7 Questions with Steve Snedegar
Name: Steve Snedegar
Current title: President & CEO
Current organisation: GMT Corporation
Steve Snedegar is the current President and CEO of GMT Corporation. He oversees the company’s three facilities located in Northeastern Iowa that serve the North American machining, fabrication and assembly marketplace.
Steve is a seasoned operations and commercial leader with extensive experience in industrial technology, manufacturing & distribution and service centric organizations.
Prior to GMT, Steve has over 25 years of experience leading divisions and business units for industrial manufacturers including PPG, Fortive/Tektronix, Ryko, Tyco/SimplexGrinnell and United Technologies/Otis Elevator. He has also served on numerous boards and is an active coach and mentor to many senior and rising executives.
Steve is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys fishing, cycling and running. He has a wife, Heidi, and two sons, Nicholas and Andrew. He also enjoys travel, reading and spending time with his family. Steve and his family support numerous local and national charitable organizations and philanthropic causes.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The number one challenge is and has always been finding and retaining the best talent and getting the right people into key roles. Whether stepping into a CEO role from the outside or being promoted up from within, it’s always hard knowing that you are going to have to make talent changes to get the organization to the next level. There are always people not getting the job done. More often than not, it’s good people that are just in the wrong job. Sometimes it’s due to being promoted up through the organization until they reach a role that is beyond their capabilities. Other times the demands and requirements of the role have changed and they just aren’t the right fit any longer. Removing under performers is easy. Removing people that are tenured, late in career or potentially well-liked employees that are holding the organization back is more challenging however. It is especially challenging if you don’t have a role somewhere else for them or if you have headcount and budgetary constraints that prevent you from keeping them in the organization. Every talent move you make is being watched. Who you release, promote, or bring in from the outside defines you as a leader and sets the cultural tone of your leadership team. Your objective as a CEO is ensure you have the best and most engaged talent on your team to get the job done. If you make moves in a way that creates fear and destroys trust, you risk losing the hearts and minds of that team. If you fail to make moves or make them too slowly, you will probably fail to achieve your objectives and fail as a CEO. Finding the right balance and approach that gets a high performing team in place quickly is one of the most important and challenging elements of the CEO role.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
For the better part of the last 25 years I have been doing business unit and division turnarounds. Early in my career I developed a reputation for being the guy that could fix things that were broken and that reputation created connections that ultimately pulled me into most of the roles I’ve had over those years. I am very fortunate to have been mentored by some extremely talented leaders that have shown me what good looks like. I’ve also worked for what I consider to be some of the worst leaders. I think having both is fortuitous, although I didn’t feel that way while I was working for the bad ones. One of my early in career mentors gave me a piece of advice I share with every leader I mentor: “Choose your next role based on what experience you can gain and who your boss will be.” —Red Scott. That really resonated with me and I’ve followed that advice for decades. For my current CEO role, one of the connections I made years ago turned out to know a guy that is on GMT’s board of directors. When GMT started experiencing operational, revenue and EBITDA challenges, they started a search for a new CEO. That connection ultimately created an introduction to GMT.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Having a leadership rhythm & cadence in both your professional and personal life is crucial. Critical business items in this cadence include KPI & financial reviews, ELT, SLT and department meetings, direct report one-on-ones, skip level one-on-ones, Gemba walks, employee engagement events, operating reviews, town halls, etc. Having a recurring “ecosystem” of these ensures that the activities and behaviors of your team are aligned with the operational and financial outcomes you need to have. On the personal side, I believe you have to have the same diligence in setting routine. Every day starts at 4:30AM with caffeine, a brief review of key events & deliverables, a quick scan of email for anything urgent, and then it’s off to workout. Next it’s a quick bite for breakfast and then off to the office. The first 30 minutes of each day are for reviewing KPIs and financials including cash, prior day shipping & invoicing, safety, quality, delivery, productivity and 5S (SQDP5S) boards. Those KPIs drive prioritization of who you call or go see next. I’m a staunch Lean practitioner and believe in going to where the problems are. Gemba walks are a key part of leadership and happen daily. The rest of the day will be a mix of those “ecosystem” items concluding with an end of day review of what went well and what didn’t. I spend 15-30 minutes in a quiet place, often a hotel room, assessing the day’s events and how well I performed. I also review the week and month ahead to make sure I have properly planned and prepared for long lead items like operating reviews, town halls and board meetings.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Not necessarily recently learned, but recently reinforced, is that as a CEO you can’t alway trust the intentions of people around you. You have to trust your team, but blind trust can be dangerous. That goes for people outside of your organization as well. I frequently agree to provide interviews with newspapers, trade publications and reporters that cover business, industry and local news. I was recently contacted by a reporter claiming to be following up on a recent newspaper story covering GMT and our COVID-19 response. The interview started out with questions around our company history, what we do and how COVID-19 has impacted us and our industry. The reporter transitioned to questions that took on a political slant and it then became clear she was looking to use my responses for political reasons. I quickly shut that down. When you are in the top job in the company, there isn’t anyone above you to guide you on these potential deceptions. You have to rely on instinct and in the back of your mind know that what you are hearing and seeing from people might not be what it seems on the surface.
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?
I try to read at least one new business book each month. One of the most impactful ones I’ve read is “Who”, a book on sourcing and securing the best talent. It’s authored by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. The book contains methods and processes that are practical, effective and easy to implement. It’s one our required leadership readings and is actively used by our recruiting team. I’ve used this book to set up world class recruiting functions in three companies and would highly recommend it to any leader looking to improve talent and performance.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Leadership capacity is dependent on several factors. The first factor is simply efficiency and effectively managing time. The second factor is effectiveness and getting results with the least amount of time and effort. Both are improved via mentoring, coaching and training. I insist that each senior leader on my team has and builds a network of outside mentors to help them solve problems, benchmark best practices, obtain alternate perspectives and just overall improve their leadership development velocity. In addition to mentors, I actively provide coaching and feedback on leadership effectiveness. We hold a bi-weekly one-on-one that leverages a tool called a Leadership A3. It contains performance KPIs, problem solving & counter-measuring, as well as tracking of strategic projects & initiatives. I’ve found those meetings to be highly effective in developing leadership capacity. Lastly, we have partnered with a local college to provide a leadership curriculum that is available to all of our leaders.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
One of the most rewarding things about being a leader is helping people develop, grow and achieve their goals. In one of my previous companies I was able to recruit a seasoned sales leader and place him into a director level sales leadership role. He impressed me during the interview process (“Who”) and his references yielded that he was the kind of leader that every one of his former managers and direct reports would work with again in a heartbeat. It quickly became clear to everyone in the organization, including his manager the VP of Sales, that he had the capacity to lead at a higher level. We invested heavily in this leader with mentorship, coaching and training. I was extremely proud to promote him into the VP level role and see him drive the organization to new, previously unattained heights. He is now a mentor to my current VP of Business development. It’s extremely gratifying to be in a position to share experience and lessons learned with others and see them succeed and rise into executive level roles.