Transcripts – Is your leadership style working?
In this episode of The Omaha Podcast, Joseph Kenney and Christopher Slater of 316 Strategy Group and Matt Tompkins of Two Brothers Creative discuss leadership styles.
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Matt Tompkins: Hello and welcome to the premiere episode of the Omaha podcast, where Omaha’s most successful entrepreneurs help your business grow. I’m your host, Matt Tompkins of Two Brothers Creative. And on today’s episode, I want to ask you this question Is your leadership style actually working as a business owner? You are in a leadership position and you have to make tough decisions, but you also have to ask yourself tough questions like, is your leadership style effective or is it as effective as it could be? Today, we’ll learn how to know what your leadership style is, whether or not it’s effective, and why your leadership style matters so much to the success of your business.
Joseph Kenney: Several years ago, we launched a greeting card company and we wanted to partner with a local and independent printing company. So we we heard about this guy, Larry Redding, owner of Print Code Graphics right here in Omaha, started in 1993. And from the moment we walked up the stairs, we knew something was different. There it was. There was a big message center that said, Welcome, Joseph Kenny. And you knew at that moment it was going to be a different type of experience. And just a few minutes later, this older gentleman walks out and greets us and walks us around this incredible facility. But what what I was enamored with was Larry’s ability as he walked around this this massive print shop, one of the biggest in the Midwest, was his ability to connect with every person on a very personal level. And that’s sometimes it’s learned. Sometimes it’s it’s something you’re born with. But whatever it was, Larry had it and it was impressionable. And people would stop the print machines or walk away from the print machines just to get some time with Larry. You know, Jim, Frank said he would call out their names one by one as people would walk by. They’d fist bump, handshake, even hug Larry. Now, Larry has to be in his early eighties. And he’s still doing it and he’s doing it the right way. So after I left, I took a look at the website and they talk about prosperity coming from being personal. Prosperity comes from giving people the impression that they’re at home and it’s in everything that they do. So yeah, we ended up deciding to go with Larry because we felt like we were at home. Yes. On the technical side, they could do everything that we needed them to do as a as a greeting card company. But it went so far beyond that that we wanted a partner in business. And since then, I’ve gone back to the website and they talked about, if you want, a partner. This is the company for you. I’ve referred every person I can to Larry and print graphics. And it was just yesterday I was handed a book and I looked on the back and it was print graphics. They printed the exact book that somebody handed off to me and I thought, there’s a reason that they partnered with this guy, Larry Redding. I think it does beg the question, what type of leadership style is best for all of us? So welcome to the Omaha podcast. I’m here with Christopher Slater, Matt Tomkins, and I am Joseph Kenney.
Matt Tompkins: So what is your leadership style? Why does it matter? Why is that important?
Christopher Slater: While I can only aspire to be a Larry. But, you know, I think that over the years and it’s now been, you know, really most of my adult life that I’ve been working, that I’ve been in management, starting when I was 19 years old, back in retail and was in management. But it was a 20 year career prior to the last ten years of really having the blessing of doing what I wanted to be when I grew up working, doing what we’re doing. For 20 years, though, I was in the Human Service field and had a business where we were open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, holidays. We never closed and we were working with stressed clientele, which which then translates to stressed staff members. And so you have to be connected to to your staff members, to your team members. You have to know what they’re going through because how they behave and how they’re feeling affects the people that we’re serving. So I had to be really tuned into knowing what’s going on with them personally. What’s going on with them in the workplace is more than just a transactional leadership style. It really was getting in the trenches with them and having a mutual respect. And and that led to having people work alongside me for, for a decade or more in a field that’s a high turnover field. And so I think it’s more of that affiliate of personal like Larry and along with some coaching as well.
Matt Tompkins: So what do you think? Did you know that was your leadership style like in the moment? Did you recognize that or was that something that you had kind of maybe your upbringing or your career had kind of molded you into that type of a person or.
Christopher Slater: You know, I think I think it was by necessity, it really wasn’t something that developed over time. And it’s something that’s stuck with me today. I really enjoy the coaching aspect, being able to bring out the best in people and being able to work alongside Joe and work alongside you. We were just talking earlier about coaching. We’re asking for a little bit of coaching in our flagship episode here. So I think that’s that’s a critical component. But but I do think that it’s it’s it was learned over time, just naturally.
Matt Tompkins: I feel like there’s a throughline through a lot of what you’re going to hear on this podcast from us and from our guests. And that is that personal aspect. I mean, I’ve heard that from I think even my grandpa used to say, like, they’re not hiring the product, they’re not buying the product, they’re buying you. You know, they’re and I’ve seen that with and I know you have to with different businesses and leaders and entrepreneurs that we work with in the city of Omaha. And it’s it’s always about the person behind it. I mean, yeah, I have to back it up with what they’re doing. But people want that connection and they want to they want to feel like, I trust this person. And, you know, this fits and like you said, feels like it feels like home.
