Leadership + People: Episode 36 - Reed Laws - Part 2 of 2
Reed Laws, CEO/President of Your Employment Solutions, talks about how being a leader and building leaders requires good listening skills. Laws says that, along with encouraging collaboration on a team, is necessary in order to build a successful company, build meaningful relationships, and ultimately, have a positive impact in the world.
- Letting others lead; trusting and collaborating with your team [01:24]
- Isolation in leadership [04:31]
- Get out of your own way [06:06]
- Getting to know others on a human level: an efficient, beneficial practice [08:19]
- Learning from Ted Broman [10:27]
- Advice from Reed Laws: Be yourself and be proud of your accomplishments [11:47]
- Listening: the key to successful communication [14:13]
- What’s the purpose? Give back. [18:04]
- Your Employment Solutions & Amigos of Honduras: http://youremploymentsolutions.com/blog/amigos-honduras/
This episode of Leadership and People was originally released on: May 29th, 2018
Welcome to Leadership and People. This is a series that pulls back the curtain on leadership by interviewing CEOs, senior executives and entrepreneurs who had large exits. We ask these experts about how they built trusted networks to rapidly grow their companies, and what device they wish they knew if they could do it all again.
HOST – JESS LARSEN: Today on the show is part two of our interview with Reed Laws.
GUEST – REED LAWS: But even the purpose of that or greater good is, what I ever really liked about all of that — any skill that I’ve learned, everything that I’ve done wrong — is it is super cool to get to a point where it’s no longer about you.
00:46 JL: Reed, we spent a lot of part one talking about leadership. In this next part, let’s talk more about the people aspect and the how do we help others in the organization grow their leadership. You know, I thought it was great the kinda transparency you brought about some of the things you felt like you needed to work on yourself. Any thoughts about — as you look at how you’ve run this organization for the last twenty plus years, some of the things that haven’t worked and some of the things that have worked in helping the rest of your people become better versions of themselves?
Lessons Learned: Steer away from “my way”
REED LAWS: I could tell you what hasn’t worked and then I can tell you what’s currently working. I don’t know how long that will last with change but, what hasn’t worked is my ideas. What hasn’t worked is Reed’s brainpower. What hasn’t worked when it comes to operationally and leading people and then let them lead or learn to be leaders themselves is my way. My way works for me, and once I recognized, and I’m not even taking credit that I recognized this. It was the employees that probably ganged up against me and came in and said, “Hey, we’ve got brains too.”
And so, part of being a leader and creating new leaders is you have to listen to them. Too many times I wanted it my way, like I alluded to in part one. Man, when they sat down and you have a bunch of other brains put together, there were things coming out of their mouths and ideas that were put together that superseded anything that I ever could have come up with. So, failing to recognize what they have to offer, failing to listen, I’ve learned also as a leader that my best way of communicating is listening to people. Not cutting them off, really hearing what they have to say, and if you’re not sure, ask the questions so you understand what they have. In order, in my opinion, in order to create more leaders within the organization, you have to let them lead and by leading you have to hear them out. People hear me out and do what I want them to do at times, but you’ve got to give them that same respect and that same encouragement and that same patience that was once given to me.
03:07 JL: Yeah. You know, thinking about where we can get that extra insight for ourselves, or where we can learn and grow and set that example for staff of trying to work on ourselves, what’s been the value to you, or where do you feel like you’ve benefited from finding others in your type position in other companies to learn from? You know, whether it’s hanging out with Jeff Rust or other folks in the idea of, you know, trying to see what’s worked for other people. How’ve you built a network and what do you feel like the benefits of that have been?
REED LAWS: I don’t think I’m following your question perfectly, Jess. Will you ask that in a different way?
03:53 JL: Yeah. It’s probably because it was a long, convoluted question. [laughs] So, you think about staff and this idea of removing the barriers for them to make their own discoveries. Right? And, thinking about yourself, you know, a lot of times it can be lonely as a leader at the top, and a lot of leaders talk about the benefit of building a network of other folks who are the president of their company, or the CEO of their company, and being able to learn from other people outside of your industry. Just wondering how you’ve done that over your career, or what you think the value of doing things like that is?
