Lessons in Leadership

Jay Clouse Uncategorized

349 days as President of the Business Builders Club

I want to share some of the lessons learned from a year of leading the Business Builders Club as President — a position I formally took a step back from yesterday in favor of the new club leader, Jake Larkin (go get ‘em, man!).


Say Yes To Everything

Opportunities come in all shapes and colors, and rarely do they come when you expect them. I’ve found that by saying yes to almost everything that has come my way, I’ve unlocked a wealth of opportunities both personally and professionally — and almost none of them came as a direct result from the purpose of the meeting.

What I mean is, people who want to meet with you will have a reason that is likely not what the ultimate impact of that meeting will be. For example, I met with an individual who wanted to get my input on a project he was working on within his firm. Because of that meeting, in which I was honestly of little help, I found the point of contact within that firm to later talk to about sponsoring Startup Weekend. Pretty cool how that works!

This is often also shown in terms of Weak Ties and, my personal favorite, human collision theory. Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos and tycoon behind the renovation of downtown Las Vegas, preaches getting intelligent and driven creatives in the same geographical area so that they are bound to run into each other. From these “collisions” relationships are made and ideas/progress are born. That is the power of saying “Yes” even when you feel like there is nothing to gain.


Say No to Some Things

This is in direct contention with my first point. I know that. I also know speaking in absolutes (like the word “everything”) is a fallacy and should only be used for emphasis!

Great people are selfish with their time. They have to be. To be great and respected, you a.) Need to allow appropriate times to actually accomplish things and b.) Will be constantly approached. My cousin Ben, whom I look up to very much, once told me that as you get older this is an aspect you need to work on — being selfish with your time. He was right.

Not everything is worth your time. You need to build a gauge and a filter — is this worth my time? Can I help this person, and will this open doors and connections down the line? These are tough questions to know. A good way to approach this is if in doubt, ignore the request. People who are relentless and worth your time will follow up.

If you never say no, your “yes” won’t carry the same weight.


Unlock the Potential of Others

Leaders cannot do it alone. My God that couldn’t be more true. The single greatest skill I’ve picked up this year is that of effective delegation. Effective delegation takes some understanding of a few things:

1.) Who is hungry for responsibility
2.) What makes them tick
3.) Relevant skills to leverage
4.) Setting realistic (read: REALISTIC and not LOW) expectations for quality and speed
5.) Trust

Simply put, you need to understand your people. You need to know how much bandwidth they have at a given time to accomplish something, whether they have either a.) the desire to complete a project in a given area, b.) the relevant skills necessary or most ideally c.) all three.

Once you decide who can and would want to take a project on, set realistic but high expectations. Be very up front about the date a deliverable is due and the quality expected. Breed an expectation of excellence, but give a fair amount of time and most importantly TRUST the individual to get it done. Do not micromanage. This will keep your team engaged and feeling fulfilled.


Give Sincere Appreciation

If someone on your team turns in great work, appreciate it. Not only should you appreciate it, you should compliment them on the work (sincerely) and also congratulate them publicly. Breed an understanding that good work will be recognized and rewarded publicly in front of the team, so that others get a hunger to accomplish great things as well. Make your team feel valuable and fulfilled.

As Dale Carnegie says, “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”


How to Run Meetings

I won’t focus on this too much, as it’s been written about to death. However, meetings are largely worthless. I held weekly meetings for our exec team this year, but frequently canceled them. Why? Well, because they weren’t necessary.

Do not hold a meeting unnecessarily. Meetings are a great tool for covering ground with a lot of people quickly, but they shouldn’t be held for meeting’s sake. Keep them short — plan an agenda ahead of time and share it with your team. Let them know what is expected of them ahead of time, as well as how long the meeting should last. Hold yourself accountable to that time table.

If you hold unnecessary meetings, the expectation will become that the upcoming/current meeting is unnecessary. If that expectation exists, you will lose attendance. Engage everyone at the meeting, and make them feel valuable and rewarded for attending.


Leaders Eat Last

This is a topic written about by Simon Sinek. The gist of it being, a leader is a servant to his team. The role of a leader does not exist for himself or herself — it exists for the people he or she leads.

As such, you should devote yourself to serving that team, and serving yourself last. This can be a difficult balance…I’ve experienced some difficulty devoting enough time and attention to those close to me due to always being on call and available for my team. But to command respect and the trust necessary for an effective team, you need to be willing to get your hands dirty and do the same work you expect of those you lead.

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Thanks for reading, and have a great week. I’d love to hear what you’ve picked up in terms of effective leadership, or any thoughts on my points!


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