Leaders are made; they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”. Best leaders can be greater through the power of coaching. This episode will give you valuable perspectives and fresh insights to evolve as a better leader.

As an executive coach, Gene Hammett facilitates growth in companies through transforming their leaders. He is the host of Growth Think Tank, a Podcast that strives to develop leadership skills and a deeper understanding of leadership development from expert interviews with transformational leaders.

In this episode, the tables turn as Gene coaches Trent to discover new insights about leadership. Gene also talks about employees’ value and why a sense of ownership of the company is essential. He also discusses the need to foster your organization’s culture and empower your team. This live coaching will improve your way of leadership.

Tune in to this episode to learn more about becoming a better leader for your team.

[03:00] Alright, Gene, thank you very much for making some time to come and be on the show with me. Please, for the sake of the portion of my audience who maybe doesn’t know who you are, let’s start out with that. First off, welcome to the show. And let’s start off with, who are you and what do you do?

  • Thanks, Trent. Glad to be here. I am an executive coach. I work with founders, primarily the founder CEOs of fast growth companies. You would see a lot of my clients on the Inc. 5000. So they’re privately held companies but they’re growing fast. They’ve got a lot of challenges in the leadership culture area because they’re growing fast and they want to be better leaders.

[03:39] So we’re going to do something that is a little bit different with Gene today. Rather than me interviewing Gene, as you guys have all become accustomed to me doing, we’re going to turn this into a live coaching session for yours truly. So Gene, I’m going to turn it over to you and I’m going to put you in charge of the show.

  • Well, this is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. And I just want to start right here. You’re pretty courageous by saying, “Look, you could coach me live.”

[4:11] Well, what do I got to lose? 

  • I’m sure [00:04:12 inaudible] that I know. It’s exciting to be able to work with someone who is as courageous and successful as you are. 

[4:21] Let me just ask you this question, what is your perception that I’m an executive coach, as it relates to you continue to grow your business?

  • I think the role of a coach is to challenge the thinking of the coach, i.e. to ask questions to get us thinking about the right thing. And ideally to help us form strategies that would be more likely to succeed than perhaps with we were left to our own devices.

[4:52] So I think you’ve got a lot of  the cool things in there. What’s really different is, it’s a lot more than just accountability. Today, I’m not gonna hold you accountable to anything that you say because we’re not going to do this 10 times over the next three months. We’re going to just dive in today to figure out what is the big insight that you need to be aware of as you’re growing and evolving as a leader. Ready to get started? 

  • You betcha. 

[5:17] So you’ve been very successful. But you would opened up to me in a call a couple of weeks ago. You’re just like, “You know, I’ve driven the business by having standard operating procedures, by being as hands off as possible, built a team around this.” But in this next stage, you want it to be a better leader. So what is a better leader mean to you?

  • Well as the size of my team grows and I bring more senior people in particular, onto the team, who are not just going to follow a procedure that I’ve built—that’s new territory for me. And so I’ve been reading this book called Multipliers, which is all about leadership. And it’s not the first book I’ve read on leadership, but I haven’t read one in a while. And as I’ve been reading the book, it’s got me thinking. It talks about two different types of leaders. One type is the liberator and the other type—and gosh, I was listening to it on the audiobook on the drive to the office today—and there’s a way to describe the other person. I forget the word they use but basically like the opposite of a liberator. 

And I was listening to that, and I was thinking to myself, “Boy, oh, boy. I sure hope that I’m the liberator type,” because you get a lot more from your people, if you are. We’ll call the other one, the repressor because I literally cannot remember the word that they used in the book. So the repressor is the opposite. You know, they want to be the smartest person in the room. They fill the room with other people but it’s mostly it’s window dressing. They’re not really interested in causing debate, they just want to be a dictator and make all the decisions, which is totally not my style. 

And so I got to thinking, “Well, already I’m seeing things that I probably need to improve on.” And then there’s things that I’m not seeing that I’m sure I also need to improve on. Hence why I’m reading the book to try and expose myself to ideas that aren’t necessarily in my brain just yet.

[7:11] Here’s the problem with books, books are great. I have stacks of them behind me, you have stacks behind you. We probably have friends that have written books that we’ve read, appreciated. But the book doesn’t talk back to you.

  • No.

[7:25] So as you’re going through this new material about being a multiplier, and can really kind of expanding your leadership capabilities. What’s the real insight that you’re getting that you weren’t aware of before?

  • From this book, I wouldn’t say that it’s an insight as much as there are specific tactics. So for example, this morning on the drive in, they were talking about how a company who was focused on one market, realized that the future potential of that market. So they were focused on training and they were focused on corporate training partners, I think it was. And that market was only so big and it wasn’t growing. Whereas if they were to form partnerships with educational institutions, it was a much bigger market. And so, to pivot the company from pursuing market number one to market number two was going to a great degree, sabotage what they were doing at market number one. So they had to be very, very certain that the reward of this pivot was going to exceed the risk. 

