Australian Media Darling Rose Davidson speaks with CEO B.D. Erickson II on his philosophy of Organizational Leadership and how to foster an environment that inspires new leaders.
What is Organizational Leadership?
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Rose Davidson is an international best-selling author from Australia who interviews business experts and thought leaders on her program Talking with the Experts. Rose started her own business, DOES Biz, in 2015 with a desire to empower female entrepreneurs. She is an advocate for social justice and is passionate about spreading awareness of domestic and family violence against women, men, and children. She is the co-founder and current president of the organization Healing Through Love which helps violence survivors.
Rose Davidson welcomed B.D. Erickson II on Talking With The Experts, Episode 108: “Organizational Leadership”. Over the course of the interview, B.D. discusses his perspective on Organizational Leadership and how to empower the people around you. "Being a leader isn't about how many people you can get to follow you. We know lots of terrible leaders who got people to follow them," B.D. said during the interview. "How many leaders can you help create? The way I see it is we don't pass torches, you use your torch to light other torches."
Rose Davidson: Hello! And welcome to Talking with the Experts. My name is Rose Davidson from rosedavidson.com, and Talking with the Experts is about all things business by business owners for business owners, and you can find it on all good podcasting streams and on YouTube. And today, my guest is B.D. Erickson II and his business is Satic Incorporated and today we are going to be talking about organizational leadership. B.D. Erickson II is a proven leader and team builder, successfully navigating an ever-changing high-tech business climate. Having business and science degrees, combined with Anthony Robbins Mastery University and Leadership Academy, B.D. is well equipped to lead his team in the highly technical sector of clean, renewable energy. Welcome, B.D.! How are you today?
B.D.: Thank you, Rose I’m doing wonderful. Thank you for having me!
Rose: Yeah! My pleasure, my pleasure! So, over you two decades in leadership roles, what sort of teams have you built?
B.D.: So, a vast group of individuals because we work in manufacturing, so I need engineers, and then people that can run teams of assemblers, but, we don’t have a given market for our product usually so I need sales persons, and then marketing people, and then you know the admin roles, you know, the people that lick the stamps and get stuff shipped. And we’re all on a bus I feel and you know, we are all trying to get to the same destination, so each of us need to be bought into the destination that we are trying to reach as a team.
Rose: Yep. So, I understand that you run a solar company, how’s that going over there?
B.D.: Yeah! We are the biggest solar company in Western Montana, so it’s going wonderful. Thank you!
Rose: Oh, that’s wonderful! That’s excellent news! Alright, so, tell me about organizational leadership. Tell me your perspective on that.
B.D.: So, you know, organizational leadership specifically, um, in organization where it’s not necessarily two people or five people, it’s a group of people. We have different personalities we have different backgrounds, maybe some social or ethical, background, different ways we grew up, and different roles in the company. And so, you know, maybe your personality type is a little bit different then mine, maybe your skill set is a little different then mine, but you being the wonderful you that you are and me being the person that I am and the skillsets that we have can enrich each other. So one of the things that I think makes work challenging for a lot of people. So, starting from that point actually, a lot of our time is spent at work. We don’t wake up, put on our shoes and go to fun, right? We wake up, put on our shoes and go to work. So for example, if you’re at a barbecue and you have your paper plate of food in your left hand and your dixie cup of beer or wine, or something else in your right hand, and then you try and meet these new people and one of the things we say to break the ice is ‘What do you do?’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Where do you work?’ So, it’s a big part of our identity. So, we want to be proud when we give that response, we want to feel good about ourselves, and since we spend so much time at work, if your work isn’t fun, your life isn’t fun. If your work hard, your life ain’t happy, don’t kind yourself! And so one of the things that we really focus on here is since we are going to work and not fun, how do we make work the funnest it can be or least painful? And sometimes you got to do a job that isn’t your favorite or you’ve got an assignment or a customer who is sticky, that stuff is real and it happens. The attitude that you approach it with is going to create your experience and the experience that you feel most commonly, that’s your life! So, we genuinely listen to people, we ask each person often what they like to do here, what’s their least favorite, make sure that they are feeling fulfilled and that there’s nothing that’s a small rub that they’re suffering, we call that a ‘Burr under your Saddle’ if that can be easily navigated, boy, let’s navigate that rascal as soon as possible.
