Don’t let fear stop you from saying YES according to Robert Rauch (University of Maryland Regent) on the Joy of Leadership Podcast

Welcome to the Joy of Leadership Podcast.  I am your host Shar McBee. In a moment you will meet our guest Bob Rauch, a Regent at the University of Maryland.  

You can read it below or listen on YouTube.

But first, today’s leadership secret: Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm enables you to inspire cooperation.  It warms the heart.

When you are honestly enthusiastic, people want to listen to you. If communication between workers and management is cold, your organization will fail to realize its full potential. Enthusiasm unifies people. 

Enthusiasm is a powerful force in business. Even the most well-run company cannot succeed without it. So, be enthusiastic, if you feel it express it, and your results can be magical. 

Our guest today is a Regent at the University of Maryland. A Regent at a University is a volunteer. They are not paid, but they make billion-dollar decisions. They appoint college presidents. They oversee all academic administrative and financial decisions. 

Professionally Bob Rauch is the president and CEO of a large engineering firm located on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, Rauch, Inc. 

I met him when he and his son, Casey,  invited me to be on their trivia team. I had no idea that he was an expert in leadership, but I learned.  Welcome Bob Rauch.

Bob Rauch:  I am very flattered and pleased to be here with you.

Shar McBee: Thank you, Bob. This podcast is for people who are new to leadership, so is there anything that is going on at the University of Maryland that you think could be helpful for anyone who has a new leadership position?

Bob Rauch:   I think developing a level of respect among the Board.  We not only have a wide diversity of expertise (from engineers to educators, to accountants, lawyers, you name it)  but we also have political diversity.  

We see it nationally in a lot of discussions on education, they seem to get wrapped up in politics instead of just education.  In my almost 10 years on the Board of Regents, I am so pleased and proud to say that we have never let a political position become involved. 

I think that that goes back to the level of respect that everybody has for each other.  We  hear all these amazing and interesting opinions and perspectives. And again, it works because of the level of respect.  I think that if you don’t give people respect, you are not going to get cooperation. 

Shar McBee:   Is there a way to create respect?

Bob Rauch:   From my perspective, the first step is you have to know how to listen. You have to listen to people before you start running your mouth. And I think it has to come with a level of humility.

The chest thumpers and the loud mouths – they get a lot of sound bites, but they don’t necessarily pull the support of the whole group. 

When I first got on the Board, I was so intimidated. I am looking at all these PhDs, lawyers and the like, and quite honestly my initial sense was a bit inadequate.  Fortunately, I chose to listen more than talk, and I was very flattered one time when one of the leaders said, “You listen a lot, but when you talk, we know you have  something to say.” 

That made an impact on me and made me very comfortable and pleased with that approach. If other people have good ideas, I’d rather support them than be the originator.  Then, if my ideas don’t come out,  I’ll bring them up. I think that humility helps and being thoughtful. You have to be thoughtful.

Shar McBee: Well, Bob, you did something for me once.  We were on a trivia team together and I was extremely intimidated because you and your son are brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.   I was new and I felt maybe the same way that you felt when you got on the Board of Regents. I was afraid to speak up.  Then you said, “Just say what you think.  Don’t be afraid.”  That helped me so much, Bob.

Bob Rauch:   Well, for the most interesting person I ever knew it was not hard for me to get you to say something.  That trivia was one wonderful experience, and we so miss it because we made a great team together.

Shar McBee:   You did help me to see that even if I am afraid, I have to chance it and just say what I think.

Bob Rauch:  When you talked to me about possibly doing this interview, it made me think of leadership advice or experiences that could be helpful and worthwhile sharing.  You don’t become a great leader by simply picking the things that you already know how to do.  I found myself in two situations over my career where working for the department of natural resources, as a 20-something water resource engineer, and finding a need at the state level to get involved in some very sophisticated water resource modeling.

I went to the secretary to the director, and I said, “We are the leaders in the entire state on water resources, and we don’t have anybody here that knows how to do this.”  

He said, “Well, I guess you are it.” So, they thrust me into the situation, but I didn’t know much of anything which is where the fear factor came in.  It proved to be very beneficial. 

Then they  said we are going to make you the coordinator of the state federal flood insurance program. Wow, what a lofty title for a 24-year-old.  I had to meet with every town and county in the State of Maryland and get them to develop rules and regulations to comply with this program. I had no experience in public speaking. I could have said no, but I put the fear aside, and it was the most wonderful experience and that leadership came from not being intimidated and doing it. 

I learned how to stand up in front of people and talk to them. I only had my life threatened two or three times in that they’re a pretty tough crowd sometimes. It was so amazing to swallow your fear and look out at the group and present yourself with confidence.  Whether you had it or not, you had to look confident.  We ended up getting every town and county in the State of Maryland in compliance. I visited every square inch of the state.

Following that, I had the opportunity to become our county’s very first public works director and county engineer.  I was 27 years old.  I just had my license.  I had nothing. So, to panic was one option, but I chose not to take it. We were building a wastewater treatment plant. I took one course in college on water treatment plants. 

So, you either show your vulnerable underbelly, or you stand up tall and you forge ahead like you are in charge.  Confidence is what got me through that.  We ended up building three wastewater treatment plants. We built a roads department and a  building department. 

I could not have done that without having had the experience to develop  confidence.  Fear is a really strong piece of solid leadership, but fear has to have confidence with it. And it has served me.

I would recommend that to anybody. If you back away from challenges you can’t be a leader. You have to face them and take them on. 

Don’t be afraid, trust yourself.  You have to have confidence in yourself, and confidence in your team.

Shar McBee:  Years ago I was invited to come to Mexico City.  They were putting on events, and I thought I was being hired for my expertise in organizing big events. But then the message came:  “We want you for your enthusiasm.”

Bob Rauch:   You have plenty of that.

Shar McBee:  It surprised me, but I’ve thought about it many times over the years. The word enthusiasm means “in the spirit,.”  That’s where the word has evolved from.

Bob Rauch:   Really? 

Shar McBee:  Yes.  When you are honestly enthusiastic about something, people get in the spirit.  There’s a lot of fake enthusiasm, which turns people off.

Bob Rauch:  Pretty transparent isn’t it?

Shar McBee:   Exactly.  Do you have any thoughts about that?

Bob Rauch:  I could not agree with you more.  It was one of the things that was in the back of my mind to mention.  You have to love what you are doing to inspire people, to have them trust you, and to keep you going for the next challenge. 

I love what I do. I love the projects we take on.  I could not agree with you more that if you stand up in front of a group deadpan faking it, it’s so obvious. But if you are excited, you are going to get the people excited.  People say, “Calm down, calm down.”   No, I am fired up. I am ready to go. So, I agree with you completely on that.

Shar McBee:   Bob, this is fun.  Thank you so much.

Bob Rauch:  Sure. I’d do anything for you and I miss seeing you, and we’ll find some trivia to do here soon.

Shar McBee:   Great. Thank you, Bob. This is the Joy of Leadership Podcast.  I am Shar McBee.