Union Up Podcast - Episode 3

Leading Your Local During a Crisis

This is critical information. Workers are getting laid off, membership is uneasy, families are anxious. Construction leadership expert DeWayne Ables from Pioneer IQ provides Business Managers not only an excellent 4-part framework to think about leadership, but also a cadence and plan of execution to put it into practice. Keep your team and membership motivated, communicate effectively, and weather this (or any) storm. https://pioneeriq.com/

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(Transcript) DeWayne Excerpt: It allows the leaders to continently communicate information back to their team that hopefully keeps them in tune and inspired on why they are so important and the need that they serve on a daily basis.

Opening: You're listening to the Union Up Podcast, a podcast with conversations on issues facing business managers and local trade unions across the country.

Rut: How do we lead during such a chaotic time that changes seemingly every day. How do we effectively communicate with the people we serve and what tools and timelines do we have at our disposal to do so? My guest is Dewayne Ables who is a leadership strategist and business guide with a group called Pioneer IQ. And pioneer IQ is a leadership and management consulting firm out of Kansas City who works in the construction and design build firms all over the country. And over the past 18 years, DeWayne has evolved a unique process that uncovers unique purpose, empowers leaders and employees to deliver it and explores the market defined what owners need and desire. And DeWayne, I wanted to welcome you for joining us.

DeWayne: Good morning. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to talk to you this morning.

Rut: I met you after reading an article that you were featured in Construction Dive and frankly, it brought a smile to my face because I'm constantly looking for good news during this calamity to help inspire the business managers we serve, to inspire their own people. And after researching you and your company, you have a unique approach to leadership that I felt was so poignant and so needed right now, that I immediately reached out to you to see where we connected. And in that article and subsequent webinars I've watched of yours, you had not only a great approach on how to lead during times like this, but also a framework of a timeline on when and what to do with your four degrees of leadership, which we'll get into that takes leadership out of sort of esoteric principles and into a practical way to apply it. In one point you made that I thought was particularly relevant is the admission that no one feels necessarily qualified to lead during these times. It taps into the sort of vulnerability that we all feel, but that everyone has everything they need to do it. What did you mean by that?

DeWayne: Specifically, the reality is that if you've been appointed to a leadership role or a senior management role or high-level responsibility on any team any size, the bottom line is that you are the most qualified person to develop the best answer at the time. Because of that responsibility, every leader carries a level of burden that helps them to see things or to feel things or interpret things that other people who aren't carrying that same burden. They don't have that. And so the point is that through the COVID-19 scenario here, everybody's in new territory. And I've yet to see a leader that's made all the right decisions. And so the point that I want people to understand is that those who are in leadership positions right now are the best qualified. The problem is, is that they're not listening to their intuition. They're not listening to their gut feel. They're not listening to maybe spiritual insights that some of them may receive. And what I've discovered in doing about 120 interviews during the first two or three, four weeks of the COVID-19 breakout is that most leaders have the right intuition and the right decision. They just aren't following it because they don't have enough data. Or they don't have enough confidence or they don't have enough of their people on their team saying that they're right. But the truth is most of the things that I hear when I'm asking them about what they're going to do are accurate and, and the right decision. They're just looking for more confirmation and they're not going to get that right now. So my encouragement is go with what your intuition tells you. You're not going to get as much data as you need. Not everybody's going to agree, but you're the best, most qualified person to come up with the best decision right now.

Rut: One thing I loved about your four degrees of leadership and I'd like to get into that a little bit, is you have this framework that allows somebody to kind of feel some sense of security in such a chaotic time. And one principle that you were talking about was instead of leading followers, leadership is more about developing other leaders. Talk about that for a minute.