Rose: Yeah, I agree. I don’t think that work should be all work and no fun. I think you need to have some pleasure at work, and if you have a good boss that, you know, helps make the day for you like a joke or, you know, some relaxation of some type, that makes a good day and makes a good work environment. And being a good leader, I believe that you do need to encompass those things and if you don’t have that type of personality you shouldn’t be a leader.
B.D.: That’s correct. And I believe that being a leader is not necessarily about how many people follow you. We know a lot of terrible leaders that got a lot of people to follow them! If people are following you, then it's all about you. You might have to go first the first time to show you how to do it because it doesn’t kill us or you haven’t been there before, but after you’ve gone first a few times, it’s time to not make it about how many people follow you, it’s about how many leaders you can help create. And so one of the sayings that I’ve used my whole life is: ‘We don’t pass torches, you use your torch to light more torches’. Because we could all have a torch, we can all take a turn, and you know, if it’s all about you, then even if they do follow you, you never get to see what beautiful neat person, idea, event, extraordinary outcome that they can create. So it might be bumpy at first too so you’ve got to love them through that too because there’s also the vulnerability issue, right? And if you really want to have a relationship with someone, then part of that is that it’s safe to be vulnerable because you know that you are safe, and making people feel safe boy is, we’ll do a lot of things for money, Rose, we’ll do anything for love.
Rose: Yes absolutely.
B.D.: You have to sprinkle in some of that in.
Rose: Oh I agree, I agree. I’ve worked in some really horrible environments, you know, where I was totally micromanaged and it’s just a horrible environment to live in because you’ve got no say, no freedom to do anything, and yeah. I don’t think that bosses should be micromanaging their teams anyway, I think that people will bring things to the table as you said early on, and they should be allowed to explore those things.
B.D.: I agree, absolutely. You’ll get a better result often times and you’ll get some coaching along the way and they will enjoy it more, you know, do you want the employee that swings their feet out of bed and it’s a grind to come? Or hopefully they’re enthused because you’re working on something as a team, and they’ve got a project that they’re working on and they’re invested in and take personal pride in, boy, if you get a handful of people truly vested taking deep personal pride, Rose you can build the pyramids.
Rose: Absolutely! Yeah, I don’t think that’s what happened when the pyramids were built. Haha.
B.D.: Haha, that was a different kind of leadership wasn’t it?
Rose: Yeah, I think so, haha. So, what can leaders do to foster this type of environment in their workplace?
B.D.: One of the things that I’ve found is that people want to feel heard. So, sometimes, if I’ve got an issue or something, I don’t need it fixed, I don’t need it solved, but I want you to know that I’m suffering or I want you to know how I’m feeling, so people want to be heard. So one of the things that you can do is check in with people and honestly just checking in with them and asking them how they are doing, asking if you can help them. Service-based leadership is the best, it gets you the farthest, that’s been my experience, then just knowing that they’re heard, just knowing that they matter. People are actually tough, you know, we’re pretty sturdily built creatures, we can weather a lot if we know that we’re heard and that we’re important and that we’re loved, oh man, that’s one really easy way, and again you always don’t have to fix everything, you just have to let them that you care about them and that it’s important to you.”
Rose: Yeah, I had someone on yesterday that had that very same philosophy that people just need to be heard and that people don’t want someone to fix their issue, they just want someone to listen and perhaps offer a kind word or, you know, a bit of advice but they don’t actually want you to go and fix it for them because they don’t need to have it fixed, they just need to know that someone listened to them! They could just be having a wind. So, anyways.. I lost my train of thought about leadership, haha. Um, tell me a little bit about the Anthony Robbins Mastery University, tell me what that’s all about.
B.D.: So, Anthony Robbins, one of the most prolific self-help authors, writers, live event coaches on the planet, I mean, he’s probably made more money and touched more lives than any other coach, certainly that I know of. And the journey for me just started as a participant as a young man that had some dreams crushed and some prizes that I was young and immature, not fully developed to handle and deal with and my dad loved me and I was getting a little suicide-y and he scooped me up and he raced me off to a Tony Robbins seminar. Now. This was not one of the big, well-lit, firewalking ones. This was a chiropractor’s office and he had a projector on the wall and it was Tony Robbins. We spent about 3 hours and it was, Rose, it changed my life. It absolutely took me from feeling that I was doomed, those hopeless feelings that we experience, whether they’re real or imagined, doesn’t matter! Because when you’re feeling them, you’re feeling blue, it’s real to you. It changed me from that mindset, that attitude to one of that anything is possible, that you can be, do, have anything. Is it easy? No it’s not easy! But it’s not impossible either! If it was easy, you wouldn’t grow, you wouldn’t appreciate it, the experience would be different if it was easy/ It being hard, that’s apart of the fun. So, when I got home, um, I’m widowed, I married a beautiful young woman that I loved, she left me unfortunately in a car accident several decades ago..
