What a High-Growth CEO Shares About His Unique Role as the Head of the Company
Every business, company, or team has someone at the top of the organizational food chain. That person, oftentimes referred to as the CEO, is overall responsible for the well being and survival of the organization.
What every business, company, or team does not have is someone at the top of the organizational food chain that actually performs the job as Chief Executive Officer. A simple look at the business landscape – Uber, SEARS, RadioShack – shows us that even the most innovative and high powered organizations can suffer from a lack of leadership at the top. The result: toxic cultures, high turnover, and even a total collapse of the organization.
The differences between well led and poorly led organizations is staggering
I recently chatted with Doug Radi, CEO of Good Karma Foods, the leading producer of flaxseed-based milk and yogurt alternatives. We discussed his authentic and balanced leadership approach that is working wonders for his team and the overall health of the organization. The proof is there: Estimated roughly $78 million in sales in 2016, the plant-based yogurt segment is growing by 50% annually. They are significantly outpacing the growth of dairy-based yogurts by more than 10 times.
Doug identified three principles that guarantee unstoppable culture.
“You have to set the direction, but everyone has to be engaged in that process”
This is a key fundamental shift from most leadership thought. Yes, it is true that a leader must hold true to the system of values that is the core DNA of the team and the people in it. Leaders must remember that their organization is made up of people, and people are not static beings. We change, we grow, we evolve. And most importantly, people want to identify with the organization that they devote their time to.
Leaders must remember that their organization is made up of people. We change, we grow, we evolve.
If you want people to identify “mind, body and soul” with your organization, then they should believe the vision and values of the company while being able to experience personal growth that is shaped by the experiences that you provide them.
This where leaders must step back and allow their people to take their own personal voyage.
“We're on the same journey. But my job is not to tell everywhere ‘here's the [seat] on the train you should sit in’”, Doug states. “We want a great company, a great place to work, with great products and to build a really cool space where we can be proud and benefits everyone we touch. That's our vision. We call it ‘inspire goodness’; we talk about it all the time. If we don't have a commitment to goodness, we're not inspiring goodness, then we're not living up to our companies brand."
So, how can you be sure your team knows your overarching vision and values? How often do you talk about it? How can you invite more people into embodying the values of the company by giving them the space to grow?
Which leads right into Doug’s second principle....
“It's not my job to do everyone's job. I should be shepherding the process.”
Attention leaders who feel compelled to have their voice be the loudest, the strongest, and most often heard: You’re doing everyone around you a disservice. Doug explains clearly, “Let the great team you have do what you hired them to do.”
It is great leadership technique to have a feel for your team. It’s the unexplainable feeling of knowing when to infuse your team with something or simply move out of the way. As Doug puts it, “sometimes you need to add engagement, sometimes you need to step back.”
Doug is a huge advocate for balance in the process. He is always looking ways to infuse a sense of 'play' into his work. He makes it a point to initiate the way he wants people to approach the job by biking during working hours.
“I need to help people find balance. Team members are not interchangeable resources. I have balance points, and I make it a point to say, ‘Hey! Look whose leaving in his spandex!’ We can build things culturally that can do that. We have floating holidays, birthday time off, and volunteer time off so you can give back to the community the way you like to. The reality is that your motivated and talented team is going to get the work done, so let them get it done the way they like to.”
Type-A personalities can get tied up in thinking about the need to always manage people’s time. Rather, leaders must become accustomed to managing people’s energy, which is a shift in common thought. Doug has found his way of managing energy.
Type-A personalities can get tied up in thinking about the need to always manage people’s time. Rather, leaders must become accustomed to managing people’s energy
“Like most CEO's, I'm very competitive and sometimes I push too hard. I try to lead with my heart, so I can push hard but without pushing people over. If you're real Type 'A', you have to telegraphically put some fun into the process. You can't take yourself too serious…We want a rooftop deck culture.”
As a leader, are you always trying to get your word in? How can you find balance in your process and add some 'play'? How can you prioritize energy over time?
“You need to be real. As a CEO, don't act like you’re above it all.”
“In our environment, if I am not down my people with my hands in the dirt, it says a lot about me and how I want the team to operate…I don't see myself at the top, I feel like I'm a part of the team.”
A simple leadership truth: people want to be able to relate to those with power. Armed with this knowledge, people with power can have the greatest impact by humanizing their leadership by being present with their team.
"The most glaring deficiency in contemporary organizational functioning is the almost universal inadequacy of support. People need to have access to their superiors to be able to read their faces, to see recognition of their own existence reflected in their superiors eyes," says Harry Levinson, author of The Executive.
Being real and present simply shows that you care and you're interested. You care enough to give your time back to those that are giving it to you and the vision of the organization. And you're interested enough to show up and show that the job being performed by your team is critical to the organization's success.
For most leaders, showing that you care and that you're interested in more than just yourself and the bottom-line is enough for your team. Unfortunately, many CEO's are failing to even do that.
How do you "be real with your team? What about they ways you infuse fun into the process? Share a Comment below to tell me your ways!
More with Doug Radi about his healthy rooftop deck culture, how leaders with a type-A personality can be more mindful when pushing people, and the way he layers his personal vision of the vision of Good Karma Foods!