Episode 393: Sage Leadership Tips from David C. Clark and Gardner H. Russell

Episode Summary

In today’s episode, I share three leadership tips from one of the best leaders and businessmen I’ve ever known, Dave Clark, that’ll help you reduce luck’s influence in your life as a team leader, keep your business growing, and your personal and professional relationships glowing. We will also go through excellent advice from the late Gardner Russell, former BYB Board Member, who mentored and guided me since I was a young buck when I met him in my early 20s. 

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. We are so excited to have you join us. Today, we’re going to be sharing some powerful lessons. The inspiration for this podcast actually came from a meeting that was held a few weeks ago — we were holding quarterly meetings for the key executives in one of our companies. And I asked the CEO—and my longtime partner, Dave Clark, for 40 years—if he’d be willing to think about and share three leadership tips that really make a difference for him. Now, I want to put this in context, because Dave Clark is one of the best leaders that I know. He’s an excellent businessman and business leader. He serves in his community. He helps supervise organizations throughout the world that are blessing tens of thousands of people. So, I love working with him. He cares for people but also has huge business acumen. So, I couldn’t wait to hear what his three recommendations were. And then that will be followed by some advice from one of our former board members who passed away at 92. He has been a mentor of mine since I was a young man, 20 years old: Gardner Russell — a brilliant man, certified international consultant. What he did is he would buy companies that were broken, fix them, and then sell them. So, not a particularly easy business. Both of these sets of comments that I’ll share can be shared regardless of what your responsibilities are. They will help you feel better, do better, be more focused, be more effective, and do consistently the things that matter most. And that is whether you’re a parent, coach, teacher, superintendent, principal, a business leader for a large corporation or small corporation. So with that in mind, let’s get right into it.  

Here are the three things that they’ve shared. Number one—and I’m waiting breathlessly—is to do pre-week planning. He said that is the most important practice I have, and that is to sit down during the weekend before I start my week and think about my roles, and then think about what actions for each of those roles. He has about seven rolls that he actually writes down, looks at his calendar, and there’s a space on his planner right underneath his “Becoming Your Best” planner. And it’s designed to help facilitate this. He writes down then the actions that are most important for each role. And he sits back and he really reflects upon it. He seeks inspiration, feelings, and impressions about what he should do. So, it’s this reflection time that is so transformational. So, after a setback, he puts his calendar up, takes a look at his monthly, and transfers in whatever key dates he has planned for that week. And then he will schedule the things that he’s identified when he will do him. And then at the end of that process, he sits back before Monday morning and says, “Okay, how do I feel about the week? Is this gonna be a great week? Am I touching all the bases? Are the things that were planned for the coming months, if I did them this week, I could help stay in quadrant two.” In other words, doing things that are important but not necessarily urgent, helps him to prevent quadrant ones that are urgent and important, and sometimes they’re a crisis and really highly stressed. So, balancing those things in life. I love that it’s his number-one recommendation. It’s a powerful leadership practice and habit. I’ve had the same experience. I know many, many others upon learning how to do it have the same experience.  It avoids just flying by the seat of your pants. It doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous to the contrary — because you have a plan, you can be spontaneous. In other words, you see the context.  

The number two thing that he recommended is to focus on maintaining real growth within your organization. So, in other words, invest 3% to 5% in future years to come, and then really maintain and really grow a real growth by being sure that you’re executing your plan in your current years, doing everything you can to realize that that’s adding to the growth. You have an organized plan and an annual retreat or planning session, and quarterly meetings, but you’re really working on maintaining real growth in your organization, adjusting product mix where you need to, or product lines, service lines. And all these finer things that you pull together to leverage your current success to achieve and maintain real growth. Those are the things that are involved. So, I love that focus. Again, that’s both a leadership and management function with an eye on your strategy and realizing that strategy.  

