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7 Questions with Brian K Cloar
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7 Questions with Brian K Cloar
Name: Brian K Cloar
Current title: President/C.E.O
Current organisation: UnFinished International
Brian K Cloar, Ph.D. is an interdisciplinary social scientist serving as the President/CEO and co-founder of UnFinished International – a nonprofit organization that seeks to restore hope to children in impoverished areas with special needs and disabilities, their families, and society through education, empowerment, sustainability, development, and love.
An international speaker, blogger, and humanitarian, Brian holds an associates degree in Business Management from the University of Kentucky, a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Murray State University, a masters degree in International Relations from Webster University, a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, and a Ph.D. in Public Service Leadership at Capella University.
Brian lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife and son, where he works as an American government professor.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
One of the things I've found most challenging is the expectation of one's time. It seems the larger the organization, the greater expectation on time spent "working." I find this comes from several misconceptions—first, a lack of comprehension concerning a work/life balance. These days, most large corporations work with as close to a skeleton crew as possible, thus offloading the remaining work on the CEO. They justify this through the salary they pay this individual. However, studies continue to come out that show after fifty hours of work, the law of diminishing returns applies.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was fortunate to start my career off in a large corporation and quickly worked my way up. I learned early on the value of training, delegation, and follow-up. Unfortunately, most of the people I have worked under throughout my career did not receive this training. Therefore, it has always been challenging as someone who trains my team to work without the need for micromanagement.
I feel most CEOs and executives miss this vital understanding - your job is to ensure goals are met, and tasks are completed, not to do them yourself. Yes, there are times you must step in and take complete control of a situation. However, this should be a rare circumstance and not the norm. My wife once turned down a leadership position because she did not want to work her boss's hours in the past. From listening to stories my wife told me, I knew this was a case where her boss worked many unnecessary hours due to a lack of accountability with her teams.
This type of poor leadership contributes to large organizations' expectations that the CEO is always at work, always in the middle of everything. This expectation is counterproductive and unhealthy for both the CEO and the organization. It stymies growth within the organization - limiting future leadership potential, and burns out the CEO to the point of exhaustion, fear, and apathy.
The challenge of organizational understanding in this area is challenging. It involves gaining the organization's trust to prove you can be the coach and let the quarterback do his job. The team does not need you out on the field during every play.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The structure of my workdays has been thrown into a great deal of flux since the pandemic. I've worked from home for a year now, which pulls at any structure all day long. My wife still goes into her job, and my son goes to school virtually. So, I rely greatly on my Business Manager to keep me on my toes.
I wake up much earlier than necessary to get alert, read a few daily readings, get caught up on the news, and get an entire pot of coffee down. I then see my wife off to work and get my son settled into his home classroom across the house from my office. I then begin the daily email grind before meetings, either in person or on the phone, with my Business Manager, who fills the roles of running the organizational business and my assistant in all things.
Mid-afternoon, I took that break I wrote about in the first question and hit the gym. For me, physical health is also mental health. To take care of the organization and my team, I have to take care of myself. Once I finish up there, it is back in the office where I address any leftover issues or new things that have come up since my pre-gym cleanup of affairs.
Around 5:00, I shift into full dad mode as my son, and I wait for my wife to come home, which is often late. I try to get to sleep relatively early as I, again, will get up much earlier than I have to the following day to start it all over again.
I feel this routine keeps me in a good work/life balance. I start the morning taking care of myself, family, then work, a short respite, back to work, finishing off the day with family again.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most recent significant leadership lesson I've learned is the need to understand things from the viewpoint of those you lead. Your position as a leader does involve teaching and mentoring. However, you can only do that within a context those you mentor understand. This situation is especially true when it comes to diverse teams. When trying to reach across a racial or cultural divide to bring about a common goal, the leader must comprehend the social and cultural differences involved.
A significant portion of my time in business has been spent in predominantly Hispanic areas. I always made it my policy to keep my leadership teams as diverse as possible to ensure I received well-rounded information. In these areas of Orlando and Houston, where I served a Hispanic based, I sought out my team members from that community to lead projects and make decisions. There were many instances where those I was accountable to pushed back on the way we did things. I caught heat for doing things differently than the organization standard. It was often difficult to explain what worked in Seattle, Washington, did not work in Apopka, Florida. Maintaining the company standard was often seen as more important than tailoring that standard to serve the community better.
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?
This will sound a bit crazy. However, the book that impacted me early on in my leadership journey is a somewhat quirky book entitled "Make it So." I grew up a huge fan of sci-fi, and Star Trek: The Next Generation captivated my teens. In this book, two leadership Ph.D.s took Captain Jean Luc Picard's character and wrote a book on leadership lessons as if Picard himself wrote it from his experiences. This book impacted me for two reasons. First, it contained valuable lessons about leading teams and influencing outcomes. Second, it spoke to me in a language to which I enjoyed listening. This goes back to my early exposition on leading people from their point of view. If we as leaders can find ways to grow leadership lessons in our teams in ways they enjoy learning, we will be far more successful.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Leadership capacity in large enterprises is built through individual relationships, example, and accountability. No matter how large your organization, each leader must break down groups into smaller groups they can work with personally. The CEO will have a leadership team. The members of those teams should have their own team - so forth and so on. The way to make members of your organization feel they matter is to make them feel they matter. You can only do this on a small scale.
Likewise, starting with the CEO, integrity, honesty, and doing what is right must be fully displayed. If you want your people to give their all and believe in the mission, they must believe in their leaders.
Finally, accountability on all levels is a must. Too often, accountability is a downward trend. The leadership team will hold the working staff accountable, but no one is watching the watchers. From the new recruit to the CEO, all must have someone that holds them accountable.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Before entering the business and nonprofit environment, I served nearly a decade in law enforcement as a police officer. My unit had a captain who had no concept of leadership. She led the group as a tyrant who was not to be questioned, and everyone hated going to work every day. We had officers with 20 plus years in who worked the midnight shift and weekends, giving up Monday through Friday day shifts to avoid serving under her.
However, under her was our sergeant, who led by example. He went out of his way to serve the men and women who worked under him. Everyone loved this guy and went out of their way to go above and beyond in anything he asked of them.
I learned two things from this situation. One, a poor leader begets poor results. Your team can actually work against you if they feel you are not for them. However, my sergeant taught me the most powerful leadership lesson I have ever learned. That is - if you take care of your people, your people will take care of you. I have implemented this idea in every leadership role I've undertaken, and it has never failed me. Ever.