I attended a seminar last week by best-selling author and “get-out-of-debt” money expert Dave Ramsey. I was only able to sit in for part of the day, but boy did he pack a wallop into the brief time I was there.
The one-day event was based on Ramsey’s book “EntreLeadership,” which discusses how the best qualities of entrepreneurship (risk-taker, driven, fearless…) and leadership (visionary, charismatic, servant…) can be combined to create successful businesses, inspire teams and develop “the art of selling by serving.”
I liked Ramsey’s no-nonsense approach and the examples he gave from his own hard-knocks business experience. The Ramsey story is one of being down and out 20 years ago—dead broke after his real estate business collapsed—and then climbing out of bankruptcy to create the financial-advice powerhouse that is The Lampo Group.
No doubt about it, Ramsey has built a very marketable personal brand that includes books, a talk radio show, classes, financial coaching, and workshops and conferences all over the country. If I could fault him for one thing, it would be that our session was a bit too commercial, with lots of promotions for upcoming events and package deals on his books. I felt at times that we were in the middle of a PBS fundraising drive.
But I digress.
I particularly liked Ramsey’s session on building teams and a culture of excellence. Ramsey’s advice makes sense, to the point that you find yourself saying, “Hey, why didn’t I think of that?”
As he says, “Great organizations create unity intentionally.” He ticked off five “enemies of unity” that I found myself agreeing with quite vigorously:
- poor communication,
- unresolved disagreements,
- lack of shared purpose and
- sanctioned incompetence.
Eliminate those from your workplace, add in a big dose of passion, and you’re on your way to creating an environment that breeds champions.
In discussing how to build winning teams, he definitely towed the “tough-love” line. He described conversations with employees he has had to let go because of “bad habits.” One of his pet peeves is people who come to work late. As he put it, “I tell them that I love them and want them to stay, but their bad habit of coming in late has to go. If they can’t leave behind their bad habits, then they have to leave, too.” Gossip is another bad habit that isn’t tolerated. As he noted, “You hand your negatives up. If you have a problem with something, you come and see me.”
So often managers will bend, look the other way or “sanction incompetence” rather than face problems head on. The job of a leader, though, is to make clear to everyone what’s expected, establish the culture of the workplace and be consistent about it. “Being unclear to your employees is being unkind,” according to Ramsey. I can buy that.
Other takeaways from Ramsey that I like:
- “Why you are doing business matters more than what or how.”
- “You don’t have to be subservient to be a servant leader.”
- “You cannot lead without passion.”
- “The most successful business leaders continue to read, learn and personally grow.”
- “People matter. Don’t treat customers like revenue units or team members like units of production.”
And, finally, one of my favorite quotes from “EntreLeadership”:
“Those who never make mistakes work for those of us who do.” – Henry Ford