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5 Simple Truths of Inspiring Leadership

Guest: John Fadool, a coach at CEO Coaching International. In his 35-year career as a senior executive, John worked with three best-in-class companies: Darden Restaurants, Novartis Consumer Health, and Procter & Gamble. He has a proven track record of growing revenue and profit in businesses ranging from $10M to $2B in revenue.

Quick Background: Great leadership balances confidence in your company’s current reality with a hopeful vision for the future that inspires the best from your team.

On today’s show, John Fadool shares his five keys to providing the kind of inspiring leadership that drives massive growth, attracts top talent, and keeps Making BIG Happen.

Keys to Inspiring Leadership from John Fadool

1. Believe in the best.

The Great Resignation has soured many CEOs on their own employees and prospective talent. They throw around words like “entitled,” “lazy,” “demanding,” or “disloyal,” and then wonder why they’re having so much trouble keeping the right people in the right seats.

Yes, workers are making the most of this opportunity to flex their muscles and find their ideal work-life balance. Yes, that can be challenging, and in some cases, even a little annoying. But this is one of those obstacles that the best CEOs are turning into an opportunity to enhance their teams and build an org chart for the future.

The first step? Stop assuming the worst about workers, especially up-and-coming millennials. Embrace what makes top talent special and give them the support they need to be the best.

“I believe everybody really wants to do a good job,” John says. “People want to succeed and success is contagious. They want to be part of a winning team. They need to be excited about where they’re going. They need to understand what’s expected of them, how they fit in. And I think one of the most important jobs that a leader can do is put people in the right job so they can succeed. Everyone wants to do a good job. What a leader needs to do is to capitalize on people’s strengths so that they can.”

2. Diversify your team and encourage collaboration.

“I’ve been fortunate to work for three companies where diversity and collaboration was always at the forefront,” John says. “It’s proven that diverse groups are more innovative, they’re better at solving problems, they develop stronger plans.”

But you knew that already. As John alluded to, the growing body of research on the benefits of a diversified workforce is irrefutable. 

So what’s preventing so many CEOs from transforming their teams?

In many cases, pure stubbornness. CEOs who are set in their ways and oblivious to their blind spots think new ideas are more likely to hurt their businesses than help. They don’t want their leadership to be challenged, they want to be agreed with. They don’t want to work with someone who thinks outside the box, they want Yes Men and Women who will keep the company boxed-in.

“As a leader, I want to hear everybody’s point of view,” John says. “I want to hear what the manufacturing person feels about the marketing plan. And I want to hear how the marketing person feels about the HR plan, and how the HR person feels about the finance plan. No one person holds the truth. If we’re all standing around a house on the outside and we’re looking inside, there’s a lot of things that we all see, but then there’s other things that only one person sees because of their perspective. That’s the value of diversity and collaboration, that unique perspective.”

3. Develop trust.

I think trust is the foundation of effective teams,” John says. “Trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that they know that their peers care about them and about the business. And what I’ve seen is when there’s strong levels of trust, everybody’s comfortable asking questions, challenging the status quo. They’re comfortable engaging in conflict because they know it isn’t personal, it’s about what’s right for the business and what’s right for the team.”

One of the most powerful ways that the CEO can develop trust is to empower your team to take ownership over key decisions — provided that you’re not shy about showing your own limitations and sharing leadership responsibilities. Early in his career as a restaurant industry executive, John was approached by three seasoned team leaders who couldn’t agree on a particular strategy.

“I had been in the assignment four months,” John remembers, “and they wanted me to be the tiebreaker. And I remember thinking, ‘This person has 15 years of experience, this person has 12, this person has 7.’ After they were done talking, I said, ‘I’ve been here four months. You’ve got 30 years worth of experience between the three of you. You would think that you guys can come up with a better solution than I can. Do you really want me to pick?’ They went back and came up with a better solution.  When you push things back on the team, they’ll find their way. People are smart.”

4. Execute.

“The difference between winning and losing has always come down to the execution,” John says. “We used to say the restaurant business is simple. It’s about great food. It’s about engaging service. It’s about a compelling atmosphere. But simple is hard. How many times have you been to a restaurant where one or more of those things are off? It’s easy to get caught up in the strategy and it’s obviously terribly important, but execution is where the game is won or lost.”

That’s why we tell our CEO coaching clients that effective annual planning doesn’t stop once the planning session is over. As John says, making the plan is just step one. The hard part starts the following Monday morning, when your team has to take those first steps that will build momentum, hit key targets, and lead the company to BIG. 

This is where the rubber meets the road and true leadership shines. Your team needs you to inspire confidence, set clear expectations, and exemplify a culture of accountability. And you need a mentor or CEO coach who is going to hold you to those exact same standards so that 12 months from now, your previous annual plan is just one more milestone you passed on your way to BIG.

5. Show integrity and humility.

“Integrity and humility are the most important traits of a leader,” John says. “Integrity starts with being truthful in every situation, because truthfulness is a foundation of trust and trust is the foundation of effective teams and great relationships. The humility piece is all about realizing that as the leader, you don’t have all the answers. And when you realize this and you really internalize it, you’re willing to listen more, you’re willing to learn from others. You won’t let your pride get in the way of getting the information that you need to achieve the results that you want.”

Falling back on your ego isn’t going to get those results in such an uncertain economy. The surest path forward is to grow through whatever challenges your business will face before the end of the year. And that’s going to take a team effort, driven by a leader who’s honest, inspiring, open-minded, and above all, committed to Making BIG Happen.

Top Takeaways

1. Stay positive. If you truly believe in your team and your goals, the whole company will feel inspired to achieve more.

2. Take in every perspective. Hire people who are going to broaden your vision, improve your leadership, and redefine how your teams collaborate.

3. Show trust to build trust. Empower your team and they’ll reward your trust with exceptional work.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.

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