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7 Questions on Leadership with Nic Lysdahl

Name: Nic Lysdahl

Title: Sr Manager of Customer Service

Organisation: Tennant Company

Nic Lysdahl is the Sr Manager of Customer Service for Tennant's North America business unit. As a certified welder at trade, he started his career as a frontline production welder and machine operator, fabricating large construction equipment. In this role, he learned the value of lean manufacturing practices and began to grow a passion for process improvement. "There has to be a better way" he would say as he was working overtime on his Saturday mornings. This passion for process improvement led Nic back to school for his undergraduate degree in Manufacturing Engineering.

With a degree in Manufacturing Engineering, combined with great experience on the front line, a transition into a Continuous Improvement Manager role was fitting. As a new CI leader, he quickly learned influencing process improvements brough fulfilment to many. By helping others change their ways and improve performance, it would lead to impactful development that stuck. In the CI Manager role, Nic's passion for process improvement began to shift towards a passion for people improvement which led to the beginning of his mission to create happiness. True happiness comes from a long-term commitment of accountability and engagement that allows people to develop and find fulfilment in what they do. The most important part of his role as a leader is helping build a culture where we can solve problems together, encourage creativity and be better tomorrow than we were today.

In 2021 Nic began studying at Bethel University for his MBA with a concentration in Strategy and Execution. Education has been an important part of Nic's life and continues to help him broaden his knowledge and experience. With a goal to gain broad business experience, he took an opportunity to lead the customer service department at Tennant and it has been a great experience.

Nic's personal leadership philosophy is built around life balance. For him, it is a balance of family, career, education, and personal time. Every area of your life finds a way to blend together and if you don't have a healthy balance, it can quickly fall apart. Nic believes the most important aspect of development is networking. You will find more success if you spend your time meeting people that can help solve the problems you have, VS spending the time to learn how to solve the problems by yourself. Nic hopes that his leadership can inspire others to be better leaders, which in the end will lead to more happiness in our world.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Nic's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

There are no shortages of challenging moments as a leader. You are constantly up against resistance from internal and external forces bringing complications and added stress. But this isn't really a bad thing. Through these experiences true development happens. As I develop, I find my challenges also change. So, what have I found most challenging as a leader depends on the era of leadership we are discussing.

In the beginning my biggest challenge was unwinding and letting go. Early on in my leadership, I would bring issues home and find myself thinking about them constantly. This led to sleepless nights, tossing and turning in bed thinking about how I can solve the problem. It was an unhealthy phase of my development. Simon Sinek helped me work past this with his concept of finite thinking vs infinite thinking. He stated, in business we are playing an infinite game where there is no end. Your goal is to stay alive and outlast the competition. Through this I learned that you don't get to solve the problem and be done. There will be another problem, and another problem, and it will continue for an infinite amount of time. So, there is no point in losing sleep over an issue in the moment. What you should be focusing on is continuous improvement in the moment and future innovations that will lead to increasing value for others.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Leadership comes from experiences. I can think back on key moments in my life that have led to my leadership development and there is a common theme with them all, influence. I became a leader because I was influenced by other leaders.

My grandpa influenced me to help others. My instructor in technical college influenced me to be present. My frontline supervisor as a production welder influenced me to take chances. My engineering manager influenced me to continue learning. A family friend influenced me to stop hesitating. A mentor influenced me to expand my network. There are hundreds of others who influenced me in one way or another and it is this influence that helped me become a leader.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

A typical workday will start by waking up around 5:45 with a shower, cup of coffee and breakfast, followed by checking emails for any urgent matters that need attention, and looking over my calendar to help mentally prepare for the day. This is done in peace and quiet when my household is still sleeping.

Next, I pack lunches, gather all the kids supplies and my work bag, and load them in my truck. Now it is time to get the kids up. Wake up, brush teeth, change, breakfast, into the truck and off to daycare we go, listening to the Disney playlist on Spotify on our way there "Hakuna Matata". At this time in my life, I have 3 boys, a 5-year-old, 2-year-old and 2-month-old. Once the kids are at daycare, I'm starting my 30-minute commute into work. Now I can stop the Disney playlist and throw on a leadership podcast or call my wife to check in.

I get to work and prep for a daily huddle with my team to learn how we did yesterday and how we are looking today. We cover any urgent matters, any major setbacks, review our plan for the day, etc. The rest of the day is a blend of meetings and blocked time for me to think and work on my leadership activities. I like to be present and work around my team, so it is easy to check in on them and provide assistance where needed.

I leave work around 4:30 and head home. With a 45-minute commute I will do a mixture of listening to music, listening to a podcasts or audio book, and talking to my wife. When I get home, I hang out with my family, eat dinner, and give 100 percent of my time to my family until the kids go to bed at 8:00. After the kids go to bed, two nights a week I will spend one on one time with my wife, and the other nights I will check in on work for a couple hours or work on school (I am currently going to school part time for my MBA). To end the night somewhere between 10:30 and 11 Igo to bed.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

When you are planning a strategy for the future, you must also determine what skills and talent will be required to execute the strategy and see where you need to add talent on your team to accomplish your goals.

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?

There are so many books that have had a profound impact on my leadership. Traction by Gino Wickman taught me how to build a strategy for a team, department or company. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie taught me the foundation of leadership and how to connect with people. Winning Now and Winning Later by David Cote taught me that you need to focus on both current times and the future to be successful. Strengthfinder by Gallup taught me to focus on people's strengths and not their weaknesses, and by pairing other people's strengths to offset weaknesses you can create a much stronger team.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Be curious, dig in and keep learning, and live out of your comfort zone. A mentor of mine once said you will get a gut twisting feeling, a feeling of uncertainty and regret, a feeling of "why am I doing this", and that feeling is growth. If you never get that uncomfortable gut twisting feeling, you are most likely beyond the role you are in, and you should move on to something new.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

Early in my career I mentored an employee to take on a leadership role as a shift supervisor in a manufacturing plant. He was uncomfortable and didn't have a lot of confidence in himself to do the job. He was overthinking everything and nervous that he would make a mistake. He thought he didn't know how to lead a team. I used a leadership textbook I had, would review it with him weekly and create assignments to report back the next week around the topics we learned. He started to realize that he regularly used leadership philosophies in his life. He cared about his team, knew who they were as individuals, knew their strengths and weaknesses, gave them recognition for good work, and challenged them to grow. All it took was for someone like me to show him that he can be a leader, for someone to help build his confidence, and for someone to inspire him to step out of the comfort zone and try something new. I still connect with this individual today and he has been pursuing leadership ever since. It is very fulfilling to see how your influence can inspire others to become great leaders. One of the most important roles of a leader is to create more leaders.

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