One of the things I ask everyone I meet through these bold leader interviews, especially those who have been referred to me so I’m meeting them for the first time, is: “Why do you think (referring person) sees you as a bold leader? And, do you think of yourself that way?”
John Hoskins’ response was one I loved: “I originally thought no. Then I looked up the word [bold] for fun and there were 8 definitions. The one that I liked was from Dictionary.com: (adjective) beyond the usual limits of conventional thought or action; imaginative.”
I knew I was in for a great conversation because John had in an instant put his finger on a very simple description of the kind of bold leaders we are looking for: Unconventional. Action oriented. Imaginative.
A bit about John: today he is the Co-founder and Chief Sales Officer of SalesGenomix LLC. Look at their vision: Imagine a world where every sales force is ABOVE quota. No squishy or extraneous words or thoughts there. Certainly bold. A powerful singular idea. In the course of our conversation, John said, “I’m a context guy; my mental troubleshooting skills are pretty good” (skills that are grounded in his early Air Force assignment as a propeller repairman). “So I often get calls from people wanting guidance. I ask them: ‘What is the one thing you’re better at than anyone else?’” If they try to give more than one answer, John sends them back to get clearer about that one thing.
John also described himself as a “starter.” I would say successful starter. If you look at his LinkedIn profile, a theme comes up over and over again: Founder or Co-founder. This applies to businesses as well as personal passion projects. John and his partner successfully grew and eventually sold Advantage Performance Group, Inc. “Selling wasn’t even in our minds when we started,” he said. They saw an opportunity to tip the training industry on its head and do the opposite of then conventional wisdom, focusing on the distribution of high quality training products rather than the more tradition IP protection model.
“I’m a big starter, he said. “I love it more than completing or finishing something. I prefer to get the right resources in place to get it done. I figure out my biggest impact, get other people involved and let it grow from there.” It’s worth noting that when asked, John said the ‘right’ people are “people better than me!” That is another hallmark of these bold leader interviews: know what you’re good at and be very choosy and good at finding others of complementary and better talents. “I tend to gravitate to deep experience in a narrow field. I would double click on the experience. I like to go to people that have really in-depth knowledge.”
It’s not possible to start and grow successful companies without hitting roadblocks. When that happens to John, he said, “I am apt to pivot. I am not afraid of changing the direction. I don’t get so invested that I can’t see alternatives. I am a contrarian thinker so, for example, if someone says we have to go up, I ask ‘why not down?’ I always try to find a better way to get to a bigger/better result.” John used Advantage Performance as an example.
He believes in the S curve model of growth. In the 17 years of growing their company, they had four clear periods where they had to pivot to take the company to the next growth curve.
Perseverance. Optimism. Humility. These are the other characteristics that wound their way through my conversation with John. “When I see something others don’t, I’m very good at persisting. A zealot when I get engaged.” But he’s not a fan of ‘leading from behind.’ “People want to be led. They want to see your passion. They want guidance, not laisse faire. I want a leader involved, side by side with me.” These are all traits John values and each was clearly demonstrated throughout our conversation.
After my interview with John, I asked my business partner, Duane, how he would answer the question: “What is the one thing we are better at than anyone else?” I was curious if we’d have the same answer. Thankfully, we did!
Do you know your own answer to that great question? I’d love to hear it if you’re willing to share.