Do you have the leadership skills to grow a company from 30 employees to nearly 300 team members?
It’s a daunting question to answer but a necessary one. Growth is a fundamental necessity for any organization. But the skills required to influence 300 employees is significantly different from the skills needed to influence 30.
John C. Maxwell, the author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, explains “...leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. The lower an individual’s ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential.”
If you are a weak leader, then your company can not grow and eventually it will die.
I would consider Jay Friedman, COO Goodway Group, as an effective leader; one with a high lid on his leadership potential. Friedman poses the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset, but Jay also understands his limits.
Friedman knew that he needed a partner. Someone that is not only wicked smart but who complements his weaknesses. Jay found that in Dave Wolk, President Goodway Group.
Let’s read Jay’s interview where he shares many insights -- I especially love the Gallup’s Q12. The survey of 12 questions sounds like an excellent tool for measuring employee engagement.
So Jay, what’s your story?
I have the entrepreneurial spirit and mindset when it comes to seeing gaps in a market and knowing the right product or service to create to fill those gaps. I absolutely lack the risk tolerance to be a full-on entrepreneur. That’s why when I met my partner Dave Wolk it was such a great fit.
Dave was running a 3rd generation printing and promotions business with a great sales force and client base. I saw a large gap in serving regional agencies and clients in digital media. Rather than quit my job and start from scratch, we teamed up and started what would become a four-year transition to becoming the largest independent programmatic media services company on the planet.
When we teamed up in 2006 the company was just over 30 people. Today we’re just shy of 300, with revenues growing commensurately. The Dave/Jay combination is a powerful one, a heart and brain combo as we put it. Dave is the culture, the soul, and the warmth of the company that enables our amazing employee retention. I create and execute on the vision of the company and lead the strategy to achieve that vision.
Why should leaders lead? And when they do, what is their first responsibility?
Leaders are passionate about a cause and inspire others to follow through a combination of facts, inspiration, charisma, and credibility. We are passionate about a few different things here at Goodway, one of which is regional agencies and local marketing. There is nothing better than sitting down with the owner of one of our clients and having them tell me that through our partnership they’ve been able to pitch and win bigger business. This means they’ve been able to grow their business and further build on their vision and passion.
Identifying one single first responsibility is a bit like deciding which is more important, the heart or the brain. I believe it’s two-pronged and great leaders constantly weave them together. The two prongs are the people and the cause. When done right, an outsider wouldn’t be able to distinguish one from the other when speaking to employees at a company.
How does a leader build trust?
I had a boss that told me relationships are built on four pillars: trust, knowledge, commitment, and respect. You can ask how leaders achieve any of these four and the answer is that they demonstrate the other three. Less anecdotally, behavioral economists have done a lot of research around trust and it comes down to making small commitments to your people and delivering on them. Like a tornado in a residential neighborhood, trust can be destroyed in seconds. Like those rebuilding their homes, it takes months or years to rebuild.
How are you making things better for the people who follow you?
That same boss told me early on he would work with me using three steps, and I’ve carried that to my direct reports. First, they need to be amazing at what they do. Second, I need to enjoy working with them. Once they’ve achieved those two and helped us create success, I’ll help them get wherever they want to go in life, within or outside of our company. I’m realistic. I know that not every employee with make Goodway their last job. So, be amazing and a good person to be around, and then let’s make sure you get where you want to go in life.
What are you currently doing to develop your leadership?
Our development efforts are multi-faceted. First, we measure against Gallup’s Q12 every 12 months and score every manager and leader in the company. While each question isn’t a direct measurement of a manager-employee relationship, trends are easily decipherable within direct report groups which helps us create development plans for our leaders.
Second, high-potential talent and top leaders go through an intensive 360 review process which creates additional developmental paths. Each leader then works with a professional coach to achieve those goals.
Finally, I personally write a blog each month about an intangible topic. This is for all employees but managers then take the first 10 minutes of each 1x1 with their team members that month to discuss how each person performs or could improve around this topic. Some examples have been team trust, how anyone in the org can contribute strategically, and the value of mistakes and failure.
What causes one person to respect and follow another?
It goes back to the cause, the leader’s commitment, knowledge, and ability to engender trust. There are many charitable or world leaders I believe are knowledgeable, committed, and worthy of my trust and respect, but I don’t align with their cause. The same goes for those who represent a cause I support but I don’t believe they’re knowledgeable enough, committed enough, or I don’t trust them. Blending these two sides creates a great recipe for followership.
What values, personal traits or characteristics do you look for and admire in a leader?
Goodway’s two core values are Family Values and Scrappy.
They each mean a number of things (which we’ve defined and documented). So many companies have 5-6 core values, but in reality those are not core values, they’re aspirational values. They’re what the leader wants to see in his people. Our two core values define us and the people who join us. People who don’t have these values quickly feel out of place in our company, and that’s what we want. In addition to these I admire someone who looks for results over effort, and looks to fix problems rather than affix blame.