Jaime called, “Dad, some guy called you, John Wooden.” I’m like, “Give me the number.” I call him back. He says to me, “I'd love to help you out. I want you to come to my condo.” I spent four hours in his condo in Westwood. He’s the most amazing person I spend time with.

He was a great guy. In my website under Coach's Corner. There's an hour interview I did with him that's there. You can see Coach Wooden, he's sitting there, and he's such a gentleman. He told us great stories, but he’s such a thoughtful leader. The thing that impressed me the most when I said to him, “Coach, UPS will cover whatever you want for your fee.” He goes, “What fee?” I said, “We respect your time and we understand you’re a prominent speaker.” He goes, “You asked me to do you a favor. Absolutely not. You don't need to pay me anything.” I said, “That’s not it, coach.” He looked at me and said, “Would you make a donation to the Jimmy V Foundation?” I said, “Absolutely.” We made $10,000 but never once it wasn't ever about him. Every book sold for Tighten The Lug Nuts, we donate $1 to the Jimmy V Foundation because I was so moved by Coach Wooden. He was so humble. If you want to see Coach Wooden interview, it's on my website, 3Sixty Management Services at Coach’s Corner. I had Coach Wooden in 2000 speaking, but it was one of the greatest moments. He was everything that we thought he was.

That's something to go to and donating to the Jimmy V Foundation is unbelievable. Everybody should go to and buy a book. Here's your next question. If you could pick to have coffee with three other people that can be deceased or alive at a firehouse table, who would it be and why? At a firehouse table, there's nothing off the board. You can ask any questions.

The first one would be George Washington. I would ask him like, “How did you know these people?” When you weren't paying them when they had those shoes and stuff, how do you keep on fighting? I went to school to be a History teacher. I love the history side of it. Interestingly enough, after this whole grant presentation, I'd love to have a conversation with General Grant. He got up and down all the around of what he went through. I would think that the third one, I always feel like it would be someone that makes a difference in everyone's life. It would have been someone who came across on a journey or those kinds of things. You think about history, but I'm looking at it for that individual person. It would have been my grandmother now that I understand everything that they went through.

My dad came over, he's fourteen, they're on a ship for 30 days, four of them. I never asked her those questions. I would love to talk to my grandmother. My grandfather was here in the States almost ten years ahead of them trying to make a living, send the money back, raise my dad, my uncle, and my aunt. That would be the third person, “What were you thinking in 30 days? What was going on?” My dad never talked about the days on the ship, he's passed away. My Aunt Vicky is still alive but what happened on those days? It's hard for us to fathom because of how quickly you can depth. I would talk to her. I wanted to set it up a little bit. Not as prominent as George Washington or General Grant, but I always thought about I'd love to ask her different questions, not as the grandson growing up with her but for more of what took place.

That would be a great table. She'd be the dominant voice that I’m guessing.

That minute, one of us got stupid. She looked at us and said, “Hey.”

I know you’re George Washington fans.

How do you think he feels now that you interrupted him? We're all looking at our feet like Rebecca Capital School, don't fall on me. I'm looking at my feet. It doesn't work that way.

You've made it all the way to the rapid round. Here's where I give you two things. All you’ve got to do is choose one of them. Paper or plastic?


Soup or salad?

Definitely salad.

FIF 34 | Balanced Leadership
Balanced Leadership: Leadership should never be about you. It should always be about the people in your care and the people that you're interacting with.

McDonald’s or Taco Bell?


Camping or a hotel?


Fly or drive?


I thought the UPS guy would say drive. Sleeping late or wake up early?

Wake up early.

Run or walk?


Partly sunny or partly cloudy?

Partly sunny.

Fire or water?


Go big or go home?

You’ve got to go bigger.

Rocky, it's been such a pleasure to have you on the show. If you want to find out more, you can go to or go to and get your book. Rocky, thank you so much for coming on.

It’s a pleasure to be on your show. I like to ever help in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know. Be safe out there. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for your service.

I appreciate it, Rocky. Thanks for reading. We'll talk to you again soon.

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About Rocky Romanella

FIF 34 | Balanced Leadership

With over 40 years of “boots on the ground” leadership experience, Rocky is one of the best motivational keynotes speakers in the country and internationally. He has spoken in large and small venues all over the US including cities like Atlanta, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, NYC, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, Houston, LA, Charlotte and many others. Internationally, some of the cities, Toronto, Mexico City, Milan, London, and Krakow. He creates excitement through his energy, passion and knowledge. He will connect with your audience, regardless of size, in a one to one conversational style. Rocky will paint a picture through his unique storytelling as he delivers his Motivational Keynote Speech.

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