EntreCon 2017

EntreCon 2017: Leadership insights

More than 450 people participated in EntreCon 2017 at Pensacola Little Theatre.

Day Two of EntreCon Pensacola kicked off with a lot of talk about what it means to be a leader.

From the inspirational and aspirational to the practical, speakers at the third annual business and leadership conference shared the lessons they learned from their lives and applied to business.

The day launched with the man behind “Bert’s Chili” at Waffle House.

Bert Thornton is the former president and chief operating officer for Waffle House Inc.

Thornton, whose book, “Find an Old Gorilla,” retired from operations in 2011. Though he still holds court at his “home” restaurant on Sorrento Road.

Thornton shared advice for success, things that are easy to do, and easy not to do.

— Always take notes.

— Hang around the right people. And when you do, find a mentor to help guide you.

“Hang around people who do what you aspire to do. And listen,” Thornton said.

— Write thank you notes. “In the big leagues, they write thank you notes.”

— Be honest.

— Keep a great attitude. “Your attitude is the single most observed thing about you.”

— Learn to say yes, and learn to say no, but never say “okay….”

— Nourish yourself, body, mind and spirit.

— Learn to manage your time. You do that by setting goals, writing them down and tracking them to completion.

— Give away all the credit and take all the blame.

— Give away anonymously things of value.

The Servant Leader Way

The Green Beret motto is “to free the oppressed.”

It used to be Brad Israel’s job to do just that in Afghanistan.

Now he works with a group that aims to apply those same tenants of servant leadership to improving their communities and organizations.

Israel is chief operating officer of 68 Ventures and FM Solutions.

Israel told the crowd the journey that led him from U.S. Army Ranger School to leading three platoons into combat in Afghanistan. He later earned the Green Beret and Special Forces tab in 2011.

As someone who was part of highly skilled, highly specialized teams, Israel related how those lessons serve him throughout his life.

— Choose to be bitter, or choose to be better.

— Build relationships that matter, inside and outside of your group or organization.  “Over 40 percent of Americans report feeling lonely, 50 percent of CEOs report feeling that way. Think about what you can do in your organizations now, to address this,” he said.

It is a disease, Israel said, that saps people of their energy, spirit and skill.

“The biggest way to build those relationships in that is trust and transparency,” he said.

His stories of building trust in an Afghan village to develop a local police force were powerful testimony to the difficulty of trust building — and the value of being open the wisdom that each of us has within.

Women and Leadership

Oprah Winfrey does not lead like Margaret Thatcher.

Both are effective because they lead from their authentic selves.

That was the message from Liz Jazwiec, consultant, longtime hospital officer and former emergency room nurse, in an afternoon session about women and leadership.

Different does not mean better is a lesson Jazwiec said she learned from her father. And it is OK to acknowledge that there are differences in the way men and women communicate and lead.

“Leaders are not born, they’re cornered,” she said. “Most leaders never thought they’d be responsible for changing the behavior of other adults.”

Differences to be aware of as you look at your team, as Jazwiec noted:

— Women tend to be more collaborative. “Women have a very strong need to be liked, and this can hurt us,” Jazwiec said. “It makes it hard to put the team before the individual. But failing to hold your team accountable is stealing their success.

“Our role is not to be liked. Our job is to be respected and to make sure our teams are successful.”

— Men decide at the meeting before the meeting. Women think that’s what the meeting is for.

— Men are results oriented; women are process oriented.

— Women don’t like to say they don’t know, and they don’t like to ask for help.

“If I could say anything to women,” Jazwiec said. “It would be stop worrying. I have to beg you as women to stop worrying. And I want you to start getting better at asking for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Advice she has for leaders — men and women alike — includes:

— Don’t fear being successful and don’t sabotage it.

— Always give people more than what they expect.

— Stay positive, stay coachable and have someone who holds you to account.

— Make resilience part of your character.

— Get results and be comfortable bragging about them. “You can’t wait for other people to notice.”

— Authenticity is what people follow. “You don’t have to be perfect, but if you share your visions and you unite the team around that sincerely, that’s what people follow,” she said.

Other sessions focused on finding capital for startups, legal essentials for small businesses and building and managing a productive, engaged team from remotely.