Donny Barstow has been with MCCi since 2000 and currently serves as President of the company. He has a Management Information Systems B.S. from Florida State University, and an MBA from University of Florida. Donny has been involved in leadership all his life. Starting with being the team captain in sports, to being the President of his fraternity at FSU, all the way to being an influential and motivating leader at MCCi. He is very active and dedicated to his leadership philosiphies. He is the Founder of TYEO (Tallahassee Young Entrepreneurs Organization), a recent graduate from Leadership Tallahassee, and is counted on for his weekly inspirational leadership notes. This blog is dedicated to educating and collaborating with others on the definition of leadership and what it takes to be a great leader.
There would be little need for leadership if all subscribed to the notion that they should not depend on someone else telling them what to do to be successful. Required levels of performance, mentorship, and accountability will always be key elements of leadership, but who rises to the top? It is typically those who put their own plan together or augment the standard with their own level of awesomeness; it is those who are strategic thinkers and who come up with solutions, find new opportunities, and push past the limits of what has been done in the past.
Finding/developing true leaders is the largest never-ending leadership challenge. Getting others to find their passion and to unlock whatever mental block is holding them back from being the absolute best – that is it – that is the leadership challenge. And in every organization, leadership is needed at all levels; Sales Managers need sales people to be Sales Leaders, Executives need Managers to be Leaders, Delivery Teams need those delivering services to be Leaders, Customer Service needs all representatives to be leaders in how they interact with clients, etc.
What are some of the things you do to assess people and cultivate future leaders?
Many high-growth organizations use a formal Growth Operating System; We use EOS, and one of the concepts is to tie in your Core Values to how you assess yourself and teammates. Here is example of how we use our Core Values to assess one another.
WE ARE FANATICAL ABOUT CLIENT SUCCESS Demonstrates personal accountability to client (internal/external) success
WE DO THE RIGHT THING. ALWAYS. Consistently demonstrates a high level of character and integrity
WE INNOVATE AND EVOLVE Seeks and suggests ways to improve processes/products/services
WE ARE FUELED BY CRUSHING GOALS Consistently achieves personal goals and does their part in team goal achievement
WE ARE UNREASONABLY PICKY ABOUT OUR TEAMMATES Considered a great teammate by others; has a great attitude and excels in doing their part
WE EXPECT & EMPOWER OUR TEAM TO GROW Takes ownership of their own growth and development
Core values are not just about an outward facing identity; they are also crucial in evaluating what success looks like internally and having all aligned. In the context of this message, I believe they can also help coach rising stars!
Any significant opportunity is larger than the individual leading it. The outcome (success or failure) will impact others as well as the organization. Because great leaders look at large opportunities as responsibilities, their success rate is much higher than others. Here are a few things they do to ensure large opportunities have successful outcomes:
They think long and hard about the opportunity before they sign up
They check themselves for the juice they and their team have in the tank; it will be needed because things seldom go as planned.
They make a plan and ensure they have the right team and resources
They set up inspection points
They celebrate the small wins and learn from the small failures along the way
Successful outcomes require great leadership and teamwork, which makes being the leader an Awesome Responsibility.
Over the past few weeks I have been trying to get an important answer from a fairly well known company regarding providing service to my home. Not able to get a human, I instant messaged with their chatbot, and all the communication was positive in regards to “no worries, we will be able to service you and it should be at no additional cost”…. then they would set up a ticket and I would get a person who would call and give me different answers that would cause the creation of another ticket. This was going on for two weeks with no reliable answers.
Then Stefanie entered my life…..A friend of mine had the same issue and referred me to her. I reached out thinking she was a customer service rep. She stuck with me and resolved the issue. I never had to follow up with her; she gave me daily updates and coordinated the effort, which involved others at her company. I would not call this an earth shattering story, however I looked her up on LinkedIn afterwards and discovered she is a high level executive in their Government Affairs division. Her position level and role have 0% alignment with what I was asking for. I called her back and asked “Why did you help me?”. She said that she had gained that reputation and this sort of thing happens often. I then asked someone else about her and the response was “She is an Absolute Rockstart”.
Stefanie instantly elevated to a leader in my book. The experience was memorable to me because leadership is a choice, and it is typically in low supply. A big key to success is identifying the small supply of leadership and pulling it all together. That is what can make any organization, team, and effort the best time of your life, while also being a breeding ground for other leaders.
Thank you Stefanie! If you see this post – yes, I am talking about you!
