No matter how long you’ve been in leadership, it’s always refreshing to be offered leadership lessons from someone who is further down the road than you. This episode of The Development Exponent features Barry Keller, a manufacturing executive with over 30 years of leadership experience, 20 of that in the global bioscience industry.
Barry’s approach to leadership is straightforward. You might even say uncomfortably direct. And Barry would like that description because it reflects one of the primary leadership lessons he shares on this episode. Set aside the time to listen. Barry is one of those veteran leaders who has many gems of wisdom to pass on.“I want to make people uncomfortable, in a good way” ~ Barry Keller
Barry Keller believes that we humans can tend to get very comfortable. It’s even easier to remain in a comfortable place as we age. His contention is that staying in a comfortable place by choice is heading in the wrong direction. In his words, "We either learn or we die. " That's why he has made the personal choice to always be a learner.
When it comes to his leadership, he believes it’s part of his role to help others learn - which means pushing them to get outside that place of personal comfort as well. Barry is pretty direct about this with new employees. In the early conversations of a new team member’s onboarding, Barry explains to them what it’s like to work with him. He tells them straight up, “I’m going to make you uncomfortable.” But time has shown that his team members appreciate it because they see that he truly cares about them and their personal development.
If you are a leader, you owe it to your people to make them uncomfortable as well. Listen to learn the ways Barry applies this important leadership lesson.Leaders set the stage for 3 different types of safety: Physical - Emotional - Intellectual
If you are a leader, you need to understand that when people come to work for you, they need to feel safe in three different ways. First - they need physical safety. Everyone needs to know that they are going to go home at the end of the day intact and well. It's your responsibility to ensure that is the case.
But they also want to work in a place where there is emotional safety. That means they need to feel OK with the people they are required to work with, that nobody on their team is going to abuse them or disregard them. They also need to feel they are part of the team, valued, and able to contribute in ways that matter.
Finally, they need to have intellectual safety. Their skills and expertise need to be valued and utilized appropriately. They need to be given opportunities and greater challenges to keep them sharp and on a growth path. But it also means they need to know it is OK to take risks and to fail.
Barry has a shrewd way of applying these realities to his leadership, so be sure to listen to learn how he applies it.Should leaders pursue personal relationships with those they lead?
There’s often a belief that leaders should remain appropriately separate from the individuals they lead. But is that right? When I asked Barry if he feels it’s appropriate to build personal relationships with those he leads, his answer was characteristically wise. “It’s something you definitely have to earn. I would never try to barge into someone’s personal life but I want them to know that I care about them as a person. If we can develop personal relationships, all the better.”
Barry believes that the little things - acknowledging birthdays, giving recognition, letting them know that you want to know them - are ways you can demonstrate that you really do care about them. And that goes a long way to earning their trust. Listen to hear how Barry works to genuinely care for his employees and how doing so enables him to lead at a higher level.Three powerful leadership lessons: Keep learning - everybody can contribute - remember that leadership is hard work
Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Barry to share 2 or 3 things he believes emerging leaders should keep in mind as they develop their own leadership. First, he urges you to keep learning. Work at it all the time. Learn to be vulnerable, to take and apply the feedback of others. As you do, you will continue to grow as a person and as a leader.
Add to that a firm belief that everybody has been created with gifts and abilities and can contribute. No matter where a person is on the organizational chart, or what skills they possess, everyone has something to add to the mix that enables a greater outcome for the team. Leaders must be aware of this at all times, working to draw out the talents of every person.
Finally, remember that leaders have a great opportunity to be an example. That includes getting into the trenches with the people they lead. It’s one of the many ways people learn from your experience and insights. So don’t be afraid of the hard work. Just do it.Outline of This Episode
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