Innovation Junkies Podcast

BONUS: Leadership Lessons Learned the Hard Way

The Jeffs recall 6 leadership lessons they’ve learned the hard way through first-hand experience. You’ll hear: tips for guiding a team, how to balance priority, & guidance on making tough decisions.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge and this is the Innovation Junkies podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategy and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, and no matter the geography. Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business and we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover specific strategies, tactics, and tools that they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies podcast.

Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our growth DX, go to innovationjunkie.com backslash growthdx. Now let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hey guys, Jeff Standridge here and welcome to another bonus episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. How are we doing Jeff?

Jeff Amerine: I’m great, great to be back. Ready to talk about some leadership. How about you?

Jeff Standridge: I’m ready to talk about some as well. Let’s start today by talking about leadership failures. What are some, or maybe some leadership lessons rather, that you learn the hard way maybe by failure or by struggling through to get to a success?

Jeff Amerine: Well, I’ll start with one. Maybe we just trade these back and forth, but one would be a famous Ronald Reagan statement which is “Trust, but verify”. And the leadership lesson there for me was I’m very trusting. I always assume positive intent. I believe that people have the best intentions, but as a leader, you still have to verify. Occasionally you have to take the deep dive, you have to hold people accountable. Not micromanage, but trust, but verify is a good leadership lesson. Trust people to make sure you’re involved enough with what they do, that you understand they’re doing the right thing, and that they’re really embodying the culture of integrity that you want within your organization. So trust, but verify would be one for me.

Jeff Standridge: And I assume that works with people, but it also works with assumptions. And maybe with, with initial impressions that you may get about a person or a thing or a situation or what have you.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. You know, first impressions are very important, but, but the ongoing impression and what you learn sometimes first impression will get you into the cliche of not judging a book by their cover. Sometimes there’s more context and more understanding there. So digging a little deeper is helpful. For sure.

Jeff Standridge: I would say one that I have, you actually brought forth a Ronald Reagan quote. I’ll bring forth a Henry Kissinger quote, interestingly, and-

Jeff Amerine: You got to use his voice though.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. I don’t know if I can do that. But he effectively, I boil it down to, well, let me just tell you the quote and then I’ll boil it down. He once said, “Competing pressures tempt one to believe that an issue deferred is a problem avoided, when in reality it is a crisis invited”. And so I kind of boil that down to, don’t create a crisis by putting off the inevitable. Whether that is a personnel decision that needs to be made, whether that’s killing a project that’s been deeply invested into, whether that’s firing a client. Whatever it is, competing pressures would tempt you to believe that if you just defer it, you’re avoiding it, when in reality you’re inviting a crisis. So don’t put off a crisis by avoiding or putting off the inevitable.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. It’s kind of like leaving cheese in the sun. It doesn’t get better with age. Right?

Jeff Standridge: It does not get better with age. That’s exactly right.

Jeff Amerine: No doubt about it.

Jeff Standridge: We had a podcast guest who one time talked about it doesn’t get better with age, it just gets smelly or something. Do you remember that?

Jeff Amerine: That’s right.

Jeff Standridge: I need to go back and listen to that one because it was a good one. What’s another one?

Jeff Amerine: Well, here’s another one too, for me anyway. And I think this is something that we don’t really see enough of, and I won’t get into the political scene, but most team failures that occur are a function of poor leadership. It’s rarely about the team. Most teams, individual contributors have the best of intentions. When you see teams fail to perform, it’s typically one answer and that’s the person or the people that are leading. It’s their failure. Failure to train, failure to recruit, failure to have people in the right seats. That’s one that I’ve personally experienced, I’ve been on all sides of that. I’ve done that myself, wrong people, wrong seats. And I’ve also been on the other side of it, where we’ve seen that, regardless of the best efforts of the team, if you have poor leadership, you’re probably not going to be successful.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, no, I agree with you. That’s right. You know, we always talk about leaders should take the blame and share the credit. Right. If a failure happens, the leader should step up and say, that’s my fault. And when there’s credit to be had, that should be disseminated among teams.

Jeff Amerine: Absolutely. Yeah. You know, your team will run through fire and move mountains for you, if you pass along the credit, when things go well and take the blame when they don’t.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah.

Jeff Amerine: What else you got? What have you seen?

Jeff Standridge: Well, I’ve got one, that’s never hire anyone that you can’t fire. And I’ve kind of expanded that a little bit. Don’t hire anyone you can’t coach, discipline, or fire. And what I mean by that is, particularly in small companies, we want to hire our friends, we want to hire people that we’re familiar with, we want to hire people that might even be within the family circle. But the point at which we hire them and that employer slash employee relationship exists, the nature of the personal relationship will never be the same, as it relates to work.

And so clarifying on the front end when they are the right person for the job and you do need to bring them into the company, obviously separating the direct reporting from you to the degree possible is critical. But having clarity on the front end, that you will step up to addressing any issues, there will be times when difficult conversations have to be had, it’s not personal, it’s about business, and establishing those on the front end. And if you can’t get to that level of clarification on the front end, just don’t do it. Don’t do it. It will end badly.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve got one more that I’ll throw out there and it’s oftentimes not overlooked. And this is, I’ve reflected back on the time that I spent at the Naval Academy in the military. And there was a guy that sang a song, oddly enough, as part of one of our events where he said, “It’s tough to be a follower in a leadership school”. And the message was, in order to ultimately be a good leader, you have to understand how to be a good follower. And it doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to be an automaton, that’s just an order taker. It just means that you’re there in some ways to make that leader successful and make their job easier. And if you align yourself that way, you’re really managing in both directions, you’re managing up and you’re helping that leader be more successful.

You might not like their style. You might not like their approach. You can help them be better by being a good follower and figuring out how to use your strengths to maybe fill in for some of their weaknesses. So I wasn’t always good at that. I’ll tell you a lot of times being hardheaded and a little self-absorbed and ambitious, I wasn’t always a great follower. If I saw somebody that had some deficiencies as a leader, I viewed that as weakness and I’d figure out how to go around them or not really be helpful, circumvent them in some ways. And that’s a mistake I’ve personally made in my own career.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. Great insight. And certainly one I’ve made as well. And all you do there is you drive a wedge between you and that person. And you begin to get a reputation for ins around, so to speak. Well, you gave a third one there. I’m going to throw one more out as well. And this is one that I’ve certainly learned the hard way. Establish priorities based on the results that you must deliver and be willing to say no to anything else that gets in the way. So often as leaders, we try to do everything and we try to just, it’s a job in an addition or an exercise in addition, versus an exercise in subtraction or division. And I would say that good leaders are more focused on stopping doing things that aren’t producing the results they need in favor of putting their energies toward the things that will in fact produce those results. And so- [crosstalk 00:08:33] establish priorities, and be willing to say no to everything else.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense, particularly when you’re, somebody that’s used to succeeding, it’s so easy to say yes, it’s difficult to say no. At times, if it doesn’t fit, you have to be able to say no, for sure.

Jeff Standridge: That’s right. Good stuff. Thanks for joining me today, Jeff.

Jeff Amerine: Always glad to be here.

Jeff Standridge: All right. Thanks so much. This has been another bonus episode of the Innovation Junkies podcast. See you next time.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, this is Jeff Amerine. We want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies podcast, please do us a huge favor. Click the subscribe button right now. Please leave us a review. It would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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