Robert (Bob) Conway shares some outstanding leadership pointers with us as he describes his work as a leader and manager at Disney and his time as a leader in the US Navy. In this episode we discuss servant leadership and how to create a culture of excellence.

Robert’s Biography:

Captain (retired) Robert Conway hails from Baltimore, Maryland and received his commission from the United States Naval Academy in 1985, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Naval Architecture. He reported to Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola Florida in July 1985 and earned his wings in August 1986. From March 1987 until his retirement from Active Duty in September 2012 Captain Conway served in multiple roles, including completing training as an SH-3H helicopter pilot, Instructor Pilot and aircraft carrier catapult and arresting gear officer. He was also qualified in the H-60 F/H aircraft and served as the head of the Aviation Safety, Training and Operations department for HS-15, an H-60 helicopter squadron. He also served as the Officer-In-Charge of the Weapons and Tactics Unit for Helicopter, Anti-Submarine Wing, Pacific. Robert was also the commanding officer of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron FIVE and served as the Commander Naval Air Forces Assistant Chief of Staff, and finally as the Director of the School of Naval Aviation Safety at Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL. Robert holds a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School. He is currently the Manager of Quality Engineering for Worldwide Safety and Assurance at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Show Notes:

Servant leadership and engaging with the workforce is important for building morale and inspiring others to help leaders accomplish their work.

Sometimes leadership work in demanding environments can be like “dream jobs punctuated by nightmares.” The work can be great, but in many cases things change rapidly and leaders and teams have to adapt. There are never two situations that are exactly alike and leaders in these environments are like ducks on the pond, looking calm and serene on top of the water and paddling like crazy underneath the water.

Disney’s 4 Keys are used as guiding principles. They also help workers understand safety is the priority. 4 Keys are guiding principles on how to conduct business: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. These kinds of guiding principles may be used to help leaders, managers and employees make sacrifice decisions to know what can be sacrificed in order, but safety will never be sacrificed.

Safety Culture and organizational culture should be united as one culture, and that is a culture of excellence. The two should not be separated. These are not things that just happen. You have to make it happen and make it stick.

Organizations should not settle for mediocrity or being excellent for the sake of superficial reasons. Excellence should be sought for the right reasons, including for the buy-in of employees and to help take the company where it needs to go. The best leaders ask the workers on the front lines what they think and these leaders will incorporate this feedback into their philosophy.

Never forget who’s working for you and understand from a leadership perspective the decisions you make affect them directly. Servant leadership means, “I wouldn’t make you do anything I wouldn’t do myself.” It is important to get into the field, engage with the workers and understand the conditions under which they work. That is a big part of servant leadership and that helps lead organizations towards a culture of excellence. 

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Time-Stamped Show Notes:

·      0:43-Randy introduces Bob Conway and describes who he is, including reading his formal biography.

·      2:51- Randy asks Bob, “Okay, we’ve heard your formal bio, but tell us what makes you tick, what motivates you, what inspires you, or generally why you do what you do?”

·      8:00-Bob describes servant leadership and how the noble aspects of military service helped him pass that leadership style to his team and the guests at Walt Disney World.

·      8:58-Bob talks about how his dynamic leadership job is like a “dream job punctuated by nightmares,” but adaptability and leadership is critical to help teams achieve successful performance.

·      12:09 –Bob describes how no two situations are exactly alike, and leaders have to rely on their teams and partners to help make decisions. Bob also describes the give and take in seeking consensus for safety and the reliance on teamwork and partnership to get results.

·      13:52-Randy describes Crew Resource Management training and the benefits.

·      15:10-Randy asks Bob about Disney’s 4 Keys, which are guiding principles on how to conduct business: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency.

·      18:21-Randy and Bob discuss partnering with and educating other team members so they can have a common understanding and work towards a common goal.

·      18:48-Randy asks Bob about his “aha moment” that shaped his outlook on live, business and work.

·      20:01-Bob discusses how he started understanding the need for seeking a culture of excellence and how there is no separation between an organizational culture and a safety culture. They have to be one culture.

·      23:26-Randy discusses looking beyond the limiting beliefs that prevent us from seeking out excellence.

·      24:16-Bob describes the need to “Kick the Boxes” and for leaders to understand what it means to have a culture excellence and what it takes to get there.

·      31:11-Randy asks Bob, “If you could be granted one wish for leadership or organizational change/development what would it be?”


Book Recommendations: The Disney Way, Revised Edition: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company  by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson

Whack-a-Mole: The Price We Pay For Expecting Perfection by David Marx


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-conway-19421619