Most organizations struggle with engagement and productivity. In truth, some don’t. Pete Madden shares practical advice to build the respect, trust, loyalty and results with your people. Pete Madden is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Drax Biomass which was headquartered in Atlanta GA. Under his leadership, the organization prospered due to Pete’s ability to apply time-tested leadership practices that can help you as well.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- The keys to unleash high engagement and performance from your people
- Regular leadership practices Pete applies that can help you too
- Areas of personal development that are essential for your leadership success
- The value of authenticity and fun to building great teams.
Brad Wolff 00:00
Okay, welcome to the “It Is about You Show”. Today’s guest is Pete Madden. He’s the former President and CEO of Drax Biomass North America, which was headquartered in Atlanta. He’s currently a principle of Edgemere Consulting while at Drax Biomass North America. Pete oversaw the global supply chain operations that included several manufacturing facilities and an export terminal in the Southeastern United States. This was designed to meet the European demand for Wood Pellets that were used as fuel to produce electricity.
Pete was recently appointed to serve on the Biomass Technical Advisory Committee for the Department of Energy and the United States Department of Agriculture. He is currently the chair of the advisory board for the University of Georgia Center for Forest Business where he’s also a guest lecturer. Pete is driven by a passion for investing in rural communities and businesses to promote the benefits of sustainable resource management, renewable energy reducing companies carbon footprint and driving down supply chain costs by leveraging industry best practices. Pete. Welcome to the show.
Peter Madden 01:22
Thanks a lot, Brad. It’s really an honour for me to be here and I look forward to our conversations and certainly want to thank you for all the great work you do at PeopleMax and spreading the good news about strong leadership, it’s an honoured to be here.
Brad Wolff 01:36
Great, now I’m one of the reasons I’m excited to have you as a guest is because I know several people that work with you at Drax Biomass. And they considered you to be an outstanding leader that brought out the best in people. So that’s one of the reasons that I wanted to have you as a guest to learn from you.
Peter Madden 01:54
Oh, great. No, you’re absolutely right. We had a fantastic team at Drax Biomass and one of the things that I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to be part of is being able to put the right teams together and get them situated and give them the resources for them to be successful. And I’ve always said if you do that right, and you put all that talent in an organization. Then you stand back and watch them because they’re not going to just sit around and accept the status quo, they will push the organization and they will grow Shareholder Value and I’ve been very fortunate to be part of some really truly great teams.
Brad Wolff 02:28
Absolutely! Now Pete, tell me a little bit about your origin story that brought you to where you are today.
Peter Madden 02:36
Well, Brad. I was raised in a small town called Lakeville Connecticut in the northwest mountains of the Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut and my dad was an investment banker. So, he worked in New York City and came home on the weekends and my mom was a naturalist, and she was the one that really inspired me to really understand forests working for us understand everything from how to identify trees and plants to clearing trails and being out in the out in the woods and we had about 35 acres of forest which was a great to grow up in that kind of environment.
And I always knew from an early age that I wanted to work outdoors. I wanted to be part of the forestry business. And if you could actually make a living and combining natural resources with social sciences of business and finance and if you could, if you could pull those two disciplines together. Then I thought it’d be a great thing to do. And so, I’ve been very blessed in being part of this industry in the forest product sector for about 30 years now.
Brad Wolff 03:42
Terrific! Now, what’s your definition of Leadership Development?
Peter Madden 03:48
Well, I think that Leadership Development and I’ve been exposed to a lot of great mentors and coaches along my journey, but it’s a continuous learning environment and you’re continuously challenging yourself and I realized early on that in order to be successful, you really need to take a very serious look at your leadership abilities.
And so, I’ve sought out mentors over the years and I’ve been exposed to great executive coaches and I’ve always wanted to sort of sharpen my tool set and learn from the best and so, I think if you want to be a truly great leader, you really need to take a good hard look at how you improve just like any other trait. You want to make sure that you put in the time and the hard work to try and develop that talent and some of it is not necessarily taught in a business school, it’s, it’s the way you were raised.
In terms of things like empathy for your employees or really understanding their strengths and weaknesses and. And basically, I think, you know, a leader is you know that the true leadership is basically the facilitating of the output of other people and giving them the credit and recognition and building those great teams.
Brad Wolff 05:12
Terrific! And what do you believe are the two or three things that you do best, as a leader?
Peter Madden 05:21
Well you know I think that I’ve been exposed to a lot of great operations around the country. I’ve lived and lived and worked in just about every forest region in the United States. And I have, like I mentioned, studied leadership for many years and having those mentors helped me work through the challenges I believe that my strengths are. I really have the ability to read people very well gauge their strengths and weaknesses which have certainly helped me recruit and retain top performing talent and putting those teams together so that they can really transform the businesses.
And the companies and ultimately grow Shareholder Value and the Stakeholders. But basically, ultimately, I feel very confident in my abilities to bring out the absolute best in people and make sure that they can help them attain their own personal and professional goals as we go along the journey.
