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Welcome to our interview with David Shedd. As President of a $350M group of companies, David has built 22 different top-performing businesses. He is also the Author of Build a Better B2B Business: Winning Leadership for Your Business-to-Business Company.
Welcome David, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of the Exploring Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0 conversation.
Bill Fox: How can we create workplaces where more voices matter, people thrive & find meaning, and change & innovation happen naturally?
David Shedd: I think the challenge today is a challenge of leadership. Many, if not most, leaders are comfortable with the old style of command and control. Unless we change this style of leadership, we can’t possibly get to a place where we hear everybody’s voice.
There are lots of people out there who have learned from the military of the past. That is, command and control. But, today, military leadership is much more enlightened. It is actually about getting the best from the people. If you think about the Navy Seals and how they do the work they do, it isn’t top down. The individual units have to make all the decisions when they are out in the field by themselves.
I think it’s a matter of what can we do to change leaders to be less command and control and to listen more. How do we go about doing that in each company out there? That’s hard to do quickly. But, it involves continuing to share insights and best practices as you are doing in this series, Bill.
Bill: What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?
David: To get an employee’s full attention, we need to treat him or her with respect and truly listen to them. This is what makes all the difference and gets their full attention and full engagement. It’s also important to give people compliments when they deserve them and to thank them for the work that they do. And we need to give our people the time to do their jobs well.
Bill: What do people really lack and long for at work?
David: I think a lot of people at work want their work to mean something. They want to be challenged, they want their ideas to be heard, and they want someone to truly listen to them.
I think this is what employee engagement is all about. If your ideas are heard and listened to, then you feel like your contribution – no matter how small – is valued. You are a part of the success of the business.
Bill: What is the most important question management should be asking employees?
David: What can I do to help you do your job better?
Bill: What’s the most important question employees should be asking management?
David: What do you need from me to help you do your job better and to make you and the company more successful?
Bill: What is the most important question we can ask ourselves?
David: Is what I’m doing right now, the most important thing that I can do to be successful in my job?
Bill: What is the key takeaway you’d like readers to receive from your book Build a Better B2B Business?
David: The key takeaway from my book is about what leaders need to do more of: simplify, eliminate, prioritize and focus.
One area where leadership is failing is that we are not clear and simple. We give unclear communications; we make things too complex; and, we have too many things going on. On top of that, we interfere with and interrupt our team too much sapping their time and energy. With all this, our teams are often unable to succeed in their business and their jobs.
If we can be clear, simple, focused on the important few, and then give people the time to do their jobs, I think we could do much, much better.
One of the things I blogged about recently is this idea that we, as leaders, interfere so much with our team. We prevent them from doing work with inane requests, constant interruptions, and endless meetings. Then, we wonder why our people can’t get their jobs done when we are the root cause of the problem. With our interruptions and everything, it is we who are preventing them from doing their work.
I like what you’re doing in this interview series. Your mission is similar to mine, but I’m approaching it from a different perspective by trying to bring it to an organization, and you’re trying to bring it more broadly by sharing best practices and insights.
Bill: What is it we can do to make a better, more engaged workplace?
David: We need to let our people see the fruit of their efforts, thank and compliment them, be clear and simple, and then step out of the way and let them do their jobs.
If we do all this, I fervently believe that we will have a more engaged and motivated workforce. And we will solve our productivity challenge as well. Engaging in these practices will make us all better off in the long run.
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