Francis Lobo had to learn about leadership in record time. He grew up in a family business in India, but after attending graduate school in the US, he decided to stay stateside. Within 5 years of graduating and joining the company, Lobo had already become the President of AOL Services and was running products like MapQuest, AIM, and search. He then became CEO of United Online, a public tech company he brought through an impressive turnaround. Next, he became Head of Services and Chief Revenue Officer of WeWork. Today, Lobo is the Chief Product & Business Officer and President of Labs at Nationstar Mortgage, recently renamed Mr. Cooper. Lobo credits his ability to determine and refine his 6-step method with his rapid rise.
The very first thing Lobo mentions every time he discusses a new company is the people he worked with there. It’s no surprise, then, that “People” is his first step to leadership. He explains that companies need “the right people in the right positions in the company. You need the best people.” Lobo admits that it’s easier to hire the best when your company has a strong culture and brand. But even with that, “You really have to have the right motivation. If you don’t have a motivation of love, or you don’t have a mission-oriented motivation in anything you do, you won’t be as happy. You won’t be as successful,” Lobo asserts. He keeps this at the forefront when he interviews candidates. He says, “Anyone I tried to recruit, it’s very, very critical for me to realize that I’m recruiting them to be part of a team, part of a journey, part of a mission. There’s interdependence – we work together. And if that happens, then 1 plus 1 equals 11 every single time.”
It’s clear that to Lobo, People and Culture are highly steps in his process. Several times in our discussion, Lobo brings up the importance of culture. To Lobo, good culture is “creating an environment for people to be as successful as they can be and achieve their maximum potential.” He also repeatedly brings up the importance of community, and particularly points to AOL and WeWork as places where the community in the company wanted to impact the community outside. Lobo says, “It’s all about community and it’s all about people, and creating an environment where people can excel as best as possible.” That feeling helps recruit the best talent and keep the company running on all cylinders.
Lobo is a strong believer in data. “You need to know what you’re working with!” he enthuses. “I believe for any business to be truly successful, you need to have product that makes people’s lives better, and then you take data from that product,” he says. He goes on, “And if you can have a business plan from that data and monetize it, you’ve got the beginnings of a really good business.” Lobo experienced this firsthand in his time at AOL. He explains, “I was able to look at data and find opportunity and growth in that data.” It’s these insights that allowed him to turn around multiple businesses that were declining at doubt digit pace.
This step is highly correlated to the prior step of data. Once you know what you’re working with, “From that data you have strategy,” Lobo explains. But there’s another element Lobo believes must accompany strategy – “intense focus,” he says. Once your strategy is established, “You give them the resources they need, and you’re able to channel or funnel their focus in the right way, against the specific goal,” he says. “Everything I do is goal-oriented,” Lobo states. He goes on, “Every single meeting I go to, every single discussion I have, either I do it verbally or to myself, I say, “What’s my goal in this session?’ And when you have purpose, when you have a goal, and when you have focus attached to that, you will come out in a better place.”
5. Maniacal Execution
Once you have the right people and the right strategy, you need to stick to the plan. Lobo calls it “maniacal execution,” and you can hear the fire in his voice when he says it. “Every day you come to your job, and every day you sit down and…have a goal-oriented approach. You take these 6 steps and say, ‘I’m gonna accomplish this today, and this week, and this month, and this year, and achieve these goals.’ That’s how you can do whatever you want to do,” he describes. His own meticulous exercise of this habit helped him manage his ever-growing responsibilities. “That 6-step approach is something I executed on every day, and over time I just kept managing more and more businesses,” he recalls.
6. Continuous Innovation
Lobo believes that the company and the employees need to constantly look for ways to improve. But improvement doesn’t have to be complex – sometimes you have to go back to the basics. “I’ll tell you something very silly which I often joke about,” Lobo shares. “I didn’t know what Sarbanes-Oxley was until I was a public company CEO!” Of course, there are more complex issues, too. For Lobo, his goal was always to change the world. “I wanted to take my skills and what I believed I was capable of, and take a company that’s changing the world and help them change the world a little faster,” he says. Indeed, the companies he’s worked for have been changing the world. AOL brought about a revolution in internet access. More recently, WeWork is changing how people conduct business. This passion and energy keep Lobo inspired and his companies always seeking more.
On Fridays, Kevin explores industry trends, professional development, best practices, and other leadership topics with CEOs from around the world.