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Special Thanks




Chapter 1

The Lesson

“A heartfelt book that details the secret sauce required to craft an effective leadership strategy for today’s challenging business world. Tighten the Lug Nuts will delight and disturb you in the best way. The elements of balanced leadership come alive through the poignant story of one manager’s career journey from entry level through senior management.”


Senior Partner at RavenHouse International and
Author of The Complete Guide to Buying a Business

“Rocky Romanella has written a highly useful and highly readable book for ANYONE wishing to be a more effective (and happy) leader. His storytelling approach makes the book an entertaining read, and the lesson summaries that complete each chapter serve as a blueprint for putting the information into practice. I’d recommend Tighten the Lug Nuts to new leaders as well as experienced leaders. If you don’t learn something from this book, you’re not trying!”


Speaker, Consultant, and Author of Unleashing Excellence: the Complete Guide
to Ultimate Customer Service and Lessons from the Mouse

“Rocky is an expert at leadership instruction through story-telling and has created a guide that any manager can relate to and put immediately into practice. Joe Scafone’s experiences are parables written by an author who practiced what he preached. These lessons are authentic and timeless!”


President at The UPS Store, Inc.

“We can only be successful and balanced leaders when we recognize our own ability to influence and empower others by listening, coaching, knowing what we stand for and what we can never compromise. Joe Scafone personifies how wisdom, confidence and humor derived from interactions with family, friends, colleagues and strangers over a lifetime can help train all of us to be the great listeners and leaders of our time. Tighten the Lug Nuts: The Principles of Balanced Leadership is a resource for all aspiring and current leaders.”


Dean, Continuing Education and Professional
Studies at Seton Hall University

Copyright © 2017 by Rocco Romanella. All rights reserved.

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ISBN: 978-0-9983863-0-0



To my beautiful wife Debbie.
She is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13:4-12. She is Love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Thank You, Hon.

Special Thanks


To my family, Mom, Aunt Katie, and siblings, who were always supportive and integral parts of a childhood filled with love and lasting memories. To my dad, who instilled in all his children the values of hard work, integrity, and respect.

To my wonderful Children, Jean Marie, Nicole, Rocky, and Andrew. I cannot be prouder as a dad, more blessed as a father and grateful for all of your support throughout this journey.

To my friends and business partners too numerous to name. I thank you and Joe Scafone thanks you.



To my family, Mom, Aunt Katie, and siblings, who were always supportive and integral parts of a childhood filled with love and lasting memories. To my dad, who instilled in all his children the values of hard work, integrity, and respect.

To my wonderful Children, Jean Marie, Nicole, Rocky, and Andrew. I cannot be prouder as a dad, more blessed as a father and grateful for all of your support throughout this journey.

To my friends and business partners too numerous to name. I thank you and Joe Scafone thanks you.

Through this extension we are all leaders to someone at some time. It can be a person under our supervision or care, a spouse we honor and live with, or a child we nurture, a student we teach, or a player we coach. It could be as simple as a fellow member of our church or religious affiliation, club, league or association, but it is usually identified by the fact we have made a positive difference through our actions and examples.

With this sense of responsibility and being lifelong learners, we are constantly in pursuit of knowledge, whether written or experienced, of how to be a good leader and how to improve our skills. We take great pride in the books we have read and where they sit on the best-seller list.

I often find that some of the best examples and learning experiences come from the stories we tell and the experiences we share. Sometimes they come from the stories we learned as children or read to our children as parents or grandparents.

Leaders must develop emotional intelligence along with their educational intelligence and business acumen. Sometimes a simple story I find can help people see the bigger picture, promote moral and ethical behavior, and maybe, just maybe, not take ourselves so seriously that we lose sight of the fact that it is not always about us.

So here is the story I have chosen to start the book. I hope you enjoy this, and the many stories you will read throughout.

A wonderful person and woman well into her nineties is approaching the end of her life. Realizing the end is near, she scheduled a meeting with the pastor at her local church who she has chosen to coordinate her funeral. At the end of the meeting she looks at the pastor and tells him that she has one final but important request.

Anticipating what he thinks will be her final request, he tells her not to worry: he will give her last rites and absolution. He continues, “I am sure you will be forgiven for all your sins and should have a speed pass into heaven.”

With a chuckle she thanks him but goes on to say, “That is not my request. My request is to be waked and buried with a fork in my hand.” With a puzzled look he assures her he will execute her request. “Can I be so bold as to ask why?”

She proceeds to tell him, that when she was a child growing up, family meals were very important and always a highlight. Dinner was family time. After the main course, as the table was being cleaned, her mom would tell all the children to hold onto their forks, as the best was yet to come: dessert!

It always gave them something to look forward to. “As people pay their respects and they ask you why there is a fork in my hand,” she explained, “I would like you to assure them that I left peaceful and happy, and I would like them to always look forward with the knowledge and view that the best is yet to come.”

