Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
helps you in your leadership.
Name: Brad Shinn
Title: Chief Strategy Oficer
For over two decades, I have defined and executed growth strategies—and aligned business development plans with organizational priorities—for companies in highly competitive, forward-moving fields of public infrastructure. I have operational effectiveness by shaping and managing operations across the entire marketing spectrum in sales, client relations, and business development.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
I think alignment. I spend a lot of my time making sure that my team is aligned with company vision and direction. My role as CSO means that I spend a lot time aligning other business units as well. What is challenging is when executive leadership is unclear or if business unit leaders are misaligned you really have to work at bringing them together--working through disagreements, creating bridges for trust and cooperation to take hold.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I think a leader is a combination of things- skills and capability of dealing with people issues can be learned. Vision, integrity, transparency and other attributes are learnable but they come more natural to me and I expressed those early. I came to leadership roles because I had a vision of how things can work. Others can come to leadership through learning to do great work or managing people. I came to it over a couple decades as I expressed my vision and was willing to take assignments and show success that showed other leaders I was worthy of the trust they placed in me. As a white man, I also recognize I benefited from that aspect. I know many women, for instance, that were every bit as capable and often more talented that didn't get the chance to take an assignment that would have put them ahead of me on a leadership track. All those things helped but mostly I wanted to lead. If you don't want to be a leader, you wont be.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I try to spend time with my family in the morning and evenings. I have quiet time for coffee with my spouse--even when I have calls that start as early as 6AM, I try to make a bit of time to start the day with her. I try to build in "focus time" to get things done that I am responsible for, but I leave it available to my 4 direct reports as they are busy and the frequent request is for more of my time, not less. I spend probably half of my time on calls--operational, management and staffing, and BD. I let my team know that if I'm not in a meeting then I trust them to carry on and make the decisions they need to to keep making progress.
I'm pretty clear about what kinds of things I need to have a touch on so even if I'm not there they know what their working rules are. I try to end days at 5, but some international calls have to match time zones so I'm occasionally on later into the evening. Dinner is always with family when I'm not traveling and evenings are spent on my race car, reading or a project my spouse and I are doing. Bed is calling me by 9, asleep most nights by 930.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
In times of crisis or extreme uncertainty, being open, accessible, transparent and authentic is key to leading people through it. People trust in different ways, listen and don't spin or you will loose it fast.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
two books really: People Styles at work by Bolton & Bolton and Leading Change by John Kotter. We've all been in a situation where you always have friction with someone or you are in a meeting and someone behaves contrary to their standard MO. People Styles gave me a really easy way to understand the four types of communicators, what they need to be happy and what they do under stress. So instead of writing off a behavior as a problem, I could understand that, as an Expressive, when I work with an Analytical I need to communicate differently in a specific way. I also understand what sets them off and how they typically respond. Leading Change really gave me a deeper understanding around why change fails and what a leader needs to do to have a better likelihood of success. I've read a ton of business books and these two I go back to regularly.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Learn to recognize your natural strengths and then build skill and talent around them--take the strengths finder test and begin building your career around your natural areas of talent.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Just recently I did another of the monthly meetings with junior staff--its turned into an AMA session--we cover somethings I want to make sure they know, but most of the time is theirs to ask anything and I answer. I don't spin or sugar coat anything and I try to share the full context. Their responses have been great and they express their gratitude of having a fuller picture of what is going on. That reminds me that people choose to be led--if they don't feel like they are treated with respect and dignity they may stay working for you, but you aren't leading them.