Leadership is the foundation of any great business. Most "solopreneurs" don't consider what leadership skills they'll need to grow their business beyond a one man (or woman) show. Whether you're a new leader or seasoned, in this episode we uncover what's at the core of any great leader, and how to ask questions to build leaders in those around us.
Welcome to the conquering chaos podcast. I'm your host, Aaron E, Julio president and founder of multimillion dollar e-commerce children's clothing line, Bailey's blossoms. So it turns out I'm pretty good at business, but what really lights my soul on fire is providing other entrepreneurs and mompreneurs with the tools they need to truly succeed. So if you have a business or have one on your heart, you're in good company, pull up a chair or dropping some earbuds and let's conquer some chaos today. Hey guys, and welcome to the final episode in our behind the scenes series where I've been meeting with different key members of my team here at Bailey's Boston person , Peyton , Bri , to help shed light on the workings of to seven figure e-commerce brands. Now, today's episode is all about leadership and I'm so incredibly excited to introduce you to today's guest, mr Gary Allred , who is our director of operations. But even more than that, he is one of the most influential leaders I have ever met and not just in terms of my team, but for myself personally as well. He's been a huge driver for me in lifting the ceiling in terms of how I view myself and my leadership potential. So please get out your pen, your paper. This is going to be a note taking kind of day. Gary, welcome. Thank you. Why don't you give a little bit of background to everybody until just a little bit of who you are and just your experience.Speaker 2:
I have a couple of different titles. The most important title is , uh , what I am supposed to do is help others become better. And that title has had many different names over the years. Everything from supervisor to manager. There's lots of different titles. The difference here, and the question is , is how do you make other people better?Speaker 1:
And that's exactly what we're going to be talking about today because leadership, I'll be honest and I've talked about this before. I started a business for many reasons. Leadership was not one of them. People management is probably my biggest weakness. And so Gary came on about a year ago and he is a master pusher in all the right ways to get people to grow and become leaders. Even when they don't realize they have the potential to be them. So let's talk about that a little bit. What exactly is leadership?Speaker 2:
Well, leadership to me is how do you get everybody else on board to where they're helping each other? And I'm gonna say it again, become better. DuPont is a international company. Uh , they're amazing at everything that they do, but they concentrate on two things. They concentrate on safety first and foremost, and it's the safety of their employees. And so they set a standard that says this is how they are going to protect their employees. That's how they're going to protect their customers. And it's how they're going to protect the environment and the community. You'll find lots of different people out there that have their opinions about DuPont , whether they're good, bad or indifferent, but they set a high standard. And in business over the last 30 years, I've, I've noticed certain trends and those trends are, is the safety and quality. They mirror each other. So the quality of your business will almost always mirror the safety of your business, I. E. if you're, if you want your employees to care about the quality, you have to care about their safety, you have to care about their wellbeing and that sets a very solid foundation for how we do our best to say that we are putting our employees first. Now perception becomes reality. If the perception is that we don't care about people, then our own employees adopt that and that perception becomes reality. Can you give an example of how setting the stage for safety and quality can then lead to people being willing to be taught? Well, under the DuPont system, if you start reporting every time that there's a quote unquote near miss, meaning a safety incident and it occurred, but it could have, what happens is as you start to document it and you start to learn from it, you start to gain experience without having had bad things occur. And that experience gives you the ability to say we can prevent things from occurring. The slogan for DuPont is all safety incidences are preventable. Hmm . And they are. So for lack of a better word, if you're hit by a tornado, was it preventable? Well if you were standing somewhere else than it was preventable, there is a lifelong argument whether or not all accidents are preventable. I believe they are. And one of the things that I love that you've talked about a lot is that the people who see the problem usually are the ones that carry the solution. What exactly do you mean by that? I worked for a company for 11 years and they, at that point in time, they had cornered or led the markets in , in modems and PDs . And this was in the 90s and we had some great products, but we had to use electronic engineers in order to do certain things specifically to fix anomalies in the products we were producing. I had this janitor that every night , uh , I would get there at about three in the morning and I would leave probably about four or five in the afternoon. And this channeler would come by and I asked me every day , are you going to give