97: Leaders With Heart Have a Clear Leadership Vision

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Don Davis, County Manager for Jefferson County, Colorado. Don shares about his leadership philosophy and vision, and a time when he was not the best leader he could be. He also sheds light on the difference between helping people get the tools they need to do their jobs and meeting their wants and needs. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders should help their people understand who they really are.
  • Vulnerability is not a weakness.
  • Have a vision. Write it down. Post it, and then share it.
  • Manage things and lead people.
  • No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

This episode is fully packed with helpful insights. Listen and learn!
Don Davis’ Full BIO

Don Davis joined Jefferson County as county manager in May of 2017.

From 1990 until 2017, Don served his country in many different roles, locations and commands. He was deployed numerous times, including to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan as the Commanding Officer for Marine Corps Logistics Command Forward. The last few years of his career in the Marines, he assumed command of the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Georgia for three years and then was the Chief of NORAD-NORTHCOM Theater Strategy and Campaign Plans Division.

After he retired from the military at the rank of Colonel, he moved on to his next adventure as County Manager, serving the citizens of Jefferson County, Colorado. He joined Jeffco in May 2017, where he enjoys serving alongside more than 3,000 dedicated employees.

Don is a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College; the Amphibious Warfare School; the Executive Leadership Program from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill – Kenan-Flagler Business School; and the Marine Corps Executive Logistics Education Program at Penn State. He holds two master’s degrees; one in Public Administration from Webster University, graduating with high honors in March 1996 and a second in Strategic Studies from the Marine Corps War College in 2011.

Don, born in 1968 in Dover, New Jersey, graduated from Dover High School in June 1986. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in May 1990 in the United States Marine Corps.He and his wife, Becky, have been married 29 years, and have been blessed with four children; Kaitlyn (27), Mackenzie (25), Jack (18), and Luke (16).

Public Service

I think this is a culmination of my service in the military, leading America’s finest men and women around the globe, to continue public service at the local level. It has been pretty amazing and a great opportunity for me.

My drive to lead started during my freshman year in college. I was immediately indoctrinated into the military where I understood the gravity of the service that I was about to enter. After I graduated, I fully understood that I was going to lead men and women, and sons and daughters, the most precious gifts that parents could give to the country. It was a pretty tremendous responsibility.

As a leader, it’s really hard to develop if you do not know yourself. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Knowing Yourself

In Jefferson County, we have a leadership academy which focuses on not teaching people technical leadership skills, but teaching people who they are. One of the leadership traits and principles in the Marine Corps and in the military in general is to know yourself and seek further improvement. 

If we can teach leaders that, then we break those barriers down. Then, we tear down all of the walls and the defenses that they have placed around to protect themselves. As a result, they become more willing to be vulnerable.

For others, they view the military people to have “Big Tough Guy” mentalities. But I tell you, vast leaders in the military exhibit all the best leadership traits that any organization would find valuable. 

When a life is on the line and time is of the essence, you don’t have time to discuss and brainstorm. So, in times of crisis, you need immediate obedience and response. 

But all the other times, we are collaborative. When you have the time to deliberately plan and discuss, I don’t think there’s a more collaborative organization in the world than the US Military. We work together and come up with answers that nobody else would think of.

You lead men and women, so you got to have a direction for your life. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Life Compass

Back in my days in the military, we used compasses for land navigation. We have to have an azimuth, which is a general direction that you follow in order to get to your destination.

When you come upon obstacles, like a river or a lake, you point the compass across that obstacle. Then, you find the reference point. Afterwards, you put the compass in your pocket, then you maneuver and walk around the obstacle. Next, you get back on your reference point, and then, you take the compass out of your pocket. Lastly, you get back on your azimuth.

Vision helps you in the good times and in the bad. You could get blind by the peaks of success or you could get lost in the valley of despair and troubles. But, you need to have a vision to direct you.

There are four things about a vision. First, you should have one. Second, you should white it down, so that you could remember it. Next, you should post it somewhere where you can see it, and remind yourself of it everyday. Most importantly, you need to share your vision with those around you, so they can keep you on task and on target. If you don’t share it, who is going to help you get back on your course?