In high-growth organizations, success is not defined as simply doing better than last year. Year over Year comparisons are only valid if there are no changes to the inputs. Success is defined as planning effectively and achieving results that justify the investments made. Performance vs. goal is the primary comparison in regards to success. Year over year comparisons should only be used as a highlight when we are achieving goals and want to show anecdotal information. Transparency is a dangerous thing if the wrong data is highlighted. If we miss, we discuss, learn, and set action items for better results in the future.
For illustration purposes…..
When it comes to goal setting, the right starting point is to focus on investments/changes being made, and then tying the goals to results that justify such investments. Assume a company has a goal to increase its amount of sales/leads from its existing customers by 10% year over year. Is that a good goal? Maybe, but only if nothing in the organization is changing. What if you knew the company recently invested in/added many new solutions to its portfolio, and the account base and sales/marketing resources are being invested in at a much higher level…… how does it sound now? It is typical for goals to be set at a higher level than the results achieved in a previous period, however to do that as a starting point would be arbitrary. Goal setting should start with careful consideration of the change in inputs.
A business leader announces “Revenue is up by 10%!”. Now assume that the goal was to increase revenue by 20%, and part of that plan was an increase in investments and expenses by 30%. The result of only growing by 10% may mean the company is now in the red. So should the fact that revenue grew by 10% be presented as a success? See how dangerous it would be to use that as a headline announcement? Not only is it the wrong comparison to focus on, but the announcement just changed “what good looks like” to all stakeholders. It is always good to focus on the positives from a motivational stand point, but we must be mindful in order to avoid confusing our listeners.
As leaders we carry the awesome responsibility of putting together the plan and the vision, and for transparently reporting outcomes. Those we lead depend on us to do it right and to accurately report on what success looks like.
Here’s to all of us improving as leaders in the new year!
For me, being a leader of leaders comes with many lessons learned. First, if you have leaders who report to you, recognize that all are in different phases of their leadership development cycle. Many who are given leadership responsibilities have not had the benefit of the successes or failures that come with experience. Secondly, only those who exhibit strong leadership potential should be placed in management and leadership positions; and along the way, they must understand they are expected to be or become great leaders. And lastly, we must understand where each person is on their leadership journey. Where there is a need, we must mentor/educate and provide leadership directly. The ultimate goal in being a leader of leaders is that we have a stable of proven leaders, and part of that is filling in and doing some servant leadership to make sure we are supporting them and their team as they grow.
Focusing on this last point a bit more……..a well rounded leader has all the following in check when it comes to their people: 1. Trust/Relationships; 2. Accountability/Inspection; 3. Awareness; 4. Ability to motivate; 5. Accurate assessment of issues/opportunities; 6. Clear goals and mutual commitment; and…… 7. a healthy team culture. All of these are pre-requisites to being respected as a leader. Now look at those you lead and grade them as if you were a member of their team. As a leader of leaders, it is our responsibility to have this level of awareness. It is a mistake to think that by putting someone in a leadership position, that they have it all figured out and are able to provide all the leadership needed right out of the gate. They should be able to experience their own failures, but they need us to be aware of where they need coaching and support, and we need to make sure that while they grow we continue contributing so that they and their team receive the level of leadership deserved.
For high growth organizations, people and leadership are everything. As an organization grows and each leader’s responsibilities grow, the ability to effectively transition from being a manager, to being a leader, to being a leader of leaders, is what will determine one’s professional growth as well as how effective they are in contributing to the growth of their organization.
The level of leadership needed varies based on the size of the organization and/or each team:
“Small” (teams of 15 or less, with no mid-level management) teams: It is ok for the leader to be doing most of the leading while developing other leaders within and building their outside network so that when the time is right, there is a plan to advance the level of leadership.
“Mid-size” (teams with mid-level management) teams: Management must be progressing as leaders. A growing organization requires consistently ratcheting up the level of leadership in order to have cohesion rather than friction. All have to be signed up for that expectation…….it is all about having a Growth Mindset, which means that a leader who is developing other leaders should be weary of those who are negative or seem to fight growth as if it is an opposing force, rather than an initiative they are responsible for advancing.
“Large” (teams with leaders of leaders, and leaders of mid-level management) teams: The trend continues where a leader’s success hinges even more dramatically on the effectiveness of the leaders they lead. Being a leader of leaders is a different skillset/approach; there is a higher leadership expectation, and much less of a management effort expected in regards to the relationship. Mentorship, Accountability, Teamwork, and giving a higher level of Autonomy are keys to success.
