C-Staff Interview Part 2: Failing, Handling Confrontation and Becoming a Better Leader

Jim Woodrum is a man of vision. But we told you that already. Jim's thoughts on growing into a leader are invaluable and we hope serve you well.


Q: We all want to be better, right? How have you seen and experienced strong leaders motivate their team to succeed?


JW: Well, there is no secret sauce, no magic pill and no silver bullet. To lead others well, you have to get inside people's lives.




You can't lead your team well until you know your team well. 



If you are in charge of managing and motivating a team and you don't know about their family, fears, likes, and dislikes – you are not doing your job to the best of your ability. You can't lead them until you know them.

I want to really know my team members and why they may hesitate in a certain situation or why they will charge forward in others. I want to know what's of utmost importance to my team members and sometimes I will do that by blatantly asking, "What's your list?"



Q: I’ve never heard of that question. What do you learn from it?


JW: Everybody has a personal list of what's important in his or her life and that list changes as you go from single, to married, 30's to 40's, renting to owning, kid to kids. Money is always on that list to an extent, but it isn’t always on the top as many people would assume. Personal satisfaction, growth opportunities, job satisfaction are frequently holding the number one spot on individuals’ lists.

At different times in your team’s life, different priorities will rotate up. Sometimes, money goes to the top position because of bills and a desired lifestyle. But as a leader, you must lean into better understanding your team members’ priorities and how you ultimately must work to motivate them.

Priorities are important to understand, but only so you can better understand your people.



Q: When I use the phrase "becoming a better leader" what qualities first come to your mind?


JW: Becoming a person who more intentionally focuses on others.

If you want to commit yourself to growing as a leader you must better know the people who you are working with, working for, and those who are working for you. Remember your first kindergarten lesson: treat other's the way you want to be treated.



A great leader is always looking out for the best interest of others.




Q: That’s great motivation to our readers, but how does it work when things go wrong? You’ve mentioned this in our past conversations, but what does it look like to “fail well” as a leader?


JW: When you fail as a leader you generally fail to understand.

If there is a project that we, as a team, fail on (whether in the situation I am considered the leader or not) a leader will find a way to claim the responsibility for the failure. 

It's about responsibility. When you fail, it's my fault – I always analyze what extra effort I could have done to better end in success. 

Being reluctant kills your team's impact. 

The biggest regrets I have as a leader are when I am reluctant. The moments when you have an idea but never share it, when you don't make a phone call, you don't communicate a potentially painful thought – being reluctant kills your team's impact.

Leaders need to be brutally honest and explore problems and solutions from all angles. Leaders speak up and don't sit on their opinions. Most of the time, you can recognize when your team is beginning to get off track -- leaders say something to prevent the failure before it happens.



Q: Sometimes failure can lead to frustration and blame shifting. I asked this in Part 1 of our conversation, but I loved your answer and want to be sure no one misses it. How do effective leaders handle confrontation?


JW: As a leader, you don't need to speak first. Learn to listen well. A lot of best confrontation resolution practices are about drawing in information from everyone involved.

Even the biggest problems typically are rooted in a lack of communication and lack of knowledge. Gather all the information you can -- both verbal and nonverbal. Learn how to do this well.

Again, it takes a fearless leader to admit when they are wrong, and in doing so you really display selfless leadership to your team. This is another opportunity to show fearlessness – but one of the most difficult.

My wife and I recently had to do a double take on one of our kids who recently deserved our trust, but we made an effort to stay more involved than we probably should have. We realized our error and gave him a sincere apology. I messed up. Being a parent, a business owner or a leader doesn't come with a manual. Embrace your mistakes. Be kind to others when they make mistakes. Listen first.



Q: What is a common misconception about leaders you see in the marketplace?


JW: People think leaders have to be the best, but the best leaders I know don't come across that way. They don't flaunt it. They don't have to have any trappings of power. They don't have their own parking space, their own this and that.

You can have a title and be a terrible leader.

The best leaders are simple and willing to do what it takes to get the job done.

Do not get caught up in the accolades and praises of others, but look for ways to serve others and make more of them.


Lead Well

Think about what one practice you will take away from this two-part interview with Jim?

Did you miss part one of this conversation? Get the whole picture on leadership and glean Jim's advice as it comes to becoming a better leader.