You need to share your vision with those around you, so they can keep you on task and on target. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet All people are created equal. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet There’s a lot of different ways to mould leadership through mentoring and guidance. - Don Davis #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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96: Leaders With Heart Understand That Leadership Is About Courage And Vulnerability

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Cori Burbach, Assistant City Manager, City of Dubuque in Iowa about her drive to lead, a back drop to the type of leader that she is and her compelling story of a time when she was not the best leader she could be. 

Key takeaways:

  • Stand out. Be the leader who rolls up your sleeves and gets into the trenches with those you lead.
  • Understand that what you do or fail to do, and what you say impacts those you lead.
  • There are some workplace issues that cannot be fixed with just reading an article or changing a policy.
  • Focus on doing organizational knowledge transfers so that your learning is not lost on you.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable if you want to lead.
  • Make your relationship with your people personal and not robotic.
  • Figuring out what your employees want and helping them is not just good to do. It is also strategic, as unlocking their potential helps meet their vision faster.
  • Find a mentor or a coach on this journey.

Note that this has racial undertones, but you will surely be inspired as you listen. Don’t miss this gem of an episode!
Cori Burbach’s Full BIO

Cori Burbach is Dubuque’s assistant city manager since 2017.  Prior to that, she served as the Sustainable Community Coordinator in 2009.  

As assistant city manager, she assists the city manager in directing the day-to-day operations of the City government and plays a key role in creating a more data-driven, high performance organization focusing on outcomes, including cross-departmental cooperation and integration with performance measurement and evaluation.  

Cori received her Masters in Public Administration from the University of Delaware and worked for local and state governments in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa before coming to the City of Dubuque.  She is a member of the International City/County Management Association, and Dubuque Young Professionals. Her community involvement currently includes serving on the boards of local nonprofits such as DuRide, Creative Adventure Lab, and Operation New View community action agency.  

She is a mom to two beautiful children, Xander and Zoe.

Great Curiosity

I am at a point where I feel like, “Now I know the things I don’t know.”

I have worked with inspirational mentors. Also, I had the chance to do projects that have stretched me around emotional intelligence and leadership development. I am at a place where I have opened my brain up to the things I want to explore and allow to grow within myself. Right now, I am figuring out what to do next, and how I can make those things happen. I’m in the middle of this great curiosity.

It’s important to have a clear vision. More importantly, I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and get the work done alongside the people, doing whatever we need to do to make an impact.

Sometimes, as leaders, we feel all of the pressure to be able to stand up in the middle of the room and have the right answers. - Cori Burbach #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Parental Instincts

I was the weird kid in my freshman year in college who declared that I wanted my major to be public administration. My professors looked at me and said, “People do not even know that this is a major.”

I always knew that I had this drive for public service in local government. Now, I have this opportunity to be a leader not just for my organization and for the city, but also for the community.

When I think about the community, I think about every community member almost in the same way I think about my kids. 

What kind of community do I want my kids and other children in the city to grow up and live in? That is what drives me even in the hardest days. I am very lucky to be in this position. Many people do this through volunteer work, but I do them through my job. How cool is that?

We have about 700 employees and they feel like family to me. Most days I spend more time with them than with my own family. 

I think it is something that parents give a lot. It’s almost a maternal or paternal feeling of how to help the community, particularly helping the people to show up and serve every day.

Especially in the public sector, most of our employees have that kind of parental instinct. They show up because they want to make a difference too. So, how can I help them do that?

It is hard for most leaders to come from a place of vulnerability. - Cori Burbach #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Growing Pains

We have been a primarily white organization and community for many years. Just like other communities, we are experiencing growth and diversity which is awesome. Now, we have been really working hard to recruit and retain that diverse work force. Also, that means a lot of growing pains.

We’re going through trainings. We’re working on relationships. One of the topics we have been recently working on is about micro aggressions. It’s an idea of a “death by a thousand paper cuts.” Someone might not say something that is explicitly racist or sexist, but they do not even know that how or what they are saying is impacting somebody.

If we’re going to make an impact on racial and gender issues in the organization, you cannot just read an article and have a policy in it fixed. I realized that when I say things related to these issues on whatever intent I have, there are physical, mental, and emotional processes they go through.

Leadership is about vulnerability and about being brave. Even when you don’t know how to react when comments come up, you have got to say something.