DeWayne: Yeah, so anybody who has any aspirations or desires to be in a leadership role or is in one now, the first thing you have to do is stop and ask yourself, why am I even doing this? Then it really boils down to you have three choices. Number One, am I choosing to be a leader and stepping up because I want more money? That's one question. That's one option. Two. Am I stepping up and leading because I want to have some level of power or authority over a group of people or to serve myself? And then the Third option is am I doing it to serve other people? And at the end of the day, most people that I run across in the US, especially in the construction and design industry, genuinely wants to serve others and to problem solve and to do something great. And so what I want to help people to understand is that if you are a leader and you genuinely want to serve others to do something great, then your number one objective is to understand the need that you and your team are uniquely qualified to serve, number one. Number two, your objective then is to identify other people who have that same compassion or passion or even frustration about that need and want to join you in serving it. So when you start to think from those types of lenses, your objective is then to help motivate and inspire other people about that need and to join you in either serving the need or buying services from you because they have the need.

Rut: The first level of leadership, the first degree of leadership you talk about, which I thought was really interesting. The four levels, as I understand it, is one to zero, one to one, one to 12 and one to infinity. And what you mean by what I interpreted that you mean by one to zero is preparing yourself to lead. There's a lot of talk about leading other people, but I really liked this framework because you were talking about getting yourself in a position to lead, which essentially means leading yourself. How might leaders best do that?

DeWayne: So number one, first thought is that if you aren't clear on your own purpose, then you're living out someone's expectation for your life, your Dads, your peers, your brothers, your Moms, someone else's expectations. So first and foremost, you've got to get really clear on what your skills, gifts, talents are and the need that you serve, all bottled up, to me, that equals your purpose. Secondly, you've got to create a vision for your life. What is it that you ultimately want to become and what we consider to be the six different areas of your base camp, which is all about who do you want to become, what's the future and what's the perspective of your marriage look like? What's your family going to ultimately become? And a picture of that. How does your house need to facilitate that vision? Who do you want to serve and what impact do you want to have on your in your career and also in your community, but you have to have a vision for your life. And then thirdly, you have to have a really simple plan. That stuff is fairly simple. The hard part comes down into the daily routine of sifting between distractions and priorities and making sure that you're on a daily basis, staying on track to keep yourself healthy and prioritize and that you're executing on your personal and professional routine so that you can stay on track. You know, the tough part for a lot of leaders is just the self-discipline of staying on track, planning and prioritizing on a daily or weekly basis. Once they do get clear on that purpose and vision, but if you don't have a clear purpose and vision personally, you're literally just like a wave going from one thing to the next, trying to find more fulfillment or something that makes you feel valuable.

Rut: Yeah. The people we serve primarily, we serve the business manager at the pleasure of his e-board at the pleasure of his members. Right. In other words, these are guys who have been elected to lead this local, so by virtue of the fact that they are elected means they have some leadership chops that they've seen some different type of vision that may be the leader prior to them wasn't executing on or wasn't prioritizing. So it makes a ton of sense in terms of preparing yourself and I feel like they are uniquely suited to do that because they have already taken that step. They haven't been thrust in that role. They, they took ownership of it. They ran for office and they won. They were given the opportunity to lead by their leadership. The second level you talk about as your one-to-one relationships. If you could talk about that a little bit. You know, our guys generally have a structure of themselves as the business manager and then they've got their administration, the group that works with them that they brought in with them to lead the group. And then they've got of course the membership, the e-board and the membership that they have. And then they also have the relationship with the contractors that they provide labor for. And that starts sort of with a one on one relationship. If you would take me through what your thoughts are in terms of that one-to-one leadership.

DeWayne: So keep in mind, the four degrees of leadership are in place to help leaders understand how to effectively lead a greater team or an organization at any size. And one of the critical steps is the second degree of leadership, which is all about looking at the individuals on your team, who you are responsible for and loving or caring for them enough to genuinely understand what their purpose and their potential is. You don't have to get in extreme detail, but at minimum you have to have a general idea of what their skills, gifts, and talents and passions are, which is embodied in their purpose and what their potential impact really could be if they're living their sweet spot so that you can put them in that sweet spot. And so the clarity around purpose and their potential helps you as a leader understand where are they best fit from an organization perspective, what's the best position for them and where would they function, and have the best contribution. Thirdly, in that particular position, do they genuinely understand their responsibilities? And from that point on, your job is to allow them to carry their own flag and to be responsible for what you've given them and you're investing into them and at that point you then become their guide. You support, guide and hold them accountable. Most importantly, you're helping them to understand the story that they're living so that those men and women can understand from your perspective how you're impacting other people, hopefully in turn motivating them.

