What’s your leadership style? Tom Williams isn’t one to shout and scream at his team. His leadership style is based around leading by example and clearly setting deadlines and expectations, with the aim of helping his team hit their potential. But how does a startup CEO who is in the trenches selling start his day? How does he find time to manage a team, be productive and take his boys to school? We found out in this interview.
Here’s your next episode of James Picks Brains…
James: Routines. They’re really important for sales professionals. Tell me what your average day looks like.
Tom: Typical days, I ride my bike to work. I actually get a kiss from my boys as I take them to school in the morning unless the older one if his friends are watching, I don’t get a kiss. Zoom my bike down to the office, a cup of coffee and I’m in my desk by 8:30 but I have about 15-minute break before anything starts. I get to organize my day. I spend the first part of every day looking at what do I need to accomplish today and what I need to accomplish this week. Ideally, the list for the week thing gets shorter and shorter. The day list stays at about the same. Then I check in with the team. We have a standup every morning at 10:30 and make sure that there are no blockers to what anybody needs to get done that day and again towards the end of the week.
Then I always make sure that I put some calls in. I’m the CEO and I don’t want to make calls every day cause I have other things to do, but it is critical that I keep my hand in and I keep doing calls every single day so that I can listen to what customers are needing and wanting and hearing and making sure that what I think is true is the same as what the sales guys think is true. It’s very easy to get stuck up in the cloud. I want to keep my hand in and make sure that I’m hearing what the customers are asking for.
James: I know a lot of people that will call BS on work-life balance and a lot of people that really support a strategic way to manage your time. What are your thoughts on work-life balance?
Tom: It’s super, super important. I actually left my last corporate job because I was flying to Asia all the time and I was in charge of worldwide sales so I was in China or Japan or Germany a lot. When my first kid was a baby that was fine cause there was one baby to manage. But by the time the second one came around, it was harder for my wife to manage two kids and I didn’t want to miss these kids growing up so I mindfully left that hardcore traveling job.
Now my kids are six and eight and I’m home for dinner every single night. I put them to bed, I get the kiss regardless cause there are no friends around. I’ll probably do an hour of work from around 9:00 to 11:00 but that 6:00 to 8:00 region is firmly dedicated for the family and it makes me better. It lets me think about my problems in a different context so that when I come back to it later on in the evening I get a fresh look. One other thing is we don’t make our team work more than 40 hours because you can get your goddamn job done in 40 hours if you can’t, you should hire more people.
James: What would you say your style of leadership is?
Tom: I like to think of my style as not high pressure but high expectation and it’s two entirely different things. Shouting at people doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t help anybody. It makes you feel better for one second and then you feel bad and then it doesn’t make them feel good at all, any amount of time. Then they are a lot less likely to think freely and try stuff. So no shouting but set deadlines and keep people to that expectation. I look really disappointed and sad that they weren’t able to live up to their potential if they don’t make it happen.
A big part of that is hiring. If you don’t have a good team, you have to let them go because everybody here is awesome. There’s not a single person here that I wouldn’t hire at my next company or my next operational. I have no question that these guys work hard and do the absolute best I don’t need to worry about. Then it’s just coaching for them to improve.
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