We’re going to make mistakes. But that’s how we grow in our relationships and in our leadership. - Cori Burbach #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet How comfortable do your people feel around you? - Cori Burbach #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet We live in a world where the majority of the people do not trust the government. - Cori Burbach #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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95: Leaders With Heart Care For The Whole Person That They Lead

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In this episode, Heather speaks to Jennifer Fairweather, Chief Human Resources Officer at Jefferson County in Colorado about her leadership style, her drive to lead, and her struggles with facing conflicts head on while still showing care for her people and coworkers.

Key Takeaways:

  • Give people space to come up with their own ideas in a safe environment.
  • Be a vulnerable leader who invites the team in to help overcome obstacles.
  • You don’t have to do leadership alone.
  • Continue to work on yourself, and fill yourself up first.
  • Be honest with your people. They want to help you.

This episode echoes the importance of supporting your people. Don’t miss this!
Jennifer Fairweather’s Full BIO

Jennifer Fairweather is currently the Director of Human Resources (CHRO) for Jefferson County, located in Golden Colorado. She is also an Affiliate Professor at Regis University where she facilitates undergraduate and graduate courses for the College of Business and Economics. 

She has over 20 years of experience in both the public sector and the private sector human resources, in addition to operational management experience. Jennifer received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from CU Denver and a Master of Arts in Human Resources Development from Webster University. She also has her SHRM-SCP, IPMA-SCP and PHR professional certifications as well as a Certificate in Professional Training. 

Jennifer has facilitated sessions on leadership and development for local and national forums. She also has written articles for newsletters and newspapers on various management and human resources topics. Jennifer is a Colorado native and enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling and spending time with her family (pets included!).

Interesting Journey

I originally started my career in the finance world during the 90’s. I was not really sure what I wanted to do, but I found myself in a leadership role on finance. What I had realized was I liked the leadership part, but I was not that passionate about finance. So, that is how  I moved to HR in the finance industry, and turned into someone passionate about the people in leadership, and in employee engagement.

It has really been quite a wonderful journey moving through HR in finance, and moving into management HR roles where I could combine my passion for leadership with my passion for HR. In addition, I became passionate as well about the public sector once I moved into that world.

As we are helping our employees, we are also helping them serve their communities. - @fairweather5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Wonderful Satisfaction

I discovered my drive to lead through different tools, and one of them is StrengthFinder. 

A few years back when I checked, I found out that I am a maximizer and an includer. I’m really good at maximizing the potential of other people, as well as including people in so that they feel part of what is going on. 

There’s a natural element of things I am good at, and my drive has always been the feeling you get when you see other people succeed. It’s the feeling you get when you see good things and good outcomes happen.

Even through high school, I have always enjoyed being in supportive roles, and watching the magic happen. I don’t need to be seen or staged, which I think is why human resources has been a great role for me. It is where I combine leadership with my strength in maximizing and including others, so my people would feel part of what is going on.

It’s amazing looking back at the people I have worked with. They did the work and I did not make it happen for them. To see my people flourish, grow, and move on with their careers, is a rewarding feeling. I am not taking full credit for it, but hopefully somewhere along the way, I had a piece in helping them get where they are. That is always a wonderful satisfaction.

If employees are not well and don’t feel cared for, they cannot care for people in our communities. - @fairweather5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Thinking Back

There are days when you’re not in your A-game, but hopefully, you figure out a way to be resilient, to get back and to remember your passion.

I am a humble leader and I give my people space. I do not dictate or micromanage. I give people space to be creative in doing what they need to do, like coming up with ideas based on our vision. 

I’m good at supporting people and recognizing their whole person. I know that they have things going on outside of work, which comes into work. In parallel, they have things going on at work that goes home.

One thing I do everyday is to just try to think back. At the end of the day, I express gratitude for the things that went well. In the same way, I also reflect on areas where I could have improved. Afterwards, I let them go and try to focus on tomorrow. 

It’s good when I come looking back and I see more days where I have been grateful that I have fortitude to move forward and be more proactive in taking conflicts head on. It is important for your team to feel that you’re going to be willing to put yourself out there for them.