Rut: That's a great point. And the next level there, you've got this one to 12 ratio. Does that have to do with the discipleship number? In other words, it's an old adage and it's something that Jesus used, you know, as a 12 disciples. Is that where that number came from? That one to 12 ratio?

DeWayne: Originally that's where that concept came from. And I still firmly believe that today. And it doesn't necessarily mean that everybody has to believe in Christ to be effective at leadership. But I will tell you, when I've studied leaders over the 20 years that I've owned this business, what I have started to uncover is that the greatest leaders have the longest influence. And when you look over the course of history, Christ was the significant leader. And here we are on Good Friday, 2000 years later and going to be the largest speaking of Christ in the history of the planet, on Sunday rather. And so when you think about the impact and influence that he had at the end of the day, he could manage no more than 12. Right? I'm not putting a limit on a great leader that walked our earth. But what I am saying is most people that I know, and I have had the pleasure of working with some phenomenal leaders in small and large organizations. Most people do not affectively manage more than six or eight people, period. And the whole point there is that the greatest, what I perceive to be the greatest leader to ever walk earth only had 12 direct reports. So you know, who am I to say that I could manage more than that. But most leaders that we work with are not effective beyond about six direct reports.

Rut: Yeah. In our world is the e-boards and the administrative teams that report to a business manager. You talked about getting your team into a needs assessment mode. What did you mean by that and how do they go about doing that?

DeWayne: Yeah, so the key to leading, so the third degree of leadership is all about leading the team. So the first two degrees are about leading individuals yourself and the people who report directly to you. The third degree is all about how can I affectively lead, the small group of people and then that small group of people could be your team or they could be the leaders of the organization, but when you get into the third degree of leadership, it gets back to why does your company exist? Are you there for profits or for power or for purpose? And again, if you're in business to serve others, you have to follow the needs. So in the webinar that you're referring to, we are helping leaders to understand that right now more so than even after 911 and then the great recession, the needs of people, owners, facility managers, architects, engineers, contractors are the whole-built environment. The needs are changing so rapidly that if we genuinely are in business to serve others, we have to be talking to our clients, prospects and trade partners to understand how the needs are shifting so that we as leaders know how to shift the priorities and can innovate our solutions to meet the market needs. You're not doing that. You have to ask yourself a real hard question. Am I a market follower? If I'm a market follower, you don't necessarily need to be a needs assessment mode. You wait until what your peers decided to do and then you follow them. To me, that's not good leadership.

Rut: Agreed and most business managers have a plan or some agenda, so to speak, or they wouldn't have been elected in the position that they're in now in terms of long-term planning, which seems so difficult right now. Everything's changing almost on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, really, how do leaders stay nimble and adjust, which is so necessary right now, but still stay focused on their long-term goals.

DeWayne: It's really simple, Rut, essentially identical to you and a group of friends or your family deciding to go on a long hike and before you go on a hike, you do as much research as you can to understand the elevation and the terrain and the resources that you're going to need; what might be available along the way and you start to define specific milestones as you start to hike up the mountain. Strategic planning is absolutely no different than that. Just like on a hike, you're going to run into significant weather. Right now we've run into some significant weather. So what's really critical about your plan is that it doesn't necessarily change your milestones, but it might slightly change the timing of when you get your next milestones. So what we're helping people to understand right now is not to throw their plan out. What we've suggested, put most of your strategic plan on pause for a moment and I'm saying a moment in general, maybe a quarter and based on the needs that you're starting to uncover from your employees and your customers and your members, you then need to think about how your priorities might need to change over the next 90 days. And as we progressed to three or four weeks from now, you continue to assess how those needs are changing. And if over the course of the next two months we start to see significant decline, which I don't know that we will, but you then have to start to make assessments about the next quarter. But right now we haven't been in this long enough to significantly change your long-term plan. Your 2020 plan is probably going to shift a little bit. And your second quarter plan and priorities obviously have shifted significantly, but it's literally that simple where you're in between two milestones in your plan and you've hit some significant weather on the hike. You just gotta be able to shift your priorities or the next several steps. But I would strongly suggest not changing your planning and your milestones yet.