And in particular, they talked about how the leader, they had an off-site meeting, and how they brought all the senior people. And it was, the tactic to tactics that were explained in the book was, from the leader’s perspective: how to cause very deliberate debate. And then specific ways of get the marketing person, to first of all express their view from the marketing person, but then get them to trade with the technical person. And they each had to pretend they were the other and express their views that way. And all of this to cause very vigorous debate about all of the things they have talked about before making this decision. 

So I described that as a tactic because it’s a very specific way to run a meeting to solve that particular problem. And that wouldn’t have been something that would have occurred to me all on my own because I haven’t had a lot of experience doing that particular thing. At least not that way. I would have had my way of doing it, and my way is probably not going to be as effective as this way that has been described in the book. So I expect that I’ll get more and more specific epiphanies like that where I can then take notes. Probably develop a procedure for running a meeting or develop a procedure for whatever, so that I don’t have to rely on my memory to have me do those things as the use cases arise in my workplace.

[10:03] That makes a lot of sense. Given who you are and how you see the world through these standard operating procedures, is to take something like you’re reading and figure out how does that apply to the world you’re living in as a leader. 

Here’s the real insight behind leadership. And I’m gonna give you some framing here before I go into this question. But I, on my podcast—which you’ve been on because you’ve been on the Inc. 5000—I primarily have founder CEOs of the fastest growing companies out there. So I’ve had over 600 interviews with these founder CEOs, I’ve had tremendous chance to connect with what’s really driving their leadership. And the big idea that’s come out of this is leaders are willing to put their employees first over their customers. Have you ever heard this concept?

  • Oh, yes, absolutely, I have. I agree with it completely. I think my employees are far more valuable than my customers.

[10:59] And the big kind of revelation that comes back on this happens over and over again. It’s like, “You know what? It’s hard to find a really good employee but I can replace a customer.” 

  • Yes. 

[11:09] And one employee will create many customers or one employee will be able to serve many customers. And so I’ve got to make sure as a leader, I’m really taking care and making that one employee, or all the employees really feel like they’re connected to it so they’ll take care of the customers. All that makes sense, right Trent?

  • Oh, totally. It does.

[11:31] So are you experiencing any kind of specific frustrations, or stressors as it comes to leadership or culture, and the way that business is running right now?

  • Frustrations or stressors? Well, I would say that—I wouldn’t say it’s a frustration, and maybe I would use the word stressor. But the situation is this. So for the software company, we have two markets. We have Amazon resellers, where we have lots of traction. We’ve sold millions of dollars worth of the web’s product, and those people all become customers of the software. And so I’m quite confident that I know that market. 

Going forward, we are pursuing a—simultaneously, a different market. And that’s the brands themselves. And we’re coming to them and saying, “Look, we’ve got this thing called the Amazon seller playbook. “Hey Mr. Brand Owner, if you want to run your own amazon seller central accounts, and you don’t have the processes or the procedures for that, guess what? We do.” And they’re been proven to work by the people that we collaborated with on the development of those procedures. 

I don’t know that customer segment nearly as well. I know them from running my Amazon business where I formed relationships with many of them about becoming a reseller. But I never tried to sell them software, I never tried to sell them procedures. I was just saying, like, “Hey, I’ll work with you as a reseller,” because that’s a separate business that I own. 

So now, we’re betting a lot of my money over the next 90 days. I’ve hired a VP of Marketing, she’s put a lot of time into go to market strategy. We’re putting time into creating the product. We’ve had to form partnerships to create the product then we’re gonna have to run a bunch of ads. What if it doesn’t work? What if we get skipped zero traction? 

Now, I don’t think that’s going to be the case. But it’s absolutely a possibility that we could completely strike out. And I will have blown $40 or $50,000 on this experiment of my money during that period of time. And I don’t like losing money. So, there’s some stress there for sure.

[13:39] So there’s a lot of things we could look on that what you just talked about. One of them is the fear of losing money. Another one is, you’ve got this new hire because I know you told me that she’s been on board for how long? 

  • 21 days. 

[13:56] Okay, so she’s really new but she’s more experienced. And so she’s coming in with—you are expecting her to pick up the ball and run with it on a lot of the strategies, and the things that you’ve been doing to market the business. Is that fair?

  • It is fair. And I don’t want to say that actually losing money is the biggest fear, it’s not. It’s losing the time.

[14:15] Okay.

  • Because I wanna get traction.

[14:19] So, if the biggest fear is losing time, let’s take a look at that. Okay, when you—how does it impact you when you think about losing time?

