Robert (Bob) Rosenberg served as chief executive officer of Dunkin’ Donuts from 1963 until his retirement in 1998. Under his leadership, the company grew from a regional family business to one of America’s best known and loved brands. Rosenberg received his MBA from Harvard Business School, and in just weeks after graduating at the age of 25, assumed the position of chief executive officer. After retiring from Dunkin, Rosenberg taught in the Graduate School at Babson College and served many years on the boards of directors of other leading food service companies, including Domino‘s Pizza and Sonic Restaurants.

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  • Sustaining Excellence =
    • Passion for what they do
    • Persistence – “Life is lumpy.” People fall and have to dust themselves off.
    • Character – Must be trustworthy, caring, and sensitive to others
    • Values driven – “When things go wrong, take the pain”
  • Bill Gates is an example of sustained excellence – “His persistence, his relationship with his wife Melinda. He’s a great example of sustained excellence.”
  • Bob describes the time early in his career when he made big mistakes and the board fired him.
    • He said, “I needed to learn strategy. You can’t blame your followers. You must take 100% ownership.”
  • Read the book, The Best and The Brightest by David Halberstam
    • “You need humility, you need to learn, you need emotional intelligence.”
  • How he felt when he got fired?
    • “Unbelievably sad. It hung heavy on my shoulders.”
  • There are two ways to respond:
    • Be a victim
    • Be introspective
      • “I remember the moment vividly. I was reading The Best and The Brightest. Hubris was the problem. They weren’t going to the front lines to understand what was happening. I thought, Oh my God, Halberstam could be talking about me.”
      • “Our job is to LISTEN, get feedback, and fix it.”
  • As a leader, you must have the willingness and ability to define reality, not what you want it to be.
    • Read Max Dupree – The Art of Leadership
  • Understand The Stockdale Paradox – “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose —with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” ~ James Stockdale
  • Building trust in a crisis:
    • The 4 elements to be trustworthy:
      • Sincerity – “Your public and private conversations should be the same”
      • Competence – It’s not the same as never making a mistake.
      • Reliability – “Make promises. Deliver on those promises”
      • Care – “Treat people well. Care for their well being. It’s not transactional. Treat them with dignity and respect.”
  • How Bob stays so sharp at age 82:
    • Lots of exercise – He trains 5 days a week
    • Time with grandchildren
    • Planning – “I still have a lot of gas left in the tank”
  • Have a dream — “Happiness is a mood. You can design a mood.”
    • Satisfaction
    • Peace
    • Fulfillment
  • The four primary functions of a leader:
    • Strategy – The CEO must shepherd the strategy
    • People – Get the right people in the right jobs
    • Communication – Align all constituencies behind the business. People must understand the mission
    • Evolve – The world changes. Find a small team of experts to identify the issue, and leave the rest of the team alone to do their work
  • “You need thrill customers continuously.”
  • “People will always be evaluating you as a leader. They look at your body language, and see how you respond.”
  • Hiring qualities Bob looks for in a leader:
    • Crisp thorough about the job assignment.
    • Complementarity – The use Gallup’s strengths. Focus on strengths and them filling a gap on the current team.
    • Fit the culture. Need to be able to work with a team and collaborate.


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