Coaching Leaders Toward Clarity
Robert (Bob) Carlson
Lake City, MN
Bob has held leadership positions in large agribusiness cooperatives and related companies for more than 20 years.
Gray Matters is an executive coaching firm specializing in agribusiness ─ energy, animal nutrition, agronomy, logistics, grain merchandising, retail and financing for farm supply and grain merchandising cooperatives, serving both national and world markets. Founder Robert (Bob) Carlson, Jr. coaches leaders who want to be the best, for both your team and the organizations you lead. He works with leaders who value lifelong learning and a well-developed, cognitive approach to making decisions ─ and who recognize that positioning a business to evolve requires commitment to developing a strong team.
It takes confidence to delegate decisions to your team, whether they are easy decisions or the complex challenges we define as “gray” matters. As a leader, only the most complex of gray matters should reach your desk as you take on day-to-day critical decisions, define and plan how to execute your vision of what tomorrow can ─ and must be ─ to bring value to your customers and team. Identifying and evaluating the gray influences on your business and your team requires an awareness of not only the variables involved, but also the potential consequences of executing one course of action versus another ─ and what that can mean for the business.
Managing the Gray is streamlined when you can partner with a professional who has faced this fluid process and lived with its consequences. Through Gray Matters, Bob Carlson leverages his diverse background in both investment-based and cooperative-backed business models to inform his coaching methods and complement your professional development.
Bob brings a lifetime of experience to coaching. After serving in the United States Army, he earned an undergraduate degree in business and public administration and later earned his Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. His introduction to the marketplace involved facilitating legal resolutions through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practices throughout the Midwest and East Coast.
Following leadership roles as a member of Resolute Systems, an ADR provider, Bob assumed leadership roles within the cooperative business model as a commercial/producer lender. He then served as the chief executive officer for agribusinesses with gross sales in excess of $500M and teams of more than 300 dedicated professionals serving from multiple locations. Customer facing offerings included products and services in energy, animal nutrition, agronomy, logistics, grain merchandising, retail and financing. Bob reported to a diverse board of directors throughout his tenure and lead discussions ensuring the board’s vision led to relevant and improving futures for the business and its valued members.
Bob is currently pursuing certification as a Series 7 Coach by the Institute of Leadership and Management. Since 1947, the Institute of Leadership and Management has been recognized as “the” leader in leadership development. It is the premier resource for research into the knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors and values of great leadership, and the Series 7 designation is their master coaching level.
Gray Matters fills the gaps that challenged Bob during his career as a top agribusiness executive. The name literally refers to the “gray” matters facing executives as they grapple with the competing interests of personal and business development, cultural challenges, outside influences, governmental regulations, interstate, national and international developments, and a vast range of unpredictable factors that affect business stability, profitability and long-term survival. The answers are never simple. And effective leaders must understand the crucial importance of balancing work with personal, family and community goals to help themselves and those they serve achieve meaning, joy and success in their life and work.
As someone who has led organizations through challenging times, Bob has the experience and insight to serve as an independent and honest sounding board, coaching leaders to examine competing visions, goals, strategies, opportunities, challenges and risks. He knows the tone for any business is set at the top, and what it takes to define a clear vision and goals. He believes in the power of fostering a culture that inspires people to do the right thing, be their best and aware of how they interact, dress, speak to and treat internal and external stakeholders. Experience has taught him that shared values and ethical excellence are mighty forces, particularly when there are no clear answers about what to do next. And he firmly believes that each leader has unique talents and skills that can be developed to help them determine their best path forward.
Bob is a confidential coach agribusiness leaders can trust to challenge your assumptions and push you toward recognizing that, beyond day-to-day business matters, it is your responsibility to confront the issues where clarity is not easily found. He’ll encourage you to define your personal and business goals, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and examine the risks and rewards of specific actions. Coaching is completely individualized and includes setting regular time aside for reflection, face-to-face meetings, phone consultations, developing resources – whatever it takes to coach an already accomplished leader toward becoming a great leader.
Age-old wisdom cautions “It’s lonely at the top.” When you’re advancing through an organization, you can turn to colleagues for counsel. The organization’s rules, expectations and goals are set out for you. Follow them or find a better way, and reward follows.
But what happens when you reach the top echelon of leadership and decisions are no longer defined for you? When the path forward is obscured by gray influences and you alone are responsible for setting a clear direction for your organization’s success and survival? What happens when you struggle with which path is the best one to take? Who can be trusted to help you find clarity without getting in your way? Who understands the pressure you are under to make decisions, take responsibility for the outcomes, inspire those you lead to do the work – and when things go well ─ share the credit with everyone who made that endeavor possible.
When you must run the gauntlet of a thousand challenges, you can trust Gray Matters and Bob to stand by your side, challenge your assumptions, and push you to accept your responsibility to set direction where clarity cannot easily be found. You will gain in your strength to take on competing interests of personal and business development, cultural challenges, outside influences, governmental regulations, interstate, national and international developments. You will do this because you must and because all of these factors have a profound impact on business profitability, long-term survival and the lives of you and everyone involved with your organization.
A good coach prepares you to set the horizon you want to strive toward.
“As more and more companies realize the benefits of hiring a coach, they also realize the benefits of incorporating a coaching methodology into the management style of their leaders. After all, there’s a difference between simply telling employees what to do and working with them on professional development.” – Forbes Coaches Council
Mission, Vision & Strengths
Partnering with elite leaders to examine where life-balance, humility and a sense of service lead to improving clarity when faced with the every evolving gray in both business and personal development.
Achieving a purposeful legacy by ensuring leadership lessons learned from the past are refined and shared with those to be charged to execute in the exciting and yet ever so challenging future.
Starting with a foundational sense of integrity and a drive to achieve through service, Bob’s Gallop Strength Finder Top Five® :
- Self Assurance