HEATHER: Hi everyone. This is a Leadership with Heart Podcast, and this is Heather Younger, your host. Employee experience is powered by emotions. Managers and/or leaders within organizations get to choose which emotions they unleash from within the people they lead. Leaders, meaning supervisors or above in an organization, drive much of the positive or negative emotions by their actions or inactions, their words, or what they fail to say. When a manager chooses their words and their actions carefully, they exhibit great emotional intelligence. These managers are often thought of as leaders who care or, as I like to call them, leaders with heart. This special brand of leader drives engagement and loyalty simply by being themselves. Are these leaders perfect? Absolutely not. It is in their awareness and sharing of some of their imperfections that we realize their brilliance. In this podcast, I ask that you see yourself in the stories my guests tell about times when they were not the best versions of themselves but how they used their heart to guide them to a place of deeper connection with their teams and heightened leadership prowess. Today, I am very thrilled to be joined by Steve Paul, one such leader. Enjoy.
Hello everybody. Thank you so much for joining the Leadership with Heart podcast. This is Heather Younger, your host. I am so excited to be joined today by Steve Paul, a longtime friend of mine, but I’ve known him as a leader. He’s also a previous client. The reason why I’ve invited him on here is because I’ve seen over the years, number one, his growth, but also the fact that he has what a lot of leaders have–that internal struggle with trying to lead with heart, trying to get the most of their people, but he has this really keen awareness of where it is that he may be falling short, and he also has this deep desire to try to get better. So that is what leadership with heart is all about. So welcome onto the podcast today, Steve.
STEVE: Well thanks, Heather. Thanks for having me on. First of all, I wanted to just say “way to go” with your book. Your book is looking really good with sales, and I love the book, and everybody I sent it to loves it as well. So thanks for having me on.
HEATHER: I appreciate that. Definitely. Love it. So tell me a little bit about what it is you do at SPCS.
STEVE: Well SPCS, Inc. construction services, basically we’re a repair and maintenance, reconstruction, and renovation company, and we work primarily with property managers and property owners and literally our goal is to make people look good for having hired us to come on to their community or on to their property through unmatched levels of liability, communication, and professionalism. We really believe in raising people up through what we do.
HEATHER: I love it, and, you know, I know that you live this out. I’ve see it, again, from a distance. I believe that you’re someone who leads with integrity as well, not just with your heart. I believe that’s very important, and as a business owner and as a leader. So tell me, what drives you as a person and as a leader? Basically, what drives you, and just where does that come from?
STEVE You know, that’s really an interesting question. It really goes deep, and just to summarize, I would say, that, you know, strong faith in God. I just really–that drives me. I really want to encourage people to be the best versions of themselves, and I think all of us, as leaders, have a responsibility to do that. I think God calls us to greatness.
HEATHER: Awesome. Well, you know, you can’t get any better call than God, so, I appreciate that’s what drives you. How would you define your leadership style?
STEVE: You know, that’s interesting too, because it grows and evolves over the years. I would say that most recently, I might’ve looked at and called myself collaborative, but it was really a good awakening for me to read Patrick Lencioni’s book, Dysfunctions of a Team, I think I’ve grown from that in that while there has to be some collaboration, you need to have constructive conflict as well in resolving things and where you go from here. So it’s interesting growth. Does that make sense?
HEATHER: Yes it does. And, you know, I agree with you that tension has to be there. I mean, leadership is not all about roses and butterflies, and I know sometimes when I do videos or when I write or talk, sometimes I may lead on to that, but there have been plenty of times as a manager of teams that I have had to come down on the other side of where you think it might be that happy, cheery place, but in a way that exhibited that I cared and that it wasn’t to belittle or put down the person that I was trying to consult or advise but really trying to help them see that there was maybe a different way to do things and also trying to help them grow. So I definitely think you have to have that healthy tension. And really, that’s how all of us grow, right? Because if no one gave us constructive feedback, who would be the [4:04] of the day, really? Right? I mean, who would it be?