Brad Wolff 06:16
Absolutely! And certainly, a key maybe the biggest key element of quality leadership is the impact on other people. So that’s big very important element. So, Pete what is your definition of Personal Development?
Peter Madden 06:37
Well you know I think Personal Development can certainly be different to different people from my perspective, you know I what I’ve done is I’ve taken the opportunity to as I said sharpen my skill set and be a part of organizations that really info in, you know, really drive the importance of bettering yourself in leadership as a leader so through executive coaches one of my first earliest coaches was a gentleman by the name of Dr Chrisman sure he’s out of Seattle.
And he was able to, he’s got a great book. It’s called the shift from one too many. And it was a good way for me to realize over my career how at first, you know, you start out saying it’s all about me, me. I did this or I cruise this tracker. I perform this acquisition or I built that road. And then as you go through time you realize your dependence on other people. And it’s all about, you know, we did this acquisition, are you part of a team and then as you keep on going through time. You go through these phases and I certainly have in the sense that, then you realize true leadership. If you’re going to develop, you’re going to develop and you’re not necessarily going to need or want that recognition, you’re going to want to reflect that into the team. And you’re going to want to focus the attention to the team and say, look what they’ve done and give them all the credit and then that will truly transform you going forward. To be able to have those great teams that are inspired and they’re motivated because they realize they’re there, they’re part of a much bigger picture.
And a lot of that comes with making sure you have alignment within the organization so that everybody knows what roles. That they’re playing and how that contributes to the overall success of the business and the enterprise, you know, a lot of it is just being, you know, the cheerleader. The coach, you know, making sure you’re empathetic to their needs and you’re inspiring them and you know you’re providing the accountability and what have you. And a lot of that is just confidence and confidence as a leader you also have to sometimes; I truly believe you also have to be confident as a follower and letting the team. Lead the organization and there’s a lot of great work that that that people have written about that as well. But so, I think it’s been a, it’s been a journey, and I certainly haven’t figured out all the answers, and I’m still learning. And I think the ability to constantly challenge yourself through either reading or getting coached another example gentleman right here in Atlanta. Dr. David Brookmeyer. He’s helped me you know, because he would basically say, hey, we’ve got to look at the data and what’s the data telling you so he would interview.
My co-workers’ interview, my direct reports he would interview, my peers and the executive committee and the board and provide that feedback back to back to me on how I am doing similar to a 360 environment. And I’ve got other coaches great coaches Emily Hawkins is another one that she’s helped me understand you know, the social media aspect and how do you position yourself and how are you being perceived and a lot of that is really taking the time to say, how am I being perceived in this individual environment or what have you. And then having that feedback loop of getting information and trying to figure out, okay, what am I doing right? What am I doing wrong, what can I improve upon? And Brad, I took a great class there’s a group There in North Carolina, as well as Colorado, but it’s a Center for Creative leadership and I went out to Colorado Springs and took their leadership at the peak classes a week–long class and they basically kind of they collect a lot of data on you and your work environment and they kind of break you down and then they basically build you back up, but they provide you the tools. In which you really wouldn’t get in another environment, unless you actually tap the brakes and really spent the time on understanding your leadership, your leadership style how it’s working, how it’s not working and really challenge yourself to develop as a leader going forward.
Brad Wolff 11:01
So, what I believe I’m hearing Pete in relation to your definition of Personal Development. Some of the things that I believe I heard was your willingness to put aside your ego. Subordinate it to the best interest of the organization and helping other people. That’s one thing. Absolutely! And another thing I believe I heard is the openness and the desire to keep learning to keep growing because everything you learn enhances your skills which enhances your capacity as a person.
Peter Madden 11:36
You’re Absolutely correct!
Brad Wolff 11:38
That openness to be a lifelong learner. As opposed to a knower, knowing what I’m hearing.
Peter Madden 11:43
Right! I think Yeah! That’s a great way to put it. Brad, you know, a lot of it comes with, you know, sort of humility right and in my mind, Brad. I started out my first job right out of college I was a field technician for a company called West Paco in the low country of South Carolina and basically what that field technician did was, it’s the lowest position on the sort of the totem pole, and you did everything from you know, painting boundary lines to building roads and ditches and cruising timber, which is. That’s just a fancy way of saying I counted a lot of trees thousands of trees right and all that goes behind that and all that goes behind the actual workings of commercial forestry and having that start I think helped me tremendously because it’s provided me not only the experience on exactly what how to run a very well-run operation and all the challenges that come along with it, but also making sure you have the culture right And I know there’s been, you know, countless books and you can you can.