To see my people flourish, grow, and move on with their careers is a rewarding feeling. - @fairweather5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet I believe in caring for the whole person and recognizing that there is an integration between work and life. - @fairweather5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet People really appreciate it if you show some vulnerability. - @fairweather5280 #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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81: Leaders With Heart Embrace The Mess Of Humanness In The Workplace

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In this episode, Heather speaks with Phil Burgess, Chief People Officer of CSpace about his leadership philosophy, his stories about the messiness that happens in the workplace, his experience when he was not a shining example of leadership with heart and what he did to move out of it, and some amazing pearls of wisdom.

Key takeaways:

  • It’s up to leaders to embrace the mess that is all of us at work.
  • Leaders must model the change they are seeking.
  • Leaders are more effective when they invite feedback from direct reports and act upon those by making small tweaks.
  • Spending time with your people helps connect the dots about them and the areas that need attention in the business.
  • As a leader, we cannot always make everyone happy.
  • Be who you are as a leader and not a copy of someone else.
  • Let yourself off the hook. Have conviction in what you are doing.
  • Seek out safe spaces where the leader can be vulnerable.
  • Catch yourself doing things right.
  • Remember that everyone owns the culture.

This episode is bursting with amazing learnings. Don’t miss this!
Phil Burgess’ Full BIO

Phil highly believes that growing people is the most effective way to grow a business. That’s why he’s passionate about building high-performing, inclusive cultures and the role that leaders play in making this happen. 

He currently serves as the Chief People & Operations Officer at C Space, a customer agency on a mission to make business more human by building customers into the way brands work.  His focus is ensuring that C Space lives this mission internally, creating a great employee experience for its team of 350 staff across the USA, and enabling them to deliver great work to their clients. Early on, Phil was Joint Managing Director of C Space’s London office where his work on people contributed to C Space twice winning Agency of the Year and taking home the MRS Best Place to Work Award in 2018. 

He started his career in door-to-door sales, recruiting and building teams before moving into the world of research and consultancy. This year he was named as one of the UK’s Top 30 male ‘Agents of Change’ championing equality and inclusivity in business. He recently relocated from London to the States with his wife and two small children.

More Human

I’m learning as I go. I’m learning everyday, especially a lot about how important culture and leadership is in turning around a company. 

I feel lucky to be working for an agency where I really believe is the place I’m meant to be. I believe in its mission, which is helping businesses be more human. We bring brands and consumers together to co-create products and services.

I’m also convinced that my mission, internally, is to figure out how to make our business more human, how to make sure we’re constant inside and out, how to bring more human practice, and how to embrace the messiness of everything for the people that work here to make it a great place to be.

Have conviction in what you're doing. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

More Messiness

As leaders, we aren’t perfect. We are just people—imperfect.

In the company, we’ve been brainstorming a lot about our culture and the people within it: how to get our people to bring themselves to work, and how to embrace the fact that we all need to be a little bit more vulnerable and a little bit more supportive of one another. We’re all works in progress. Now, how do we embrace it as part of our value proposition as an employer?

We’re looking for people who are works in progress, who are self aware enough to know that they’ve got stuff they get wrong, and who are happy to talk about these things.

I see it a big part of my role as a leader to figure out how to shape a culture that makes people safe enough to talk about that, so they can get to be the best versions of themselves. It’s a big responsibility but it’s also something I believe in strongly.

It’s my role to think about ways to motivate these kinds of behaviors, so that people see me and the other members of our leadership team talking about what we’re also messing up. We don’t know all the answers, yet we still want to inspire confidence that we know where we’re going, though we might not exactly know how we are going to get there. It’s kind of a messy journey but if you embrace it, it can be fun.

What helped me is finding some safe spaces where I can vulnerable with other people going through the same thing. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

More Feedback

On a good day, I feel like I get it right, so I invite my team to give me feedback on how we’re doing, or if they understand the vision or the direction I am taking them in. On a bad day, I would criticize myself and worry about things: if I am appearing flustered or indecisive, or if I am passing my stress onto others by not having a clear plan. So, I always invite feedback from my direct team about how I am doing.

Some of them said to me the other day, “Phil, sometimes, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate. But when you’re racing around the office, or running between meetings, the stress could pass on to us. We know you’re all over it but maybe just think about how you could slow down.”