As you read through the many stories and lessons, I hope you enjoy the meal and as you finish the book, you still have your fork in your hand with the anticipation that the best for you is yet to come.

With great respect and thanks.


I believe the definition of a successful leader can be summarized as a person who adds immediate value as a trusted advisor, mentor, and visionary who uses a process approach to lead the organization and its people to new levels of success. Great organizations need to have a thoughtful vision and strategy. Great leaders need to combine that strategic vision with the ability to tactically execute the strategy.

Leadership is about building a bridge to the future. You give your people the opportunity to help build that bridge by communicating and educating each one of them on your vision and strategy.

Leadership is the ability to quickly, accurately, and effectively assess

  • who you are,
  • what you stand for, and
  • what you will never compromise.

It is important to take inventory and to be constructively dissatisfied in yourself to make sure that your vision and strategy correspond to what your people, your customers, and investors believe to be your strategy.

Leaders, like companies, start with goals and aspirations for themselves, as organizations do for themselves. Most people and companies will do admirable work. The best leaders and companies are those that reflect their personal leadership brand and the company’s brand promise in all they do. The great leaders and companies will clearly and consistently reflect the brand.

One of the biggest differentiators between good and great is the superior customer experience that is provided on a consistent basis. During every customer interaction your reputation is on the line.

Remember, as a leader, your customers are also the people in your care and supervision. They are your customers.

I hope as you read through this book will enjoy the stories, have some reflective moments, and continue to strengthen your leadership brand.

If you were to begin each of the following thoughts with either “Have I made” or “Do I,” it might lead to some interesting conversations with yourself. If you were to use them for leadership selfevaluation, substitute “my people” for the word “customer.”

  • My Priority Is Customer Satisfaction: Whether on the phone, in person, or via electronic communication, genuinely interact and connect with customers; ensure a positive experience and exceed expectations.
  • Actively Listen to Customer Needs: Consistently demonstrate to customers you are in tune with their needs and are operating in their best interest. Customers know what they want but may not always explain it in a manner that is clear to you. Therefore, it is important to utilize effective listening skills. If you do not understand a request, ask clear, positively articulated questions until you understand. Do not rush customers, allow them at their own pace to discuss what they need. Once customers have expressed their needs, confirm your understanding with them to ensure communication is clear.
  • Build Strong Relationships: Providing value and listening are key components of any relationship. The foundation of strong relationships also includes being fair to customers and following through on your word. Make sure to ask for assistance from others when necessary to ensure proper follow-through and response. Treat every customer how you would like to be treated.
  • Learn the Products and Services: Part of providing a superior customer service experience is being knowledgeable of the services that are offered. Take the time to really learn your business so you can effectively communicate to your customers the services and value you provide.
  • Be Responsive and Effectively Resolve Problems: If a problem occurs, allow customers to fully explain the issue and convey empathy. If the fault lies with you or your organization, take ownership of it and apologize. Take the initiative to resolve problems in a timely and effective manner.
  • Remain Positive: Always show respect for your customers even if you find yourself in a challenging situation. Demonstrate professionalism and keep communication positive.
  • Express Gratitude: Expressing appreciation can go a long way. It can be as simple as thanking customers for their business and loyalty. Make sure they know we are grateful they choose to do business with us.

Creating a strong culture is critical to you and your company’s longterm success and growth. It should be your desire and that of your organization to create the Best, Brightest, Most-Informed and BestEducated management team in the industry.

In the service business, people are the most important asset. The time we spend with our people is an investment in the future, not an expense or burden on our time. You cannot successfully grow the business without an investment in people.

This is an important first step to building a performance culture. This investment will result in success for your company and personal and professional growth for you. You must view the business through the eyes of a leader. By the way, that’s you.

Your success will be measured by the degree to which everyone in your organization at every level begins to understand, embrace, emulate, and execute the vision and strategy.

Good Luck, be safe, and remember

The Speed of the Leader Determines the Pace of the Pack



CHAPTER 1 Simple Acts of Kindness ……………………………………………………….. 1

CHAPTER 2 A Significant Event ……………………………………………………………….. 9

CHAPTER 3 Values Matter …………………………………………………………………….. 15

CHAPTER 4 The Leadership Equation …………………………………………………… 21

CHAPTER 5 Taking Care of Business……………………………………………………… 27

CHAPTER 6 Tighten the Lug Nuts …………………………………………………………. 35

CHAPTER 7 Loose Lug Nuts Sink Plans …………………………………………………. 43

CHAPTER 8 Balanced Leadership………………………………………………………….. 49

CHAPTER 9 Think Like a Who? ……………………………………………………………… 57

CHAPTER 10 Everything is Fine ……………………………………………………………. 65

CHAPTER 11 Feel Like a Valued Individual …………………………………………… 71

CHAPTER 12 Your Candy Store ……………………………………………………………. 79

CHAPTER 13 Building Cathedrals…………………………………………………………. 87

CHAPTER 14 The Epiphany ………………………………………………………………….. 95

CHAPTER 15 100-Day Plan ……………………………………………………………….. 103

CHAPTER 16 The Big Eight ………………………………………………………………… 109

CHAPTER 17 Academy Address…………………………………………………………. 119

CHAPTER 18 Your Legacy…………………………………………………………………… 131

Chapter 1




J oe Scafone arrives at his seat and takes a deep breath as he begins to settle in for his long flight home from Orange County, California.

