Leadership is about impact. The most effective leaders unleash much more of their people’s potential. Their organizations, employees and customers all benefit. Howe Wallace, CEO of PalletOne Inc. shares very practical lessons to help you accomplish this now.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Why people are the driving force behind your business success
- The importance of life-long learning” to adapt to change
- What “courageous communication” is why it’s important and how to do it well
- How to lead in rapid disruptive change without panicking
- Why open, transparent communication is in your organization’s best interest
- Much more that you really need to hear
Brad Wolff 00:12
Welcome to “It is about You Show”. Today I have the honor of having Howe Wallace as our guest. Howe is the founding CEO of PalletOne he has a long career in the Pallet and treated wood industry how actually started his career in human resources, which is a very unique path to the C suite. Howe puts a focus on teaching his point of view comes from athletics business and the Bible. He enjoys reading and writing and has actually written a blog, almost every day since 2005. He’s a committed husband, father, community leader and Christ follower. Howe Welcome to the show.
Howe Wallace 01:05
Thanks! Brad. I’m glad to be here.
Brad Wolff 01:07
Absolutely, and I got your name because you came highly regarded
From the National Wooden Pallet Association Did I say that right?
Howe Wallace 01:17
That’s right, National Wooden Pallet and Container Association.
Brad Wolff 01:21
When I said it, I was like, I think I left out. So, and you know I spoke over there with one of the people in leadership and she indicated that you were one of the top members that has really contributed and has been very successful. So, I was very excited when you agreed to be a guest.
Howe Wallace 01:42
Well, thanks. That was nice to her to say and glad to be a part of this.
Brad Wolff 01:46
So, tell me a little bit about your business and what makes it special in your mind.
Howe Wallace 01:54
First off, the Pallet is a ubiquitous tool in the supply chain at the same time not really highly noted and nobody everybody has a pallet story I’ve heard. I used to work with pallets. I used to throw them away. I used to burn them at campfires those kinds of things. But most people don’t really understand the role and scope of the industry. So, we’re unique in that way, but at the same time. It’s a big, you know, multibillion-dollar industry and we’re critical to the supply chain. And we help our saying in the industry is that pallet smooth the world and they truly do. So being involved in it is has been a fun business for me for years and really enjoyed doing it.
Brad Wolff 02:43
So, can you tell me a little bit about your business and some of the things that that make it unique or particularly successful?
Howe Wallace 02:49
Yeah, what’s unique about us is that most of pallet businesses are single site locations on by families. We’re a corporation and we have 20 sites around the country? So, in our role in scope. We’re larger than those are really any pallet manufacturing company in North America. We manufacture more pallets and anybody in the industry. And we do it in all sorts of regions and covering mostly the eastern half of the United States, but that’s where we distinguish us probably is our multi-site nature.
Brad Wolff 03:35
So, you’re the largest in the pallet industry?
Howe Wallace 03:38
Largest Pallet manufacturer, Yeah!
Brad Wolff 03:40
And that’s a great point that you made about the pallet industry is, it’s like nuts and bolts and things like that. You don’t think of them. They’re just there. But if you didn’t have them, you would think of all the time.
Brad Wolff 04:51
So, okay! So, Howe, tell me a little about your origin story that brought you to the work that you’re doing today.
Howe Wallace 05:00
Well, I started out as an HR guy was recruited to join an aggressive power pallet business in Bartow Florida and I joined a team. And it was a very unique entrepreneurial situation. I was a young in my professional career and the guys who are running machine are really we’re really thoughtful and thinking about how to grow it and they picked me as a human resources guy.
And which was a unique position, even in the powered industries to save my mom was really proud of me that I told her I was the best Human Resources professional in the industry and I didn’t tell her I was the only one. I mean most people have that role in it, but we were growing at the time. I joined. There were three locations and we added by the time we were done. We had six locations and in the southeast and back in 95 or so we were asked to join into an initial public offering involved with the rolling up the pallet industry. It was perceived to be a barrier and it still is a very fragmented industry and with the thought was in our industry needed somebody to consolidate and so, my role as an HR guy had been speaking in the industry and that kind of thing, we did the IPO successful and we started moving around the country acquiring some businesses.
And so, I was, I was the front man when that I would go in and talk to people about acquiring a business. They were interested in selling I turn them over to the dealmakers, the dealmakers to make the deal. And then as HR guy was then charge to integrate it. And so, we bought a number of businesses around the country and then we merge with a German company and the German company decided they didn’t want to be empowered manufacturing and so a bunch of us who had been owners bought the businesses, back, back in 2001 and I was asked to run them.