STEVE: Yeah, absolutely. And some of those conversations can be uncomfortable. And I’ll never forget–Bob Wendover was another person that I learned from over the years. He wrote a number of books. One of them was Smart Hiring. But he also did a lot of generational kinds of things, and anymore, the differences between the different generations of people in the workplace, those conversations–you know it takes a lot of skill to negotiate all the different conversations and get a team working together, more than ever.
HEATHER: Yeah, I definitely agree. There’s a lot of different variables and tensions and distractions that go on, and I think it’s important to make sure that we’re able to clarify those. That’s kind of the role of the leader as well, right? That’s what we’re supposed to be.
STEVE: Absolutely. Listening and being aware are some really important traits as well. It’s just a constant learning process.
HEATHER: Yes, and it’s interesting actually when we talk about conflict. I just recently became certified in emotional and social intelligence, and one of things they made me do was my own 360 feedback assessment where I had to bring in, you know, customers and people who were my team members and managers, and it was really enlightening. One of things, it wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was just something I was aware of–the part where it was conflict management–where I’m good on the social side where I’m really empathetic and I’m really aware of mine and other people’s emotions and how to kind of manage some of those, sometimes on the conflict management side, I’m really averse. I don’t love that. So what’s so awesome about that process is it also takes you through what are the things you can do to get better about conflict instead of being averse and, like, running away from it, and, especially as a leader, how do we go head on with it. So, it was really enlightening to me, and I’m hoping to be able to hear more from everybody else that’s on this podcast but also to be able to share some of those insights with other people. I think it’s critical of leaders that we lead with heart, that we’re more emotionally intelligent in everything we do.
STEVE: That’s a really good point. You know, trust is so critical in all of this, and it doesn’t take much for someone to lose trust. And it can happen so quickly and so easily. If you’re not in tune to that on a day-to-day basis, things can happen quickly, especially with social media, texting–rumors get around quicker. I mean, just everything, trust is so important.
HEATHER: It really is. So tell me. Is there one event that helped define your style? So we know that you said that it’s evolved over time by the things that you read and the education that you’ve done, but is there maybe something that happened to you either when you were a newly minted manager or when you were a team member, not a management role, but still a leader in your own right, something that helped define that style that you have right now?
STEVE: Okay, to start with, I guess I loved to read. So whatever was going on in my life or in my professional career at the time, I always would try and study up on that particular thing at the time. But the one thing that has just really stuck with me for so many years was the privilege to sit with Zig Ziglar at a table with him, and this was about 24 years ago at the National Speakers Association annual convention. It was a networking breakfast. I had stepped in just to get a cup of coffee, and I happened to see him and the redhead sitting at this table, and I had listened to so many of his cassettes and read his books. I literally thought that I could give a couple of his talks because I knew them so well. I felt like I knew him. But I saw him and I was so excited. I walked up to the table, and I asked, “May I please join you?” and Zig made me feel like the most important person at the table. He made the center of conversation around me for the next 10 or 15 or 20 minutes, and here I was right next to someone that was on the cover of Success magazine that month, and it was so exciting and exhilarating. He kept encouraging me. He encouraged me, “You should try speaking. You should get out there and do it.” I was telling him, “You know, I feel like I don’t deserve to be on stage. I need to accomplish something.” And he just wouldn’t have any of it. He just encouraged me. So I’ve never forgotten that. All along, ever since then, that’s been the heart of my leadership at any given point in time is that I’ve always tried to encourage people to take steps in growth, to encourage them to become the best versions of themselves, and that has been so powerful.