Building Relationships to Avoid Isolation at the Top
REED LAWS: You said a word in there about isolation — that sometimes leaders can be in isolation. Fortunately for me, if I ever get to that point, I can compare myself to other scenarios, which really clears up any pity that’s going on. When I’m like, “Oh, I’m all alone. I can’t really go talk to anybody in the organization,” I look at it and say, “No, I really can. I’m just too prideful to go to them because maybe I’ve got this title, or I work more hours than somebody, or I listen to more podcasts or read more books.” And so for me, the isolation quickly deletes itself once I recognize that it’s my own fault for the isolation.
The other part that you were talking about is where I go for other organizations and how it’s helped me is, I’m going to have to give Corporate Alliance some props here, and not just Corporate Alliance because I think there are some other great organizations out there. But, what Corporate Alliance taught me and man, it took some years for me to… I hear them but some things resonate really quickly and it’s easy to take on what they’re saying. This one didn’t. When you’re going in to a networking group, we’re all conditioned for years it’s networking. I’m trying to find A, B, and C company that I can do business with. What you forget about is it is a marathon and if I know that company’s growth is a marathon, and I’m not looking to grow it all just tomorrow, I failed to take Jeff’s advice and get to know people just because you want to get to know them. How can I help them out? I mean, get out of your own way. It took me a few years to slow down, get out of Reed’s world, and go into this group like Corporate Alliance, which has been phenomenal in my mind. And Corporate Alliance wasn’t even perfect in the very beginning. I think they have improved, as well, and as they improve, we’re going to improve.
But, being able to collaborate with others that think the way that I think, that work the number of hours that I work, and run things by them — man, it’s nice to have. I don’t know that I need it every day, but often enough, often as it takes to keep me motivated, to keep me running, to keep me understanding that it’s normal. But, one last comment is fortunately for me, and maybe a God-given gift is, I just like to work. I don’t have this pity of any whatsoever. If I do, again, I get over it quickly. Some people after work may want to golf, and I like to golf too, but, “Hey Reed, do you want to go mountain bike or work?” I like to work! If I’ve got spare time, I want to work. The older I get, I realize how little I really know, so it’s exciting for me to continue isolating myself and going after the things that really bring joy to myself. That was probably as long-winded as your question was. Did I answer it, I guess?
07:34 JL: [laughs] Yeah. You know, I think it’s interesting what you bring up there though is that slowing down and getting to know them just for them is more beneficial. It’s interesting how it would seem like having a focus and, you know, being intent on how this time is going to be spent well for the company or whatever, right? How that would seem more efficient or could seem more efficient. But in reality, showing up without an agenda and just connecting at a human level, a lot of times that seems more efficient. Would you agree with that? Would you disagree with that? Do you see it different?
Getting to know them for them: A more efficient, beneficial practice
REED LAWS: Nope, it is more efficient. It is more efficient. When you run and we’ll do Corporate Alliance since you asked that. When I’m sitting at a table with Jeff Rust and there’s another owner of Corporate Alliance, his name is Ted Broman — he’s a good friend of mine. When you’re just sitting at the table and there isn’t an agenda, you get to know each other and each others’ flaws and family members, you start to understand the character of the person. And when you get somebody that really gets you, the advice they give you becomes more stronger. Rather than sitting down, “Hey, have you thought of this?” Maybe I did or didn’t, but does it really meet who I am? So, when somebody really gets to know who you are on a much deeper level, they can give you advice that can move things forward and sometimes it’s in your own head. I think a lot of leaders go down rabbit holes all the time. What if this happens or what if this happens? Or, I’ve got to prepare for this. And none of it even exists today. It’s almost an insurance policy or preparation of something that may never come about. But, sitting at those tables with those guys kind of relaxes you and gets you away from maybe those thoughts and feelings and that… I agree with you, it is super powerful. It’s just hard to do sometimes.
09:38 JL: Yeah, it’s interesting talking about patience. Ted is the guy who got me in to that community, right?
REED LAWS: I’m sorry.
09:46 JL: And you know, it’s interesting because the guy is, you know, he’s probably still got 12 businesses left after the big one he just sold last year, right? And he gets a ton done, but he’s very, very willing to patiently let you talk it out and give you this thoughtful answer. You know to meet him, he doesn’t come across as the ADD, high-speed guy, and yet he’s got how many hundreds of staff or, you know, a dozen companies. He’s got all this stuff going. Anyways, when you brought him up, it made me think of an example of patience and listening at a human level, huh?