  • Oh, there’s nothing I hate more than wasting time.

[14:36] Okay, but how does it show up in your day? Like, is this something you’re constantly thinking about? Is it pulling energy away from you or something else?

  • I would say that anytime I feel as though I invested time to do something, and then I realized after the fact that that was a waste. It is incredibly frustrating. It puts me in a foul mood and probably makes my wife don’t want to be around me.

[15:05] Well, if we could get to the heart of that and reframe it, are you familiar with this reframing? 

  • Yes. 

[15:11] Okay. Would that help you as a leader?

  • Would it help me to be less perturbed when I’ve felt as though I’ve wasted time? Sure. I suspect that it would. Is that—but my bigger problem is not so much the feeling of like I don’t lose sleep over the fact that I wasted time today, it’s the plight of the entrepreneur. Certain experiments succeed, certain experiments fail. So I wouldn’t say this is this massive stressor for me. 

The thing that I’m much more concerned about is getting traction with—because I don’t want to get 90 days into this. And I guess this is a by-product of wasted time, and realize, “Oh, crap, that didn’t work. Our entire go to market strategy was wrong. And now we have to go back to the drawing board and take another stab at it.” And that could result in losing too, a lot of time and money, especially if we get it wrong, say, twice in a row. 

[16:17] Yes.

  • And because I’ve deliberately chosen to not raise money from investors for the company, there’s only so much in the bank until it runs out. And if I don’t get my go to market strategy, at least reasonably well-dialed in, before I burned through all my own cash. My ability to raise money from investors will probably be hamstrung. And that could ultimately result in the end of the company, which would be catastrophic.

[16:50] So I get all that, but what you’re talking about is all the things that could go wrong. And I know you’ve probably done some thoughts. You wouldn’t have created this strategy to move forward if you weren’t really positive that it would go right.

  • Oh, yes, we’re not throwing darts at a dartboard by any stretch of the imagination. So the possibility exists that it will not work, but the probability I feel is quite low.

[17:18] So a lot of times with my job in executive coaching, I’ve got to find out what’s really the issue. We started with this whole thing, I want to be a better leader. But we’ve moved into something a little bit different now is, “You know what? I’ve got this big thing that we’re doing as a team and it might not work out. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s going to stress me out, frustrate me. It’s going to wrap me up for a while but I got to make it work.” Which one’s better to talk about right now? Improving your leadership or to talk about this one aspect of it might not work out?

  • Let’s work on improving leadership because…

[17:53] Okay.

  • …the might not work out, might not happen. Improving leadership absolutely must happen, so I think we could focus on that one.

[18:02] I’ll leave you with this and those listening in here is, many times we focus on something that might not work out. And I think Mark Twain has said something similar to, “I’ve stressed over a lot of things that never happened.” 

  • Oh, yeah. 

[18:16] Something to that effect. And I’ve been sucked in that too. And what we’ve got to realize is—I study fast growth companies, and it’s amazing how each one of those companies has had a different relationship with failure than those companies that are risk averse. And they know that failure is the way forward, not something to be avoided. But something to be managed and something to be understood, as opposed to—and learn from—as opposed to something to let it stop us. We all know that at some logical level, right?

  • Absolutely.

[18:52] Alright, so let’s focus on the better leadership because that’s where you want to focus. Although the reframing of that would be a powerful experience, I think for everyone. Better leadership—here’s the thing that I think that you have to realize is, what do you define as the kind of leader you want to be? What are the words you put with this vision of the leadership that really kind of something you aspire to?

  • So, it’s a good question, I’m going to take a moment to think about it. I would think that good leadership is a combination of you having the confidence of your team, that you know what you’re doing, and that you have a vision that they buy into, number one. That you are empowering them with whatever resources or guidance they require, so that they can do their jobs to the best of their ability to bring that vision to reality. And then to not get in their way.

[19:59] Yes. I wrote down some notes here. I’m going to take all three of those, but I’m going to try to take them in a different order than you gave me. You talked about the confidence of the team in the leader. You talked about the vision for the company, and then empowering those people. Let’s look at the vision first. When you think about the kind of team you’re building, how would you describe that team? Not the product, not the solution, not the market, not the sales, but how would you describe the team?

  • The team, thus far, is comprised of some very talented individuals who have extensive experience in their respective areas, who are collaborating together on making the vision become a reality.

[20:49] When you say those words—very talented people—that means you’re hiring the best. You’re not trying to hire the cheapest person. Fair?

  • No, the VP of Marketing was the most expensive person I’ve ever hired on. I don’t even pay myself as much as I’m paying her.

