The first thing you notice about ReVamp Electronics‘ COO, Habib Baba is his stoicism. He leads with a purpose in such a manner that it would make the most seasoned of business veterans want to follow him. He is also one of the most genuine, friendly, trustworthy, and loyal people you will ever meet. We sat down with Habib for 5 minutes to discuss his work philosophies, leadership skills, as well as ways to positively influence your team.
You worked for the largest retailer in the world for over a decade. How was the transition to moving towards a growing startup company like ReVamp?
I spent 13 years at Wal-Mart. It was a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The transition from Wal-Mart to ReVamp was smooth as I was lucky enough to join a young, highly motivated team that seemed invincible no matter what obstacles came in their way. One of the big differences was that when you work for a big corporation like Wal-Mart, you already have all the tools (such as policies, SOPs, job descriptions, intranet etc.) needed to support your daily operation, which we didn’t have at ReVamp. In that aspect, it was challenging at first, but also fun to put the company structure together from the ground.
What are some of your work philosophies?
Some of my work philosophies are:
- Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: By working in a team you have access to more ideas that can only benefit your organization.
- Aim to be a Visionary: An inspired person (a dreamer) who tries to follow a vision as much as s/he can is an asset to any organization because they don’t let the fear get in the way of what they are trying to accomplish.
- Learn From Mistakes: Every present error is a future learning opportunity. An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.
- Lead by Example: Be the person you want your employees to emulate.
- Stay Focused: Don’t let temporary distractions get in the way of long-term goals.
- Creativity: All great ideas start with a fine-tuned imagination, and creativity is what will eventually help you overcome your obstacles.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? How did this person impact your life?
I had the opportunity to work with so many great leaders through my career at Wal-Mart, though two people who really stick out in my mind are Brian Johnson and Fabian Lehaney, both store managers at Wal-Mart. Through them I learned how to choose to lead, and how to be a person others choose to follow. I also learned how to establish an environment of continuous improvement and provide opportunities for people to grow, as well as how to make other people feel important and appreciated. The most vital thing I learned from them however, was the importance of acting with compassion.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of ReVamp?
Every decision I make at ReVamp are equally important in my opinion. That being said, I do believe that the most important decision that you can make as an executive is “who”. Who will you choose to run the most important parts of your business?The reason this is so important is that if you pick the right trustworthy people, with the right skills and the right temperament, they can move their part of the business forward—without involving you. I can’t overstate how important this is. If you don’t have people working for you that you can trust with confidence to do big important things without involving you, you will personally work yourself to death, and you will not scale your business.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
The most important characteristic every leader should possess is integrity. Yes, vision and passion are important, but employees must trust you to feel inspired. They must believe in you. Your “person” is as important as the direction you provide. Employees look up to a person who tells the truth, tries to do the right things, lives a “good” life and does their best. Trust me. Your actions play out on the stage of your organization. Your staff boos and cheers and votes with their feet and their actions.
How do you maintain your team’s daily motivation and inspiration despite obstacles, pushback or setbacks?
In order to keep my team motivated I make sure to:
- Involve them. When all employees are involved, they buy in faster and resist less, thus you can implement the changes more quickly and easily. Employees want regular updates on the progress of the business and their personal performance. Use email, telephone, one-on-one and group meetings to keep your team apprised. Talk to your team members regularly. Let them know if the business is on track.
- Recognize and celebrate individual and team performance. Catch people doing something right and focus on recognizing excellent performance.
- Set challenging goals. People strive to achieve what is expected of them. If you set challenging goals your team will work hard to accomplish them, provided are realistically attainable of course. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they are given the opportunity to perform. Communicate these goals and keep your team informed on the company’s progress.
- Give them the tools to succeed. No team will stay motivated if they do not have the necessary tools required to do their job. This includes equipment, internal support, inventory, marketing materials, and training, etc.
- Manage poor performance. Your team expects you to manage individuals who do not perform to standard or contribute fully to the efforts of the team. However, many managers ignore poor performance because they are afraid of the potential conflict. Instead, they hope that the situation will resolve itself. It never does and this “blind” approach affects profitability, causes higher turnover, and contributes to low morale in the workplace.
- Lead by example. If you want your team to treat each other with dignity you need to set the tone. If you expect them to be motivated and enthusiastic it is critical that you behave in this manner. As an owner, manager or business leader, your team looks to you for direction and guidance.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
The best advice I can offer someone moving into a leadership position for the first time is to be a good listener, smile, believe in yourself, have a backup plan, use your network, be decisive, practice humility, don’t be afraid to fail, and finally develop your own leadership style.
Tell us something we may not expect about you?
I was actually shy and terrified to speak in front of a group, which I was able to overcome thanks to the guidance of one of my past mentors.