I’m sure you can get a PhD in this, but how culture If you don’t get that right. You can have the best strategy in the world and you can have the best team in the world. But if you don’t have that culture right and give them the team that sense of empowerment to be creative and to make mistakes and really challenge themselves. Then you really don’t have much of an organization. And so that’s why I’ve really kind of focused in on that aspect of leadership is making sure you get the culture right and organization and I also think it’s really important. That you’re kind of constantly as a leader you have the ability, and I’ve enjoyed this over the years is to be able to make sure you have your finger on the pulse of the organization. So, you know when they’re being stressed or when you need to back off and you know when they’re not being challenged or, you know, when you need to step in, as a cheerleader. And I think that’s, that’s another important aspect of leadership that you just really need to make sure that you’ve got your in tune with sort of the heartbeat of the company.
Brad Wolff 13:47
Absolutely! And what do you regularly practices? because clearly you see your own Personal Development directly as part of your effectiveness as a leader. So, you’re saying that Leadership and Personal Development are going hand in hand. What regular practices. Do you have now that you think help your effectiveness the most as a leader.
Peter Madden 14:16
Well, I you know, like I said before, I haven’t figured it all out. But there are a couple of things that I do. I, you know, one is I certainly exercise. I think that’s one of the other things that I’ve learned along the way is you know, in stressful leadership positions. You’ve got to have an output outlet for that stress and I do that through regular exercise. I’m hitting the gym every day. And, you know, trying to keep in shape. And it also allows me the time my personal time to sort of prioritize my to-do list for the upcoming day or the upcoming week. So, I think that’s it. That’s an important part of it.
The other thing I have done for years, ever since I can remember, I’ve been sort of a voracious note taker and I take notes. I have staring at my notebook here, but I’m always taking notes and meetings and wherever. And I have my own personal code so that at the end of every week I reread those notes that I’ve taken during all the time so that I’ve been working and then I’ll, I’ll either, you know, respond or follow up or I like I said I have these different codes that I do. So, making sure that I have sort of a record and I sort of write to myself. Hey, you know, you need to follow up and send this guy, an email or you need to, you know, help that help with this. I think that that’s also really helped me a lot. And I think also the other thing is you gotta you know it’s kinda like were saying before, you know, you need to make sure that you’re strengthening the relationships with your team and a lot of that has to have a sort of, you have to be very approachable and I think I am. I enjoy going out to the operations and talking to the guys In the plants are in the in the manufacturing facilities are talking to the contractors in the woods.
About the price of oil or the price of gasoline or diesel or whatever and you really get that feedback. But the other thing I think it’s important is really strengthening those relationships with your team outside the work environment. And you know, that’s, you know, I’ve been. I’ve been fortunate to be able to take the teams to, you know, maybe it’s an afternoon playing top golf or bowling or bumper cars are doing the escape room. And they’re just, you know, trying to be creative and in the examples of where you can take the, the time, the time needed and bring the team together and kind of burn off that stress and reconnect with each other. Right! And making sure you do have that finger on the pulse of the organization and know when things are being stretched a little too far. And when stress levels are high, but providing that output for the team to bond in a non-work environment I think is very critical as well.
Brad Wolff 16:51
So, these are some very practical practices that you have that you that you engage in on a regular basis that produce great results in terms of effectiveness with your organization, I’m curious, Pete, in terms of you’re a voracious note taker and by hand, is what I’m gathering as okay you’re still doing the old school the key is, it’s working. So, one of the big challenges that you know, certainly I can struggle with. And a lot of people struggle with is you mentioned reading the notes afterwards because writing isn’t reading and reviewing so putting ideas that you that we gather you gather and notes into action can be a real challenge for people. What have you found has helped you convert these ideas into practical steps that you need to implement them?
Peter Madden 17:47
Right! Well, you know, one is when it gets back to the note taking. I want to make sure I express my thoughts and actions in the right way so I don’t forget about it or I loop back. But I think there’s a lot to be said for understanding an action plan that you want to implement but also through the way you’re able to coach or just simply talk to the employees and the team. And maybe potentially dropping little hints along the way so that they are the ones that pick up on the idea of how to act. Act on an action plan or they’re the ones that sort of come up with the idea and as a leader.
Sometimes you have to go passive and say, well, that’s a great idea. Why don’t you know through the types of questioning and precision questioning that? That you’re asking the employees, you sort of draw them out. So, what happens is it becomes their idea and then once it’s their idea. Obviously, they have ownership in it. And they come up with the tactical plans to execute it on their own. And basically, then you give them the resources and the support But it gets back to sort of the shift. I was mentioning before from. It’s all about me, too. It’s all about them.
Sometimes the leaders have got to go be the ones behind the scenes to help them be successful help your team be successful and you’re sort of in the shadows and you’re providing them all the support and the visibility and the limelight. But they take ownership of it and then that way it you know it’s amazing. I’m sure there’s a fancy slogan out there, but it’s amazing how much work, you can accomplish and how many plans, you can actually implement when you don’t take the credit. And you let somebody else take the credit. Right?
Brad Wolff 19:30
You know what? Absolutely! And from my experience, both from a person and people that I’ve coached and work with and talk to. It’s a big leap in our own Personal Development to put aside our ego gratification desires which say I’m great. Look what I did and subordinated to, how can I help other people grow and learn and take credit for what they’re doing. So that’s it a difficult step, quite frankly.
