Ever wonder how some people seem to just naturally "have it"?
Over the last several years, I have sought out those type of folks, the kind described above, the "get it done, 1%'ers". To me these conversations are Success Interviews.
"Conrad" is a well known property development and owner in the Southeast. Having watched from afar over the last 20 years or so, I figured it was time to ask him about his path to success and what made him successful.
NOTE: Like every other success interview I have done over the last few years, Conrad was very humble and down played his success. I reiterated I was prying into his life because from my viewpoint, on the outside, looking in, I thought he was successful. This seemed to take the edge off. Usually, once my subject sees that I am there to learn and not play to their ego, they loosen up and begin to share.
This entire thing began at a lunch event where he and I happened to be seated near each other. Having no shame and figuring I can't learn from folks if I don't ask for their time, I approached him and told him about the "Success Series Interviews" and he was delighted to say yes. Well, he did said yes, the delighted part I may have dreamed up.
I love people who do not renege on their word.
We were slated for a half hour session. Conrad's administrative assistant, Ms. Hathaway, had managed, OK, yes I bribed and begged her, to get me in to visit before he departed for some vacation time with his family. Bottom line: We sat for an hour and 40 minutes. Talk about a knowledge drop...
Conrad grew up as the son of a submarine commander. I'm sure this had its great points and it's challenging points. According to him, one of the good parts was moving a lot. Moving is what brought Conrad to the Southeast, as his dad was assigned to a base on the Atlantic coast.
Conrad attended an Ivy League school for 8 years and served in the United States armed services, which did a lot for his character development. Teaching school added another component to the skills and traits that he carried forward from academia to the board room. A long marriage, the death of a spouse, raising a house full of kids, educating them and founding his own company, which now has recently celebrated 50 years of business serving customers, all built layers upon layers of knowledge on how to deal with specific issues, and mainly how to deal with people. That is where the magic lies for this kind gentleman.
He professes not to be an avid reader, although he was very quick to tell me his all-time favorite book was Psycho-Cybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz. Digging into the foundation and principles of the book, trying to grasp quickly the nuggets of it, knowing that Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins and the like also subscribed to many of the core values described, I immediately saw why this was his choice to share with me.
Having garnered some insight to his world and knowing some of his key team members, I was curious to ask about who, how and why. His right hand man, how did he know he was the "right guy" for that role? Real answer: He inherited him in a deal involving helping the family of a deceased friend shut down and sell off assets. They just started clicking because they both thought each other "had it". Others have been groomed, others sought him out, yet many are internally grown.
This man is known for his details. Work, home, and fund-raising. That alone has helped so many people and their children that it is staggering. Seeing a piece of paper in a parking lot, not just his parking lot - any parking lot, and bending over to grab it for disposal. That is the type of man we are talking about here.
And now in his upper 70's, the man is still on a mission.
Conrad's mission: Help his people succeed. He does not put ANY boundaries or conditions on this statement. Obviously he wants them to succeed at one of the business that are under his leadership, but their success trumps any company name.
The commitment to work in a stress free environment drives many moves within the organization. It could involve a strategic move for someone from his team to go off and run another company. If the opportunity is right for that person, Conrad backs them. Self-less leadership is hard to define, but so easy to spot.
As a peer, this gentleman has a group that supports each other, but they also push hard on each other to "do better". Remaining static and toeing the line is not what the leadership group that he helped form, and has been around for about 30 years now, is all about. This team of work horses sets goals. Goals for the cities they operate in, goals for medical research, goals for challenging each other to give more for scholarships and on and on.
So why does he do it? After many years of successful commerce, he does not do it for the money. He does it to better the culture that we all live in. That was not said with any type of snobbery or pompousness, he said it from the heart.
His company leaders, along with him, have developed a great document. It defines many characteristics of high-quality people, and it's a constant reminder to, "do the right thing". We all have a streak of lazy in us, having these traits, methods and a path to success printed onto a card, published on the company web site and, in my mind most importantly, used as a guide when making decisions as a company are what keep them at the top of their game and industries.
These are the things they ask themselves: Does what we are about to do as a company truly align with what we say in public we are about? Does terminating an employee truly help all involved? Does having an open, honest conversation with your boss really get things resolved without the worry of being retaliated against?
In summary, it's easy for wealthy and successful people to sit in a board room overlooking the acres upon acres that they own and manage and talk about how great thou art. It's an entirely different world though when you get a peek behind the curtain... sitting in a small conference room with "the man"at 5:37pm and hear him telling many stories about how strong his teams are because he wants to be there. That is strong and so is the People Culture of Conrad's companies.
They win because they find, filter, train, educate, support, love, coach and honor their people. This is the secret sauce for so many companies or could be. Keep people happy, keep them engaged and profits will follow.
Thank you for taking time and reading this. Insight is everything.
Until next time, stay curious.You know the folks I am referring to. People say, "Wow, that Jenn, she "just has it", or after a meeting, you are sitting there thinking, "Boy, Robert really "get's it". Well, the good part is you are not alone in your thinking.