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Business Observer Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022 1 week ago

Be a better leader: Have the courage to maintain a growth mindset

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Becoming a top-notch leader, according to one company that studies it daily, requires a high-energy commitment to the craft combined with deep concern for others.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Joey Brannon gets right to it: he detests clichés.  

“Sometimes,” Brannon says, “the journey sucks.” 

A business consultant and small business owner, Brannon says that in connection, of course, to the line that it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey. Speaking to a room of some 75 people at a recent seminar presented by his Lakewood Ranch-based company, Axiom Strategic Consulting, Brannon was going over the dos and don’ts of a company mission statement. Avoiding clichés — think “we are honest” or “we treat everyone like family” —  in a mission, vision or values statement is a must-do, he says. In today’s battle to keep hard-to-impress GenZ employees engaged at work, punting trite phrases is particularly important. 

Brannon, also a CPA and 2007 Business Observer 40 under 40 winner, illustrates his point with a fictional story about taking employees on a long car ride to New Mexico. The final destination is filled with wonderful sights and sounds, from architecture to food to hot air balloons. That’s the vision. But the car ride? Well, that stinks. “Sometimes employees only put up with a long car ride because it gets them where you want them to go,” Brannon says. “Sometimes, the journey sucks.”

Brannon and his Axiom colleagues spoke during a lunch and learn event, held Nov. 3 at the Sarasota Yacht Club, entitled Mastering Culture: Building Accountable Teams That Perform. One of the returning themes of the event, past outlawing clichés, was a five-tier pyramid that has culture and leadership at the bottom and sales and $ at the top, with operations in the middle. The speakers drove the point that without the right culture and leadership, all the sales techniques and tips, Brannon says, “will be for naught.” 

 

Time after time 

On leadership, Axiom Senior Consultant Cameron Earhart went over the six leadership affirmations Axiom uses with clients. (Axiom’s current and former client list consists of some well-known businesses, including Fawley-Bryant Architecture, Bruce Williams Homes and Roofing by Curry.) The affirmations are so important, Axiom has the leaders of each client sign an annual leadership pledge to stick to each of the six. The affirmations include: 

Invest in others: Earhart and Axiom recognize being a strong leader is a massive time commitment requiring “time to plan, time to think, time spent in meetings on their behalf, time in meetings with them as a group, time meeting with them one-on one, time understanding their interests, desires, frustrations, concerns, ideas, wishes, hopes and dreams.”  

The return on that time, Earhart says, should be a pair of positives, one for the employee, one for the company.  “The number one excuse we hear from leaders who skip this is they don’t have the time,” he says. “But our highest performing teams are led by leaders who make the time for this. They don’t let it get pushed to the wayside.”

Cameron Earhart.

Encourage, exhort and empower: This is as simple as it sounds, at least in theory. On the first one, when you see someone living the company’s values, or doing great work, be sure to encourage them. For those who fall short of the company’s values, or struggle on the performance side, you have to exhort them to do better. “But do it in a productive way,” Earhart says. “If you’re yelling at them, it lets them think the mistake is bigger than they are.” 

The last one is to empower your rock stars to do more for the company. “Give them more responsibility, more things to do,” Earhart says, “otherwise they will leave.”

I accept that leadership is 24x7x365: Being a good leader, Earhart exhorts, isn’t a “Monday through Friday 9 to 5 thing.”

Axion’s leadership pledge addresses this: “I agree that leadership is a calling that must be pursued at all times,” it reads, in part. “The bar of expectation will be placed higher. And it will not matter whether I am on the clock or off the clock. People everywhere will be watching to see if I am a good leader, both in the business and outside it.” 

 

Live it daily 

My success is measured by the success of others: Earhart cites former U.S. Navy Seal Jocko Winnik, now a leadership author and consultant, for this affirmation, that “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” In the book “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win,” Winnik and fellow former Navy Seal and co-author Leif Babin write about experimenting with leaders and teams. The leader, they found in their experience, always drives performance — good or bad.  

I don’t defend the status quo: The flip side, preserving the status quo, the affirmation says, is “incompatible with progress, growth and leadership.”

“You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone,” Earhart says, “and have a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset.”

I protect the values: The goal with this affirmation? Empower all the employees, or people on your team, to experience the company values. “You don’t have room at your leadership table,” Earhart says,”for people who aren’t living each and everyone of your (company’s) values.” 

 

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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