STORY Q&A – Leader2Leader

Define leadership in 10 words.
Thinking, understanding, listening, developing, working.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My dad, because I got to work with him every day, I got to have lunch with him every day, and dinner with him too, if that worked out. He taught me more than I even understood, and I didn’t look at it ever as leadership but, when I look back, it’s more leadership and wisdom than I could have gained from any book, tape, function, or leadership forum.

What’s your “go-to” spot to eat lunch in Southwest Michigan?
Mr. B’s, right here in Three Rivers. Best poor boy sandwich you can ever find, great burnt bacon, and a pretty decent salad bar.

What excites you most about the future of Southwest Michigan?
I think what excites me most about what we have in Southwest Michigan is the people. We have an amazing community. We’ve had several traumatic, life-changing moments in Kalamazoo this year, and to see the unity and the people and what that means, you can’t put a price on it. That’s really what sticks out to me for 2016.

Last book you read that had an impact on you?
Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade by Julian Rademeyer.

It talks about the rhino horn trade and the black market. It talks about the billions of dollars of illegal trade that’s going on in rare, exotic animals, specifically rhinos. In 2006, there were about 60 rhinos slaughtered for their horn; last year there were about 1,200. Rhinos have been around 50 million years. Caesar pranced them through Rome as a sign of strength and unity. They’re thick skinned, and they are being slaughtered at a higher rate than what they’re being born. If something doesn’t happen in the next 10 years, they will be extinct or close to extinction. It’s the tipping point of the rhino, but it’s almost like you come to a certain crossroads in your life where it’s almost the tipping point for certain situations, business situations, life lessons.

What do you do for fun?
I goof around with my kids. I have a three, five, and seven year-old. I like to just be with them. And, I love racing and riding my bicycle.

If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
I would say seeing my employees lives enhanced, because I’ve seen some great changes happen for a lot of our team members, and their lives seem to be happier, I hope, by working for our company.

If you could go to dinner with three people who would they be?
Bono. Tim Terrentine. George Hincapie.

What are three things that you cannot travel on business without?
Pictures of my family, my iPhone, and my bicycle.

Briefcase or backpack?
Backpack, several. I tote them around every day.

Who would you most like to meet and why?
It would probably be either Tom Hanks or Matt Damon. They’re tied for my favorite actor.

Where/how do you get your most creative ideas?
Definitely traveling. When I’m in other places I love to write, I love to bring a notebook with me, and I get a lot of great ideas when I’m removed from the day-to-day.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Giving people autonomy and room to fail. If you have to micro-manage everything that they do, you don’t see them grow.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
Kindness, because the world needs more of it. I think, if you’re kind to whoever walks across your path, and you don’t prejudge, the world’s just a better place.

What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Either not sleeping on big decisions or rushing through decision-making.

What is one of your daily routines that keeps you developing as a leader?
Yoga, bicycling and reading, because that’s my think tank.

What is your “Life Quote?”
I will do the things today that others won’t so I can do the things tomorrow that others can’t.

What inspires you?
Seeing my family grow inspires me, getting faster on my bicycle inspires me, training hard inspires me, and the people I surround myself inspire me. My bike race team, my fellow team members, they inspire me.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
I think the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity is social media because leaders are the first to be put on the pedestal, and they’re the first to be criticized.

What is your favorite leadership book?
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

What is App on your phone can’t you live without?
Mind and Body. Wherever I’m at, I can use it to find yoga studios or CrossFit studios at which to work out.

What are you doing to ensure your continued growth as a leader?
Making sure I recharge my batteries, because you grind and you drive pretty hard every day. You’ve got to make sure that you make time for yourself; and you make time for your family, your wife, your children, and the people in your organization. The more you grow, the harder that is. When we had eight people it was pretty easy to spend time with everybody. Now that we have 100 people, it’s very challenging to spend quality time with everybody.

How do you maintain your and your team’s daily motivation?
You have to check yourself at the door and you’ve got to take a time out. That’s really, really tough. It’s really hard to stop and just engage and have a conversation before you talk about what’s necessary about your business. It’s about taking a time-out and checking yourself at the door every day.

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