Joseph Kenney: I think that people, generally speaking, fall into two different camps. Either they really like what they just experience from the person that’s leading them or they don’t. And either way, you learn from that experience and in my case, personal experience with Larry and print co graphics, I walked away saying, I like how that felt dignity and respect for every person he touched. He doesn’t have to motivate them. They are motivated because they’ve been treated so well.
Matt Tompkins: I was watching it’s a great show on Disney and I remember as a kid who watched the behind the scenes VHS tape of how they made Star Wars. And this was back when I was editing with to kind of jerry rigged VCRs together. I don’t even know how I did that at like ten years old. But somehow my brother and I figured that out, and that was the beginning of of all this. But I was watching it as an adult. I kind of redid this whole documentary series, so I’m watching it as an adult and it’s really cool to see they were doing just groundbreaking things that never been done in in movies and entertainment. And there was a great line from from George Lucas where he said he was asking, how do you get these people to just they lived there like they was there. It was like a fraternity house or sorority house, and they never left. And he said, you know, it’s amazing what you can get people to do with free beer and pizza. And it stuck with me because when on a totally different level, I’m not putting myself on George Lucas’s level with, you know, the work we’ve done in any way. But it did it did relate, you know, close to home for me because when we used to do Omaha Live, my brother and I, we literally started with nothing and we had no budget.
Matt Tompkins: And I look back on that now and there was 20, 23 people that were showing up 15, 20 hours a week. Nobody was getting paid. It was just an all volunteer thing and not even realizing it. I think a lot of it is just kind of how you’re maybe brought up and taught to respect and and all those values that we have here in Omaha, Nebraska. But we would do that. You know, I would I would be willing to do the grunt work. I would be willing to run a camera or hold a light. Or tear equipment down, and I’m willing to do what I’m asking you to do. And I think the other big thing is, aside from the free pizza and beer would be because we did do that, but would be the other thing would be making people, everybody that works there feel like they are invested in what you’re doing. I think that’s a really big takeaway. If people feel like they are invested in your company, in your your venture and your goal, they’re going to put everything they have into it because it’s theirs. Now to it’s their goal to it aligns together.
Christopher Slater: And free beer and pizza is a staple and getting people to help you move.
Matt Tompkins: Yeah.
Christopher Slater: So that’s.
Matt Tompkins: That’s, that was almost the name of the podcast, actually. Free beer and pizza. I think somebody else is taking that.
Christopher Slater: That’s hot wings.
Matt Tompkins: Yeah. So what are some big, big through lines commonalities you’ve seen because you both have I mean more history working with entrepreneurs and successful business owners in Omaha than I do. I’ve seen this firsthand kind of the success you’ve had. And in partnering with these people, what have you seen as a commonality when it comes to leadership style, specifically that other business owners, other entrepreneurs right now could take away and apply to what they’re doing? It may be an earlier stage in their journey.
Joseph Kenney: Great leadership is actually science based. There’s a lot of data to support when even you go back to Larry, for example, Larry uses somebody’s name. Well, research would suggest that the word love is not the most important thing that you ever hear in your life. It’s your name. Matt Christopher. Larry. Peter. When you hear that there is a spike of dopamine in your brain and great leaders have understood the value of connecting on that personal level. There is a direct correlation between successful leaders and how good the business is. Business successful business is 100% predicated on great leaders, bottom line. And yeah, we work with hundreds of businesses throughout the country and every time we walk in, it takes about 2 minutes with the owner, the entrepreneur, the small business owner, even the manager. It takes 2 minutes to assess how good of a business that really is.
Matt Tompkins: I mean, that’s true. I mean, you’ve probably seen that, too, Christopher. I mean, and you know, you said you’ve been kind of doing the dream job here for ten years, but even before that, I mean, I saw that. I mean, you see and you look up to those leaders that set those examples. And then the cool thing is you get to see that influence you and other people to eventually become good, effective leaders as well.
Christopher Slater: It’s it’s that leader being able to recognize their role as the leader and how important that is, just as Joe said, to use somebody’s name or to spend the time with people, you know, even going to a networking event, for example, and understanding what your role is. And that if there’s people that want to have a little bit of your time, give your time and and just being able to walk over and say hello to somebody and asking somebody some pointed questions about how they’re feeling that day or what challenges they may be undergoing, that that means a lot. That’s people are taking away a little bit of your time and that’s valuable.
Matt Tompkins: I know my wife Wendy makes she’s I mean hardcore into crafting and so it’s she loves making cards for people that’s a that’s a simple thing that goes a long way. I mean, you obviously know it’s a greeting card.
Joseph Kenney: Wendy is very good. Yeah, very good.
Matt Tompkins: Very crafty and very talented. You may see one coming up with our first guest on the podcast. She gets one maybe on camera. One won’t spoil anything, but. So she says, hey, all right. Yesterday she said, You need to get your Christmas list together. I’m like, my Christmas list, right? She’s like, Yeah, all the people you want to send cards to, I’m like, Who do I want? Saying Cards are like, you know, with your company people you work with. I’m like, Oh yeah, okay. Yeah, man, I’m not thinking about Christmas yet in my mind, but I mean, it’s those little things though. I mean, what are some other little things that people can just implement? I know the cards work really well. Personalizing it, remembering and saying somebody’s name, as you mentioned, works really well. What are some other techniques?
