Updated: Oct 25
Name: Joe Bremgartner
Title: Vice President of Human Resources
I am a career educational leader and "People and Culture" executive. I believe great organizations are made up of great people who bring their diverse talents to the table and all pull together. I believe that happy and fulfilled employees drive successful organizations. Most importantly, I believe that successful organizations treat others with respect while carefully blending compassionate practices with an innovative spirit.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
We’ve gone through the interviews and asked the best of the best to come back and answer 7 MORE Questions on Leadership.
I hope Joe's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. As a leader, how do you build trust with employees, customers and other stakeholders?
Trust has to be earned. We get what we give. If we want to be trusted we must demonstrate that we trust others and that we are trustworthy. Exhibiting openness to conversation and listening with the intent of understanding is critical. I also believe that an open, honest, and respectful conversation can repair a damaged relationship if there appears to be a breakdown in trust.
2. What do 'VISION' and 'MISSION' mean to you? And what does it actually look like to use them in real-world business?
I love this question, but I think a missing component is Values. Organizational Values should be the lens through which we analyze decisions. Mission and vision are the aspirations and clarifying adjustments we make to know where we will go as an organization.
Using a telescope analogy, Values is the lens that we look through. Mission is where we point the telescope, vision is the adjustments we make to clarify our path, and outcomes are the results. All of these things should support the overall values of the organization.
3. How can a leader empower the people they're leading?
Trust them. I believe it is important to ensure that people have the skills and tools necessary to do their jobs. Once we are sure that they are ready, then we need to trust them to do the work. It is important to note that there can still be accountability, deadlines, etc., without the need to micromanage a process.
If the employee shows that they are lacking the skill or desire to complete a necessary work product then this could be a training issue or disciplinary issue. This would be a natural progression of letting people do what they were hired to do but supporting or redirecting them if they stumble.
My philosophy is always to hire the best I can find. That may mean that they have stronger skills than me in a specific area. This is a great win. The problem occurs when these same people feel inhibited by fear of making mistakes or are over managed to the point that they cannot fully demonstrate the skill set that they were hired with. We work with human beings, and human beings make mistakes. The only way that this should be a problem is if they fail to self-correct.
4. Who are some of the coaches or mentors in your life who have had a positive influence on your leadership? Can you please tell a meaningful story about one of them?
There have been so many. I have been very fortunate in my career to work with some really great leaders. All of them left their fingerprints on my leadership style. Even those who were not great leaders showed me the challenges of micromanagement, the perils of over-delegation, and the challenges of not taking the time to build positive relationships with employees.
One example that comes to mind is an incredible leader that was well-rounded in his skill set. He had a good handle on finance, curriculum and instruction, legal elements, Board management, and public policy. However, his superpower was his ability to talk to people in a way that made them feel respected and heard. No matter the situation, he was always able to navigate a situation to a resolution that everyone felt good about in the end. In watching him and working with him I learned to:
1. Listen as much as I speak
2. Establish positive and productive relationships. These relationships will be valuable in difficult times.
3. Respect and trust leaders and employees to do their jobs, know the difference between right and wrong, and self-correct when necessary.
4. Give people the space to make errors. We learn from our errors, especially when we are trying to accomplish what has never been accomplished before.
5. Last but not least, we should never settle for being as good as everyone else. As leaders, we should strive to move our organizations to a place where others want to replicate what we are doing.
5. Leadership is often more about what you DON'T do. How do you maintain focus in your role?
This is a difficult one for many people. I firmly believe that as a leader our focus needs to be a global one. We should be concerned about the overall success of our organization. Are we achieving our goals? Are our goals the right ones? AND are we holding true to our organizational values?
We should then hire the right people to support this work and trust them to accomplish the work. I think we need to always allow space for growth, curiosity, and experimentation. When the workforce feels empowered to do great things, and we connect them to something bigger than just showing up, the results can be tremendous.
6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Everyone plans differently. How do you plan for the week, month and years ahead in your role?
In my role, it is critical for me to be organized and not let things wait until the last minute. I have many interruptions and sometimes have to drop what I am doing to respond to the emergencies of others. Therefore, organization is crucial.
I live by my calendar. I have a single calendar for home, work, and others. I don't keep separate calendars because others schedule on my calendar besides myself.
I color code my calendar so that I can easily see what could be bumped if necessary, and what is a hard and fast item that must happen at a given time.
I review my calendar for the week, and if I don't accomplish something that I should have on a given day, I reschedule it so that it doesn't get missed.
I prioritize work based on deadlines, and always leave plenty of time in order to allow for interruptions.
7. What advice would you give to a young leader who is struggling to delegate effectively?
Trust the people that have been hired to do the work. Failure to delegate is a failure of leadership. You will never be seen as a great leader if you do everything yourself. Quite frankly, you are damaging your organization by failing to involve others in the work.
To better explain this, I think it is important to ask yourself, "If I left the organization tomorrow, what would happen?" If the answer is chaos, or things would fall apart, this demonstrates a leader who is not looking out for the success of the organization.
No one person should be the key to the successful operation of a division or the organization as a whole. Delegating responsibility and ensuring that others know what to do is the sign of a successful leader. If things fall apart when you leave, it could demonstrate that somehow we may have not fully or properly invested in the distribution of knowledge and work in a manner that can ensure sustained organizational success.
When I was an elementary school principal, I ensured that in my absence my staff knew how to handle situations. If a crisis occurred when I was out, I was confident that the right people would set up and handle it. I was never proven wrong. Because my staff knew that I trusted them, and I was transparent in my leadership and expectations, they instinctfully knew what to do, and that it was appropriate for them to step up and handle things.
Trust yourself enough to know that if you are truly a successful leader, your organization will not fall apart when you leave.