But before he can get comfortable, he cannot get past the gladiator event he just participated in, referred to as “the boarding process.”

Scarred and battered from many years of the boarding process, Joe would just once love to meet the person who had the responsibility to map and design this process. If you subscribe to the theory that the purpose of process mapping and work flow diagrams is to bring forth a clearer understanding and communication of a process and then execute it at a high level consistently, then this process is clearly not working the way it was designed.

The boarding process to Joe and his frequent flyer friends is the definition of organized chaos. It is survival of the fittest or, better put, survival of the “firstest.” It is all about getting to your seat early and claiming your spot.

The engineer who designed this process, he thought, needs to be in the boarding process just once as a participant, to be a gladiator. To stand there in anticipation of the boarding announcement or better yet hearing the agent at the gate announce, “LET THE GAMES BEGIN” and to see it unfold, the huddled masses approaching the Jetway.

The process starts out with good intentions and many directions but quickly devolves to chaos. Today was no different.

It started in its normal process.

“Good afternoon, passengers. This is the preboarding announcement for flight 1907 with service to Newark’s Liberty International Airport.”

But before the next sentence in the announcement begins, people and carry-ons are on the move.

The gate agent continues, “We are now inviting those passengers with small children and any passengers requiring assistance to board at this time. The first class cabin will begin boarding in ten minutes.”

Seems simple, but too much is left to interpretation. At this point 80% of the flight is huddled around the agent’s desk and at the opening of the Jetway. The games have begun and anticipation and anxiety fill the boarding area.

These announcements all sound good, but in reality, what do they literally mean? And more importantly, how do the boarding gladiators interpret them?

Well, based on the boarding processes we have all experienced, you need to prepare yourself to bump and grind your way onto the plane.

Joe reasoned, the plane and the processes associated with it are really a paradigm for life and business. People rationalize that there are rules, but these rules do not apply to them. These rules are for the 20% of the people who have not moved yet or have not arrived at the gate.

When the agent announces, “Passengers with small children” this gets interpreted as, we were all children once, we are young at heart, or my 16-year-old acts like a child, so I can board at this point.

As a process-oriented, rules-following person, Joe spent a lot of time in his life and career shaking his head during these difficult and sometimes annoying events. He vowed to remain positive and always show respect for those around him. It was no different in his work environment. His commitment was the same: Treat his people and his customers with dignity and respect even when he found himself in these challenging situations.

The toughest part of his commitment at times was to demonstrate professionalism and always keep his communication positive. Joe was a “Jersey Guy,” which meant he had an excellent grasp of sarcasm. The knowledge and ability to use it at a moment’s notice challenged his personal commitment. The boarding process challenged his commitment and resolve.

Well enough on the boarding process, he thought, time to settle in for the long ride home.

Regardless of what the latest advertisements were professing about legroom and comfort, the fact remained that personal space is at a premium on an airplane.

Joe politely arranged his stuff and was ready to take his seat. As a businessman with more than 35 years of experience in the world of logistics, transportation, and old-fashioned people management, he believed thoughtfulness was an important trait of a good leader and essential in a good person.

He was also not a gear guy; he could not be bothered with nor did he choose to lug around a neck pillow, eye mask, or earplugs. He toyed with noise-canceling headphones but was more concerned with getting on board, placing his carry-on in the overhead and getting settled in than canceling noise.

He had a routine he had developed over his many years of flying that he proudly viewed as his “scientific and efficient approach to travel.” As he was settling into his seat, he often wondered why his beautiful, practical, and far less neurotic wife Adrianne viewed his routine as obsessive-compulsive behavior that did not work with her personal travel routine.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan, he thought was always one of the ingredients for success.

He had just navigated the rental car return, serpenting his way through the security line with his new TSA Precheck status (Joe was not only a trusted leader and manager but now he was a trusted traveler) and boarding early with his premium status.

Flight 1907 was no ordinary flight for Joe. Unlike all his flights in the past, this one was different in one important way: this was his last flight as a business professional. He was heading home, this time with no flight or meeting scheduled for next week.

He had had a distinguished career, filled with new assignments, relocations, and many opportunities to learn new things, meet new people, and explore new geographies.

