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28 Words on Leadership

Todd Gibby
May 15 · 4 min read

28 Words on Leadership, by Walker White

After 25+ years, it is time for me to shake it up and pursue career 2.0. I’ve been fortunate to be entrusted with leadership roles over that time, and in an effort to continue learning, I kept a running list of quotes and anecdotes that struck me. As it is good to pause and reflect during any transition, I recently found myself reviewing that list. Sometimes with a chuckle and other times with a sigh, I was reminded of when I heard them, what they meant to me, and how I put it into action (or didn’t, hence the sighs). I thought I would share four of my favorites:

  • To Me: Despite increasing focus, culture is still overlooked for its strategic value. Strong cultures are known to increase productivity, performance, retention, organizational reputation, and ultimately profits. However, many organizations still toss buzzwords on laminated cards that employees are told to post near their desk.
  • To Action: Your culture is not what you say it is, it is what others say it is. Take the time to frankly assess your culture — inside and out — then work to fix the broken pieces, and you should expect it to take some time. The Culture Code is the best place to start.
  • To Me: From youth, we know that hypocrisy crushes the spirit. “Do as I say, not as I do”. When exceptions are made because “that’s just John’s communication style”, “Jill has been here for 13 years”, or “he’s tight with the CFO”, you undermine the organization and implicitly encourage that which you do not want. You’ll only get more of it.
  • To Action: After establishing your culture, reinforce it through hiring, performance management, rewards/recognition, and dismissal.
  • To Me: While I have often used this quote for its raw comedic value, I interpret it as a call for focus. In early stage businesses, focus is a primal instinct, but we often lose it chasing a deal or when our courage is tested. In larger organizations, lack of focus can create huge inefficiency as well as sapping morale as projects are started with great fanfare then whither away unaddressed. The result is that when big change is required, employees won’t commit to the heavy lift as they’ll just await the next distraction or shiny object from leadership.
  • To Action: Define, document, and — most importantly — communicate your strategy to the organization, assuming it is a strategy. If objectives and goals don’t have an obvious line of sight to the strategy, take a deeper look or just say no.
  • To Me: Trust is the bedrock of high performing teams. There’s a place for control (e.g. travel policies), but control is top-down construct. For high performance, you need employee engagement, which comes from trusting people and giving them autonomy. Plans must be made and goals measured, but its far easier to motivate people by asking questions than making statements.
  • To Action: With a defined, documented strategy of “why” and “what”, have the team develop the “how” within some execution framework (try Scaling Up or Traction if you’re a beginner). Then give them the autonomy to do it; they’ll engage. Also, talk less, ask more.

Made Not Found

In SaaS businesses, operating results are earned every single day; and good businesses are made, not found. Writing here about building organizations, learning from the experience, and appreciating the ride.

Todd Gibby

Written by

SaaS operator-turned-investor | Founder of Lock 8 Partners | Sharing observations, thoughts, and lessons learned from the ever-educational journey.

Made Not Found

In SaaS businesses, operating results are earned every single day; and good businesses are made, not found. Writing here about building organizations, learning from the experience, and appreciating the ride.