The Mix Tape | The Secret’s in the Mix: Part 1 – Impactful Leadership

In the first episode of our mini-series: The Secret’s in the Mix, we are joined by two impactful leaders – Mickey Shimp, President of Mix Talent, and Jon DeWitt, Executive Coach at JS DeWitt and Associates – to dive into the topic of leadership, discussing why authentic and transparent leadership is imperative and how to invest in your people to build strong relationships with your teams.

Transcription

Natalie Taylor:

Welcome to The Mix Tape. I’m Natalie, and welcome back to a special series of The Mix Tape podcast. We are kicking off a mini-series, which will focus on some of our mixed specialty topics that we think will be helpful for some of our audience members as you’re developing and growing and learning.

With that, I want to introduce two incredible special guests today. We have Mickey Shimp, who is the president of Mix Talent, and we have Jon DeWitt, who runs an executive coaching practice and partners with Mix. His practice is called JS DeWitt & Associates. Mickey and Jon have worked together for over 30 years, and we are so happy that we have Jon partnering with us at Mix, too, to do executive coaching and to work with our team. It’s been such a wonderful experience for so many of us, so we are so excited to have you guys here with us today.

Jon DeWitt:

Well, thank you very much, Natalie.

Mickey Shimp:

Thank you, Natalie. It’s great being here.

Natalie Taylor:

As some of our listeners know, Mix Talent has been named one of the best places to work for four consecutive years in a row, and that’s something that we are really proud of here at Mix. And consistently, people ask us, how do you do that? What’s the secret? And what’s really important to us at Mix is strong leadership and coaching, and that’s a really important value for us. So I think that’s a good place to start. Let’s jump in with discussing what, as it relates to leadership, has made Mix Talent a best place to work.

Mickey Shimp:

Well, I’ll jump in here, Natalie, and thank you for hosting. I think when you think about impactful leadership, at Mix it’s all about being authentic, being transparent, being accessible, real, honest. Each company has a different way of doing it, but at Mix, we feel very strongly about those key pieces of leadership. And we’ve obviously partnered with Jon DeWitt to help us continue to develop and invest in our people, that next level of leadership. Jon, would you like to jump in here?

Jon DeWitt:

I’d be happy to jump in here. Well, first of all, thank you, Natalie, for inviting me to participate.

Natalie Taylor:

Absolutely. We’re glad you’re here.

Jon DeWitt:

I am very excited about Mix. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the talent and dedication that exists in everybody I’ve interacted with. I’ve heard it said that leadership is a human job, and I’ve never heard a statement that was so accurate to describe what it is to be human and realize that everybody’s different, and because of that, you can’t treat everybody the same, but what you can do is drive the value system that makes Mix such a great place to work for.

Mickey Shimp:

I think I’ve been fortunate to have people like Jon DeWitt and our other partner when we first started, Bill Taylor, as my mentor. Those folks have shaped me to be the leader I am today, and I’m so appreciative of that. We hope that at Mix that we’re able to give the future leaders of our company that same type of training and development and investment in their careers.

Jon DeWitt:

Leadership is a skill. It’s something that’s practicable. And one of the things that I find in great leaders, which Mick brings the table every day, and that is, for years I get calls from Mick and he’ll say, “Jon…” Actually, he doesn’t say Jon, he says, Gap. I’m sorry, I have to throw that in there.

Natalie Taylor:

We’re big on the nicknames here at Mix Talent.

Jon DeWitt:

But to this day, he’ll call me up and ask my opinion about a particular situation. And see, that’s what makes great leaders, because they seek to continue to get better as a leader. That’s what makes great leaders. So if anybody tells you that they’re a expert on leadership, go to the bookstore and you’ll find about 20 rows of books on the definition of leadership. But for me, Mick and several of the other leaders at Mix really exemplify what a leader’s all about, that continuing to strive to be better.

Natalie Taylor:

Let’s dive into that a little bit, that investing in your people and recognizing potential in your team, what are some tips and tricks of maybe people leading people who want to invest in their team and they want to build them up to be leaders? What’s a good approach? How should people do that?

Mickey Shimp:

Well, one of the things that, as I was thinking about this topic, that has been so helpful for me, both when I was doing this and working for Gap and Bill Taylor was, these are called monthly one-on-ones, and the monthly one-on-ones, I thought, in the beginning, were to do a business review, have them come in and talk about how I am performing or not performing, have all the details in front of me. And what I’ve learned over the years is that’s not what the one-on-one is. The one-on-one is time for the individual to spend with their leader and talk about how are they doing, both professionally and personally. How are they growing? What challenges do they have? That’s investing that time every month to develop that next level leader. And I think those monthly one-on-ones are so critical and have been so important to the success for me as I’ve grown, but also as it relates to the folks in our organization. And I learned that from Gap.

Jon DeWitt:

Well, that’s music to my ears, Mickey, because I’m a huge supporter of these monthly on-on-ones. For a leader, it gives the leader a chance to really hear what’s important from the people that they work with. And it also, if you’re doing them routinely, monthly, and that monthly one-on-one, that should be in stone on the calendar. It’s one of the most important meetings that a leader will have. When the leader and the member of the team get together for that meeting, they come into that meeting prepared to talk.