I appreciated that and took it to heart. Over the last couple of months I have been really focusing on how to show up in different ways, and it’s helpful to have a team who can point out these little things, as well as the things that I think I am setting the pace, which other people might interpret slightly differently.

Hence, I focus a lot on providing spaces to people to point out where I’m getting stuff wrong. Then, I try to be as vocal as I can with my team about their feedback and suggestions. They also try to give me feedback on what I am getting right which adds to my self-confidence and self-esteem as a leader. Overall, it helps them see me as not just the guy that has got all the answers, but as someone who is working with them to move everyone forward.

We're all works in progress. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet I'm learning as I go. I'm learning every day. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet We don’t know all the answers, yet we still want to inspire confidence that we know where we’re going, though we might not exactly know how we are going to get there. - @pdburgess #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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65: Leaders With Heart Know They Must Give To Get And Grow


In this episode, Heather speaks with Ian Sohn, President of the Chicago office of Wunderman, a creative tech company. Ian talks about his leadership style, his philosophy on growing talents, and a rough spot he found himself in as a leader.

Heather discovered Ian through an article written about him in the New York Post, where they highlighted a recent open letter he wrote about his expectations for employees checking in after work hours. You’ll want to listen in on his perspective after you read the article. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders must transfer what they know to those around them.
  • Be intentional about the words that you use to express emotion.
  • Always consider the intention of someone’s actions before holding it against them.
  • Think of mistakes as teachable moments.
  • If leaders do the hard work to build trust through expressing love then no need for foreplay when go to deliver feedback.
  • Consider the employee lifecycle when coaching them.
  • Trust and then hold accountable.
  • Showing some vulnerability regarding mistakes is very important to build trust.
  • Take care of yourself first.
  • Never do a bad imitation of someone else, be you!

This is a must episode!

Ian Sohn’s Full BIO

Ian Sohn is the President of Wunderman Thompson Central Region, which includes Chicago, Austin, Memphis and Minneapolis.

Most recently, Ian was the Managing Director of SapientRazorfish Chicago where he looked after the business, human and cultural health of the office. He was also the architect and business lead for a world-class portfolio of brands, including CPG, insurance, retail, fashion, pharma and healthcare.

He is proud of his new business track-record; his passion for selling innovative ideas and solutions; the trust his clients put in him; and the joy he takes in finding and developing talent.

He spent eight years at Ogilvy & Mather where he started an award-winning social media practice; and championed digital, mobile and social expertise across the agency. Prior to Ogilvy, he was the global partnership lead for a division of Nokia.

Finally, he believes people are inherently decent. When he’s not working, he’s likely chasing his two little boys, yelling at athletes on TV who can’t hear him, watching Keith Moon clips on YouTube, devouring something with ketchup, reading anything he can find on Muhammad Ali or running a few miles on the Chicago lakefront.

Give, Get, Grow

What I am trying to do now is not only figure out how I can be more effective and empathetic but also discover how I can transfer some of the things that I have learned from leaders I have worked with to people who work for me. I have gone from leading for myself to leading and teaching for others. I have been unbelievably fortunate in my career to work for and be around incredible leaders. With that, I feel the responsibility to pass that on to others.

As cliché as it may sound, the more that you think about leadership that way, the more you end up growing as a leader. That’s a really nice kind of feedback to, “The more you give, the more you get, and the more you grow.”

Being a leader and thinking about leadership is part of my job. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Communicate Your Emotions

The reason we hire and pay people is because they can do a job. So, far be it for me to tell them how to do their job. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If you are frustrated, upset or angry about something, you have to communicate it. People have to know how you’re feeling in order to react, help, or just understand that you’re not happy with something. 

I think, what we all struggle with is how to communicate our emotions in a productive and respectful way without making it personal or hysterical.

There are times when I am good at it and times when I could do way, way better. I try to think about what I need to show from an emotional standpoint, in addition to the words that I use.

What do I need to show emotionally so that everybody in the room understands exactly the point I am trying to make?

If the words are the bones and the skeletons, the emotions are like the clothes that I am dressing them up with to make sure that I am communicating the right image to the room, so that they know where I am coming from and where I want to go.