Number three is equally powerful; it is to be aware of the threats to your economic engine. In other words, what are the things that can really damage your company over a long time and severely disrupt it? So, what are those threats? They could be a focus on having high quality and other threats to that. How about safety? Preventing injury or death even? How about safety as a way of life? So, what is your focus on safety? And your net promoter score. Do you have highly satisfied customers that are loyal customers? Also, cost control. So, as you can tell, focusing on these, those are all threats to a viable operation in the business, and all three can apply to a family. So, pre-week planning, maintaining real growth in a family situation or with a team, building strong relationships, and having fun together; those are other components. And then, of course, what are threats that can take you down being thoughtful about that? So, thank you, Dave Clark, for sharing your thoughts on that. That’s been helpful for me in underscoring the things that I want to continue to focus on. I talked with Dave about this and he said, “Well, you know about these things, too.” Well, we do. And to the degree that we focus on them, we do better.  

The second one is from Gardner H. Russell — an amazing man, so talented. He served on our board from the last 20 years of his life — 70, actually, to 92. He came to a board meeting at the end of the board meeting with all of our key leaders there. I turned to Gardner and said, “Gardner, do you have any advice for us?” He said, “Yes, I do. It’s two words: Be vigilant.” Well, I loved that. And then he explained and said, “Be vigilant around safety. Be vigilant around maintaining strong relationships and warm relationships with the people that you work with. Maintain vigilance about building your economic engine. Don’t let yourself become complacent.” Oh, I love that message. “Be vigilant about looking for things that could threaten your company.” I like that. Thank you, Gardner. I shared this with one of my sons. We have two sons that have been fighter pilots in the United States Air Force, flying F-16s. One of those, who happened to be a graduate of the Air Force Top Gun program, their weapons school, and then later taught in the Top Gun, was assigned to Korea. It was his second tour in Korea. It wasn’t that long ago really. Of course, as you know, pilots have a checklist that they go through before they take off. When they get into the cockpit, they go through the checklist. They have people there, a team, a crew, that helps also go through the checklist. Then you taxi out to the runway with your wingman or your squadron, whatever it might be, and you have one last checklist that you go through. It would be easy to become complacent when you’ve done this hundreds of times and you know that the pit crew is so reliable.  

But Steven was determined to be vigilant. So, we went through his checklist. His plan had been in the shop the night before, and they’d gone through and made some repairs. And this was the first time it had been flown since that, being in the shop the night before. So, when he pushed the yoke forward, which controls the elevator in the back, which determines whether you go down or up, he noticed that it was actually reversed from the position it should have been in. And when he pulled back on his yoke, it went the wrong way. At 200 miles an hour rotation or taking off, his plane would have gone straight into the ground. Well, that is the blessing of being vigilant and not becoming complacent in any way. It saved his life. He went back to the ramp and parked his jet and were able to take care of the problem. He later flew and had a successful mission that day.  

So, that’s it, my friends. Those are the two areas of advice I’d like to give. Thank you, Dave Clark, and thank you, Gardener Russell, for wonderfully being on our show today. I’ll just recap Dave’s recommendations: great leadership tips to do pre-week planning before you start your week. If you want a great tool, you can use any tool. You can create this process yourself. But the Becoming Your Best planner is designed to help you do that; to write down your roles and ask yourself, “Okay, what are the most important actions?” And then to be able to plan it in your planner. And you can do that digitally or on paper. The second thing that he recommended was to maintain real growth, and the third, of course, is to watch out and be alert for threats. And Gardener’s is a great couplet today which is to be vigilant. So, to each one of you, you’re so amazing, so grateful that you could flew into this podcast today. We’re honored and privileged. I love being able to associate together with you. I know what you’re doing; I know you’re working on becoming your best, and that is making a difference every single day in all of the people’s lives you associate with. So, wishing you a great day. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, signing off. 

Steve Shallenberger

Founder, Becoming Your Best

CEO, Executive, Corporate Trainer, and Community Leader

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