Leadership Message by Larry H. Miller Group of Companies CEO Steve Starks
When I was president of the Utah Jazz, we often talked about staying fundamental. Sometimes we would actually take a step back so that we could make the best decision for the future. Consistent fundamental decisions over time will lead to a really great end result. What we’re seeing with the Jazz right now is the result of years of little decisions that accumulated into great success with the NBA’s best record. Let’s hope it continues all the way to a championship.
To help us stay fundamental, I’d like to share nine essential concepts related to strategy and culture:
- Be a strong communicator. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding out information at the last minute, not knowing something, or being surprised by information that should’ve been talked about openly. It doesn’t hurt to copy other people on email who may benefit from information. If you have things that need to be addressed in your department meetings, bring them up. Never surprise your boss with information. Nothing you will say is dumb or irrelevant, so let’s be great communicators.
I know a battalion chief for a fire department who often says, “I’m going to tell you what I’m going to tell you, then I’m going to tell you, and then I’m going to tell you what I told you.” That was his model for effective communication. I invite everybody to be great communicators.
- Be transparent. Great organizations and great cultures are transparent. They don’t have silos of hidden information. There are some things that we need to keep confidential but whenever possible, be transparent in everything you do. Ask questions, challenge ideas, and share openly with others. Don’t be threatened by other people knowing what you know. Be transparent and trust. Transparency leads to a great culture.
- Create a learning environment. We are at our jobs today because we have learned some things, but we desire to learn a lot more. Let’s take time to make sure we’re studying, asking good questions, analyzing, seeking out mentors, and creating an environment where people can be vulnerable, ask questions and continue to grow and develop personally. Let’s create a learning environment in all that we do.
- Allow for new ideas. New ideas create innovation, and innovation will be strengthened as we become more diverse as a team. Diversity brings more ideas. There are many business studies that show if women aren’t represented in boardrooms and decision-making bodies, the organization will be limited. If we don’t have diversity in terms of background, ethnicity or other factors, that’s going to limit our ability to think the way our customers or clients do.
- Accept acceptable failure. If we’re going to embrace new ideas, we’re likely not going to get them all right. Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz Head Coach, tolerates missed shots more than passing up open ones. He wants the team to be confident to shoot when open rather than being hesitant and overly conservative which can lead to stagnation. Likewise, we need to be confident to put up shots and be okay if they all don’t go in. Acceptable failure is the key here. We’re not going to risk anything that would threaten the organization, but in order to be innovative, there are going to be some things that are wildly successful and some things that fall short, and we should accept that.
- Strategy is only as effective as good data. We seek to have good data in all that we do. Ask questions, dig a little deeper, get to the good data that will lead to good decisions. This will ultimately lead to good strategy.
- Be positive and celebrate successes. Let’s be positive and celebrate successes as they come. Take the initiative to write a thank-you note to someone who helped you achieve a goal or congratulate a coworker for a job well done. Let’s create a positive atmosphere where we can and want to do our best work. I learned a long time ago that leaders should spend more time catching people doing great things and acknowledging it than we do being critical of others. Recognizing great behavior and performance powerfully reinforces that very behavior throughout the organization.
- Protect and enhance our reputation. We are very fortunate to have the reputation we do in the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies. The reason we were able to make recent acquisitions was because of the strength of our reputation. We are able to grow because people want to do business with us. In all that we do, let’s make sure we protect and enhance our reputation.
- Live our values. As we embrace our values of integrity, hard work, stewardship, and service, all that we do will enhance our reputation and help us stay fundamental.