Leadership is being a developer, raising up your team, and empowering them to learn new things and develop themselves.
Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
One person is a guy who works here. His name is Andy Short. He’s made an impact on me as a leader because he’s so trustworthy. He’s so transparent and you know, with anything that comes out of his mouth, there’s no smoke and mirrors behind it. He’s totally committed to his team. I’ve never actually worked for him—I’m on the Inclusion and Diversity Council here, and he used to be a leader on it. You want to do well so that you make him proud. He instills that in people.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
For me, since I’m a supervisor of technicians, a lot of the decisions I need to make are when to panic and when to pick battles. We have a lot of people asking us to do things and sometimes there’s going to be an easier way to do it. You can have a conversation and say, “We like your idea. But, we’re going to go a different route just because this is the way that we’re going to get the best results.” Then, there are some times when others want something done a specific way and that’s the way they want it done. You have to decide, “Is this the right time to try to influence them to go a different path?” or, “Okay, that’s fine. We’ll do it.” Sometimes, I have to be the gatekeeper. I have to decide whose “Why isn’t this done?” (thing) is the most important one.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
A while ago, the VP of Supply Chain came and talked to a group I was with. He was talked about being passionate. I was like, “I can be passionate. How do I force other people to be passionate?” He said something that really stuck with me: “As a leader, if you’re passionate, then you just infect your team. If they see that you really care about something or that you’re just working as hard as you can because something’s really important to you, it will inspire them to be passionate about it too.” I was like, “Oh, so you don’t have to just shake people and say ‘you should care about this!’” Be yourself and be passionate—other people will pick up on that.
What’s the biggest challenge that you see facing leaders today?
Being inflexible or scared of change. If our leaders aren’t going after the newest and coolest stuff, we’re always one step behind. We can’t let our competitors come up with the latest and coolest thing and follow behind them.
People want to work for companies who are doing the coolest and newest thing. Our workforce is close to retirement age, so we need new people to come in. But if our leadership is like, “No, let’s just keep going on the same road we’ve been going (down) because it’s worked for us in the past,” we’re not going to make money and we’re not going to hire new people. No one wants to work on old boring things.
Is there one behavior or trait that you are seeing derail more leaders’ careers?
I have seen leaders who are not transparent. You can’t trust them. They’re not genuine. They’re not being intentional about (their leadership). People will perceive what they’re saying as having some hidden layer of mystery behind it. People are not focusing on whatever is needed to get done. They’re focusing on “What’s the hidden agenda?”
What do you do for fun?
I love to move. I like being active. I’ll go to the gym and do fitness classes just to change it up, but I like to be moving. In the summer, I jet ski on Austin Lake or West Lake.
What’s your “go-to” spot to eat lunch in Southwest Michigan?
Bowman’s BBQ & Meat Market in Climax. It’s really close to work and, every other Friday, a group from the lab goes.
If happiness were the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
Honestly, I’ve told people I really wish I could be a DNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) worker. I could hike for my job and be outside all of the time.
If you could go to dinner with three people who would they be?
Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Patrick Stewart.
What are three things that you cannot travel on business without?
My tennis shoes, comfy clothes that I can change into, and my own supply of caffeine—Coke Zero.
Briefcase or backpack?
Backpack. No question. I have patches on my backpack from my Girl Scout (days).
Who would you most like to meet?
Right now, I would most like to meet President Obama because he’s so classy, but he has a good sense of humor. He’s a down-to-earth guy and I would like to get his perspective on everything.
How do you get your most creative ideas?
Watching sunrise on Saturdays. If I’m up for it, it makes me excited and it’s like anything is possible. The sun’s just coming up. It’s a Saturday. I’ve got so much ahead of me. I work in the lab as a test engineer, but I’m also the supervisor of half of the technicians. Mondays and Fridays are our busiest days. By Saturday, you’ve had a good night’s sleep and it’s a blank slate.
What inspires you?
Having resistance to something. When people say, “I don’t want to run this test,” or, “I don’t think that this is the right way to go,” it inspires me to try to prove them wrong. I go above and beyond when people are resistant.
What are your daily routines that keep you developing as a leader?
Picking up positive habits from my team. If you talk to them, they’ll tell you a neat trick that they learned. It’s not just lab stuff; it could be about being more organized. A lot of them have way more experience than I do. They’ve been around the block. They know what’s going on.
What’s the app on your phone that you can’t live without?
The Notes app because you always have spur-of-the-second ideas.
How do you maintain your and your team’s daily motivation?
For my team, especially, recognition is really important to them. Honestly, people will tell me, “I like working for this person because he will actually thank me in person for doing something.” The in-person (recognition) especially makes such a huge difference.
What are you doing to ensure your continued growth as a leader?
Getting out of my comfort zone. Here at work, (it’s) volunteering for something I have no idea how to do.
What excites you most about the future of Southwest Michigan?
Moving here, I noticed that people really are passionate about, “Yeah, I live in Southwest Michigan.” They’re really proud of it. I’ve never seen that any other place I’ve lived and I can tell people really care about the community.
What do you think are the most pressing challenges are facing leaders today and why?
One thing is the people side of leading people. You have to connect with people. You have to be genuine, because people can tell (if you are not). Last year, a lot of people on my team were having family issues. I was like, “Oh my gosh, they’re people. They have families and stuff outside of work.”
What was the last book you read that had an impact on you?
Do Over by Jon Acuff. He’s so down to earth. You can’t put it down.
What’s one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
Specific to leaders at my level, people have trouble delegating. The mistake is not letting go. You have this team of people who work for you. You (need to) help develop them so that they know what they’re doing. But if you can’t let go and delegate to them, the view from your team is, “Our leader doesn’t trust us. I’m not doing a good job, because he or she has to come in and do the work.” If you can delegate, which is hard, you’re making it easier for you and you’re showing your team you trust them. You’re empowering them to go learn new things.
What is your “Life Quote?”
“If you have to make an apple pie from scratch, you first must invent the universe.” – Carl Sagan
I like it because it brings you back out of your head down, do-my-own routine. Nothing’s as simple as it seems. You’re part of a bigger picture. It’s not just an apple pie or it’s not just a work conference. It’s bigger.