Even at the highest levels, leaders and leaders of leaders have to show up every day ready to learn and become better – especially in high growth organizations. The one constant is that as teams increase in size, the impact of leadership increases exponentially.
Everyone has a boss. Here are some guidelines of when and when not to leverage others when it comes to leading our teams……
When to leverage:
When you do not have decision making authority
When an item is material enough and you need advice before making a decision
When you are already all-in, but need some additonal support to get to the next step
When not to leverage: When it is something fundamental to the success of your team, yet you yourself are not behind the initiative. Belief has to start with you as the leader of your team and leveraging others absent of this will only deminish your influence and ability to successfully lead.
If you ever find yourself conveying to the team that a new initiative must be adopted due to someone else’s agenda, it is a good idea to stop and spend time with your leaders to fully understand (debate if needed) the initiative, find purpose, understanding, and get behind it, and then focus on how to communicate it to your team as their leader. Your team has to know where you stand before there can be any positive momentum.
The strategic part of leadership is in developing, cultivating and filtering ideas, with the ultimate goal of firming up the strategy/focus for their team. Arguably, the harder and more time consuming part of leadership is Execution. Strategy is the plan and Execution is the action. The easiest way to think about what it takes to execute is to compare it to what it takes to create new habits:
We have to get ourselves right first and put in place all the self controls and inspection points to ensure new habits will be formed; It starts with us as the leader
The value of forming a new habit has to be sold, and the leader is the salesperson until the habit is formed and becomes part of the culture. The leader has to coninuously evangelize the attractiveness of the new habit, as well as the resulting satisfaction; remember that the team does not fully grasp or buy-in to your vision until they have experienced it
It takes time. All studies have shown that consistency over a long period of time is what it takes to form new habits. They are never formed by just laying out the strategy and expecting that all have heard it and that they will take all the actions on their own to form new habits. NOT GONNA HAPPEN….The execution must be planned so that it is delivered in chunks and with multiple iterations and consistent inspection points
It is true that trust is the primary requirement to leading effectively, but the immediate runner up is accountability. Without both, you will get knocked off the leadership podium.
To provide a narrative……
A leader starts with their new team (new team or just new to them) and their first course of action is to build genuine relationships/trust through their actions. This goes on for a while and all is seemingly great. The team loves their leader and they trust them. The leader is also happy with how things are going and they trust their team, and now we have a tipping point because it is at this point that it is easy to start making dangerous assumptions (like that all understand their role, priorities, cadence for getting things done, what success looks like, the strategy, how and when to report, the why behind initiatives, etc.). The right move is to insert the accountability pieces as early into the mix as possible, preferably right when relationships/trust are taking hold. If the accountability step is missed, the trust that has been established can result in it taking quite a while before the reasons for inefficiency and lack of execution are apparent, thus making it the “ultimate sneaky disaster”.
To help avoid/correct this situation:
Live out the tried and true “Inspect what you expect” concept; people need this and they know it – you even need it from those you report to.
Understand that the trust you worked to build will ultimately be lost if the team is not successful. Some refrain from inserting all the needed accountability measures due to the fear of harming likeability/trust. However, the team looks to their leader to lead them to success and they expect to be held accountable. They are on/off the team because of their belief in their leader, so know that you have earned the right to do what is needed to ensure success for all.
It takes strong leadership to balance it all, but that is what is required. I have ended up thanking my mentors and leaders over the years for how they held me accountable. Without the accountability factor, I am certain neither of us would have experienced the same level of success.
Leaders will use a team to complete certain components of a project, but the key expectation of the leader is that they understand when something is really done. This is so important in regards to hitting deadlines; we can all reference projects that were completed in a quality manner, but that were overshadowed due to being late. Here is a final checklist (in order) for getting something done. Incorporating each step is what allows for proper planning, execution, and on-time results.
Final three steps in getting something DONE:
Documentation is complete (final approval has been obtained)
Tested before roll-out; There is rarely a test run that does not result in a modification. Expect and plan for a rinse and repeat cycle between items one and two
Completion of roll-out, training, and enablement; done means it is live and ready to achieve the results that made the project purposeful in the first place
We can produce on-time quality results once we understand that these three items must be part of classifying a project as “done”. As an extra bonus, the list also serves as a natural filter for prioritizing and embarking on projects. We only have so much bandwidth, and need to refrain from equating being busy with being productive.