Rose: Oh, I’m so sorry!
B.D.: …yep, thank you. We’re tough creatures, I spent a year in a trance but humans are robust. She had told me at one point that she had always seen someone in me, that she saw this greatness in there and through my boozy immaturity, she knew that man resided in there. And after I got home from that seminar, she gave me the warmest compliment I’ve ever had in one and that I’ll hold onto for the rest of my journey as a human, she said ‘Since you’ve been home, and you’ve been thinking differently, that man that I saw you’ve exceeded who I even saw and who I thought you could be.’ And those were her exact words, but I got it. Yeah, it changed me and changed my life. So from then on, I said I want to go to this mastery university and it’s very expensive, do you want to come and do you want to support it? And she said yes, ‘if it helps you like this, then this money is temporary and the sky is the limit and I want you happy and I love you happy.’ So, we went and I graduated from mastery university, and then I volunteered and crewed the events. They have a secondary school, it’s quite expensive also, it’s called Leadership Academy. And after you graduated from Academy you can spend time crewing and leadership things with Tony, and I went through all of that. So, I did several things, I got it for myself, I learned skillsets on how to help create that change in other people, I made this amazing peer group of wonderful people that I spent several years traveling the world with, and then I got opportunity once I came home to create my own business and then hopefully, right, to put these things that I’ve learned into practice, not just be a hearer but be a doer and then build a team and often times, my team has taught me as much as I’ve taught them, and that’s the Tony Robbins part of my journey and I know that it’s impacted me as much or more then anything else that I’ve done in my life, Rose.
Rose: Yeah, I think coaches like that that inspire others are the way to go. Not just the ones, you know, where you sit there for three hours and bored to tears, they don’t change anything in you, they just talk at you and that doesn’t really achieve anything. Do you think, and I’m going to ask a personal question if you don’t mind, do you think your journey through depression has made you, I guess, more resilient, more open to how you treat others now?
B.D.: Beyond, beyond a doubt! It’s made me more vulnerable, and I’ve found that when you’re more vulnerable you’re more loveable because people don’t always want this strong, stoic leader. They need some of that sometime to go first and prove that it doesn’t kill them. They also want a real person, and the relationship is that its give and take, and one of the things that I’ve learned for myself and for my child about depression is that sometimes it’s not rational. Sometimes to other people looking in, it’s not real or exaggerated, and none of that matters! When you’re feeling it, it’s real to you, and if it’s real to you that’s your experience. So, that goes back to not trying to problem solve it or advice it away, instead, be open, be listening, engaged in the hearing and then letting them know that you understand and appreciate their world. If you haven’t experienced the exact same thing, you know what it is to hurt, you know what it is to feel sad and feel alone, and so yes suffering crippling depression that I’ve experienced as a human being, I know very challenging and in the moments make me a better version of me ultimately.
Rose: I agree, I agree. I’ve been down that far this period in my life that I actually have no memory of I was in that black hole so deep that I don’t even remember how I got out of it. So, yeah, so I can fully understand what it is and it’s made me a better person also along my journey because I can empathize with others when they’re not feeling the best. Yeah, it’s made me a more caring person I think when someone else is there when you’re feeling sad, you tend to listen more carefully if you’ve experienced it yourself.
B.D.: Sure, more empathetic, I agree.
Rose: I’m sorry to pick up on a more personal note trek then I usually do, I’m sorry!
B.D.: Haha, it’s okay.
Rose: So, do you have any wise words, B.D. about organizational leadership, you know, for our listeners out there? Because I know that there’s a lot of different theories out there on it, but you know, I would like to listen to yours.