[21:04] I get that. And that’s part of your ability to be an entrepreneur, and you’re not afraid to take these risks. That’s really something I can appreciate. You want them to collaborate. They need to collaborate probably internally, but also externally. Is all that true?

  • Absolutely. 

[21:22] And if you’re building that kind of team, what kind of leader do you need to be, that creates that kind of vision?

  • So, that’s where the book the Multipliers have been helpful. I need to be what the book calls liberator. And a liberator has five components, and I wish I could remember all five off the top of my head but I cannot. I’ll try, and I think I’ve been making notes in my phone, I’ll try and look them up while I’m talking. 

But one of the most important things of the liberator is that they cause debate that they’re not trying to make—I don’t want to be the guy sitting in the room telling everybody what to do because why am I paying these people to be here? Why am I paying them this much money, if I’m just ultimately telling them all what to do? And I would be telling them what to do, only from my own perspective, and my own experience, which is, relatively speaking, pretty limited. I haven’t done everything.

[22:21] Let me pause you right there. 

  • Sure.

[22:23] We could go through the list, and we don’t need to because I think what we’re going to do is have just a real conversation around what is leadership for you. This causing debate is a way to empower someone to have ideas, which is very important for you to have a team that has their own ideas, right? So what does that mean for your ideas?

  • My ego is not so fragile that I don’t see that as negative at all. Their ideas are better than my ideas. Hallelujah, brother.

[22:59] And is the right approach for you because you have—it’s not black or white. There’s some gray areas in this leadership as you develop people. We’ve already said that your marketing director’s 21 days into this new role. You’re still building trust. But would you say that you trust that person to a high degree?

  • Absolutely. I should quantify that by saying she actually worked with us on a part time basis first. So she’s been full time for 21 days, but I’ve actually been working with her for several months now.

[23:28] Perfect. So you had a little trial before you buy? 

  • Yes. 

[23:31] And now you’ve got into this. How important is it for you to continue trusting her as she’s putting together this strategy? You talked about the 90-day strategy, we go back to that for a second, that you truly trust her?

  • Absolutely critical.

[23:45] And what would get—what gets in the way of trust, Trent?

  • I think when expectations and reality don’t align on an ongoing basis. In other words, or an example of that, as you said, you were going to do something and you didn’t do it. For me that breaks trust quickly.

[24:08] Okay. And how is your procedures right? Now I know you’re SOP guy, at setting expectations for people on your team. You can use her as an example.

  • Funny that you asked that. I actually—I found some content from an influencer on the web last night, about how to perform one-on-ones, like you would do with a subordinate. And I set it over my wife, and asked her to create a procedure for it because I knew that I didn’t have one yet.

[24:41] These one-on-ones, what did you learn from that, that you can share with us? That something that you didn’tthat you want to incorporate, and that you weren’t aware of?

  • There’s nothing I can share because I didn’t really go into detail reading it. I just respected the individual that created it and I thought if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for us.

[24:57] I will tell you, I’m gonna break down the coaching here for a second, just kind of give you some insight around this. A lot of people believe those one-on-ones are just another chance to discuss the projects, the milestones, the results so far, the data, the objectives, key results—all that stuff. But what if the one-on-ones are really quite different than that conversation?

  • I would expect who they would be, because I can have all those meetings to cover all that other stuff all the time. We do it every week.

[25:28] Yes, you do that in your stand-up meetings. You do that in your weekly meetings. Whatever it may be is your rhythm and cadence of rhythms of meetings. But you, that one-on-one is a chance for you not to talk about the work that they’re doing, but to talk about the leadership experience that they’re getting and receiving? What do you think? Where could you improve?

  • Absolutely. I already asked her the other day. But I mean, part of—I sent her a message in Slack that said, more or less, “You and I have not yet talked about how I should manage you.” And I didn’t use the word manager because I thought that that was actually somewhat condescending. But she corrected me, she goes, “Well, you are my boss so you are managing me.” And so we had a very great conversation. And I I said to her, “Who’s your favorite boss?” and she named a guy, “of all the people you have ever worked for.” And I said, “So what made him so—such a standout boss for you?” And she explained that he had a military background, and he was very procedure-oriented. And I laughed, I was like, high five—we’re gonna get along great. So that was, I think that was an answer to your question.

[26:38:] You know, I love the fact that you went back into her history because I think a lot of leaders are afraid to go back into something personal. And that’s a really great question to use. So, I will actually use that in some of my work here. 

The main thing behind this one-on-one, if you truly want to empower someone you want to create this collaboration, is for you to have the kind of trust for that person that you have for your own family. 

  • Yes. 

[27:06] And for you not to let your past experiences, your past, get in the way of that. When I say get in the way of it, you’ve been very successful with this. You’ve executed it on this first market, the Amazon reseller market, almost by yourself with a part of your team. But now you’re expecting her to create the strategy and move forward with the brand [00: 27:31 unintelligible] themselves. Right?