Joseph Kenney: Yeah, I can tell you, I’ve I’ve hired over 1000 thousand people over the last 20 years. And as I’ve walked through cubicles, hallways, offices, I’ve never seen a commission check or a copy of a commission check hung up on the wall. But I’ll tell you, I can’t count the number of times where I’ve seen a card hung up that somebody said, Hey, really great job with this proposal. Nice work on this such and such project. I think just taking the time to go that little extra step, just to remind somebody that you actually know who they are, that you can appreciate them. Just moments before we came on set, we learned something about somebody on set that I had no idea. He’s a brilliant painter. Had no idea. And for me, I’m like, gosh, how did I how did I miss that? And it reminds me that we have to continue to get to know people just a little bit better.
Matt Tompkins: A quick lesson along those lines. I’m not taking credit for this, but it does work and I’ve implemented it is just when you think of somebody, call them, text them, you know, I mean, communication is so easy, but we kind of take it for granted and we think, well, yeah, you know, maybe if you think about someone, they pop in your head, think of, you know, tell them, Hey, I was just thinking about you. I’ve done that with Aaron, who we do some work with here with, you know, he’s doing the 360 videography. And I remember one day I was just calling him, I said, Hey, I just want to call you. He’s like, What’s going on? I’m like, Nothing. I just wanted to say, you know, you do a great job. You’re really good at what you do. And I appreciate the fact that we get to work together on these projects. And, I mean, it’s those little things that last forever. Lorne Michaels had a great line about his the TV channel, and he said, you know, my job is to make a 90 minute show that is amazing. Front to back. I just have to have one moment that people remember and love Monday when they’re at work. That’s that’s what makes a great show. And that’s we remember those those moments, you know, that’s really stands out.
Christopher Slater: I’ve even gone so far as to schedule those reach outs. I’m the oldest of four. I have three younger sisters and we don’t all connect as much as we would like to. But every Sunday at 8:00, it’s on my calendar and I get an alert and I send them all a text, just a group text that we stay on. And sometimes that’s the only communication we happen to have that week, but at least we have that communication.
Matt Tompkins: I mean, you could do that with so many with technology now. I mean, you can schedule emails, you can spend 30 minutes and just I’m going to send a few emails out to people just to say, hey, I appreciate you, you know, and that because it goes such a long way. I mean, people are going to remember you. They’re going to want to continue to do business with you. And even even if it’s not now, I’ve seen it happen where it’s ten, 12, 15 years later, that one moment, that one thing you did for somebody is what they still remember. And that’s why they made this decision to help you. And you talk about a return on an investment when it’s genuine and you do it for the right reasons. I mean, it’s exponential possibilities that you can see down the line.
Christopher Slater: We need some more stationery, by the way, because I sent out 20 last week.
Matt Tompkins: Oh, no, I already I already told Wendy she’s making all of it. So she’s in the other room. They’re having a secret craft day, you know, just crafting away on all the podcast cards.
Joseph Kenney: I think it’s important to note that, you know, great leaders make make mistakes all the time. Earlier today, I admitted to Christopher that I blew it on something and I could certainly do a much better job on it. And it’s just, I think the constant pursuit that we can get better as leaders and business owners. It’s not a situation where we’re we’re plateaued. We don’t want to stay at the same level. We want to continue to improve and. And grow with the business to.
Matt Tompkins: I also know everybody is a leader in some sense. I mean, if somebody looks up to you, you are a leader of some kind. I mean, it could be you’re just an older sibling and you’re setting an example or you’re the manager at the local pizza joint and you have a bunch of young high school age kids who are very impressionable, that are working the values, what you put out that’s that’s going to be influenced on on them and it’ll carry on for how many years later. So I mean, always keeping that mind as no matter where you are in your career, you are in a position to influence, which means you’re in a leadership position.
Christopher Slater: And as Joe said, continuing to grow. Real leaders do continue to grow and real leaders don’t have all the answers. And and that’s hard to admit for a lot of people, but being able to reach out and find that continual coaching or that continue that continual development is is critical.
Matt Tompkins: And in our show notes here for you, we put together a bunch of helpful resources along these lines. So maybe you don’t know what your leadership style is. There is a site you can actually go. The link and information is in our show notes. You can go, you can find out what your style is and if it’s the right style for what you’re doing, is it effective in what you want to accomplish? And and then also there’s, I think, seven main different types of leadership styles. For the most part, people refer to. We have that and some helpful tips for you there in the show notes here for the podcast. If you want to learn more about what your own leadership style is and about the other leadership styles you should know, check out our links in the show notes for today’s podcast. On the next episode of the Omaha podcast. We’re going to be joined by Omaha Mayor Gene Stothard, who will show us how leaders get shit done.
Is your leadership style working or hurting you?