HEATHER: And I can definitely say that’s a strength of yours. You do that with me all the time. You know, the two things that I take away on what you just talked about with Zig Ziglar, which, by the way, Holy Wow! That is crazy! I would love to be sitting next to him. I mean, that’s so many people’s dream to be able to be in the same presence as he was, but when you talk about him making you feel important, that’s a key things that leaders really should be focusing on. There’s obviously ways that you do that, truly and actively listening to what they have to say, acting upon what it is that you hear, recognizing the work that they do every day in just the small ways–those are just a few things. I think that’s just so important, and Zig was a master at it, and he was showing you that, and I can appreciate and I know that is in your leadership style. And the other thing that I heard from you though, which I hear a lot and I sense a lot, is that leaders don’t feel important enough to be on that stage. And what I mean by that is not just the stage of speaking but just the leadership role. You know, some of us feel called to be in that role, and some of us feel pulled or pushed or whatever, right, and I think there’s that idea that we just don’t feel good enough for that, and I think that the key is to remember that this is not about perfection [10:29] every single day, which I know is your personal philosophy, which is why you’re on this show. I can appreciate some of the things you were saying and I’ve seen, and I know that you have an evolution there, and that’s one thing that we have to remember. It’s not about perfection, and that we can all strive to be that better leader. We just have to take the tiny steps and want to be better, that’s all. Don’t you agree?
STEVE: You know, I do agree with that. And by the way, Heather, you have demonstrated that over and over and over again yourself. I mean, it’s just remarkable to watch your career progress.
HEATHER: I appreciate that.
STEVE: I think that something that kind of sums that up a little bit for me is–in a conversation for me recently, maybe it was at Thanksgiving dinner or something–someone made a comment in the conversation about me and people like me, and I said, “I’m not sure what you mean, what do you mean by that?” “Well you know, you’re a business owner, you’re this…” and this person was putting me up on this high pedestal, and I’m like “Wow, I’m just little ol’ me. You know, I’m a carpenter.” And that’s still how I feel. I just happened to apply everything I learned in the trade of construction. Does that make sense to you?
HEATHER: Oh it definitely does. I mean, I think that humility is absolutely necessary. When we think of that traditional leader, you know, walking to the office, gliding, you know, above everyone else, kind of shoulders that confidence, that is not the leader who keeps people long. That’s not the leader who engages their people. The leader who engages is the one who goes, “Oops!” or “Me? No, not me; I am not the one who’s gliding above everybody. You and I are together walking hand and hand together.” So I think those are the ones who really endear people to them a lot more. So it makes total sense. I think that’s amazing.
STEVE: Well I think it’s so important how we treat people, and I’ve seen it firsthand, you know, when we bring crews out to work on people’s homes. I’ve seen it firsthand on how people have looked at me when I walk in to the bank and I’m in my construction clothing to deposit a check or whatever, and I’ve always felt it’s important–if someone is coming out to work on my house or another subcontractor brings their people on or whatever–I introduce myself to each one of those folks. I learn their names. Are they married, do they have kids, tell me about your family. That’s what we miss.
HEATHER: That’s the Zig Ziglar effect there–that impact he had for me. And the thing is, we have impact on people whether we like it or not, positive or negative, all around us. So you saying that, it makes perfect sense, but at the same time, we’re not always aware of that, and we do need to be aware.
HEATHER: So can you describe a time for me when you weren’t that leader, when you weren’t that best version of yourself, and what did you do to come out of it?
STEVE: Oh gosh, so many times, when I wasn’t that best leader. I would say, you know, there have been a couple of times, like, in the heat of the moment, where I regretted something that I said perhaps, and you know, you have to go back.
HEATHER: Was that to one of your team members?
STEVE: Yeah. Or maybe how I handled a certain situation, and, you know, you just want to handle every situation right, and probably, how I came out of that situation or other situations is–you know you go back–personally, I’ll go and pray on it or reflect on it.
HEATHER: Can you think of one in particular?
STEVE: Hey, I made a mistake, you know?
HEATHER: Is there one that you can think of in particular, because I’d love to hear even one of these to have a little bit more detail or juiciness to it.
STEVE: Of course.