  • Yes, what she’s been hired to do is take us to the new market. I’ve already handled the old market.

[27:40] Perfect. So, what I’m trying to put a spotlight on here for you, is if you treat her like a VA that you have put on your team before.

  • Oh, I don’t do that. 

[27:52] You would not get to where you want to be, right?

  • Hell no. That is the exact opposite of what I did.

[27:58] So, here’s the question I want to ask you behind this, Trent. And this is all in the line of being a better leader. How can you step back with your own ideas and let her give you the best ideas? And let her make the decisions that are necessary for the company to move forward?

  • And that is exactly what I’m doing. And I would be willing to bet if you asked her that question, she would give you the same answer as me. I don’t give her directive, per se. I say, “This is the result that we’ve agreed we need to get to.” To use her words, when she described her favorite boss, she said, “You need to get to the top of that mountain. I don’t care how you do it. You just need to get to the top of that mountain. And I’ll be there to support you along your way. But you have figured out how to do it.” And that is the approach because she’s a senior person with substantial experience in areas that I don’t have experience. I am not at all trying to say you have to get to the top of that mountain and here’s the procedure to do it.

[29:01] So this is exactly what a lot of people have to learn the hard way. So you already know to a—the instinct to be a better leader is, your job is to cast the vision and let them do it. 

  • Yes.

[29:15] Step out of the way. And the one thing I was kind of concerned with you and I don’t think we have to be concerned with it. But I’ll just go ahead and say it, is that you’re such a SOP person that you would say, “Here’s my SOP, go make it happen.”

  • No, never heard that conversation.

[29:30] That’s not what you’re doing?

  • No. I’ve told her, “When you do things, I want you to create SOPs that you create.” But now I’m not giving her. Like there’s a few things, for example, we published a blog post that I’m starting this SEO right along series and the post was just published. It’s the most recent post on Flowster’s blog. And it’s an opportunity for people to look over our shoulders, we’ve become more successful with SEO. 

And I messaged her on Slack this morning and I said, “You know the post is live. We now need to promote it.” Within our procedure we have some promotional activities but I said, “I don’t think that’s comprehensive enough. And I need you to figure that out.”

[30:05] Yes, fill in the gaps.

  • Fill in the gaps.

[30:06] I love that approach, especially 21 days into it, or a few months into it, is to give them some support but give them the leeway to do it themselves. Because here’s what I haven’t said already, but I want to just kind of make sure you’re aware of my research with fast growth companies is it’s not just hiring great people. But your job as a leader is to inspire them to feel like owners, even when they don’t have a financial stake.

  • And she does have a financial stake. So she gets to feel like an owner.

[30:37] Which is great. But how do you show up as a leader that inspires that financial, that ownership whenwith others? And there’s a few key factors in there, you’ve already talked about one of them was vision. And so having a strong vision that it’s very clear to where we’re going, the top of the mountain, as you said. Great kind of analogy. So you do that really well. 

Another aspect to that, I won’t go into all my research, but empowering someone. So when you are truly empowering someone, what does that look like in your world?

  • I give them the support and resources they need to get to the top of the mountain however they see fit to get there.

[31:18] Love that. Adding to that, it’s, “The best ideas win.” 

  • Yes. 

[31:26] Which is very different than, “My ideas win.” And creating a culture where the best ideas win is what makes people feel like owners.

  • Yes, that’s—I believe it’s called a meritocracy. And the hedge fund manager from Bridgewater, whose name is escaping me right now…

[31:45] Ray Dalio. 

  • Ray Dalio, thank you very much. He is famous for that.

[31:50] Absolutely. And one of my number one articles on Ink Magazine, is about writing about Ray Dalio’s concept of radical transparency. We haven’t jumped into that today. I know we’re trying to wind this down. How transparent are you with your team as leader?

  • Fully. Everything that we…

[32:07] Where do you draw the line? There’s always a line. But where do you draw it?

  • I don’t know that I have an answer for that. Am I sharing the cash balance with her on a daily basis? No. But she knew before I hired her how much there was because I told her. So I’m pretty darn transparent. 

I like to do things and have everybody because if you—to quote Jack Stack and The Great Game Of Business, which is another book I read years ago and loved, “When you sit down to play a game, everybody knows that they’re trying to win. And everybody understands the rules. And everybody knows how to keep score.” Because if you didn’t have those pieces of information, you couldn’t play the game. 

Well, Jack’s premise is business is just a game. It’s the great game of business. So in business, if you’re not giving all of the rules and how to keep score, how the hell do they know if they’re winning? They don’t.