Peter Madden 20:01
It really is, I think, the other thing is, you know, my fond memories of working out in the field in the woods. It’s helped me appreciate the importance of, as I mentioned, getting the culture right for the organization but also realizing, and a great mentor of mine recall, who, who’s now with Weyerhaeuser but he was the CEO at Plum Creek, he would, he would always he’d say, you know, the teams that are in the factories and in the fields are, they’re the ones that are really making the daily decisions that really impact the company’s profitability and he would, he would often say that leaders and executives are just overhead, you know, but we always have to always remember that the executives are there to as a role to support the team and provide them with the resources to do their job safely.
And certainly, bring out the very best in themselves and I’ve always sort of thought that in the back of my mind, you know, executives and leaders were overhead, we’re not the ones making the actual day to day decisions that can really impact a company’s bottom line, but you’ve always got to make sure that you’re the one in a position that you can actually provide the resources to really support the operations and make them successful which ultimately makes you successful
Brad Wolff 21:12
And again, it’s not making you as the leader as the center of the universe. Your job is to be a catalyst to bring out the best in other people.
Peter Madden 21:20
Yeah! Actually, there was a Tom Linquist, our COO at Plum Creek had a great, great saying and I believe it’s originally from The Art of War, but you know, you get the team motivated you get them successful you cross the finish line on a big acquisition or a big deal. And then there’s a time where you just sort of pound your chest, very quietly and don’t take the credit but you basically know deep down in your heart. Wow, you were part of something special and you were successful, but you just sort of pound your chest quietly.
Brad Wolff 21:50
Right, because you’re a catalyst Right! And that catalyst is needed that you aren’t the entirety, or you’re not actually out there doing the day to day
Peter Madden 21:59
Exactly! What I say. Yeah, you’re basically facilitating the output of others and you know, providing them the opportunity to be, you know, to pull from the very best of themselves and be successful.
Brad Wolff 22:10
So, what’s the biggest setback or obstacle that you’ve overcome that you feel has been key to your success.
Peter Madden 22:20
Well, I think, one of the biggest challenges that I’ve gone through is just recently with the Drax Biomass team in Atlanta.
For a whole host of reasons, we were working for a UK based company, right, the largest utility in the UK. And after getting the operations up and running and successful and sort of all the kinks ironed out the decision was made to not grow the US assets, any more than what we had already done. And we’ve already been quite successful bringing these operations online. So, once they made that decision, you know, similar to teach you in business school.
You know, it’s commodity-based economics and you’ve got to do whatever you can to hunt down and drive out the cost out of the supply chain and become the low-cost provider which that ultimately entailed the, the obvious decision that the board took and I certainly, supported it was you didn’t need that corporate presence in Atlanta. You didn’t need the C suite. You didn’t need that additional cost if you weren’t truly growing the organization and in other areas. And so, what we ended up having to do is I, you know, over the span of about six to eight months, we ended up unwinding that that corporate office in Atlanta and that was really challenging for me because as I mentioned before, I am so proud of the team that we built and all the success that we had made And then the focus has to turn to, you know, each one of those as an individual and making sure they landed on their feet.
Hopefully with a better a higher valuable job than what they had before. And so that they could look back at their time at Drax As a team and with fond memories of getting the job done. And in a challenging environment and being very successful. So, I think that’s stretched me to grow. Obviously, I’m my personality is one that I’d much rather build things and grow and do new business development and grow value in companies versus having to let go of, you know, 45 people and unwind the operation. So, it challenged me to really look deep and be very respect respectful of everybody at that time that very sensitive time. And I think we did a really, really good job and in a challenging environment.
Brad Wolff 24:35
Awesome! Yeah. That wouldn’t be very difficult. After the work that you did to build something to be part of dismantling, it also.
Peter Madden 24:45
And it was not always and I think looking back on it. It was definitely the right decision for the overall corporate enterprise and it’s just tough when it hits so close to home and you’re actually doing it to yourself to the right. So,
Brad Wolff 24:58
Yeah, no, I get emotionally. It’s got to be very difficult, and you have you have some attachments and connections with people that you were that were part of the team. So that would be hard for anyone. Yeah. So, what’s the most difficult thing that you do regularly as a leader?
Peter Madden 25:18
You know, I think. That’s a really tough question, you know I think from my perspective, you know I have this. It was interesting because when I went out to the Center for Creative leadership in Colorado Springs. I had an executive coach that kind of sat me down and said, you know, Pete. One of the difficult things you’re dealing with this some this concept of ruminate rumination. Right! And I did. I hadn’t heard the word before I know rumination is something that I think I believe cows end up doing when they’re, you know, trying to process their food right so I’m like, Really, what’s this about but and actually, started a long time ago when I started playing golf. I play golf and at night and early in the morning I get up quite early. I could replay in my mind every shot that I made the day before or the weekend before playing golf. And now I’m a pretty avid tennis player.
