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Tend to the Soil

Last week, I was having a conversation with a good friend who was recently promoted to a COO role and we were bouncing ideas about on some intrinsic ideas on shaping the current culture for the remainder of this year. He’s the type of leader who can easily see the trees, the leaves and the space between them more so than many leaders I know and have worked with. He is a listener and one who guides conversations towards potential strategies with an ear on gathering feedback, capabilities, opportunities and obstacles.

We’ve certainly discussed hard facts and data regarding the company’s perceived position in the market, why they’re where they are and what steps lie ahead in moving his organization forward. We came away with a simple, practical and in his words powerful [thank you for echoing my tagline] list of how everyone can shape and mold the present with an eye toward the future as he begins his role as the day-to-day leader.

Evaluate Yourself As A Leader.

Self awareness may be the single biggest gap in the majority of leaders in the US. For many, education, experience and history have carved the persona and character of many a leader. Without some introspection, how would you know what area(s) in your lead may need a tune up…hopefully not a turnaround. His takeaway: Be an advocate for your people, workgroups, teams, directs and leaders to build a culture of collaboration.

ABC – Always Be Caring.

Be aware of your surroundings internally and externally. From the parking lot, offices, art on the wall, snack availability in the breakroom to yes, even the type of toilet paper in use, etc. If he doesn’t demonstrate with actions and purchases that create a collaborative environment, yes even to the type of toilet paper used, then his words, his lead, his behaviors and habits will create a different assumption and perception from the other 350 people working there. His takeaway:  Am I fostering a safe environment and one that lives the value of ‘caring for the people who work here.’

Deliver Excellence.

He is a master of asking great questions and frankly, I believe, it’s one of the main reasons he’s been successful in four widely different industries. Disciplines transfer from one industry to the next and he gets it. He’s asking his business unit managers and their first tier leaders this question, ‘does our process and supporting technology help or hinder [us from delivering] excellence. He made a clear point to those leaders to demonstrate and to teach what excellence looks like and let everyone know – safety first and deliver excellence in everything you do. His takeaway:  Don’t fear innovation.

Fail Faster and Figure it Out.

Sometimes he sounds more like the next Dalai Lama with some of his sayings. When we first began working together seven years ago, he kept an eye out for talent who could prevent errors and he promoted several and hired two people who were very good operators who understood process and root-cause analysis to any required power. He also allowed for mistakes, errors, course corrections and how to move successful operators from preventive behaviors to predictive behaviors. My takeaway: He was like a horticulturist – giving plants room to grow and to develop and to screw up without any fear of recrimination. Thus, their learning capabilities increased ten-fold.

It’s not the most charismatic, best speaking or most polished pedigree that delivers results with high-value relationships consistently. It’s the person who puts themselves last and helps others achieve a level of success are the best leaders. Humble, transparent, authentic and simply genuine people are the ones who make the best leaders. They aren’t always the ones with the best talent, but they know how to bring out the best talent in everyone else. They know how to tend the soil, feed it, water it, keep the bugs and disease away so one day the bloom with shine in the sun and through the rain.

How would you like to keep a great team of people like this executive did? If you noticed carefully, he didn’t hire ‘in’ these people. He tended to the soil of the plants already in the garden. He listened and learned what they needed and what they were best suited for. He helped them develop a plan to go from where they were to where they must go if they were to sustain success. If you’d like to learn how to keep a great team and tend to the soil of your own, then click here for a no strings, no obligation, no pitch conversation to see if working together makes sense.

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