He looked forward to this flight as an opportunity to relax and reflect on this wonderful career.

Joe buckled his seat belt, turned off his cell phone, and sat back into his seat proud of the fact that he had accomplished his travel plan while still adhering to his personal rule that “a little consideration goes a long way.”

At the beginning of his professional journey, his vision was simple; Joe aspired to be a high school history teacher and a baseball coach. He had envisioned himself instructing and empowering those 5 around him.

Joe is a creature of habit (considered detail-oriented by some and obsessive-compulsive by others) and so everything he did was calculated, even the way he traveled. Any flight over two hours required Joe to be in an aisle seat, a risk some would say, considering the dangers of the beverage cart targeting the elbows and knees of the unaware aisle-seated passengers on board. Joe never wanted to be boxed in— on an airplane, in life, or in business. He was a forward thinker and always prepared.

But 35 years of business travel and the diamond status that came along with it meant Joe could always reserve exactly what seat he wanted. The armrest, on the other hand, was another story. The theory that says the passenger in the middle seat earns the right to both armrests because of the discomfort associated with the middle seat was not a theory Joe subscribed to. He had a fundamental issue with the theory of the armrest. It came down to numbers. Joe had a mathematical mind and was a natural at engineering solutions and problem solving. There is no pragmatic answer to four armrests for three passengers—it was survival of the fittest. If someone was going to win, why not him?

As the flight crew made its final preparations and passengers sent texts and emails before takeoff, Joe prepared himself for his fake sleep routine. Joe is a friendly guy, but by no means has he ever become fully comfortable on an airplane. He considered it a personal accomplishment that his rosary beads were now virtual instead of physically cupped in his right hand, while his prayer cards rested comfortably in the inside pocket of his suit.

A well-practiced fake nap allowed him the opportunity to compose himself, not to mention avoid a potentially forced awkward conversation or, even worse, idle chitchat. The overhead bins were closed; it was a full flight yet no one had sat to fill the middle seat next to him. Joe anxiously awaited the announcement that the boarding door had been closed. Would he be lucky enough to have the seat next to him empty or would his row be filled at the last minute, forcing him out of his routine and into the world of small talk?

Joe slowly raised his eyes and saw an elderly woman boarding— she appeared frightened and nervous. As she approached his row it was obvious that the armrest was the last thing on her mind. Joe politely greeted the woman, helped her with her carry-on luggage, and they settled into their seats.

Before he could close his eyes, the woman hit Joe with her elbow. “Hello,” she said, “it is a pleasure meeting you. My name is Vincenza, but all my friends and family call me Nonna.”

Joe smiles and introduces himself as Joe; she promptly and enthusiastically tells him that she has both a brother and a cousin named Giuseppe just like him.

Joe smiles, knowing that Giuseppe is his name in Italian. He is also grateful that with a name like Joseph, she hasn’t asked him if he was a carpenter (although he is handy around the house). The flight attendants finish their preflight preparations as the two share pleasantries about being Italian. Joe thinks back to his childhood and the pleasant memories growing up Italian Catholic and how he regularly attended the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Guilt.

As he closes his eyes, she taps him on the elbow. “I don’t fly often and I am a little nervous,” Nonna whispered.

Just as he is about to reassure her that he has flown many flights without incident, the pilot makes his announcement: “Welcome to flight 1907 en route to Newark’s Liberty International Airport. Flight time is four hours and 45 minutes wheels up to touch down. I am your pilot, Antonio Aero, and your copilot on this flight is Tom Treno. Sit back and relax and enjoy the flight.”

Joe turns to Nonna and says, “We are so lucky that Antonio is our pilot; he is one of the best! I’ve flown with him many times and it is always a safe, pleasant flight. I always hope that he is the pilot.”

A calm comes over her face. This comment eased her fears. Joe thinks nothing of it, but simple gestures and acts of kindness are among the many traits that separate Joe from his peers. Joe believes that these selfless simple acts of kindness are part of the characteristics that inspire loyalty and motivate people to achieve levels of success that they never dreamed they could achieve. Someone had to believe in them before they were ready to believe in themselves.

The cockpit door closes, the walkway is slowly moved into position, and the jet starts its roll onto the ramp. A quiet comes over the plane and it seems most passengers succumb to their own routines. Even Nonna has peacefully closed her eyes in a quiet solitude knowing that Antonio is at the helm and Joe has great confidence in him.

the lesson:




» Simple acts of kindness allow you to connect with your people on a human level, inspiring loyalty and instilling confidence.

» They need someone to believe in them until they are ready to believe in themselves.

» Effective coaching is an enabling process. It enables or inspires individuals to do more, which in turn enables or helps groups to perform better.

» Treating your people, customers, and those around you in a thoughtful manner and with dignity and respect is an essential component of leadership. It is critical when you are in challenging situations.

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