Every month Prairie Business asks several regional business leaders a question, and they answer with their perspective and insight.
The question we asked for February is: "What are leadership principles you have adopted that have contributed to success in business?"
Below are how four of the region's exemplary business leaders responded:
Tom Shorma, president and CEO, WCCO Belting Inc., Wahpeton N.D.
My goal has always been to be an accessible leader and transparent business owner. I’ve hosted an all-company meeting every month since taking the role of CEO/President for WCCO Belting in 2001 (with the exception of a few months due to the pandemic).
What started as a simple tool to introduce myself to the workforce is now a vertebra in the backbone of our engagement strategy. We hold three one-hour meetings to reach our 200-plus employees across all production shifts. I kick it off by learning who’s new and offer them a personal welcome before moving on to WCCO’s performance, industry news, recognitions, rewards, a variety of educational topics, and more.
WCCO Belting’s custom rubber products are unique. No one in the world makes them quite like we do, so we can’t train people overnight. WCCO needs the buy-in of its workforce to protect our product quality and profitability. Our employees need to believe in our goals and understand how they personally have “skin in the game” to find job satisfaction and build a long-term career. Last year, through visibility and transparency, 96% of WCCO Belting’s employees’ report they understand how their work directly contributes to our company’s success.
Shannon Full, president and CEO, Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber, Moorhead, Minn.
Throughout my career, I have adopted four core principles that have been critical to my success: passion, collaboration, humility, and disruption. We often hear about passion, but I believe it is what sets great leaders apart from good leaders. I have found that my passion of inspiring growth and prosperity in everything I do is demonstrated in both business and my personal life. I truly believe that success comes when you not only find your passion, but discover how to lean into it.
Some of the greatest leaders live by the principle of collaboration through action. Partnership and collaboration are hard, but essential. They take work, but the positive results outweigh the efforts. Humility is one of the most powerful principles. Being able to admit a mistake, recognizing the successes and contributions of others, and realizing that with failure comes success, is critical to be humble.
Disruption might not be a principle you hear about often – or at least not one that is reflected
positively – but I have come to know that it can be the most catalytic principle of leadership. As a disruptor, I constantly strive for improvement, challenge the status quo and approach every opportunity with innovation and new ideas.
Staci Malikowski, CFO, Arvig, Perham, Minn.
Be honest, genuine and model integrity. The people around you will spot anything that doesn't ring true to these values. When you demonstrate these behaviors, you create TRUST – the foundation on which success can be built.
Next, one of the smartest things you can do is hire people who are smarter than you because you are only as good as the people around you. Know that people will deliver at whatever level you expect, so set your expectations accordingly – if you set low expectations, that's what you'll get.
Communication is a must, and it should be non-stop. When people feel informed, they’re more empowered to do their jobs well. Recognize your people for their successes, and always redirect employees who fail to deliver what you expected. Never stay quiet about failures, employees need to know it's ok, and that you have their back. Coach employees so they know how to succeed the next time.
The best leaders take all of the blame and none of the credit. Practice name dropping on successes to pass along credit, but never disclose names for blame. Finally, find joy in the success of your team.
Brad Wermers, President and CEO, Banner Associates, Inc., Brookings, Sioux Falls & Rapid City, S.D.
Never be average. Not only have these words been instilled within me throughout my personal life, but it has been of equal significance to me as I have traveled down my professional path. Being labeled as “average” may have adverse connotations; but to be fair, I believe no one is average. Everyone has an individuality that separates them from everyone else.
Being average is having the basic qualities expected of an individual or company in a specific environment or set of conditions. While there’s nothing negative about it, there’s also nothing that allows you to stand out. Average people are more comfortable living and doing business within their comfort zone. Perhaps they dismiss opportunities to take on challenges or expand their skills. Over time, this pattern becomes difficult to change.
In contrast, being beyond average means escaping these safe spaces, seizing opportunities to grow and shine, identifying ways to improve as a person and professional. Going beyond the standard is what we look for in our staff. It defines the way we operate our business and achieve our goals. We believe that it is this characteristic that allows us to stand out as an engineering firm.