So, I have that still have that same ability to repay my mind every shot, not necessarily in tennis. But all the good shots and was ell come to find out what I’m doing and what I’ve been doing for so many years is the rumination. I would go back in my mind and say, oh, if I only did this or if I only said that or if I did this differently or if I, I wish I did this and you’re basically replaying this and my executive coach said, Hey, you got to figure out a way to snap yourself out of that because it’s absolutely not going to add any value whatsoever.
Going forward, unless you can learn from it. But make sure that you know what’s done in the past is in the past, you can’t get that shot, you can’t unscramble some of those eggs right so you got to make sure that you’re not so focused on sort of rehashing old things which I found out that I was doing. So, I’ve been trying to sort of snap out of that when I do find myself thinking of all the things in the past that I that I wish were a little bit different, or came out with different results and trying to have that discipline. On an absolute daily basis to say, okay, you know, always think of the future and things in the past and just leave them in the past.
Brad Wolff 27:25
Right! And I think it’s a general truism in life, whatever we focus on a regular basis, we end up creating. So, if we’re focusing on what we don’t want. We end up creating more of what we don’t want. And that is difficult. I mean, because learning from what didn’t go well is important, but that’s different than continuing to replay what didn’t go well.
Peter Madden 27:47
No, you’re absolutely right. But it’s like I say, it’s a journey right and we’re constantly learning and that’s the exciting part.
Brad Wolff 27:55
You know what? Every time you ruminate you get a chance to stop ruminating
Peter Madden 27:59
Brad Wolff 28:00
It’s a great opportunity.
Peter Madden 28:02
Yeah, well, there’s a lot of great work out there and a lot of good I constantly also try and read. I mean, I’m reading all the autobiographies and certainly with Doris Kearns Goodwin, you know her as an author, she’s done all the autobiographies of Lincoln and Kennedy and Johnson and the Roosevelt and it’s interesting because, you know, I’ve looked in the past of the leaders truly great leaders that I’ve looked up to and a lot of them have had the same issues, the same problems that we’re faced with today. Right! We just call them different or we have fancier terms for him Right?
Brad Wolff 28:39
Well, they’re just human condition issues which we’re still human. So, we get the same condition issues, I guess.
Peter Madden 28:46
One of the other one of the other things I focus in on. There’s a great TED talk, and I might have mentioned this before, but it’s a TED Talk by a Benedictine monk and his name. I think is brother David Stein Ross. But he, but he basically his, his hypothesis is a heart full of gratitude has absolutely no room for unhappiness. And it’s one of the other things that, you know, just being aware of every moment as a gift and certainly, you know, sort of, like, as you mentioned, the difficulties are just simply challenges to better ourselves. But realizing you know you your first thoughts should be how grateful are you for all the things in your life, your family, your friends, your loved ones and focusing on that and I think that’s another discipline that I’m trying to do and it certainly helped me along my journey?
Brad Wolff 29:37
And I appreciate the, just the pure authenticity that you said you’re trying to do and it’s a challenge. It’s a struggle. I mean, let’s be real, you know, because when a challenge comes up that we don’t like we can say I’m grateful for the opportunity that I can learn and when I as I learned to overcome this, I’m now I have now grown and more capable. So, this challenge is necessary fuel for me to grow. Now, It’d be dishonest, to say that it’s easy to keep going back to that focus. I mean, that’s right. Absolutely! We can still do it even if it’s difficult.
Peter Madden 30:18
You’re right. That’s a good point. Brad.
Brad Wolff 30:20
So, what’s the funniest or craziest experience you ever had, as a leader and with what you can say, okay, I mean, certainly you can edit out anything that may not be appropriate.
Peter Madden 30:33
You know it was interesting when I was a VP at Plum Creek Timber. We would get to all the whole management conference together and it was, you know, some place and we get all the team members from across the whole country I’m that could the company was in 19 states or 17 states at the time. So, it was a really good way to get everybody together and in more of a social aspect and what we did and the executive The Executive Committee decided we’re going to put on these skits. And so, we would literally have one night where we’d all get together and the teams would put together these various skits and we’d work on them and a lot of times it was just a lot of laughs and we poke fun at each other.
And I think that’s where we just really had some great times together as a team. And we would we would kind of, you know, have a bunch of laughs at ourselves and everybody. And it was just a great fun. And also, it definitely gave us a chance to bond as a team and laugh at ourselves. And I think that’s also a reflection of trying to get the culture right I mean you got to be able to say, hey, you know, let’s have some fun let’s laugh at ourselves. We haven’t figured it all out. And let’s move forward and having that camaraderie as a team was some of the best funniest times I’ve ever had in my career.