B.D.: So, rather than maybe start at the beginning, I think I would start at the end and then I would build it backwards. For example, we’re going to go back to the barbecue and you’re a little uncertain and you’ve got your plate of food and your dixie cup of beer or whatever and you’re going to engage this person, and they say ‘What do you do?’ and you say ‘Well, I work at Satic Solar.’ I want them to go ‘Ahhh, lucky! Do you love it?! Can you get me on?! Do you have a space?! Do you have something that I can do?!’ To have a corporate culture that is so well known as a good place to work that people are proud to say it. Now, if someone works for you and they say that they cringe or they just say it, that’s a different experience rather instead of being anxious to say it, they’re happy to say it. Well, how to do build that culture? It’s not easy but like the other things we’ve talked about, it’s not impossible either! It starts from the top down, you identify your business plan, you identify your marketing plan, you’ve got your seats on the bus. So one of the things I do while hiring is, years ago while I was a performance coach I would say ‘Find something that you’re not good at, find something that you don’t like to do, and then find the person that’s really good at that or really likes to do it, and I would say yeah, kind of. But, if that person is a grump, it only takes one grump in an organization to suck the fun juice and the air right out of a room.
Rose: Absolutely, I agree with that! Yes!
B.D.: Right?! You get one grump that brings a challenge from home or a bad attitude to work, and I don’t care if you have three or four cheerleaders on the team, and I’ve got an office full of cheerleaders, trust me. One grump can do more to set the tone and the mood for an organization or a room or group than three cheerleaders can. And so, rather then hiring someone that’s good at the job, hire a happy person! Hire someone that forgives freely, that still believes and doesn’t doubt, that has that nice fun easy going personality, and then train them to do whatever you need to do. We make jokes about the solar installation that it’s going to happen, you’re going to set your cordless drill down on a steep roof and it’s going to slide down the roof at top speed, but where is it going to land? Right through the shield of the customers Lexus and it’s going to go through and land on the front seat. That day is coming. So, it’s not that that happened, it’s how now we respond to it. It’s how we engage the customer with a smile, you’re not going to believe it, it was one in a million, and you can probably get them to chuckle as they see your drill on the front seat of their Lexus, right? Also, there are things in our job that aren’t the funnest, and I’ve said this, it is never where you go, it’s always who you’re with. Here’s an example, you can go out to a lovely dinner and dancing and you’re on the beach and the moon is out and the food is delicious, but if that person is a grump, if they find things to complain about, if they send the food back or complain about the service, you can go from having the funnest night ever to being embarrassed and can’t get out of there fast enough. Conversely, if you have to take sticky stuff to the dump and it stinks and it’s a hot day, but the person you’re with, they’re a hoot! They’re dancing with the broom or making fun and maybe they open a lawn chair and open a sixer and they want to shoot cans with a bebe gun, it might become the funnest day you’ve ever had. It’s not the setting it’s not where you go, it’s who you’re with. So if there’s a job in the office today or an assignment that we have to do that’s more challenging, if you have a group of people that can turn it into a song or just hate it less, then productivity is going to be up, the customer service is going to be up, morale is going to be up and now your people stay. And that’s a big thing too, there’s a shortage of qualified, great happy people, it sure feels like it, of wonderful humans out there, but finding them and getting them into your organization. And you’re not going to get it with just pay or just benefits because, remember, they don’t swing their feet out of bed and go to fun, they go to work. If you can make that a reasonably enjoyable experience or they get to use the things that they are good at to help everyone get somewhere, you’ll weld them to you. And now you’ve got a ship going the right direction, you’ve got some continuity, you’ve got some high fives and cheers, you can do anything you set out to do with that team. I promise it, I know it to be true.
Rose: Absolutely! You need to open a school B.D.!
B.D.: Haha! Happiness goes a long way, doesn’t it?
Rose: It certainly does! Where can people find you, B.D.?
B.D.: So our website, our company is kind of an interesting name, it’s Satic, S-A-T-I-C, saticusa.com.
Rose: Okay beautiful. And you’re on Linked In and Facebook on two places, Satic Inc and Satic Solar. Okay! I’ll make sure to put that in the comments when I put the recording up. Anyways, it’s been a real pleasure speaking with you, you’ve actually made my day today, you made me smile, so that’s a really good thing!
B.D.: Thank you, it was very gracious of you to have me on, I appreciate it.
Rose: You’re very welcome, I’ll talk to you again soon. Good bye.
B.D.: I look forward to it, thank you Rose. Good bye.