HEATHER: Listen, we all learn through each other’s mistakes, right, so the point here is for you to share a specific example. We would love to hear that, and, you know, I think prayer is a great way to come out of it. And if there is any other tactical things that you did to kind of turn it around for you and that team member so they knew you were coming from a different place than maybe they initially thought.
STEVE: Sure. Well, okay, so in this particular case that I’m thinking of, it was looking like we were really having some issues with one of our employees. So we have to be so careful because we’re getting our information from other people, right? So this had to do with this person’s performance or lack of performance out on the field. So what I did was I brought, you know, the operations manager in and the field supervisor in so we could sit down with this other person, and I’m not quite sure how it all transpired leading up to it, but I think we didn’t set a very comfortable stage for him, because when he walked in to the office, he was shocked to see three of us sitting there, and he felt like he was on trial. It was very intimidating for him. Does that make sense? And he got very, very defensive about it. So that just was–you know that didn’t make for a very productive meeting at all. We tried to reset the stage with him. In the long run, we learned from that in terms of how to handle other situations. In the long run with that particular–
HEATHER: What would you have done differently? I’m curious to know. If you had to come across that again, which I’m sure you have, I mean from a performance perspective, you know what would you have done different, did you do differently when it happened again?
STEVE: Well, gosh, we’re all taught to delegate, delegate, delegate, and that you need to trust all your managers and so on, and I think there’s just got to be a way that the communication is more clear where, you know, “Look, a couple of situations came up, we’d like to talk about it. I just want to make sure you have a fair chance to tell your side of what’s going on here.” Maybe set it up that way a little bit. I also know that one of things soon afterwards that we instituted is we started what we call “acceleration meetings,” in which everybody on a regular basis has a chance to be heard–not only just be heard but also talk about goals, where you’re going next, what kind of support can we give you to do your job better, and overall, that was very positive for us.
HEATHER: Oh nice, I love that. So, I mean again, this is an example where, okay, things didn’t go over perfectly or we don’t all have the right strategies intact to fix it at our hands every single time, but it’s backing up and saying “Uh-oh, that may not have gone over as well. I don’t want to leave that team member feeling like they left without their dignity, and I have to find a way to make this right,” and of course, course correcting yourself in the future when it pops up again. I think you know what; communication is almost like the save-all for everything, right? We just have to be clearer. We have to do it more consistently, and we have to do it with heart. And it sounds like this is a situation where you did kind of backtrack and make sure that was all taken care of, and you dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s. I think that’s the key here, and that’s the key message. So one of the other questions I have for you is what do you to connect with your people in a deeper way? Sometimes what happens is we get off track. We are so focused on projects. We are so focused on tactics, and they are too, that we lose that deep connection, even just the ability to sit casually with no agenda and chat. What are the things you’ve done in the past or do now to connect more with your team in a deeper way?
STEVE: Okay, well, for quite a while, we were using The 4 Disciplines of Execution. It was very effective when we had a larger team. I think that coming into a meeting, sitting down at a meeting, even if it’s with the whole company, you know, whatever size meeting it is, you know, we’re a small business, but I think that coming in and giving everybody else a chance to talk first before I say anything, “Okay, I’d like to hear what you all have to say about this,” and go around the table before I offer anything up is really effective. Is that what you’re talking about?
HEATHER: Yes. I mean that’s definitely one way. Connection is definitely–people want to be heard, and so, if they’ve been heard and they feel like you are listening and then you actually make changes based upon what you hear, then I do think that’s a way to establish connection with people. Because like you said earlier, it’s about trust, and you establish trust that way. And trust takes a long time to get, but you can lose it in an instant. So you doing what you just talked about is definitely a great way to connect. And the other thing would be, you know, if for some reason there’s a team member–well, what happens with you if there’s a team member who has an off day, and you want to kind of broach a conversation with him or find out what’s going on. I mean, how would you even do that? What would be your strategy?