[33:08] I totally agree with you. And in that book, it goes a little bit further, it says, “When we share financials, we don’t just give them numbers and let them kind of figure it out for themselves, we actually train our people…”

  • We teach it. 

[33:19] “…to look at the numbers, what kind of decisions they’re making, what part of their job relates to the numbers,” which is, and that goes back to that transparency. 

So what we’ve been talking about here today is about you being a leader. One of the big things that you being a better leader, that I can just—can I be direct with you for a moment?

  • Please do.

[33:41] Is that you have a lot of practical knowledge. You’re well read. You’ve talked to a lot of people. You’ve had a lot of experience yourself. But what happens when we have done this before is sometimes we want to solve their problems for them. 

I’m not saying you’re doing that for anyone inside your company. But here’s one thing if you want, truly want to create a culture of collaboration and culture where people feel that sense of empowerment. And as I the words I use, they feel like owners, even when they’re not, is to truly trust them to the place where if they have a problem, they can figure it out for themselves.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s absolutely critical. And that’s one of the things where I pride myself on asking questions. I mean, if it’s something that I already know the solution to, like if she were to ask me, “How do you do this in active campaign? How do you do this thing?” I’m not likely to say, “Well go figure that on your own,” when I already know how to do it, I’m going to share with her how to do it. But if it’s something that is, that I don’t necessarily have the greatest solution to, I’m absolutely going to say, “Well, I think you need to figure that out on your own because that’s what I hired you for.” 

[34:56] Yes.

  • I do need to interrupt us, just for one moment, to bring—we’ve got a sponsor for this particular episode. So I am going to let that sponsor message run right now. 

If you’re looking to start your own e-commerce business on the Amazon platform, which is definitely where I recommend, I’d like to invite you to an upcoming free training session where I’ll be sharing the three specific tactics that I used in my own business to achieve a rank of number 254 on the Inc. 5000. Register today at brightideas.co/masterclass

  • All right, got to pay some of the bills, you know.

[35:33] So Trent, as we start to land this plane, some of the fears I think you’ve had about being a better leader, you’ve already got a good foundation, you understand that, it’s more than just getting the work done, that you’ve got to really create a relationship with that person, by you having the personal conversation with her about her previous boss that allows you to tune in. 

I would urge you to keep doing that because there’s many more questions you can do to understand her. And the better you understand her, the more she’ll feel connected, more she’ll feel understood, and the more trust that will be there between you. Is that fair?

  • Is this marriage counselling?

[36:11] No, there’s a lot of correlation between marriage and leadership. I could write a book on it. But what you’re really talking about here is being a better leader. I think your fears of this are probably something that you’re making up in your head, if I can just be honest with you. Well, I don’t want to…

  • I want to clarify, I’m not scared that I’m a bad leader. Not at all. I actually think I’m a pretty good leader, but there’s always room to improve.

[36:43] Here’s the things that I would let you focus on as we—this comes to an end, is get really clear on not the vision of just the company but the vision of the team. Take some time to truly talk about what kind of team and how you’re going to engage together. When you do that, you’ll be able to cast the vision for what it’s necessary as the team grows because it’s going to grow from here. 

I would also urge you to take the time to truly lead the people because one of the things that people get wrong in this whole journey of leadership is they manage the work, but they forget to lead the people. There’s a lot of conversations about milestones, and projects, and data. But they’re not actually leading the people, helping the people be more confident for themselves. So you might ask questions like, “What are you afraid of?” to the people that you’re leading. 

  • I like that.

[37:38] And giving them a chance to talk about those fears, just like your fear of it might not work out, right? 

  • Yes. 

[37:48] It’s amazing how much work we as leaders will go get. We’re in masterminds, we’re in other coaching relationships, and no one’s actually doing that for our employees. 

So one of the skills that you probably are going to have to work on is your ability to coach someone, not just delegate. Coaching is a skill that you’ve learned through you doing it, just like you’ve probably done. But coaching that person is not telling them what to do, but it’s actually getting them to figure out what their next step is, and giving them the confidence to go do it.

  • So give me two—because I’d love to make notes. Give me two more questions on the back of, “What are you afraid of?”  So if I was doing—and I can weave these into conversations anywhere. I can have a dedicated meeting about it, what have you. Give me two more questions that I can add into my notes that I might want to ask.

[38:37] Absolutely. So once they’ve said what they’re afraid of, you might want to ask the question, “Why?” I know it’s a very simple question. But you, and you can ask them a series of why questions to get to the heart of it, because what they typically will say in the beginning, is not the real reason they’re afraid. Just like your example of your fear of losing money turned out to be your fear of losing time. 

  • Yes. 

