If you Google “leadership” there are more than 1.7 million references. I think it is fair to say that the topic has been given a fair amount of attention. Why is the topic so intriguing and why are we not able to put it to rest? Part of the issue is that it’s like a precious stone with an unlimited number of facets. In addition, the environment in which managers must manage is constantly changing and requires us to approach the subject differently. And finally, the objects of our leadership – employees – are ever-evolving, so the ways that we reach them must change too.
One person who knows this well is Dave Long, a local leader in Castle Hayne. Dave is the kind of guy the greater Port City needs. He is an entrepreneur who started and runs an employee-recognition company called My Employees. The company has about 45 employees and hopes to do $10 million in revenue this year.
With his new book, Built to Lead, Dave can now add author to his long list of accomplishments. Built to Lead is an easy read and offers some lessons that we can all benefit from. It starts out by asking the question, “Why do managers fail?” Dave says there are three reasons:
- Failure to lead
- Failure to care
- Failure to learn
This sounds so simple, but so many leaders screw it up.
In the book, Dave talks about “hire right, train, prune and repeat.” Dave and I are in agreement about getting the right people on the bus. I've said many times before that if I had $1,000 to spend on selection and training, I would spend $999 on selection and $1 on training. If I hire the right people then I don’t need to do a bunch of training. Dave also writes that it’s the leader’s job to address performance issues, up to and including termination. I agree. Dave talks about engagement or the financial impact of disengagement. I talked about that in an earlier column
In Built to Lead,
Dave introduces an acronym called REWARDS. He then spends a Chapter on each of the elements. “R” stands for Reconnaissance. “E” for Education. “W” for Winners. “A” for Attitude. “R” for Recognition. “D” for Duplication. “S” for Success. My three favorite chapters were E, W and R.
In Chapter 4, Dave introduces two ideas: Masterminds and Book Club. The idea of Masterminds is that Dave wants to surround himself with a small group of peers who he can teach and who will teach him. These are businesses of similar size to My Employees and it is the CEO who attends these four-hour meetings once a month. The CEOs talk about issues in their businesses and get candid advice from their peers. They all have learned so much and really benefited from each other’s counsel.
The second great idea in this chapter is Book Club. Dave is an avid reader and has an EXTENSIVE library in his office. In starting a book club, he invited all his employees to attend a one-hour luncheon meeting where each week they discuss a chapter of a book they were collectively reading. Things started slow but over time everyone was learning about leadership, finance and each other. Dave was also learning who his future stars would be. These were the people who took leadership roles during these meetings.
Chapter 5 is entitled “Winners Emerge - Identify Your Superstars, and Accelerate Your Success.” In this chapter, Dave profiles a couple of his people, Adam Tartt and Yuichi Muracami. I know both of these individuals. Dave writes about why he took risks with both of them. He asked them to contribute their perspectives of the opportunities that Dave has given them. Dave then added some color commentary. The love and respect that flows both ways in this relationship is very evident.
Chapter 7 is entitled “Recognition - They’ll Get it from You, or They’ll Go Somewhere Else to Get It!” This chapter profiles another one of My Employees’ stars, David Strange. He has been an outstanding sales person at My Employees, as he was at his former company. The difference was that Dave made a big deal out of recognizing him. The chapter also discusses My Employees’ recognition programs in general, and specifically how they are used within the company. It is definitely a model for others.
In the book, Dave invites people to come see Book Club in person or just engage him around his view of the world.
There is a lot that has been written about leadership. The list of useful ideas has just gotten a little longer. Thanks Dave!
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