And then the other thing is that it lets the member of the team, the employee, understand that the leader supports their goals, talks about them routinely, so that the employee understands how much the leader cares about what those goals are. And that can be both personally and professionally, because the professional side and the personal side is inextricably combined, and you can’t talk about one without considering the other. So yeah, those one-on-ones, don’t miss them.

Mickey Shimp:

Well, and it’s a chance to be transparent, and to have crucial conversations, and to be direct. We talk about all those things that are so important to our culture. Well, when can you do that in a safe place? And those monthly one-on-ones is the place to do that.

Jon DeWitt:

Absolutely true. It’s also an opportunity to be vulnerable, for the leader to say, look, tell me how I can support you further in your development, in the accomplishment of your goals, because I need to get better too, and I need for you to point out to me, hey, this is where I really need your support. This is what’s really important to me. That’s the kind of relationship you want, so vulnerability plays a key role.

Mickey Shimp:

The other thing I wanted to throw out here is how hiring and selecting the right people for the culture that then can be developed and make sure that everybody on the team is headed in the right direction. Because even if you do all these things, and, as we’ve mentioned, there’s lots of different ways to lead, but they’re not aligned as it relates to the company in terms of those pieces, it can get a little tricky. So that is so important, that you get the right people that believe in this type of approach.

Jon DeWitt:

Again, that’s an absolute home run in terms of the importance of staffing and making sure that the right people are brought in to do the right job for them. It also is a great deterrent to turn over, which is a huge challenge in staffing these days. When you find the right people, it doesn’t take long to figure out in the interview process, this is going to work.

Natalie Taylor:

That’s good. So, in your opinion, what are some strategies that leaders can implement to build a strong foundation with their teams?

Jon DeWitt:

It really begins with communication. And in today’s world, with remote being a big part of things and people not coming into the office every day, maybe they come in a couple of days a week, or maybe they don’t come in at all. So then it becomes so incumbent for the leader to ensure that they have those communication moments throughout the course of the week.

Now, one of the things that a lot of the people I work with do is they have a weekly kickoff meeting, which typically is on a Monday, where the whole team, whether virtual or live, get together. They talk about what they did that weekend, because there’s always a personal side to things, and then they talk about their priorities for the week, what they want to get accomplished. It’s a chance for other members of the group to hear about those priorities, make any comments or suggestions with one another, a true collaborative kind of setting.

And then typically there’s a individual meeting, which I think is more of a tactical meeting, that the leader will have individually with members of the team to talk about what that individual’s challenges are and how the leader can support those. So yeah, it’s communication, communication, communication. It’s everything.

Mickey Shimp:

Well, I agree with you, Gap. This last two years have been a challenge and we’ve had to work very hard at Mix to communicate, to build trust with new people that are starting, teammates we’ve had over the years, and we’ve been growing so fast that that even creates a whole other dynamic around communication and trust. 50% of our folks don’t even live in Columbus, in our corporate headquarters, so that creates some more dynamics and challenges.

I think we’ve done a really good job of being proactive in thinking about how we can connect live from time to time and investing in those connections, but also making sure that we try to over-communicate and do that. It takes work. I mean, that’s the thing about this, is that to be a great leader, and to develop great leaders, we’re going back to this investing, it’s time, and it takes work to do that. We’ve committed to do that, and I think we’ve got a lot of strong people and a lot of great young leaders and more senior leaders in Mix because of that.

Natalie Taylor:

In closing, any final thoughts from you guys that you want to share?

Mickey Shimp:

Yeah, I’ll jump in here. One of the things that I have always loved to study, and I probably learned most of my life lessons from, were playing on team sports. There’s so many similarities to leadership that you learn in being part of a team. And there’s different ways to do it. There’s different styles. And just because your team wins doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the most successful way to build a team. And so I just really enjoy studying that.

But at the end of the day, what’s cool about it, if you study it, is that it all comes back to some of these core things that we’ve talked about today, the trust, the authenticity, the being real, honest, the investment in each other, the caring for each other, and then getting everybody going the same direction. Those pieces to me are some of the best lessons I learned through sports, and I work hard to carry those over into what we do at Mix.

Jon DeWitt:

Well, I think at the end of the day, what people really want from their leader is they want to know that they care about them. And when people know that you truly care about them, that when you’re talking with them, you’re in the moment, it has such a powerful effect on people to know that they’re important to you. Because at the end of the day, there’s so much stress out in the world, and one of the goals of the leader is to mitigate the stress, and you do that by letting the person know, look, I care about you, I support you. When mistakes are made, there’s no finger pointing. It’s, let’s go find the solution together.

And so for me, the great leaders, everybody knows they truly care. They want to be in that moment of lifting people up. Because at the end of the day, the leader, in order for them to go wherever they want to go, it starts from the bottom up, not going down. We as leaders stand on the shoulders of the people that we lead. They’re the foundation.

Leadership is not an easy job. It truly is a human job. And that’s why I’m so privileged to be involved in leadership and have the, as Mick says, to watch how different leaders do it a different way. But at the end of the day, it all funnels down to the basics of trust and respect, and that’s the beauty of great leadership.

Natalie Taylor:

Wow. Well, this has been an incredible discussion. Thank you both so much for taking the time to join me today. From my personal point of view, Mickey and Gap have been incredible leaders and mentors in my life, and I am so thankful for both of you. And I know that many of us at Mix, and in the world, can say the same. You two are incredible people. So we are so appreciative for you being here today.

And with that, thank you for being in the Mix. We’ll see you next week.

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