Break: You're listening to the Union Up Podcast, a podcast with conversations on issues facing business managers and local trade unions across the country. Hosted by Rutland Walker, founder of Union Up. Union Up develops marketing programs that help local trade unions to recruit new members, grow market share and increase contractor roles for more information. Visit unionup.net

Rut: Is that what you talk about when you talk about having a framework one, and two you talk about and stress significantly implementing a cadence. What did you mean by that?

DeWayne: A framework is just a simple way to think through something, right? And so we developed the framework literally in January around how to help equip leaders to a timeline, how their market is likely to respond based on the level of fear that in the U S as a whole, which is where the templates, but then how to assess and use that framework for your local markets. So that was kind of the framework that you're referring to. So the second component of your question is addressing a cadence, and I have spent a lot of time studying over the last three weeks. Here we are, April 10th Good Friday. We've been in the midst of COVID-19. We're considering to be the fourth inning as it we're calling right now. This is the fourth inning, but in the first three innings there have been companies who have been tormented by the amount of change because they haven't responded well, their team has responded well. And then there have been teams who are responding phenomenally. I have had four conversations this week where their team's utilization or productivity has increased from either a 10 to 17% for companies this week, just this week. I've been trying to understand why some companies are thriving and some people are not. And what it boils down to is the cadence. A cadence is a very simple routine that you are implementing with yourself, individuals on your team, your team as a whole and for your organization, all of those four degrees of leadership. And what I have discovered is that companies that are thriving right now, we've literally had to have a webinar for a company on Tuesday to focus on burnout. That's how significantly some people have been working from home. And I'm talking about an engineering firm for a second. And then we've had similar conversations with some construction companies, but what the, what the consistency is this cadence that leaders have just naturally put in place to communicate with their team. And what I have started to see is that every one of the companies that have thrived through the downturn has one thing in common, a daily message or meeting or call with everyone on their team. And I'm talking to everyone on the team. No matter how big the team is, either logs in or views a video message and that video message that typically comes from a leader specifically helps everybody understand three things, what's going on with people in their organization, what's going on with changes to help make everybody productive, and changes with their projects. And in those three categories, people are able to get enough insight and direction to know how to prioritize for the day. And what's been really interesting to watch is most of those companies are shifting to three days a week or two days a week starting next week because there's very little to no fear inside their organization and they don't need that type of repetition. Cadence is all about the routine in which you are communicating or holding your team accountable on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Rut: What I really liked about that was... it is such a chaotic time and this balance between chaos and order requires both. You can't stay in order all the time, otherwise you won't be out seeking the next piece of business or the next or addressing the situation out there and you can't stay in chaos all the time for obvious reasons, but when we're in a time of complete chaos in a lot of ways, a cadence, what it said to me is that it gives everyone a sense of sort of order, sort of normalcy, so to speak. Is that a fair assessment of why a cadence is important?

DeWayne: A cadence is important for three reasons. One, it helps everybody stay on the same page Two. It gives everyone a sense of consistency and repetition and then thirdly, it allows the leaders to possibly communicate information back to their team that hopefully keeps them in tune and inspired on why they are so important and the need that they serve on a daily basis. Absolutely. It gives them a sense of purpose.

Rut: I love it. I've got one more question for you and I really appreciate you spending time. I know you're busy and being interviewed all over the country and I really appreciate you spending time with us. A lot of business managers use social media to communicate with their people, which inevitably brings naysayers and complainers. How should leaders deal with that type of dissension?

