Tag Archives: John Oberg

The Role of a Leader

In any type of organization, regardless of the industry, the highest-level job is always the same. And understanding this role to which we have been called is essential if we are to be good stewards.

John Oberg

A leader is charged with providing:

1. Clarity
2. Execution
3. Sustainability

In addition, we have to keep in view whether we will treat our people like people (love them), or like objects (use them).


Clarity pertains chiefly to the leader’s vision, which is comprised of the core values of the organization, it’s mission, and the path to reach its long-term goals.

Core values are the framework for all decision making in the organization. They are the cornerstone of the managers’ toolkit as they develop their subordinates and teach them how to make decisions in alignment with the organization’s calling. Core values are most obvious in actions—in the behavior of the management team and in the behavior they allow from those in their charge. These are not aspirational values, but the present and living DNA of the organization.

The mission of the organization is mainly inward-focused: simple and easy to remember, it tells internal stakeholders (employees, etc.) why they do the things they do each day. The mission directs the organization to its long-term goals. These are typically three to five years away, and further the mission and values of the organization. Long-term goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding, and Timebound (SMART), and should take into account the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) of the organization.

Next, the leader must communicate the vision. Communication should be Clear, Concise, Constant, Consistent, and in the proper Context for the audience. Ideally informing every conversation, the communication of the vision aligns the organization by reminding the stakeholders what is at stake (the goals), empowering them to pursue the correct ends (mission), and reinforcing the correct standards of behavior (core values).


Next, a leader needs to execute the vision. Once the management team has determined the direction for the company, a plan should be prepared. While the assumptions behind sophisticated five-year plans rarely survive 90 days, a more reasonable approach is to pick broad long-term targets that allow for some flexibility, more specific one-year goals, and very thorough and specific 90-day plans. Delegation of responsibilities follows, as well as the establishment of accountability, performance metrics, any necessary training plans, and a review process. Always prioritize strategic objectives.

Typically, execution in an organization can be linked to no more than 10 high-level processes in four functional areas:
1. Attraction and retention of customers
2. Product and/or service delivery
3. Finance and accounting
4. Personnel

Key metrics should be tracked for each of these functional areas. An executive dashboard should be tracked on a regular basis.


Sustainability is about Risk Mitigation, Program/ Process Improvement, and Succession Planning.

Risk mitigation includes appropriate understanding of Market Risk, Enterprise or Operational Risk, External Environmental Risk, and Governance/Leadership Risk, each of which can be further subdivided. Different levels of management will be more or less concerned with a particular type of risk than with the others, but all levels of management should be broadly aware that the different types exist.

Program/process improvement has often been called working “on the business” rather than working “in the business.” Flow charts and process mapping can find more effective ways to execute; a full-scale automation initiative would be a higher-level example.

Succession planning answers the question, “What happens if that person doesn’t show up to work tomorrow?” Answer this question for each role on the organizational chart, through (for example) cross-training, creating organizational slack, and preparing a virtual bench. It also includes contingency planning for key processes so that the organization doesn’t miss a beat when crisis rears its ugly head.

Summing Up

Any leadership framework is open to abuse if it is applied in the wrong spirit. The principles described here should always be applied with the goal of loving people, and never of using them as means to an end. Saint Paul teaches that without charity, we are nothing (1 Cor. 13). Relationships really are the most important part of business, the pillars that hold everything else up. Let us not lose sight of this fundamental insight and tenet of our faith.

JOHN OBERG was Founding President of the Austin Chapter and is current Board Member. He is a consultant who works with CEOs, executives, owners, or managing partners of growth organizations who want to improve organizational and individual performance.


The wisdom of Legatus’ non-solicitation policy

I recently received an email from a well-known, local Catholic insurance agent asking to attend a Legatus chapter event. He has a wonderful reputation, and my first instinct was to invite him to a meeting.

John Oberg

After some quick discovery we found that he didn’t qualify to be a Legate. I was conflicted. I want people to experience what Legatus has to offer, and at the same time I realize that without qualifying for Legatus it may be hard to appreciate all that we receive from our membership.

This led me to think more deeply about my Legatus experience. Now, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with an ethics column. Let’s dive deeper into the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries as they relate to peer membership organizations and then explore how we appropriately and lovingly communicate and uphold our standards.

Legatus has created a safe space for the spiritual formation of Catholic business leaders in order that they may be better ambassadors for Christ — that they will treat their daily lives as mission fields for evangelizing those outside the Church and encouraging deeper formation for those within her body. It’s a place where we, as leaders, are in the less familiar place of receiving rather than giving!

It’s precisely this mission of forming Catholic CEOs that requires a safe meeting space. In order to create this safe place, we encourage an atmosphere of vulnerability that further encourages acceptance of one another and fosters closer relationships. Legatus is such a place for business leaders to come and “let their guard down” for an evening with their spouses. If we are candid, we recognize that some of the challenges we face as business leaders are not always easy to discuss. As such, it’s important that we maintain the highest integrity in two areas in particular — our non-solicitation policy and our membership standards.

