Five Leadership Tips for Tough Times Every Mature Executive Needs to Learn.
Working as an agent of change in support of executives comes with scars and stars. The stars are the memories that have power to change us for the better. The scars are best left as lessons learned and give time and attention to heal. But, wow, when you work beside a star boss or on a star team, your life is never the same.
There are five top performing bosses and the teams that surrounded them that have taught me powerful lessons in living and management. Let me share these with you. You can grow in a minute under the right coaching. It would take a book to list all the lessons each of these leaders taught me, so I’ll just highlight five lessons that I believe every mature executive should learn.
Schille’s All Stars: Hard Times Bring Growth: John Schille is an incredible coach and leader. In 2004, John was distinguished as the number one CIO in the United States and his organization received the same accolade. At the time, I wa honored to be a director on John’s direct report team. The performance level of the organization was tops. The responsiveness to technical disruption was specific and on target. The vision for the future, while working with John was unending.
During one incredibly hard season of growth of a department I had been assigned to improve, I remember sitting and discussing with John. He looked directly into my eyes and said, “Phil, you’ll find that under the hardest times you look back and realize you grow the most.” He was right. I’ve remembered that lesson among many others ever since.
Guida’s Good Days: Reward When No One is Looking: John Guida has a hard compassion about him that molded me. He believed in me in extreme circumstance. We had some tough discussions as we worked alongside a great team to pull a company out of chapter 11. In 18 months, it was accomplished through amazing team effort. After a pressing year, John came into my office with a sizeable surprise bonus. By company regulation I was not eligible for bonus. It was just not that company’s style. But, here it was. John had gone up the chain for me when I had no idea what was happening.
McCreery’s Mountain: Be Gracious In All Seaons: Mike McCreey is one of the most grateful men for whom I have worked. As CFO of a struggling company, he exampled kindness and gratitude. Every Friday, when the key operational management team would meet, Mike was first to have the coffee made and served. He exemplified servant leadership.
One afternoon, I was in Mike’s office waiting for the third person to join us in a decision. His secretary came in to serve us. Mike made sure he thanked her for her act. I’m sure he must have said thank you many times a day. He turned to me and spoke in a calm and deliberate voice, “Phil, this world would be much better if people just learned to say thank you.” It was a real strength in his life.
Heil’s Salvation: Build the Man With Care: Bob Heil was a mountain of man. Heil means salvation in German. Bob lived to serve others and assist them in rescuing themselves from themselves. For two years, I was honored to study under Bob in a school he and Linn Haitz started to develop young men into movers and shakers. It was leadership intensive.
At one point, Bob and I crossed swords. I was young and impulsive and wanting to run out on my own and take the world. He was mature and sensitive and giving me ample rope to hang myself but not so much to die doing it. When I realized how stupidly I was acting, I went to Bob and asked his counsel. He immediately understood, forgave me my stupidity, and gave me great counsel. He could have responded in many ways to my mistakes. He chose to respond with wisdom in order to allow me growth. He chose to build the man in me with care and firmness.
Dryden’s Dynamics: Rest Stop Ahead: Ron Dryden has a sense of compassion and marketing and team dynamics not seen in many. I think of many of the great coaches of national champion teams when I think of Ron. Keeping a stable of stallions in motion is an art and a craft. He did it well.
Our team took on an amazing challenge. How do you take a white non-profit organization and move it to become multi-cultural while tripling the size? This was a hard task. There were many days of pains and problems. The community in which we served was racially divided and antagonistic to these ideals. My office was full of complaints and finger pointing as were the offices of the other team leaders. As the Director of Operations, I handled everything from plumbing to prisons.
Big events were common, time consuming, exhausting, and rewarding. Ron taught us to be rested going into a big event versus thinking we would rest on the other side. That wisdom has served me well over the years. Our tendency is to believe we can push to the max and then rest. Yet, what if the big event works and we harvest big on the other side in sales, people, whatever we looked to accomplish? Then we will be exhausted and unable to work the harvest of our efforts. Rest up ahead of a big thrust.
Summary: These five lessons can serve any leader. As a change agent for most of my career, I’ve been called upon to work through tough situation after tough situation. In each I’ve been able to act with growth, reward, graciousness, care, and rest. It was these leaders that developed that into me by example. Leadership is example. That is another lesson.
Contact Phil Larson, Director of Shepherd Consulting firstname.lastname@example.org 405-388-8037…
Phil is a dynamic speaker, author, mentor, and agent of change. His organization works to help executives and managers achieve their goals and dreams through decisive dynamics. he is available to help you achieve your dreams.