As leaders, we are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with and not just during the good times. It’s easy to think we have good people around us when sailing is smooth. We need to be extra judicious with the type of people we place in our kitchen cabinet and prioritize building healthy relationships with leaders of integrity, optimism, and humility.
Navigating rough waters is inevitable and when rough sailing comes our way, we need to have already, deliberately put in place the people to speak into our life and leadership during those trials.
I started America’s Choice Title Company in 2002. In 2006, we were named the second fastest growing title company in the United States by Inc. Magazine. In 2006, we were riding high and feeling good.
What do you think my title company, in Florida, looked like in 2007 and 2008? You guessed it, not hot.
Business leadership is not always pretty. I know personally because I went from hero to zero quickly when I moved from, what felt like hiring everyone I met to firing everyone I had. It was hard for my business, but it was heart wrenching because I care about the people in my business.
Our team at America’s Choice Title weathered a long, tumultuous storm. It would satisfy the ego to tell you the reason my title company in Florida survived 2008 is because I’m just a great leader. However, that narrative is wholly and completely disingenuous.
I credit my business's survival to the health of my kitchen cabinet, to my mentor, and one sage person in particular who speaks into my life - Ron Bailey.
I called Ron Bailey in June 2006 and said something like Hey this is crazy, it doesn’t look good.
Mr. Bailey didn’t sugar coat anything for me, he didn’t paint an unwarranted, rosy picture. He said to me, “Oh, Dan it's not going to be good and you better cut with a very, very sharp knife.”
He helped me think through a strategy and then encouraged me as I executed a strategy to help my business survive. As hard as it was, if we wouldn't have started cutting then, we wouldn’t be here today.
Instead we right sized at the right time. We hunkered down for what we thought would be two years and ended up being four years. And we were able to capitalize on, albeit hard to see at the time, the silver lining of a business downturn - the upside of the down market. We had to get lean, mean, and our competitors were gone.
This taught me you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with - the people that are there to cheer you on when times are good and more importantly, the people who give you solid, hard-to-hear advice in the down times.
So, who’s in your kitchen cabinet? Who do you surround yourself with? If you want to continue to grow as a legacy leader, I want you to do two things right now:
1. Do a self-audit of your kitchen cabinet - Who are the people you allow to speak into your life? Are they uplifting? Can they advise you from experience in a certain aspect of your business? Do you want to emulate them as leaders of their families?
Are there any gaps in your kitchen cabinet? Do you need someone with a deeper financial perspective to advise you in business? Do you need someone who is more cutting edge in marketing and communications? Do you need someone who can empower you to be a better spouse and a legacy leader at home?
2. Jot down a quick action plan - What competencies are missing and who are the people you need to fill in the gaps? How are you going to reach out to those people and builder a stronger relationship with them, so when trials come, you have those needed people on your team raising you up? Now set a timeline for when you’ll start and cultivate those relationships.
Enjoy episode 015 of my leadership podcast.
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