Our non-solicitation policy is critically important if we are to let our guard down entirely in order to be influenced by Reconciliation, the rosary, Mass and the Eucharist, our conversation with peers, and our thought-provoking speakers. We are a group with tremendous financial means, high ambition — and most of us are comfortable with casting vision and affecting positive change. It’s natural for us to have a desire to harness our group of Legates to pull together for some worthy cause — or causes.

However, in this case, our own formation is the cause. It’s critical that we give our group of leaders a safe haven to recharge their batteries so they have the energy and grounding to continue to do good works outside of the bounds of Legatus. Certainly new friendships will be formed and you will find yourself working alongside one another in the community — but as friends or part of another organization (not Legatus).

In the same vein, it’s critical that we protect our membership standards. The greatest temptations I have in this area are the many opportunities I have to invite guests to our monthly chapter events. I must realize that to invite non-qualifying members may hurt the integrity of the meeting.

Certainly we want to include immediate family and clergy when the occasion is appropriate. In any case, we must consider the unintended consequences of inviting those who do not walk in our shoes. In one case I had an unqualified young man approach me to ask for an invitation. He was clear that he was trying to network to find a professional job and that he would like to be employed by a Legatus member. I immediately loved the idea of connecting two Catholics, but at what cost? I know that the members of my chapter (likely yours) exhibit extraordinary generosity and would have welcomed him with open arms. Our members would love to help out, but doing so would take the focus off the formation.

While this may seem selfish, it’s more like self-care. Something special happens during our evenings together. Jesus himself took time to be with the Father even in the midst of people who wanted his attention. We, too, need this time away from the requests and demands of the world that we might reflect and deepen our faith.

We have a responsibility to one another to create a wonderful environment for Legatus, and I for one have been tempted to breach the integrity of that environment. I ask for your help: Pray for Legatus and for me; hold me accountable to preserving the integrity of our mission to serve Catholic leaders in order to have a broader impact in our daily mission field. And know that I am praying for you.

JOHN OBERG is the president of Legatus’ Austin Chapter and a partner at an international consulting firm focused on revenue growth.

A Christian perspective on selling

JOHN OBERG writes that a disarming conversation is essential to effective sales. When we humble and give of ourselves for the good of the other (which is ultimately also for our own good because we gain by giving), our potential customers experience our silent witness to Christ’s love. Christian sellers put buyers’ needs before their own . . . .

John Oberg

John Oberg

by John Oberg

I recently heard from a vice president of sales wanting to resolve his Christian beliefs with his management style. How could he teach his people to engage with customers in ways that aligned with his beliefs while still increasing sales?

How do we balance truth and love in today’s work environment? How do we love one another when we have a revenue target to hit? Our Christian perspective on selling is founded on two related ideas: relationship-building and stewardship. When we handle these well, we create a circle of trust in which both seller and prospective buyer can be honest and transparent.

Indeed, our entire philosophy can be summarized in one sentence: Have a disarmingly honest conversation. It’s in this environment, where we humble and give of ourselves for the good of the other (which is ultimately also for our own good because we gain by giving), that our potential customers experience our silent witness to Christ’s love.

Salespeople are often singularly focused on closing the deal, with their sales targets causing them sometimes to pressure the prospect. Over time, some prospects have become predisposed to expect to be manipulated. They perceive dishonesty, tend to respond in kind, and ultimately think of “Christian salespeople” as hypocrites. When sellers don’t properly manage their enthusiasm and customers bring a defensive mindset, relationship-building stalls, sales cycles become longer and more indirect, and the sales process feels adversarial.

Setting aside (and repudiating) those who justify lying or trickery to sell, good-intentioned salespeople who want to help their prospective clients often end up fostering this adversarial atmosphere. This usually happens in one or more of the following ways: 1) Their “solution” is for a problem the client either doesn’t have or doesn’t consider important; 2) their method for solving the problem is unacceptable to the client; or 3) the customer just doesn’t trust the salesperson.

The obstacle here is not that the salesperson is being dishonest. The obstacle is that the parties are talking past each other; the seller has not established a conversational framework that makes the prospect feel safe to be completely transparent about what’s most important to them. Indirection and mistrust then become the forces guiding the encounter. It’s the salesperson’s responsibility to create an environment where the prospect can be vulnerable in sharing information with no fear that the salesperson will use it as leverage when it comes time to close the sale.

In fact, the ability for either party to say “No” is fundamental to any honest sales conversation, and we should clarify the acceptability of “No” early and often in the sales process. In any sales call, while some outcomes are more desirable than others, the following four should all be considered acceptable by management and sales reps alike: 1) Yes, I’ll buy. 2) I’m interested; let’s move on to the next specific step. 3) I’m not the right person to talk to, but will ensure that you talk to the right person. 4) No, I don’t think this is a fit.