[39:01] Which turned out to be, a whole bunch of other things. So that’s the first step. The second step is, ask them the question of, “So now that we know what the fear is, how do you need to show up to address that?” What you’re looking for is for them to say, “You know what, I need to be a little more courageous, or I need to trust myself, or I need to have the confidence that I’ll figure this out no matter what.” And if you have those kind of conversations, and you’re able to support them, they will know that you’re not there just to solve the problem for them. You’re actually getting underneath what the real issue is and helping them be more courageous and confident in their own journey. So that makes sense?

  • Yes, makes a ton of sense.

[39:48] The biggest problem I see with people that want to be better leaders, is they’re not taking the time to do this. They want to rush through things. They want to get things done. They’ve got all this stuff to do. They’re hiring someone to give them more time, but then they’re not actually taking the time to have the conversations necessary. So I would ask you to slow down so that you can speed up.

  • Yes, that makes a lot of sense.

[40:13] So it’s been helpful?

  • It has been.

[40:16] So Gene, thank you very much for taking some time to come and be on the show. It has been a pleasure to have you here. I do hope that the exercise that we’ve just gone through was valuable for members of the audience. If it was, if you had any insights guys, I’d love to hear it. If you’re watching this on YouTube, leave a comment below. If you are listening to this on whatever podcast listening app, you can give me a shout out on Twitter or you can come leave a comment on Facebook or you can join the Facebook group that I talked about earlier brightideas.co/facebook. And let’s do our best to make this as a valuable, learning experience for everybody as possible. 

Gene, I’m sure that if I get questions come in, I’ll make sure that you’re aware of them. So I want to thank everybody for taking a moment to listen if you have not already done so we’d love it. If you would subscribe, rate, and review on your favorite podcast listening app. To get to the show notes for today’s episode, you’ll be able to go to brightideas.co/341.

Thanks very much for listening to the bright ideas. Check us out on the web at brightideas.co.

Gene Hammett’s Bright Ideas  

  • Set the Vision
  • Empower Your Team
  • Create a Collaborative Culture 
  • Build Trust and Relationships 
  • Instill Ownership 

Set the Vision

In this episode, Gene switches roles with host Trent as the interviewer in the podcast. As a long-time executive coach for fast-growing companies, he’ll explore in this podcast Trent’s experience as a leader to find insights regarding his management methodology and how to transform into an even better leader for his team.

But, what defines leaders? For Gene, he emphasizes that, first of all, leaders set a vision

There has to be a clear vision for both the company and the team. A great leader´s role is to focus on this vision and empower his team with the resources and guidance needed to bring it to reality.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to envision your goal. However, you have to let your team figure out the way to reach the goal. A good analogy for this is that it’s like climbing a mountain. As a leader, you are to instruct your team to go to the top of a mountain. You have to trust them to rise by themselves while using whatever means they think is necessary to achieve the goal. Your role as a leader is to support them along the way. 

“The instinct to be a better leader is, your job is to cast the vision and let them do it. Step out of the way,” Gene adds.

Empower Your Team

From years of coaching fast-growing companies, a common trait of successful leaders is that they are willing to put their employees first over their customers.

After all, valuable and trusted employees are irreplaceable compared to customers. In this scenario, Gene emphasizes the importance of prioritizing the employees. If employees feel appreciated and valued, they will, in turn, provide the care your customers need.

Gene reiterates, “It’s hard to find a really good employee, but I can replace a customer. One employee can create or serve many customers. And so I’ve got to make sure as a leader, I´m really taking care and making that one employee, or all the employees really feel like they’re connected to it so they´ll take care of the customers.”

You can help your employees feel more confident and give them a chance to talk about their fears by asking the following questions:

  • What are you afraid of?
  • Why are you afraid of this?
  • How can we address this fear? 

Get underneath the real issue, and give them the confidence to go on their journey.

Create a Collaborative Culture 

Each organization has its own culture. Cultivating a cohesive and collaborative culture is crucial in achieving the vision you have set for the team. 

This being said, it is critical to let the team solve their problems. Avoid spoon-feeding and doing their job for them.

At the same time, you can use transparency to foster a culture of collaboration between people in a team. 

Being honest about the company’s position and providing as much information as possible to help the team bring the best out of people. Less closed-door conversations, allowing both agreement and disagreement, constructive criticism, and honest feedback to each other, create a safe and trusting space to work.

“Creating a culture where the best ideas win is what makes people feel like owners,” Gene stresses. And when your employees feel like owners, they will be at their best.

Build Trust and Relationships

Trust is the foundation of both healthy relationships and effective leadership. Most of the time, we aren’t aware that our interactions with colleagues become so work-oriented that we don’t take the time to know them personally.

Managers can sometimes be wary of digging too much into the personal lives of employees. Nonetheless, having a good grasp of their history can provide much-needed insight into their work style and preferences. 