Also, I never hold it against people when they show their human side when communicating, even if it comes out wrong. If the intention is good, then it’s okay, because they’re trying to do the right thing.

Fairly Unfazed

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had somebody very senior at work tell me that they were always surprised at how nonplussed they get at heightened situations but not me.

I trust people. I don’t micromanage. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I tend to remain fairly unfazed, or at least I try to not show that I am fazed by something. I try to remain calm. 

Obviously, being one of the senior people in the room, your tone and mood sets the tone for the rest

So, I try not to get hysterical because all it does is get everybody hysterical and nothing gets done.

Good lenses, bad frames. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet The more you give, the more you get, and the more you grow. - @IanSohn #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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60: Leaders With Heart Show Up As Their Authentic Selves Every Day And To Everyone


In this episode, Heather speaks with Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight about his leadership style in the context of his company’s values, a time when he was not the best leader he could be, and his share of some great words of wisdom.

Key Takeaways:

  • Commit to learning every day and realize that we all start at the beginning in our leadership.
  • Create environments of psychological safety.
  • Treat others as they would want to be treated.
  • Bring your inner kid to work everyday.
  • Remember all of the different frames or “customers” you need to serve. Don’t just be single-minded.
  • Be transparent and vulnerable.
  • Learn from other leaders, but do YOU, the best you can.
  • Do things now despite your ability to scale them later. This might be your only chance.

You will really enjoy this one! Listen and learn!

Nick Mehtas Full BIO

Nick Mehta is a big believer of the Golden Rule and he is passionate in applying it everywhere he goes as well as bringing in more compassion towards others. That’s why Nick’s leadership as CEO of Gainsight brought the company to heights of growth and success for all of its stakeholders. As Nick likes to say (a little too fast and a little too often), that’s awesome. 

Previously, Nick worked with different technology companies to develop opportunities in the enterprise applications and infrastructure markets. Also, don’t get him started on theoretical physics or Steelers football—he’ll talk your ear off!

Beginner’s Mind

One of our company values is ‘shoshin’ which means, in English, ‘beginner’s mind’ and really approaching every day like you’re a beginner. In my leadership journey, I’m at the beginning. It’s a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but I’ve been running teams and companies for 20 years now and in some ways, I really mean that.

First, you are a new person every day. You’ll learn new things you can do and you’ll also learn about your own personal ability to lead. Especially, working in technology where we see so many young companies that are run by people who are first-timers in business, I learn new approaches they are taking. So, I would say I’m still at the beginning.

For all beginners, we could all learn. As a leader, you are encouraging everyone to speak up. It doesn’t matter if someone isn’t an expert on sales. He or She may have value to add in how to think about sales.

Leadership is about how you show up not only for your teammates but also for your customers, for your partners, and for your investors. - @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Never Done

Thirst is a desire that doesn’t come from somebody else. It comes from within. - @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

If you have values that you’re passionate about, if you have a culture that you’re passionate about, you’re never done. We’re constantly trying to get better.

One of the values that underpin our company is the golden rule—treat people the way you’d want to be treated.

As leaders, when we think about how we treat people, whether it’s in the good times like things have been going well and you’re celebrating, or in the tough times when you have somebody who just had a loss in the family or you’re letting somebody go from the company, how you actually treat that person in those different times, and the way you would like to be treated—there are no good answers to these questions.

But, forcing yourself to think about it when you are about to let somebody go, or you have to call them after something bad has happened to them, or you’re about to congratulate them, that principle is really helpful—forcing yourself in their shoes.

Your True Style

I try to be very much myself, not sort of a different business person, in front of my people. I’m a pretty cheesy, ridiculous, silly, awkward person and I bring that to work every day. It’s letting your guard down so everyone could be themselves.

I think, naturally, our culture does try to create trust. What do we do to reinforce more trust and safety? What do we need to do to make that even more real at our company?

For me, I have a style that I have learned over the years. In reading business books or listening to podcasts, you have got to really figure out what fits for you. Taking somebody else’s approach and putting it on yourself may or may not always work. 

There are other people who have very different cores than yours, but that doesn’t mean you cannot pick up good skills from them.

