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Transformational Leadership

Aug. 25, 2020
You can all be leaders. All that's needed is proper training and new attitudes.

Thousands upon thousands of books have been written on leadership, a duty that ranks right up there with public speaking as one of people’s greatest fears. And, while the obvious natural leaders are those who automatically step forward when the captain calls for volunteers, leaders can be made.

One intimidating facet of leadership is that it deals so directly with other people. Many can’t even look another person in the eye when they meet. Truth is, many people you may not expect to be leadership material are secretly hoping for a chance to carry the banner and be first in line.

Steve Truett, president of Aire Serv®, a Neighborly® company, says that, while the introverted person might be the least likely type to lead others, he has found that introverts can lead just as well as extroverts. It all depends on the person’s intentions and goals.

“It has to do with having a ‘servant attitude,’ and being a ‘Level 4’ leader, and serving the people who are part of your team. If you can help them accomplish their goals and dreams, then that comes back in a positive way,” Truett says. When the leader wants to do everything that’s good for employees, fear subsides and leading begins.

"If you can build a team because of how you’ve helped them grow and achieve their goals, then they’re going to run through a brick wall for you." — Steve Truett

Truett is a fan of leadership expert John Maxwell, who conceived of "The Law of the Lid." The lid is the limit that people put on their leadership potential. "Wherever your leadership level is today, your organization can only be a notch below, it can't rise above you. If my leadership ability is a five, then my organization couldn't be more than a three or four.The great news is, we can improve our leadership and raise our lid, and bring our organization along with us," Truett said.

Truett said John Maxwell describes the four levels of leadership as:

Level 1: “Do it because I say so.”

Level 2: They follow because they like you.

Level 3: They see what you’ve done as a leader.

Level 4: They follow based on what you have done for them personally.

Level 5: They follow because of who you are and who you represent. This may be likened to a general in the military or a CEO, where there is not a personal relationship. 

"We're sharing and striving for Level 4 leadership," Truett explained. "If you can build a team because of how you’ve helped them grow and achieve their goals, then they’re going to run through a brick wall for you." 

Aire Serv/Neighborly’s leadership training includes role playing for persons in all key managerial roles. Then, Truett said, those who inspire to leadership roles must be willing to change. 

“When people are out of their comfort zone, they retreat to what they know. We’re very up front with people in the discovery process before someone becomes a franchisee, that we’re not looking for people to be on the truck. If that’s what they want to do, that’s great; it’s very noble, and what we do is important, but it’s not the right thing for Aire Serv. We’re looking for people who are committed to accepting the challenge of developing their leadership at a greater level,” Truett said.

Aire Serv's leadership principles are based on parent company Neighborly's Code of Values, which all Aire Serv and Neighborly businesses strive to meet. Truett said the Code of Values is based on respect, integrity, customer focus and having fun in the process. 

"We really try to instill those values, and recruit people who share those values," Truett explained. "That's the foundation. During our initial business training, which new franchisees attend, and also existing owners if they wish to do so, we focus on leadership. We also include recruiting and retention, culture, and more."

During the week of training, Truett, Neighborly Chief Operating Officer Mary Thompson, and others within Aire Serv, provide the content.Other opportunities exist beyond that initial week for new owners. "In the past couple years, we have held regional workshops for owners and teams, facilitated by a third party, and they are open to managers and owners."

Additionally, during the annual "Neighborly Reunion" meeting, workshops and guest speaks will also include leadership guidance. 

Truett said the annual meeting — which was cancelled this year due to COVID-19 — is "pretty cool."

"We now have more than 20 brands worldwide. They come together at the same place and time. We include a couple days of focus on Neighborly, and then break into brand-specific meetings for two or three days." The common bond of being employed by the same parent company adds to comaraderie, much like association peer groups we hear are so valued by contractors.

Aire Serv's leadership training includes the importance of having a vision and sharing it with employees; personal development of both owners and the team; and decision-making, consulting, directing and conflict resolution.

Brad Casebier, president and founder of Radiant Plumbing & Air Conditioning, Austin, Tex., runs this fine company with his wife Sarah. He’s written an article on his experience in developing leaders, that can be found online, HERE.

Casebier discovered that leadership development was related to granting permission and managing attitudes. Are you normally the company “Answer Man”? So was Brad.

“Step one for me was to start letting go,” he says. “In meetings, I was always quick to speak up and solve problems. I have found letting the team work on it themselves, and offering suggestions when I feel they are not going in the right direction has done a lot to develop leaders.”

Next, Casebier gave the team permission to create their own budgets. They arrive at annual budgeting meetings with important data broken out by month, for seasonality considerations. KPIs are addressed, and trends examined. “Then, they build the plan to make it all happen. They have full ownership and understanding of the budget, and they crush it,” he exclaims.

Third, is talent development. A leadership path at Radiant has helped the guys learn while fulfilling current roles. 

“This helps keep employees engaged while they wait for that promotion,” Casebier says. These steps include attendance at “daily huddles,” ride-alongs, running meetings, and other managerial activities. He adds that employees’ performance goes sky-high during this period, as they commit to the processes and see results.

Casebier isolated three especially destructive default attitudes: villainizing owners or managers, denial of personal accountability (“It’s not my fault”) and victim mentality (“It’s all happening to me”). Beware, Casebier says, lest those excuses creep into your own communications with the team, and work to eliminate them from others, when noticed.

About the Author

Terry McIver | Content Director - CB

A career publishing professional, Terence 'Terry' McIver has served three diverse industry publications in varying degrees of responsibility since 1987, and worked in marketing communications for a major U.S. corporation.He joined the staff of Contracting Business magazine in April 2005.

As director of content for Contracting Business, he produces daily content and feature articles for CB's 38,000 print subscribers and many more Internet visitors. He has written hundreds, if not two or three, pieces of news, features and contractor profile articles for CB's audience of quality HVACR contractors. He can also be found covering HVACR industry events or visiting with manufacturers and contractors. He also has significant experience in trade show planning.