Commentary & Analysis
It's All About Leadership: Where Are the Good Leaders in Our Industry? Part 2
By Mike Wesner Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people who are strong in those areas.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: February 24, 2005
By Mike Wesner Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people who are strong in those areas. February 24, 2005 -- In Part 1 I talked about the vital role strong leadership plays in business success and criticized the apparent lack of leadership among printing companies. Today, I'll talk about what the good companies look like. But first, let me share my own experience from running a digital printing company in Florida. I had only 11 employees. I only hired the very best people that I could find. And I would find them in weird places--other industries, through referrals, and even once at the carwash. I valued them all. Almost all were smarter than me in their printing industry knowledge and business knowledge. I read a lot to get better so I could stretch them as well. I took them to seminars and loaned them books and tapes to read. I wasn't a craftsman or an accountant. My advantage was perhaps that I knew my weaknesses and surrounded myself with people that were strong in these areas. I knew how to ask the right questions and I trusted them to do the right things. If I had to define my greatest weakness I would say that I was not involved enough in the plant. I tended to be out of the office making sales calls and assisting my sales team. I am kind of restless and can't stay inside, so I know this frustrated my production manager, so I want you to know that I was hardly perfect. I also treated all my employees as business partners. There were no secrets, I shared the books with them. We kept the score, because it made them stakeholders in what we were doing and in creating a contagious excitement. I shared the vision of where we were going constantly and I cheered them on. I shared with them mistakes that I made and how I sometimes thought we needed to adjust the course we were on a little. I pushed them in a good way and they pushed back. We made each other better and we truly were having fun. We had weekly "pep rallies" to cheer each other on. I paid them all very well and I paid them with incentives for meeting goals. It was a great score card and they all took ownership of the company. Stop hiring fours and fives because they are affordable. In the long run they can turn out to be quite expensive. One of the greatest joys in that company was hearing an employee who was a Mom say to me that her heart would start jumping on Sunday afternoon because she knew that work started again on Monday and she could not wait to get back at it. She shared that she had never felt that way in any occupation before. In two years we tripled the revenue in this company that was a new acquisition in a turnaround effort. Seven Good Traits To round that out, here are what I think are Seven Traits of a Good Leader in the Print Industry. A good leader: Surrounds him or herself with good people. If you're leadership ability is a six on a scale of ten, then getting "eights" to join your company will be difficult. Try hard to become an eight and it will improve your company more than anything you can do. But first, work on becoming a seven and start adding some sixes to your team, and maybe even a seven. But above all, stop hiring fours and fives because they are affordable--because in the long run they can turn out to be quite expensive. Has an abundance mentality. It's amazing what we'll accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit. Make others look good. So much in-fighting in companies would be eliminated if the leader would just give out feedback to people and cheer them on. Feedback "is the breakfast of champions." Feeback is the breakfast of champions Walks slowly through the crowd. Get out of your office. When I was a young Ensign in the Navy I can't tell you how good it would make me feel when the commanding officer (of a ship of 500 sailors) would see me on the bridge wing, having just left my family behind, while we were underway and ask me, "How are Sharon and the family doing?" This was powerful. And I performed for this leader. Makes decisive decisions. This bugs me more than anything with leadership in our industry: Printing company executive who won't make decisions or want to have all the information before doing so. Not making a decision is making a decision--and it's often a poor one. Colin Powell, in a leadership seminar he gave while serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that when you have 40 percent of the information on a hard decision--make the decision. Does what he says he will do. In his book on integrity, "Who You Are When No Ones Looking." Bull Hybels says, "Integrity is doing the right things when no one is looking." We need more leaders in our industry who focus more on doing the right things and to do the things they promise their people and customers. Communicates the plan. Create enthusiasm by keeping your team informed of the mission and the vision for getting there. They can handle it and will perform better if they know where they are going and how they can contribute to making the company better. They need to know what is expected of them and how they are being measure and you MUST give them feedback. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions. A good leader shares the vision and the plan. A good leader communicates. Ken Blanchard in his book, "Gung Ho!" ends the story with a formula that I've found very powerful. The formula is E=mc2, in which E =enthusiasm, m = mission (understanding the mission), and c = congratulations and cash Invests time in people. A good leader know that she must develop her fours into sixes and her seven in the marketing department to a nine. Personal growth will pay huge dividends in a company. Show your team that you value personal growth by having a college tuition program for those on your team without a college degree. Send your people to conferences together so that they can benchmark good ideas from other people and organizations and so they can "mind-storm" while they are away and start asking questions that start with "what if..." Send your people to conferences together so they can benchmark good ideas from other people and start asking questions that begin with "what if. . ." I long for the day when our industry puts as much focus on developing people as we put on finding the next "mousetrap." Please tell me where the good leaders are: I'd like to continue my own qualitative study on this topic in our industry. Finally, I work for a good boss. I've got a pretty good idea of where we're going and what's expected of me to get there. I get feedback and he stretches me to make me better. I am also allowed to contribute. Everyone wants to know how they can contribute in your company, where the company is going, and what the journey to this destination will look like. "One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man." -- Elbert Hubbard