Brad Wolff 31:54
And that’s a great point. We can take ourselves too seriously. And when we can laugh at ourselves, we can start admitting to our imperfections that we can then get better at. But if we don’t admit to it and laughing about it and realizing, yeah, I do have this awkward little habit. That opens the door, and when we laugh at it, it’s easier to accept the thing as people. It’s not like the people aren’t laughing. It’s not like they just like us because of it. It’s one of the things that makes us colorful and human
Peter Madden 32:24
That’s right. You’re absolutely right. And it’s, you know, I think that, you know, as you go up the leadership ladder and you’re a vice president or executive vice president or CEO. You got to make sure you don’t trip over your own ego and say, well, because I’m in this position. I’ve got to have this certain stature; I’ve got to be viewed at a certain way you know, and if you can’t laugh at yourself and then enjoy the journey with your teammates, then it’s probably not as certainly not as rewarding or fulfilling
Brad Wolff 32:52
Well, the leaders that could laugh at themselves and take the true humour and admit to it. Create a huge bonding connection and respect opportunity. That pays big dividends and they don’t realize that people we don’t study. There are a lot of studies on this. Psychologically, we don’t connect with other people based on our greatness and our strengths; we connect based on our weaknesses and imperfections. It’s so important to realize that that is such a vital part of gaining respect, trust, others are that we own our imperfections and don’t make it this big thing. It just connects us with our humanity.
Peter Madden 33:34
Absolutely! Now that’s very well said. There really isn’t any and ultimately an old boss of mine, my clutter. He was heading up the operations support group at Georgia Pacific you know he told me years and years ago he said, Pete, you know, the one thing that I figured out is all life is and sorry he got my attention right there. I’m like, okay, he goes all life is it and this is the way you need to think about it? All life is the acquisition of memories and when you put it all together in that concept. You’re like, you know, its life will fly flash by right, but you got to really enjoy the journey. And obviously that you know the old saying it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey. But if you take the time to really enjoy the moment. Enjoy the people you’re with really rolled up your sleeves and get things done and accomplished and enjoy the time and laugh at yourself while you’re going through that journey. And then at the end of the run, you’ve got this huge database in your mind of all the memories that you’ve collected along the way and it was a really neat. I thought it was very eloquent way that that he put that
Brad Wolff 34:39
Yeah, you might as well take these stories and get a humorous and entertaining spin out of it. What’s the point of a boring story of horrible things, you’re kind of held them to create humour and entertaining. Right!
Peter Madden 34:50
Brad Wolff 34:55
So, speaking of stories! What success story. Would you like to share that you’re most proud of?
Peter Madden 35:03
You know, I’ve been. I’ve been a part of a lot of you know, great, great projects great new business development acquisitions. I always enjoy leading the integration efforts of an acquisition because you know you’re walking into a team. I did this up in Michigan, where we acquired about 650,000 acres of land and I went in. And to be able to see obviously you’re dealing with employees from the acquiring company and they’re nervous. They want to make sure they have their jobs. And just to be able to go in and put them at ease and really troubleshoot, look for the gaps in the operations, look where the resources are needed and sort of overall get all the systems rolled out the sustainability systems.
The audit the corporate finance everything but then incorporate them into the overall family and of the company and to be able to be part of that and I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to be able to do that across many states. And be able to look back and just say, wow, you know, we’ve got a great team and we just made it made it even better. Right! And so, I’ve got some great examples with that. But I think ultimately it all boils back to that sort of you know the ability to you relate to everyone in the organization and that goes back to my beginnings is working out in the woods, right, starting from the, from the bottom up, and I think I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world and a lot of it’s not you know that they don’t teach you in business school. It’s the way you were raised by your parents how you respect people whether that’s the chairman of the board of directors or if it’s the guy that’s pulling chain in the woods or the guy working in the plywood mill, you know you respect everybody and you give them the attention that they deserve. And I think that’s just been part of my sort of my mantra and I’ve enjoyed over the years.
So, I would say you know, building a new business development acquiring assets and leading the integration efforts and really managing the operations and making them more successful than they were in the past and I also think it’s a great opportunity to be able to hunt down and extract hidden value. If there’s value that’s being ignored for whatever reason, you know that’s something that I’m pretty passionate about is saying, okay, maybe if we take a different look at how the operations are being managed, or maybe if we take a different look about how the supply chain is being managed and think outside the box and really challenged employees to come up with new innovative ideas and to basically overall improve the performance of the company, and a lot of like, and we meant mentioned before is getting the culture right you know safety comes up, number one if you get safety. Right! And I’ve walked into a lot of organizations and they didn’t have that they didn’t have the fundamental blocking and tackling of their culture. So, if I’m a firm believer. And I know Drax and comfort great companies like Georgia Pacific and Plum Creek or hey you know we got 10s of thousands of employees. Let’s say we got to make sure that we get to safety right and make sure that that will provide you know more dependable operations; you’ll have less downtime and ultimately that’ll improve your profitability.
