Leading a team or an organization needs confidence, self-belief and decisiveness. Having a good knowledge about the market and the co-workers helps an individual to become a great leader. In an interview with CIOLook, Mark Garver shares his valuable thoughts about the traits a leader should possess. He believes that allowing employees to know about their leader either about the CEO of the company or about someone who is holding any responsible position, helps employees to be more productive in their work and perform their duty with great work ethic. Being the CEO of GEOS Safety Solutions he also believes that learning and giving is the vital part of accomplishing one’s goals.
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a leader.
I am often asked “what or who made you the leader you are today?” I was fortunate in my career to have worked with and learned from some of the best CEOs in the industry. I interacted with and learned from the leaders at Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, and Dell, to name a few. I began as a technical leader, migrated to product definition, then to corporate marketing, and finally to strategy. I rose rapidly through the ranks due to possessing a strong vision and adaptability. It was helpful that by the time I became a CEO, I had worked in so many levels within the companies I had careers with, and I genuinely understood each department. I learned to make decisions quickly, by ensuring that I received real-time feedback in order to tweak my vision and driving decisions so my team could adapt. I also keep a rolodex of leaders and use them as advisors to talk strategy with. It has been by surrounding me with successful people that I developed a mindset which drives and expects success.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal the target audience?
In my leadership journey I learned that you have to listen to the market, to the people, and have a vision that solves the most unique issues they have and adapt to the rest, providing the solution people want most. For us, it is rather fun to look beyond one or two customers’ needs, and instead look at the problem as a whole, define it, and then challenges the belief you and the market have. In writing classes, professors teach you to write to edit first, not to publish. The same holds true when developing solutions for a market, solve the big needs and deliver, then fine tune the smaller pieces and continue to adapt. Too many companies spend time trying to solve it all, and miss what is most important to the market, and you can only know that if you spend time in the market listening and developing your vision.
What are the crucial traits which every CEO must possess?
A CEO must have a variety of skills, but perhaps most importantly, these two initial traits: instinct and conviction. You need to have instinct, or vision to know what’s next, what’s coming in years ahead and the conviction to believe in that instinct. For me, it starts with knowing our market and being a good listener and communicator, listening to employees, customers and the market, and absorbing it all. Equally important is being able to communicate the vision internally to your team and ultimately to customers and prospects. Internal communication is where a good CEO can thrive, because the more the team knows about the direction of and challenges facing the company, the more they are looking for solutions – not just in their area of expertise, but for the whole of the company. Don’t be afraid to expect excellence, be a leader, and show the team what it looks like and get them used to it, it is repeatable. Mentor your team, so they can literally read your mind, just as my team does (in fact they state it out loud). I let them know when they have taken that vision and turned it into something great and we celebrate it together. Additionally, be seen as approachable and available to your team. At our company my door is always open, even during non-confidential meetings. This allows my team to see me at work, stop in and ask a question or simply to say “hi”. Master these and not only will your team and customers benefit, you will have a much better chance for transformational leadership which starts with your team. Only then can you be a disruptive force in the industry!
As per your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges are faced by CEOs in a corporate business? And what is your advice to overcome them?
Corporate CEOs face many challenges and roadblocks, some are self-inflicted while others are external, but both need to be dealt with. Investors and board members have expectations, but your team and customers’ requirements may be somewhat different. My advice is to know who you are – it’s not who others think you are or want you to be. If you want to win the race, win the confidence of those around you and don’t be afraid to be unique! Surround yourself with a great team that shares your beliefs, goals and attitude. I have witnessed CEOs get stuck in the talent versus attitude dilemma, where they are so anxious to get the most talented people; they forget to look for an attitude and personality that fits the corporate culture and persona. I try to look for a good balance of both, and am more willing to take a chance on the person with the right attitude because attitude is what fuels innovation, and it’s that drive that only comes with the right attitude. With regard to attitude, it really starts with your own and if you spend too much time analyzing every decision, your team will see you as indecisive. Instead, be fearless (but not reckless for they will see that too). Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think you know the answer and be okay if someone disagrees with your ideas. To be effective, you have to be available and you have to be around, or do something I call “management by walking around”. I tend to walk around; listening, observing, but not interrupting. This allows me to tap into the central nervous system of my team.
What are your intakes on roles of a CEO with regards to transformational leadership?
A transformational CEO needs to be disruptive, intuitive and driven. You have to be willing to look at the market and your company objectively and be willing to flip it upside down, if needed, to be successful. You need to be able to communicate and lead your team at an aggressive pace, by rolling up your sleeves and leading, not by managing. I have learned over the years that teams need leaders and coaches, not managers because managing does not create innovation, leading does! People tend to morph into a complimentary role when around a leader that has gained their respect, even if the leader seems like a rebel. You also need to share information, stories and experiences that have made you who you are. Once you have done these things for your team, you will all start moving in a fluid way, transform internally, and be seen as one in the market. How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market? In a competitive market the last thing we do is look at the competition. Those that do can be bogged down by paralysis by analysis, or simply building a better mouse trap. I look at the true needs of the market by attending professional conferences, reading journals, and building a team of subject matter experts to look beyond the competition on to what is really needed.
What generates and maintains excitement by the problem that is solved?
I tell my team all the time, “we are not in the better mouse trap business; we are in the WOW business”. If people are not in awe by what we are delivering, and we can’t easily generate excitement, then we have failed. I have had my team study the story of Secretariat, to watch the movie, and read press from that time period because it’s not the game, it’s not the trophy, it’s who we are as a team… we win!
Being an Enterprise Asset Management solutions provider, what has been your contribution in the evolving business security aspects?
Years ago, as we entered the enterprise asset management market, we looked at the “people” solutions we were providing for time management, security, and safety realizing that there is a direct correlation between people, places, and things. That is when we began delivering “people aware” asset management solutions which addressed the safety and security of people that interact with each of the assets our customers wanted to manage. This provides a solution that is multi-use by addressing duty-of-care, safety and security while maximizing the asset(s) value to customers. There is no other company that does what we do!
What will be your future endeavors and/or where do you see yourself in the near future?
This year, 2019 will see GEOS announcing space-based solutions, including Satellite IoT, moving beyond machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. We have been working on global solutions for agriculture, food and agriculture supply chain management, with a focus on maximizing yields. As we drive the cost of these technologies down, we are hoping to be able to apply much of the solutions to help solve problems in third-world countries and provide them with affordable technology that might well help fight famine. We maintain our commitment to safety and security, and are simply looking to extend our vision to help in every aspect we can.