STEVE: Well, so I think empathetically asking questions and then truly listening. I think where it’s easy–you know, you brought up a couple of things. First of all, when we are involved in projects or, you know, meeting deadlines for customers and so on and so forth, it’s real easy to get off track. When it comes to the engagement and really listening and then hearing what an employee has to say or a fellow team member, you know, we all tend to think of “What should I say next” or when you really start talking about the act of listening–digging in and asking more questions only having to do with what this person has to say–that is so effective.
HEATHER: Yes, instead of thinking about what our answers are gonna be. And if they have an off day, something I’ve done before–well, number one, I usually just sit down and just say, “Hey, what’s going on? Is there anything happening that I can help you with?” Because usually you can kind of sense that their body language–but you can’t even have that conversation if you haven’t built up trust, and the trust is built through those little things, right? That listening is key, acting, but just, you know, taking that time with them. I think about the people, you know, they were on my team, and maybe I left the organization. And they’d say, you know, “You were one of my best managers,” “You were my best manager,” or “You were really a great leader,” and I what they would say though was, you know, what you said about Zig, “You just made me feel important. I was a person around you. I wasn’t your subordinate. I felt more like an equal. Yes, you did coach me and guide me, but when it came down to it, if you came in and said, ‘you need to course correct or I’m seeing an issue here with your performance or there’s this one thing I have a concern about,’ I didn’t get defensive with you, Heather, because I knew that you cared about me, because you had already built up all these trust dividends to that point.” So, it’s interesting, you know, all of this conversation, it starts to bring so many thoughts back for me too.
STEVE: Absolutely. And I know, because I saw some of the work you did with our people, how good you are at that, and I think that what happens in the trust building is that, first of all, if you’re not sincere about it, you know, people sniff that out in a second. This cannot be put on. You have to be real about it. And another thing, Heather, that I really believe strongly goes along with that, it’s very similar to being a parent, in terms of my children growing up watched every move I made. Even though we’re not their parent, our coworkers parents, or our team members parents, because you have whatever leadership responsibility you have, everybody watches every single move that goes on or thing that you say. So if you are doing or acting differently in other circumstances than what you’re saying with them, you know, you just lost it right there, right?
HEATHER: Absolutely, totally, yes. That’s so true. You know me. I’m always doing videos about how my kids teach me lessons, so I’m not offended at all when you compare [23:46] with children because I do believe there’s a certain amount of when a manager and a team member–I always say having a loving relationship with my people and people kind of cringe when I say that in the work environment, but I feel like I have that same type of nurturing way when I lead people–so it’s very similar to how I am with my children, so I think that’s not a bad way to describe it. So yeah, this is amazing though. You know, the Leadership with Heart concept is an idea here that you do not have to be perfect, that the leaders who are the most emotionally intelligent, who lead with heart, usually aren’t, and we fall down a lot, but we have this kind of “Spidey-Sense” hair standing up on the back of our neck saying something is not right and we need to rectify it. That is the difference maker, and it’s the thing I’m hoping folks that are listening here will strive to just continue to be that leader.
Steve this has been great that you’ve been on this podcast episode. I hope that a lot of people listen and take away a lot of great nuggets from all of your great leadership. Hey, one other thing too. If you could let everybody know how it is they can get a hold of you; that would be awesome.
STEVE: Sure. I mean the best way would be just to look me up on Linked In and they could private message me. This has been a great talk. It’s been great spending the time with you, Heather. I just want to say that you brought up the neck. That’s what leaders do is stick their necks out and go back out there and try again, and I think that’s so important, and I like what Mother Teresa has to say on leadership, basically to be very succinct, I’m just gonna say she says, “No matter what, keep on doing it,” right?
HEATHER: Yes, and I love that. And that’s a great note to end on for the listeners to be saying “Stick your neck out, keep doing it, you know, don’t give up that fight of trying to become that leader with heart.”
Thank you so much for joining this episode and thanks again, Steve.
STEVE: It was a pleasure, Heather. Thank you. Good Luck.