Larry Peterson follows the Abraham Lincoln method of management: be accessible and gather as much information as possible from the people with whom you work. Modern business gurus call it “Managing by Wandering Around.”
Popularized by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman in their book, “In Search of Excellence,” MBWA stresses interpersonal skills, appreciation and recognition. Peterson employs it to build cohesive units focused on common goals in his role as executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Springfield.
He also adheres to certain leadership rules that include doing anything you’re asking someone else to do; always giving credit where it is due; remembering integrity has no gray areas; never taking advantage of rank to obtain special privileges; and having a sense of humor while encouraging others to do the same.
“If we have to be up early to set up for an event, work on a project or make a presentation, even if I’m not involved, I make it a point to be there if at all possible,” Peterson says. “I am known for saying that our successes are a result of the team.”
He joined Habitat in 2012 after 30 years in the telecommunications industry, most of them in marketing, sales and public affairs with Time Warner Cable. Prior to starting as Habitat’s executive director, Peterson had worked for Mediacom Communications as regional vice president of operations in the Missouri and Kentucky region, a five-state area with $200 million in revenue. When Mediacom went private in 2011 and eliminated some regions after reorganizing, Peterson was out of a job.
That turn of events proved to be Habitat’s gain, says Gene O’Dell, senior vice president and investment officer with O’Dell Financial Group of Wells Fargo Advisors. As a Habitat board member, O’Dell has worked with Peterson for four years.
“In that time, I have seen him take a management team somewhat in turmoil and turn it into a stable and effective operating unit. Habitat Springfield has seen basically zero turnover in its management team since Larry’s been at the helm,” O’Dell says.
Habitat’s ReStore gross revenue has grown to more than $1.5 million, making it one of Habitat International’s top-producing stores.
“His presence in our monthly board of directors’ meetings and support of the board leadership has provided much-needed energy and focus to the organization,” O’Dell says. “His attention to detail and, especially, sense of humor have resulted in more efficient and enjoyable meetings, leading to a substantial improvement in board attendance and involvement.”
Peterson’s presentations to local organizations has increased awareness of Habitat’s mission and work in the community, and he is co-chairman of the housing subcommittee of the city’s recently launched Zone Blitz initiative that’s focused on addressing critical needs in Zone 1 in northwest Springfield.
“Aside from Larry’s overall passion for and contribution to the advancement of the Habitat for Humanity mission, he is known for providing a high degree of positive energy and enthusiasm to every effort, project and organization with which he participates,” O’Dell says.