Brad Wolff 38:17
Absolutely! And there are two things I’d like to just capitalize on from what you said, the one to add to, first of all, the culture, getting the culture right The culture is the tool that drives what happens, you can’t make a strategy a tactic work if the culture doesn’t support it. Ultimately what how people are accustomed to thinking and doing things is going to override what you tell them they should do differently it because their habits of how they think and do things that the culture built will offset anything that doesn’t fit it so the culture, is that like the air that people breathe. And what’s in the air. It goes right into them and becomes part of them. And the second thing is John Maxwell who you’ve probably heard of is probably one of the most well-respected leadership experts in the country. I was at a conference a few weeks ago and he spoke, and he was asked a question, what do you think is the single most important thing for a leader to be a great leader and he didn’t even hesitate. He said, without a doubt, and he’s done so much research on leadership. It’s truly caring about people he said, that’s number one. You care about them as human beings not just what they’re doing for you. It was very interesting that he said that you know, you’re saying I thought of that, which is that is the most important thing for a leader to be effective.
Peter Madden 39:46
No, I think you’re absolutely right. And that makes a lot of sense. I mean, obviously, you know, the characteristics the honesty, integrity, you know, being able to empower the employees, but you’ve got to be able to have a good connection and not just communicate everybody in a leadership position needs to have the ability to communicate very well. Nobody gets in trouble for over communicating in an organization. Right! And that’s usually the one area where people do have to improve but at the end of the day, if you can’t connect with an employee not communicate but connect with that employee. That’s the difference and if you’re able to do that then who knows where you’ll end up yet. You’ll be much more profitable than you were before.
Brad Wolff 40:30
Truly connecting is a sign of caring because you’re not going to put the truth focus and concern on the other person. If you don’t care and that’s what people really get first and foremost because it what he or she cares about
Peter Madden 40:41
Right! And its genuine right I mean…
Brad Wolff 40:44
It’s genuine it’s not What you say it’s the whole energy about how you interact with the person that’s what they pick up and is not necessarily conscious of it, but everyone gets it, everyone. Everyone picks that up.
Peter Madden 40:57
Yeah, they’re very smart individuals, they’ll, and they’ll figure it out. I remember I was in Seattle. One time working in the Plum Creek corporate office and I was I was writing a report was a report for the board and I needed information and this is on a Saturday. And so, I had to call an accountant in Georgia. Her name was Penny Henderson and I called her up and I needed some information. She was more than willing to provide that but I thought to myself, you know, she didn’t have to answer that phone right she didn’t have to provide me information on the weekend. Right! It was her personal time or family time but at the end of the day, because I had taken the time to establish a relationship with her and I could explain to her why this is important. She was more than willing to do that. But it goes two ways. You can’t always be calling up employees. And asking them for something, because then, at the end of the day, they’re like, Okay, what do you want right but if you call them up and you take an active way to connect with them and understand their family and understand, you know, their spouses name and understand their struggles and actually ask them. How they’re doing more on a personal level, then, then they’re more than willing to help you if you need them the most.
Brad Wolff 42:05
Absolutely! Pete, I gotta ask you, you’re obviously very positive and look at what you’re grateful for, etc. but being human. You know what you’re going to feel down discouraged and negative at times, where you just don’t feel like doing what quote, you’re supposed to do. So, what do you do that you find helps you move back into a positive productive state when you’re like that?
Peter Madden 42:30
Well, I think, you know, every, every, everybody goes through challenging things I always try and be optimistic and It’s kind of like what I was getting back to before where you know if you’re constantly, you know, grateful for the small things, the little things, you know, it could just be hey had a great time with my kid or I had a great time, you know, talk engaging with a colleague and just having that gratitude Its kind of pulls you out and then you realize, Hey, you know, you’re very blessed. You’ve got a great, great things going on and there’s places in the world that they are not so blessed and but making sure that you sort of you keep that realization of it’s all about balance right and there’s times and I’ve said this to a lot of my teams before there’s going to be times where you know, the, the, the company is going to have to understand that there’s some personal issues at home, and they’re going to have to spend more time and dealing with their personal issues and there’s going to be times when there’s deadlines and commitments and the family life is going to have to understand, there’s, there’s, there’s challenges at work, but it’s up to the job of the employee to maintain that balance between the two.
And it’s an active thing you have to do you have to always be conscious of managing that balance at the right time and the way I look at it is you know, I, I’ve often said, my real job is, God gave me the real job of raising three children. Right! And that’s my primary job. And I’ve always thought this that, that’s my primary job. And that’s the one that I want to strive to get that right. And I think I have. I’m very blessed with wonderful children. But I always thought that my other career was really a means to support my primary job of raising those three kids right and so, I think, fundamentally, if your kind of, you know, take a hard look at what’s really important in life.
There’s always going to be earning season. There’s always going to be quarterly earnings estimates and there’s always going to be a variance analysis and but fundamentally, you don’t have your health, you know, and instil upon your children, you know the importance of, you know, faith and family and education and trying to be a very productive members of society and helping as many people as you can. Along the way, if you get that right, then everything else will fall in place.
Brad Wolff 44:45
Great point! And we’re almost ready to close. I’m curious. What are one or two things that people would not learn about you? if they did a Google search that would make you interesting and relatable. This is a regular person. I mean, quite frankly, the things you’ve already mentioned are not typical. And that would qualify. But is there anything else?