Bring the kid in you to work every day. - @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
We are naturally ambitious people. - @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet
How do we always think about decisions in a way that balances the needs of all our stakeholders? - @nrmehta #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


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17: Leaders with Heart Discern When Total Transparency is Warranted And Then Exhibit It

As a leader, people are always watching us, and we get to choose what it is they see and what it is they perceive in us. Click To Tweet

By being authentic, it’s a lot less exhausting trying to be different people in different environments. You will be your whole self no matter where you’re at, and your team will be much more willing to go over and above for you. They trust that you are always you, and you aren’t pretending to be someone else.

Authenticity is highly valuable. #leadershipwithheart #begenuine #beauthentic Click To Tweet

Today our guest is Jim Reuter, Chief Executive Officer of FirstBank. In this episode we talk about legacy, transparency and vulnerability, owning your mistakes, and reconnecting with your team. Click on the play button to listen!

Jim has extensive banking experience, starting his career at FirstBank in 1987 and holding several different roles within the organization. Founded in 1963, FirstBank is Colorado’s second largest bank and third largest privately held bank in the nation. FirstBank operates more than 120 locations in Colorado, Arizona and California with more than 2,600 employees. The company has over $17 billion in assets.

Jim Reuter’s Full BIO

He previously served as FirstBank’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) where he oversaw many of the bank’s divisions, including: loan/mortgage operations, IT, online banking, payments, contact center, online account/loan acquisition, and treasury management. FirstBank has attributed many of the bank’s products and IT innovations over the years to Reuter’s leadership and guidance. Prior to his roles in operations and IT, Reuter served as a loan officer in FirstBank’s Palm Desert location.

He is heavily involved with industry efforts including:

  • American Bankers Association – Chair of the Payments System Advisory Committee
  • American Bankers Association – Vice Chair Government Relations Committee
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – Payments Advisory Group
  • Pacific Coast Banking School Board Member

Reuter is also a highly active member of the community, currently chairing on multiple nonprofit boards including the Special Olympics of Colorado and Cerebral Palsy of Colorado Legacy Foundation.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Luther College and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Banking.

Your Legacy Matters

Early in my career and life, I’ve always been one of those that gave 100% to get the highest result possible. To be honest, I think it’s because I was always a B student and could get A’s by working hard.

That’s still true today. What’s different today versus earlier in your career is that effort used to be to achieve results yourself, but as you take on a leadership role and you start to be responsible for the growth of others, that 100% goes towards supporting that team and helping us achieve the goals that we want to.

Where that comes from? I think it’s just the joy you see when you work with others and you get them to perform at a level that they didn’t think they were capable of. But also just being there for individuals, whether it be when things go well or they don’t go well.

At the end of the day, the #legacy we all leave is the impact we’ve had on others. #leadership Click To Tweet

Be Yourself, and Be Comfortable With It

You’ll hear a lot of terms used – I’m heart-led, vulnerable and many different things. But the term I like to use is “authentic”.

I think people that I work with on a regular basis, if they saw me outside of work, or they saw me here, they wouldn’t see much of a different individual. I think, at the end of the day, that’s really important.

People don’t wonder where you’re coming from. I’m not saying that everybody always agrees with the direction or something that you’re trying to do, but if they know that you’re coming at it authentically and with no ulterior motive, that it’s really what you think makes sense and you’ve done your work and you’ve gotten input from others… I just think authenticity is really important, and it’s what you’re going to be able to do consistently, and people really pay attention to how consistent you are as a leader as well.

Be authentic. Really look at yourself and go, What skin am I in? What am I comfortable with? Click To Tweet

Be Connected

Nothing reconnects you with your team more than being there while you’re making the decisions and doing things. #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I’ve interacted with enough other CEOs – they get very good at delegating, but I think you can get to the point where you delegate to the level that people don’t feel like you’re engaged in the day-to-day.

I make sure that even with travel and everything going on, I will make it on key meetings. I will not have them move the meeting; I don’t like to send the message that I’m somehow more important so their schedules get whipsawed around by my travel and different things.

In addition to that, it’s literally swinging into someone’s office and sit down and talk about things that they’re working on.

I think one of the most important things is to know yourself. People see #authenticity and they know it right away when they see it, and they’ll get behind that. Click To Tweet


Connect with Jim on LinkedIn

Email him at jim.reuter@efirstbank.com

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