DeWayne: Well, first and foremost, if you're debating on which medium to use, the choice should purely be based on the medium that works best for the people you're trying to communicate with. And for a lot of people, social media and especially private or internal social media mediums can be great, but you may be referring to more public social media type options. The truth is simple. If you are using social media as a primary means of communication, you've got to consider what your overall objective is and if your overall objective is to acknowledge that there's a need out there, if you have a solution or if the objective is to communicate a story on the impact that your solution has had, you're going to get naysayers because for some reason people, some people, let's say, maybe a small group of people don't like to hear things that bring light into darkness. And I can give you a personal example. We've had a significant amount of social media coverage, not just that we're putting out, but coverage on what we're communicating, and I've got some hate mail more than I've ever received before, and at the end of the day, we as leaders just have to realize that not everybody's going to agree with you and that's okay. We're not selling ice cream or selling puppies at this point. So if we are responsible for people and we have critical things that we're communicating, then most likely you're going to some haters out there that's just kind of how it works. But the key is, is making sure that you're following your convictions and that you're making decisions based on what you believe, not based on what other people expect.

Rut: How should they respond to those negative comments or should they respond to those negative comments?

DeWayne: Just giving you my personal response. If it's someone that, if I'm getting a response that is coming from someone that I either work with or is one of our team members or is a client of ours or is a trade partner of ours, then I'm going to reach back out to that person to understand their perspective. But if it's someone that's just quote unquote out in the marketplace and they're just responding purely out of frustration or hatred, there's really no value in you trying to respond to them because most people are just responding back to you purely out of their emotions or maybe their situation. So my opinion would be no response in that situation.

Rut: One of the quotes that you had in the, one of the webinars, and I'll post the webinars on when we post the podcast, but I loved it, and it speaks to the purpose and it speaks to the leaderships and ability to imbue his troops, so to speak, with the vision. And that is that soldiers don't fight because they hate what's in front of them. They fight because they love what's behind them. Where did that come from?

DeWayne: The quote from a Navy seal. I don't believe that it was David Goggins, but I think it's a quote that circulates through the military.

Rut: I love David Goggins man. He's an inspirational guys and not...

DeWayne: he is absolutely an inspirational guy. And what I love about David Goggins is that he does a great job of communicating his personal case since you know, he's kind of been acknowledged as maybe the greatest Navy Seal or special ops agent in us history, even though I'm a big Chris Kyle fan. But what's beautiful about his story is he came from the worst conditions possible in his life and is now seen as one of the greatest all time American heroes. But the secret to his success is his cadence. Every single day he uses post-it notes and writes a message on his post-it note for what he wants to accomplish that day and puts it next to his mirror. It's beautiful.

Rut: One of the things that I feel like great leaders do is they allow me to see myself in them. The most effective way that they do that is to show their own vulnerability. Is that what you mean by telling their story?

DeWayne: Absolutely. That to me is one of the most difficult levels of leadership to get to is a place where you understand how your past, your pains and what you currently experience is affecting you, your perception, and those around you. And you're able to share that. I had a young CEO in Texas earlier this year. He's been a CEO for, I think he's in his second year now, but he had enough courage at the company wide meeting at January to thanks everyone in his organization for reaching out to him because his father had passed away in 2019 and one of the things that he chose to do was to tell them that his dad has struggled with depression and anxiety and had ultimately committed suicide. And the reason why I feel like that is such a huge step and such a difficult level of leadership to get to is because when we choose to be vulnerable, people are going to judge us more deeply. And at the end of the day, that allows them to be in control, not us. But that's the choice that we get to make because ultimately leadership is about empowerment and some of the most difficult empowerment is allowing other people to make legitimate and accurate assumptions about who we are as people, not just who we are as managers.

Rut: I love that. It's time, very well spent today. I really appreciate you spending some time with us. DeWayne, how do people get in touch with you if they want to?

DeWayne: Absolutely. The easiest way is to call me. I'm an old fashioned guy. You can reach me on my cell phone or on my direct line, (913) 636-7373. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Dwayne Ables or Pioneer IQ @pioneerIQ. You can also find me on our website at pioneeriq.com but I spend a lot of my time every day talking to people and helping them on their journey, so there's some that I can do for one of your listeners or craftsmen or tradesperson. I'd love to be able to do that.

Rut: Really appreciate you spending time with us. Thanks so much.

Closing: You've been listening to Union Up a podcast with conversations on issues facing business managers and local trade unions across the country. For more information on this podcast or to help your local grow, visit unionup.net.


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