Peter Madden 45:12
Well, I think, I think certainly as I, as I mentioned, you wouldn’t know how I was able to be fortunate enough to work in sort of a commercial forestry field operation and all that goes behind the scenes for several years to be able to really appreciate how things get done on a daily basis and where the focus needs to be and having that ability. I think has certainly helped me along the way and certainly, all the research I’ve done on, you know, I just I just enjoy managing operations. I enjoy turning around troubled operations. I enjoy you know, bringing out the very best in people and sometimes you gotta make tough calls sometimes you’ve got to, you know, reassign the seats on the bus and but to be able to have that ability to really understand employees and individual strengths and weaknesses and then trying to fill the gaps and get them to be the best that they ever want to become both professionally and personally you know, Brad. I, one of the things I’ve read a good bit and there’s this great article, it’s fragile Garfinkel and I think believe he’s on the west coast and he’s talking about and you might have read it is talking about the leadership lessons from geese. Right!
And then so it’s one where it’s just fascinating. I mean, obviously you know the geese. They fly in formation, you know, and they’re always constantly flowing information and certainly, that that creates the draft right we create the draft similar to NASCAR races, but it allows the geese to actually, you know, add another you know 60 70% of their flying range, then if the birds were flying by themselves, right. So, so then you sit there and you take that he takes it another step. And he said, you know when a goose actually flies out of formation, they suddenly realize, wow, this is a lot harder. So, they quickly get back into formation. Right! And then you know when the lead goose tires and they always do. Right! The lead just goes back into the formation and another goose comes up and takes point to allow the lead goes to rest and that lead goose realizes, hey, you know, he also at times. I’ve got to be able to be confident in his ability or her ability to follow other people and then, you know, the way you know the hypothesis goes on, and I think it says something like the geese are always honking well they’re honking the back. Geese are honking at the front geese and the front of the line to make sure they increase their speed and keep their speed up. It’s like they’re encouraging the geese in the front part was
Brad Wolff 47:43
Like a driver that honks, that’s going too slow it’s just like they learn from the geese.
Peter Madden 47:48
And then the other one was I think he goes on to say that when a goose gets sick or wounded or whatever. To geese will drop out of formation and follow that goose down to the earth to protect it and they’ll either stay with that goose, whether it to the point of its dead or it can start to fly again and then they’ll get back into another formation of another formation going by, but it was, it was just one of those things where they you know you gotta stand by each other and in the good times and the bad times. And the difficult times and sometimes you know that’s. That you got to make tough calls and you got to rip the band aid off and move through it. But at the end of the day, if you’re strong as a team and you have that ability, then you really got something special.
Brad Wolff 48:32
There’s no question synergy of a team, way more effective than an individual going solo. And last question here, you know, your prodigious reader and you get a lot of value out of that. What, you know, a couple of Book Two, three books do you recommend that people could really benefit from?
Peter Madden 48:53
Well, there’s a couple of them. And I mentioned Dr Nofsinger’s, “The shift from one to many”; it’s a very easy read. I think that’s a really great one. And basically, it’s sort of a pragmatic guy to leadership going through different phases I’m currently reading a career manifesto. This is a gentleman by Mike Steve and it’s kind of giving you the tool set to kind of break down and create a roadmap for your career and if you have the ability to sort of tap the brakes and spend some time working through that into saying what are you really passionate about because if you can find something for me it’s sustainable forest management or sustainable resource management. It’s driving down carbon emissions driving down your carbon footprint and understanding all the complexity with that and also you know, improving the efficiency of supply chain global supply chain and driving up the cost, but if you can find what you’re truly passionate about, then you’ve really got something special that you can sink your teeth into and the one that I just started actually is a by a professor at Harvard Business School by the name of Francesca Gino and its rebel talent and this is a great one that I’m enjoying right now I’m looking at it right now.
But basically, it talks about the importance of diversity in the workplace and making sure that companies challenged themselves and it dives through a lot of the companies that do it well and it shows and there’s been a number of Harvard Business reviews that show that these companies that get the diversity right at the senior leadership levels. They are more profitable and they’re more profitable because the senior executive leaders haven’t surrounded themselves with a sort of like-minded people and you get into this huge trap of group think.
You’re surrounded yourself you’re comfortable in your shoes to surround yourself from various people from different ethnic backgrounds and diversity, diversity and you’re able to challenge the, the leadership direction because you’re able to bounce all sorts of different ideas off of each other and you have that environment so that it’s really able to be successful. And I think that that rebel talent by Francesco Geno’s is a great book that I’m enjoying right now.
Brad Wolff 51:01
That’s a great idea, Pete. I really appreciate having you as a guest. I believe you’ve got a lot to offer. That’s going to contribute to our listeners and as always, it’s an honour and a privilege to learn from you and I want to thank you and I’ll be back in touch with you very shortly.
Peter Madden 51:25
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