Posted on October 13, 2022
Eric Pines from Authority Magazine asked me “What are the 5 things you wish someone had told you when you first started your career?” I’d like to share the lessons I learned over the years that might serve as a guide for you as well.
# 1: Cultivate the habit of reading.
It wasn’t until much later in my career that I fell in love with reading and learning. Through the encouragement of a mentor, I began reading to grow as a leader. This discipline has changed the way I process information and has given me an understanding of viewpoints I would never have considered. Reading a variety of books from multiple perspectives has allowed me to empower others who don’t think the way I do, but are equally, or in some cases, more effective than I am. One of our largest restructures as a company was fueled by a great book I read and shared with our team.
#2: Don’t fear endings
In looking back over my career and my life in general, I can see that I wasted time being afraid to bring tasks, projects, and sometime relationships to a healthy ending. At Penn-Mar, we had a line of business that needed to be closed and my growing understanding of necessary endings allowed me to pull the plug. This decision was greeted with much gratitude, as no one else was willing to stop trying to save something that was not worth saving. Rarely do endings come too soon.
#3: Lead with values instead of beliefs
As a strong, decisive leader, I also have very strong beliefs. Many times this has served me well and in most cases, it has served my leadership well. There have been some instances, however, where I came to understand that my strong beliefs could shut down conversation or offend someone who doesn’t share the same beliefs. So I am still learning to lead with my values, and our organizational values, which provides a better platform for considering multiple perspectives and for ultimately reaching better outcomes. Despite the political environment we find ourselves in, compromise is not a dirty word. And when we are discussing values, there is usually a better likelihood of finding common ground.
#4: Pay attention and attend to others especially when I really don’t want to.
As a leader with a touch of Attention Deficit Disorder, I tend to reach conclusions very quickly, sometimes before the person I am talking with has even finished talking. My wife has been my biggest cheerleader in helping me to stay attentive with a few timely kicks under the table. In all seriousness, my pace is not an excuse for ensuring respect and empathy in a conversation and I know I have hurt people by appearing rude or unengaged once I got what I thought I needed out of the conversation. In the role of leader, I am my best when my team is fully engaged. I share the responsibility of ensuring this and I have shared this weakness with my team and given them permission to call me out on this if necessary.
#5: Faith is a leadership weapon, not something to avoid or be afraid of.
As a Christian, there is nothing more important to me than my faith. It took me a few years to figure out that there really is no separation between the Church Greg, the Home Greg and the Work Greg. Leadership is a calling, and within that calling, the power of my leadership has been fueled by my faith. Psalms 37:4 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” While my faith is not to be expected or ever imposed upon others around me, I cannot be expected to abandon it when I go to work. In fact, it is what provides me the catalyst to do my work at the highest level. Cultivating faithfulness matters to me and is a help to others.
In my work at Penn-Mar, I have performed more funerals and counseled more people that I can count. In these vulnerable moments, my faith has allowed me to affirm the value and dignity of life for all those we support as well as our team members.