Trent asked his VP of Marketing who her favorite boss was, which ultimately led him to know more about her background and preference for order and procedures.

“Take the time to truly lead the people because one of the things people get wrong in this whole leadership journey is they manage the work, but they forget to lead the people,” Gene says.

Nonetheless, keep in mind that a stable relationship is one with a strong foundation. Don’t rush things. Slow down so you can ultimately speed up.

Instill Ownership

To become an effective leader, you should instill a sense of responsibility and ownership for your company. You may be the business valid owner, but you can also let the team take pride in the successes and find opportunities in the failures to allow them to realize their potential.

“It’s not just hiring great people. But your job as a leader is to inspire them to feel like owners, even when they don’t have a financial stake,” Gene emphasizes

It is indeed difficult to convince people to care about your business, especially when they have no financial stake. But this is where a strong vision, ability to inspire, empowering relationships, and a collaborative culture come into play. These values are what every leader should strive for in their organization.

What Did We Learn from This Episode?

  1. We learned Gene’s way of coaching and transforming leaders.
  2. Successful and fast-growing companies value employees more than customers.
  3. It’s essential to have a vision for your team, but you have to let them work independently to bring that vision to reality.
  4. Communication and conversation are vital in making employees feel ownership.
  5. Build a culture of trust and collaboration.
  6. Leadership isn’t about managing work but about inspiring people.

Episode Highlights

[03:16] Who Gene is and his work as a business coach

  • Gene is a Leadership Executive Coach, working with fast-growing company’s founders and CEOs, some of which are part of the Inc 5000.
  • The podcast will be in a coaching format where Gene will be the interviewer and ask questions to Trent.
  • As a coach, Gene doesn’t focus on just accountability but more on helping leaders figure out the significant insight that will help them grow and evolve.

[05:37] The podcast discusses how to be a better leader for your team

  • Trent listened to an audiobook about being a better leader and a multiplier before recording the podcast. The problem with books is that they don’t talk back to you; it requires a caring, understanding, passionate coach to make those words come to life.
  • The big idea of being a better leader, according to this podcast, is to trust your team and put them first.
  • Employees aren’t as replaceable as customers, and employees can take care of many customers.

[11:30] Current stressors and frustrations when it comes to business and leadership

  • Trent is currently pursuing a different market, but he doesn’t know this customer segment as well. 
  • At the moment, they are at risk of having no traction and effectively wasting time and money in marketing efforts.
  • Trent’s biggest fear is not losing money, but losing time and the frustration that comes along. But he learned that failure is not to be avoided but to be managed and understood.
  • Most of the time, we focus on the things that might not work out instead of the favorable scenario of it working out.
  • Companies that embrace failure as part of the process grow more than risk-averse companies.

[19:18] The vision of both the better leader we aspire to become and the team we should have

  • Trent believes that a better leader has confidence in his team and empowers them to perform their best in bringing a vision to reality.
  • It is essential to include a team of talented individuals with extensive experience and strong collaboration skills in your leadership vision.
  • For Trent, it’s about letting employees do their own thing and trusting they will aim for the team’s best interests.
  • Setting expectations is crucial in building trust and knowing how to become a better manager.

[24:22] Communication and the science of having insightful relationships with your team

  • In one on one conversations and meetings, try to learn more about the other person’s past and interests, and build trust by letting them do their job.
  • As a leader, you provide the vision, and after that, you trust your people to do their best to get there. Create a culture where the best ideas win.

[31:48] Radical transparency and the need for honesty

  • Business is a game. It’s essential to give the employees all the rules and explain to them how to score so they know whether they’re winning.
  • Let your team solve their problems instead of doing it for them and create a culture of collaboration and empowerment.

[35:33] The podcast tells what to focus on to become a better leader

  • Get a clear vision not just for the company but for the entire team as well.
  • Don’t micromanage work. Lead the people to become self-confident.
  • Coaching is not just telling them what to do. It’s empowering people to take the next step.
  • Pay attention to the history behind their motivations. Support your team by helping them address their underlying fears.
  • Take the time to have conversations with your team and build relationships with them. Slow down to speed up.

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Today’s Guest

Gene Hammett is a leading expert on high-growth company culture and leadership. He has decades of experience with more than $40 million in revenue for the companies he has led and owned. Gene has interviewed more than 530 CEOs of high-growth companies to understand the core principles of fast growth. He consults companies to activate new growth and reduce the high cost of ineffective leadership.

After 15 years of being a serial entrepreneur, Gene has built teams and taken many companies to two times and three times growth. He has worked with more than two dozen companies on the Inc 5000 list. Recently he realized the biggest driver to fast growth was the ability for companies to create a growth culture and leadership that inspires ownership.

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