The one outcome that is not acceptable is an ambiguous path forward: “Call me back,” “I’ll think about it,” or some other nebulous outcome. This leads to bloated sales pipelines, inaccurate forecasting, and wasted company resources. Bad stewardship. By accepting “No” as a legitimate outcome, we can shorten sales cycles by helping salespeople waste less time on deals that have no hope, cleaning up the pipeline and clarifying forecasts.

So again, how do we balance truth and love with revenue targets hanging over our heads? If we focus on the good of the other person, establish a safe environment for honesty, and listen, we’ll be able to provide either a solution to their problem or be candid about the lack of fit. In any case, a Christian salesperson’s perspective on selling puts the buyer’s needs before his own. We need to ask ourselves: Are we truly reflecting Christ’s love or are we more like the Pharisee (Lk 18:9-14) who exalts himself? The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.

In the same way, managers must be able to put their own perceived good behind that of the company and that of their salespeople — both within the company and in their personal callings. Reducing pressure through management of the reps’ behaviors, helping salespeople keep full pipelines of legitimate opportunities, and providing solid processes for uncovering and qualifying new opportunities will help salespeople perform more effectively. This process won’t always result in a sale, but we can be confident that it will systematically produce the right outcome for the prospect and add more sales overall as reps won’t be wasting time on deals that have no hope of closing.

JOHN OBERG is president of Legatus’ Austin Chapter and a partner at an international consulting firm focused on revenue growth.

Deep in the heart of Texas

Austin Chapter charters in March as the Lone Star State’s fifth Legatus chapter . . .

by Patrick Novecosky


L-R: John Hunt, Tom Monaghan, Tim & Patricia Von Dohlen, Bishop Daniel Garcia, Fr. Albert Laforet.

Austin is often described as a blueberry in a sea of ketchup — a solid blue city in a solid red state. So developing a Legatus chapter in the Texas capital certainly wasn’t an easy task, but a handful of determined Catholic business leaders made it happen.

The chapter chartered with 20 member-couples at The University of Texas Club on March 18 with Mass celebrated by newly ordained Austin Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Garcia, assisted by chaplain Fr. Albert Laforet. The after-dinner talk featured chapter president John Oberg sitting down with Legatus founder Tom Monaghan in a “fire-side-chat” question-and-answer session.

Taking root

When Brian and Bernice Follett joined Legatus six years ago and moved to Austin, they were longing for a chapter to call their own. Follett and former regional director Brian Von Gruben broke ground in Austin by meeting individually with then-Bishop Gregory Aymond and Fr. Albert Laforet in 2009.

“We met a few times before the bishop decided to assign Fr. Albert as our chaplain,” Follett said. “At the same time, other people were asking the bishop about starting a chapter here. It’s wonderful when you have several people doing that.”

With Bishop Aymond’s move to New Orleans in 2009, the chapter’s development was put on hold until last year. The first official chapter meeting happened on May 7, 2014, when about 30 prospects gathered for Mass, dinner and a presentation from Fr. Leo Patalinghug, the founder of the Grace Before Meals apostolate.

Jamie and Alisha Lagarde were one of the couples at the first meeting.

“I had heard of Legatus from a good friend in Austin,” Jamie Lagarde said. “The name Legatus was familiar to me. My friend convinced me that this was a Catholic organization where I could meet like-minded individuals who share a common faith background and experience.”

Lagarde, president of Sedera Health, joined after attending two chapter events. “The private Mass was quite powerful for me,” he said. “On one level, it’s a great date night for us that we now look forward to. On a more spiritual level, since my wife is not Catholic, the talk gives a great opportunity to discuss and learn more about our different perspectives and many times find common ground.”

Growing in faith


Austin Legates pose for a photo after their March 18 chartering ceremony at The University of Texas Club.

Membership chair Tim Von Dohlen says the chapter has been a blessing to him and his wife Patricia. Despite the challenges of living in an unchurched part of the state, he says Legatus is needed in Austin.

“Legates are called to be leaven,” he said. “We are called to stand up for the faith no matter what, and Legatus gives us the courage to do that.”

Bishop Garcia echoed that sentiment in his homily at the chartering event by calling on Legates to embody the mission statement to learn and live the faith in love and charity.

“It’s in the everyday relationships we have, especially when we encounter people we differ with,” he said. “We must love those people. It’s not an option. It doesn’t mean we agree with them. But it’s about how we treat each other.”

Von Dohlen, who was also instrumental in kickstarting the chapter’s growth last year, also saluted the other four Texas chapters who helped launch Austin by suggesting prospective members.

Chapter president John Oberg, who has been involved with several executive networking groups, says Legatus is a Godsend for him and many others.

“Legatus is a place to learn more about my faith and connect with other like-minded people,” said Oberg, who entered the Church in 2009. “Being new to the faith, learning is essential. I learn not only from the speakers, but also from the members. It’s been fantastic.”

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus’ editor-in-chief.