REED LAWS: He’s a good example of everything that you talked about. I’ve spent a ton of time with Ted, and I hope he doesn’t listen to this thing, but he does his job a million miles an hour, he does have ADD per se — I don’t mean clinically. He is constantly going, and I don’t know how many businesses he has. I don’t know if it’s 12. I don’t know if it’s one. I don’t know if it’s 20. But, yeah, he’s efficient. He hires good people. If they don’t work out, he knows how to move on from them. He takes things in stride. Do I think he’s perfect with all that? I don’t. Do I think he is somebody to look up to and that I’ve learned from? I do. Have I learned something from him? Oh yeah, certainly have learned something from him. I know I can beat him at golf. Most things I beat Ted at but, that’s not about him. This is about this podcast here.
11:24 JL: [laughs] Too funny. Yeah, for doing a lot, he doesn’t come across as rushed. Right?
REED LAWS: Most of the time, no.
11:35 JL: Well, let’s go another direction. We’ve got a few minutes left here. What’s one of the best pieces of advice you ever got?
Be Yourself & Be Proud of Your Accomplishments
REED LAWS: Probably be proud of my accomplishments. I’ve always tried to hide them, be embarrassed by them, shove them in the back of the shelf. I’m not saying be boastful about your accomplishments, but I think for me it’s okay, you know, “Good job!” on something like that and then you can move on. You don’t have to showcase them and there’s not much to showcase anyways but, it’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments. And everybody is going to deal with those differently. Somebody once told me that, and again you don’t have to be boastful or brag about them, but be proud of them. Which goes along with kinda quit hiding and be who you are. You don’t have to give excuses by the way you act or try to be somebody different. Man, be strong. Be yourself. Move forward with it, and if people don’t like it, that’s not your issue. Those are things that have hit me over time is sometimes maybe I try to pretend to be less than I really am, more than I really am. Maybe sometimes I nailed it and it’s exactly equal, but those are some pieces that I remember.
13:09 JL: And for you, what’s the benefit of that? Why do you think that spoke to you personally?
REED LAWS: Because it made me a better communicator. It made me a better listener. Which is, in my opinion, the biggest piece of communication. I think once you recognize, for the company, let me give you an example here. It took some time to recognize more importantly than who YES is, we recognized who we weren’t. And like with me, is I had to recognize who I wasn’t. I’m not one of my siblings. I’m not one of the partners here. I’m not Ted Broman, I can’t work that way. But, I know — be who I am and parlee off of that. Man, that steam engine could just get going if you’re open to it, and you’re willing, and you’re not apologizing for who you are. You may have to apologize for what you’ve done. But for who you are, and all the goods and bads that come with you, there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t hide from it.
Listening: The Key to Successful Communication
14:13 JL: Yeah. Interesting. Well, you brought up listening and, you know, we’ve done between this show and our other show, we’ve done well over 200 episodes in the last couple of years and it’s a theme that comes up over and over and over. When you think about something that so many people know they should do and they talk about how important it is, why do you think it’s not a given? Why do you think that we have to keep getting reminded of it?
You know, you would be hard-pressed to find a leader who doesn’t think it’s a good idea to listen, and yet, it’s one of the prime pieces of advice that they wish they would have been good at earlier or advice they have for other folks. Why do you think we have such a temptation not to listen at that deeper human level?
REED LAWS: I think we’re all fighting for position earlier. It’s — I want to buy this company and I’m this age, and I need to run, run, run, run, and naturally, some of us do that and naturally some of us like it, or the other ones are competing against it. So I think there’s some kind of conditioning, just growing up. Maybe mine was — I came from a big family and in order for somebody to hear what I had to say, I interrupted them and I’m not even listening to what they’re saying because they’re not listening to what I’m saying, but yet I want to be heard. It’s just a revolving rat race of words, I guess.
I think the way I learned it — it hit me one day that man, I love listening to podcasts. I love reading books. I love listening to books, and I’ll even pay some good money to go listen to a speaker that everybody knows about. And in every one of those scenarios, I’m not saying a single word. You’re driving down the road listening to an 8 hour book, or an investment book that you don’t even understand, but yet you’re listening – looking for something that resonates with you. It was at that moment that I thought, that is no different, I guess there is one difference, they’re live, they’re right in front of me. They’re sitting down. I’ve got time with them, and it should be more powerful than just from the speakers. So for me, I think all leaders recognize that — some earlier than later, but it is too powerful of a tool not to have is your ears and listening so… Again, you know, I don’t even know if I answered your question. I’m trying to keep up with your questions and then I forget what you asked me. Did I answer it?