me a job? Can I work for you? I want to be a rework technician. And we had a standard that said you had to have at least an associate's degree in electronic engineering. You had to have all of this background in order to do it. And so one afternoon, I just knew I didn't have enough engineers and I asked her HR to hire them from the company that was cleaning our facility. And then what I did was I put them with four engineers and those four engineers instead of them fixing the same problem over and over again, they would fix the problem. But then until this young man had what the symptoms were and ed would go find everything with that symptom, come back and then fix it with the same thing. And so our average engineer would go from fixing maybe eight per day to where an engineer would fix one, hand it to ed Edwards, go find up to 40 with the same problem, come back, fix 40 in hand, the 40 back to the engineer fixed. And so now each one of my engineers was worth up to 10 times their value. Was ed trained? No . Did he have an education? No. But he had the drive, the desire, and he was a true team member. And so to answer your question, everybody has something to offer. The question is how do we take advantage of it? That's a great question. So what's the answer? It's something that I struggled with on a daily basis, but I always have to be listening. When we listen to the problems of our employees and we listened to their challenges or we listened to our customers, what we're really doing is we're gaining knowledge. And with that knowledge we have the ability to say, okay, what's really driving this? How can you decipher the difference between surface problem and the real problem? I had an employee approximately 15 years ago that I would say she was one of the best employees I ever had, very fast, very, very organized. And I put her with three other employees that I thought matched her personality and abilities. And instead I ended up with a riot and the employee came in and saw me and said, I quit. And I said, Oh, hold on a second, you can't quit. And she got her . She just blew up and she, and she yelled at me some more, called me some great names even through something. And I walked over to my office door and I pulled it shut, locked it and turned to her and I said, this isn't you. I need to understand what it really is and what, what I found out over the next hour after she broke down, I had took 10 minutes for her to talk to me. I found out that she had , uh , a disease that could take her life. She was a single mom. She didn't have anybody that was going to take care of her. She had no idea how she was going to pay for anything. And at the end of that meeting, I told her, in my opinion, she should tell the team specifically the three other ladies. And after two months of arguing and fighting, they all came into my office and this lady told the team. And for the next, for the next four months, a staff of 23 people took food into her family every night. One person took a day off and went and sat with her through the hospital and the team all gave up personal time in order for her to get paid and to take the time off and you know the , the differences, those harsh times and getting down to the details, but letting the employees dictate what the details are instead of quote unquote management or quote unquote somebody that is supposed to be in charge dictating it. What happens is nobody can get in the way of progress then. Right. Obviously getting to know people is huge. The weakness for me is you get run in so fast sometimes that slowing down enough to notice the details in the individuals can be a challenge though is do you ever had to overcome that challenge or is this always been a strength for you? I have to overcome it every day because what happens is an employee comes to you and says, what do you intend to do about this? And they're looking at you because when you see it in their eyes, most of the times they're at a breaking point. It's much easier to give an answer and say this is what we're going to do, but when you look in their eyes and you see the intensity, the commitment, the fear, at that point in time, you have the ability of of asking that, great question, what do you think we should do or what would you want to do? And the second that that question is phrased, that way, their immediate answer every time it's going to be, Oh , that's why I'm coming to you. If you give the answer, then you've taken away all buy in and you have to ask the question and rephrase it over and over again until you get the answer that is leading in the right direction. Doesn't have to be the exact question. Can you give an example of how that works? Because I've seen this in process. You've done it to me multiple times, but just for everybody listening, can you give an example of what that looks like? Off the top of my head, I'm going to shoot back at ya . Okay. Okay. What or your team goals for Bailey's blossoms? Are we talking about executive team, which has the greatest effect. Yeah. Okay. And if you are picking up on this right now, then you're just, you should see the look in his face too, because that, this is the one thing Gary, and we've had this conversation before, but the ability to ask thatSpeaker 1:
pull out and really extract whatever is on the heart and mind of the person you're talking to in my mind is a gift. But I think it's important to note that it's a learnable gift. So if the concept leaves you feeling intimidated or overwhelmed, it's important to take a step back and understand that this is a process that you can grow into. Knowing how to ask questions and even knowing which are the right questions to ask comes as we test and learn through that process. And my process has been as messy as the best of them. So the first step is really just to be aware if you are prone to wanting to answer the questions for those you're called to lead. Now we've touched on leadership and the importance and art of asking questions to divulge the core of an issue rather than simply the surface of an issue. Because as your example proves, we rarely if ever have the full 360 degree view on any given situation. And after you're able to get to the real core and the root of any given issue, the next part is ensuring that you don't leave the conversation without securing a commitment with action items and even a timeline for that commitment to be followed up on. So let's talk about commitments and goals and what does that look like?Speaker 2:
There's hard goals and they're soft goals, hard goals have bigger learnings and a hard goals are just that they're very hard to attain. Soft goals have almost no learnings. It's , it's the easy pickings. What you do is when you have hard goals for a team and you start peeling back the layers of the onion, what you're really doing is you're learning what all of the issues are and all of a sudden everybody starts to see the whole picture. For our customers, our customers, they only see one or two pieces of the business from employees. They tend to only see what they're responsible for. However, if an employee is able to look at what the whole organization is responsible for, what happens is they become 10 20 times more valuable, right? Because now they're preventing errors from occurring and they're increasing longterm value in being able to speak for not just the customer, but for all of the departments and employees around them. And so your products become better, your service becomes better.Speaker 1:
So is this just about setting goals that are just enough out of reach that it pushes people?Speaker 2:
Oh , how good do you want to be? Yeah , pretty good. And the goals need to be harder. And is it okay to fail as long as you're taking away the learnings,Speaker 1:
how many of our goals should allow for us to fail? Is there danger in constant success in your mind? Like to change the question a littleSpeaker 2:
bit. Okay. Errors or failures that occur once R O K as long as you couldn't have prevented them. Meaning we're just not allowing hers to occur for the sake of letting them occur, but repetitive errors. That is where we didn't learn the first time and repetitive errors have to have a condition in which we, we continue to put steps in place that guarantee we don't do it again. All right , so now let's talk about the hardest part in my mind, which is accountability. After you put these hard goals into place, what comes next? Let me ask you this. Airing for your children. When you tell them what the punishment is, is that worse than when you make them give a punishment? No. Why ? If we know that the person leading us believes that we're capable of more than we start to believe we're capable of more and we want to do and be more for them. And then also in time for ourselves, leaders help the team to see the big picture. But accountability is what we allow people to set for themselves. And when we allow people to shoot low then is that because we didn't challenge him . At the end of the day, we're trying to make them feel needed, wanted and to enjoy their jobs, but for most people they also want to be able to help others and when we concentrate on just our own performance, what we're doing is we've become siloed. We're only seeing the one issue and it is only our view. As a leader, your job is to help everybody see the whole picture. The best leader is going to find ways for everybody around them to see how the effect of what they do has on every process and every individual around them. When a leader has employees that do that, you're just a leader of other leaders or she is. Some people don't feel like they're good enough because of lack of education or lack of experience. Yet all of those things that are seen as weaknesses, a really good leader will help that employee or that person, not just to do those things, but to jump in and study, perform and read themselves and continue to do them over and over again until they're their strength. We are here to help everybody to become better. And uh , the one thing that I was drawn to me about Bailey's blossoms and PTEN Bri was the amount of comments that were based around about helping other youth to feel good about themselves. That's the basis of all leadership basis of all leadership is not what can you demand from somebody. It's what can you help somebody become better at? I love that.Speaker 1:
Thank you Gary. I've seen how these principles and putting them into effect can create leaders out of people that never even assumed they could ever be one. And that's when a pretty awesome thing to see. So thank you. Thank you for taking the time to connect with me here on the conquering chaos podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, will you please take a moment to leave a review? It's the fuel to my fire and lets me know that my efforts to enact change and broaden your perspective of what's possible matter. Thank you so much for your support. If you want more content like this, don't forget to subscribe and connect with me on social media at Aaron E. Lee or at Aaron [inaudible] dot com have a fantastic day. Get out there and Congress and chaos.