It seems hard to believe, but it has been four years since we suddenly lost our president, Kevin McKervey. I am forever grateful for Kevin’s mentoring and preparing me for the leadership position. However, no matter how well you are coached on the challenges of being the company president, you can only really appreciate and grasp the challenges of the role by actually being in it and living it. After four years, I thought I would share what I have learned, or more appropriately, got a greater appreciation of, in my role of President.
The business management guru Pat Lencioni states that healthy organizations align their employees around organizational clarity by communicating key messages and then developing a plan to “over-communicate” these messages. This is excellent advice. I have learned that the communication of the organizational focus is perhaps my most important job. Now everyone knows that communication is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship, either personal or professional. However, communicating is not enough; I do believe that you have to have a strategy on over-communicating. It is clear that there is a direct correlation of the firm’s cohesiveness, efficiency, happiness, etc. and the timing and clarity of the communication of key firm matters. If I sense that things are going wrong here, it is usually because of lack of communication or clarity of the message.
All about the Culture
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. My personal advisor, Stephanie Murphy, shares this Peter Drucker quote often. Now, this doesn’t mean a good strategy isn’t important. We all know it is vital. However, in this ultra-competitive world, a good strategy is not enough. You need to execute well and understand that firm politics, morale, and turnover are inhibitors of good execution and the direct result of a poor organizational culture. An organization with a culture of personal accountability, trust, and esprit de corps creates the type of coordination and cooperation among team members vital for execution. Fortunately, my predecessors Kevin McKervey and Don Clayton understood this well and preached this message. However, being in this position has allowed me to truly appreciate the power of strong firm culture. An outstanding culture is a grease that keeps the wheel turning. And, in being commander-in-chief of culture, it is important to model the way.
Cream Rises to the Top
I had the great fortune of joining the firm right out of college while my mentor, Don Clayton, was leading the firm. What I will always remember is how Don, more than anything else, was always working to build my confidence. Because of this, I thought the next challenge was always achievable. Identifying those talented individuals who are excited to be part of the team, willing to take on new challenges, and who have demonstrated that they are willing to make a great personal investment, is the recipe for great leaders. The results from these eager and talented professionals when given the chance to lead, with doses of confidence building, has been remarkable. They amaze me with the new ideas, innovation, and excitement that they bring to their role.
“Be Conscientious, Not Clever”
Again, this is a Peter Drucker quote. This is his way of reminding business leaders that just because they become the leaders, that they are not given some magical formula to identify trends and opportunities that others cannot. Though you are now a leader, don’t be clever and try to “create” the next new thing, but instead, be conscientious to what is happening around you. The signs of the future are all around you. You just need to listen and be attentive to these changes. And, there is no better way to listen to the future than listen to your customers, employees, competitors, thought leaders, and advisors. With my new role, I have had to build new networks to get exposure to the thought leaders and business leaders in my industry. Their contribution has been valuable to many of the initiatives we are championing inside the firm.