16:48 JL: [laughs] I’m sure, I’m sure of it. I’m sure you did. I think it is important though, you think about why — you know, whether it’s self interest, whether it’s this impatience, this feeling of that if I don’t get it done, I won’t be able to get it done, right? You talk about having to compete to be heard. It’s interesting how listening first is probably the thing that most increases the chance we’ll be heard, rather than interrupting, huh?
REED LAWS: Yeah, exactly. I have nothing to add to that one. I agree with that.
17:34 JL: Well, listen. What haven’t I asked that I should have? You’ve been doing this for 20 something years. What didn’t I ask that you feel like would be valuable to share?
17:46 REED LAWS: Let me pause for a minute. Is that okay?
Evaluating Purpose & Giving Back
REED LAWS: Maybe what you didn’t ask was, “What’s the purpose?” And I don’t know that I have an example for that, but, what’s the purpose of where I am today? What’s the purpose of — why we push and strive to be better? Why we listen to books. Why we become better listeners or better communicators. And, again, I don’t have a straight answer. But, I would say that that is really neat is when you get to a point where you can give back — where you’ve learned enough tools to satisfy yourself, at least momentarily. I don’t know that I can ever sit still and I don’t know that I’m ever satisfied because once you reach the goal, you start another one.
You know? There may be little first place prizes between your ears because you hit your goals, but then you have to move on because it becomes boring because you’ve already done it. But even the purpose of that or greater good is, what I ever really liked about all of that — any skill that I’ve learned, everything that I’ve done wrong — is it is super cool to get to a point where it’s no longer about you. That people want you there because they want you there — that they don’t need you there, that you’ve taught them well enough that they can move on their own, but they still want you by their side. Or that you have the means necessary to help people that can’t do it on their own. I think many leaders love to do that, as well. Maybe some of it do it to showcase it and say, “Look at me. Look how many people I help.” You know what, who cares? They’re helping people. It may not be my style of doing it, but nonetheless, I find very few leaders that don’t go above and beyond themselves, their own employees, that they find something that has nothing to do with their business, and find a way to help them, as well.
Maybe it’s an organization, maybe it’s water, maybe it’s just a suffering child in the hospital. It doesn’t matter what it is. I think sometimes that’s forgotten. We’re questioned all the time on leadership and how you did it, and what advice you’d give. We’re rarely questioned on what else, you know, those that are less fortunate — how do we help them and what would be my advice to help those that can’t help themselves or that don’t know what I know? I think that’s forgotten, at times.
20:30 JL: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think I spent my early 20’s – I’d come out of investment banking with Citigroup and then started my own private equity fund and was really busy trying to be a big deal, you know? And then once kind of in my 30’s, we got this charity going called Child Rescue combating child trafficking that Corporate Alliance is going down to Peru this summer to an after care facility, after care orphanage we helped get built. But, it’s funny how, probably I’ve had a — definitely I’ve had a lot bigger highs helping out there than accomplishing things for myself and I think I probably would have said something like that before, but now I actually mean it.
REED LAWS: Exactly. There’s a euphoric feeling like you were just talked to. We help a charity called Amigos of Honduras. Dave Riley went and spent a few years down many, many years ago and all he wanted to do was, hey, when the time’s right, I’m taking me and some buddies back and we’re helping these guys with water. Heck, they can’t even go to work or school because they’re fetching water. I mean, that’s his passion. It has been neat the few times that I’ve gone down there. Every time you come back, you almost feel ashamed for what you have and what they don’t. I think adding that to the leadership when you come and get your crew back here — having that on your resume — yeah, that’s what creates really strong leaders.
22:06 JL: Yeah, I love it. I think that’s a great place to end, actually. I think that’s a great place to end.
REED LAWS: Ok, sounds good.
22:14 JL: Well, thanks for doing this.
REED LAWS: Yeah, thanks for inviting me, Jess. This is great.
22:20 JL: Great.