Jonathan Ardila via Unsplash

Three Keys to Your Personal Inauguration

I’ll never forget the day of my inauguration as the CEO of Prologis, the multi-national commercial real estate company where I worked for more than two decades and that I led for nearly five years.

There was no pomp and circumstance. No balloons. No champagne toasts. No celebrities. There was no swearing-in ceremony (although there might have been some swearing by employees and investors). And while there was no prayer service, I can assure you there was plenty of praying on my part!

An inauguration is nothing more than a new beginning – a fresh start. Sometimes they are marked with great fanfare, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they represent a fresh start in a journey of what everyone expects will be continued success (like when my Pittsburgh Steelers change head coaches). Sometimes a rebuilding process is in order.

Before I took over at Prologis, the company’s track record had gone from boom to bust. Over the previous 15 years, the company had produced about a 19 percent compound annual return on investment for shareholders and had accumulated assets of close to $40 billion. Then the economy tanked and some bad management decisions boiled over. During the 10 months prior to me taking the job, the company’s stock had dropped from $72 per share to nearly $2 per share. The situation could not have been more dire.

I drove to work that first day as CEO with a heart burdened for the company and its people. Our future was uncertain and my path as a leader was undefined. I didn’t know what to do or how do to it. My future was filled with buckets full of “figure it out.” But here are three things I tried to remember as I stepped on the platform to speak to our employees for the first time as CEO. While there are plenty of other things to remember, I think these will serve anyone well when taking on a new role.

Be Yourself

Who else would you be, you ask? Well, we all know the answer – you can easily try to be the person others want you to be. So start with a “to be” list instead of a “to do” list. Before you can get to the to-do’s in your new role, make sure you know who you are and who you really want “to be.” Lead based on your core values and based on your authentic personal style, not the expectations of others.tweet this

Embrace the “They” and the “Them”

No matter what your new role, there’s always a “they” and a “them” – the people around you who you depend on. Don’t start your new role by focusing on what you need, what you want, and how you expect things to work. Go in asking questions about what they want and need and how you can serve them.

I drove to work that first day as CEO with a heart burdened for the company and its people. Our future was uncertain and my path as a leader was undefined.

Then put your influence to work helping to transform their lives.

Embody Gratitude

You no doubt attained your new role or assignment based on merit, but that’s no reason to lack gratitude for the opportunity. In fact, there’s never a good reason to lack gratitude for the opportunities of life, even those that come with intense challenges and frustrations. Start out thankful and remain thankful. You probably deserve the opportunity, but you’re not entitled to it. A grateful heart is the best place to start.

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  1. Phil

    I vividly remember that day and crowding into training room. While there was no champagne popping, we all knew what we had to collectively accomplish. Thanks for setting the agenda and vision.

    Reply to Phil

    1. Walt Rakowich

      Thank you, Phil. Nice to see you here, and thanks for reading. I hope you’ll continue doing so.

      Reply to Walt Rakowich

  2. Laura Gill

    I remember those dreary days during my time at Prologis. I always admired your humble heart and transparency during that tumultuous time. I continue to admire your wisdom on what leadership should be. I take this with me to work every day and have to remember to give thanks for every opportunity no matter the size. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply to Laura Gill

    1. Walt Rakowich

      Thank you, Laura. That you mention humble heart and transparency means a lot–the importance of those two things in leadership is what I’m working to share with this blog and the book I’m working on. I’m very glad you’ve read this and commented, and I hope you’ll keep doing so.

      Reply to Walt Rakowich

  3. Gabe

    I love the “to be” list idea.

    Reply to Gabe

  4. JD Salazar

    Walt – thank you for sharing this bit of wisdom. As you know I just started my leadership role with our new investment venture. Although we are small in number we are rapidly developing a culture. A culture based on service and gratitude for the wonderful opportunity all of us at IOV have been given. Thx again. See you soon.

    Reply to JD Salazar

    1. Walt Rakowich

      That’s a healthy culture you’re shaping, JD. If gratitude and service are built into the foundation of IOV now, I have faith it can remain part of your culture as your team grows. Best of luck in the new venture.

      Reply to Walt Rakowich

  5. Renata Michalczyk

    Dear Walt,

    Thank you for this text. I find it very helpful and interesting. It’s all about what I need to know right now, during the transition period to my new role! I really appreciate your work, and looking forward to reading more of your texts.

    Thank you very much!

    Best regards,
    Renata Michalczyk

    Reply to Renata Michalczyk

    1. Walt Rakowich

      Thanks, Renata. So glad to have you here and that my story is helpful to you. Good luck in your new role!

      Reply to Walt Rakowich

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