My first experiences with leadership values were instilled in me by my parents. I was raised in a household where I was always loved for who I was, not what I accomplished in school or sports, and it shaped my expectations into adulthood. Once I entered the work force, this changed drastically. Suddenly, it was all about my resumé and the tangible output of my skills. I was valued for what I did or could produce, not for who I was as a person.
I felt disconnected, defeated, and alone. Was I the only one experiencing this? Is this just the way work is? If this really was the way work was supposed to be – valuing people only for what they could do – I thought that there must be a good reason why it’s done this way. So, when I bought my first company, I managed my people with this idea that their value and worth was in what they could produce.
And I failed miserably. I went through the exact same struggles as many leaders before me. I led how I thought I was supposed to lead, and still failed. I spent time valuing hard skills over soft skills and lost people as a result. I only talked to my people about their hopes and dreams for success once a year and again, they suffered and ultimately left my company. I zeroed in on data to prove out achievements, prosperity, and gains, and no one felt like their unique traits brought anything special to the table. And they left. I went into difficult conversations charged with emotion and how it affected me, rather than serving my people, and yet again, I failed and gave up the incredible potential that my people had.
After several years of mistake after mistake, I realized I couldn’t lead in the traditional way. Something had to change. So I started to value my people for who they were and not what they did for me. I focused on serving them so that their time away from families was worth it. I helped people grow into their best selves by investing into them, discovering who they were at their core, and celebrating them for it. I realized I could serve a bigger purpose by leading them into transformation by matching their personal passions with what they did at work.
None of this came without hard work. I found that although this was simple, it wasn’t easy. But the reward of my people feeling fulfilled at work made every hardship worth it. Now, my company employs over 170 people, each of them thriving and fulfilled because my focus is on loving and serving them into personal and professional transformation. They don’t have to work a day in their lives because they get to do what they truly love every day.
My motivation behind all of this is my four kids – Ben, Liz, Grace, and Josh – and my wife, Sue. I wanted to serve them well by modeling what their workplace experiences should be like and that who they are is always more important than what they do. I hope to be better for them so that they are better for others.