Brad Wolff 07:05
Wow! So, that is that is unique, starting in HR what prompted you to go into HR to start your career to begin with?
Howe Wallace 07:15
I had been training in higher education. And I just wasn’t my family was growing faster than my paycheck was and so the education, my, my made my minor my major was in journalism as an undergraduate. And then I went into higher education administration to work with students at colleges and the HR field was a good transition. A lot of my training transferred into the business HR field.
Brad Wolff 07:47
And it’s interesting because, from my perspective, with what I do. Businesses are all based on people. So, it’s interesting that people don’t often think of HR as a primary driver.
Howe Wallace 08:03
Well, this is, you know, you talked to banks and yeah! Talk to customers. And I was just very fortunate. The guys I work for out of the box insisted that we all add value to what we do. There are transparent about showing the numbers we were compensated based on how well the company did we saw every single number. That was produced and we were accountable for doing the things in our job that would affect my job was human resources. It was a risk management. It was purchasing insurance. I ended up going into doing some sales training that it was a very versatile deal. And so, I got a well-rounded education though my title and my main responsibility was HR. We were free to study and learn about every aspect of the business and expected to contribute. If we had an idea and I’ll be forever grateful for that exposure.
Brad Wolff 09:04
Right, the people that hired you were more forward thinking than a typical organization.
Howe Wallace 09:08
That absolutely said it was so and it was to our benefit.
Brad Wolff 09:13
So how, what do you believe are the two or three things that you do best, as a leader that really helps your organizations prosper?
Howe Wallace 09:26
You know, the things I’m called on most, I’m a good teacher. And I get involved in. And that’s part of what the blog is about that I do every day is that trying to make sure that people understand what I’m thinking and what and trying to get a collective organizational thought process going on. I’ve been effective at teaching that through the years, and therefore I’m effective at communicating so being a journalism major, I’ve made a whole career out of being willing and able to write. It’s not a. It’s not something that most people want to do and can’t do, and do it. It’s not effortlessly, but I do it.
Well, and so I’ve been able to do it. And then, and then when you get into the HR field, you’re called upon to speak and teach. So, I’m a good oral communicator was writing communicator. So that enhances things. And then the last thing I am is a lifelong learner. You know, I think that We have to be continually adding to our knowledge base and my job is led me to the privilege to take advantage of reading and studying and looking around for new ideas and helping to formulate that into our structure. And so those three things I think being a pioneer on the idea front communicate and in teaching are the three things that I think are real strengths for me.
Brad Wolff 11:06
From my perspective, with what I do. Those are the foundational pieces to be able to adapt and thrive and I really want to highlight what you said about being a lifelong learner. Because I think a lot of times it’s seen as something that’s nice and helpful and I think the evidence is that it’s actually critical, especially in our very rapidly changing disruptive world and I really want to highlight that as something that also sets the tone with a culture because an organization that focuses on constantly learning rather than I already know is an organization that has a huge competitive edge.
Yeah, I mean I can reinforce that enough the changes that appear in your coming at your rear-view mirror, always showing up faster than you thought. And if you’re not out there, paying attention to the trends and what’s going on. You’re just going to get hit bottom. And so, so we try to be agile enough to be proactive in the kits that are reactive. That’s not always the case but you know if anybody has time to be reading. It’s me, I like to make sure that everybody in my organization. It takes advantage of the media opportunities. Today, these podcasts, like you’re doing the ability to not waste any windshield time I used to be. A big listener to Paul Finebaum. One sec, and all that kind of stuff. And I’ve retired him now. And what listen to podcasts constantly from Harvard Business Review to Freakonomics to Tim Ferriss, they go on and, on the availability, and the ability to keep up with what’s new and ideas and whether that fits into what we’re doing is a constant opportunity.
Brad Wolff 13:03
So, from your experience because you’ve been, how long have you been in the Pallet industry now?
Howe Wallace 13:08
Started in 1983 for about 36 years
Brad Wolff 13:12
So, what has been your view of the speed or rate of change now versus back in the 80s and 90s.
Howe Wallace 13:25
I don’t know how to put them a numerical measurement to it, but we’ve had some experiences late mean we’ve had some experiences recently where we would be thinking this is going to happen in two years and it happened in six months, you know, the kind of things that we were planning for really thought we saw common and all of a sudden, we’re in, we’re swimming in it. It’s like a tsunami and you have to figure out okay. The good news is we had a plan for two years. If we could start rolling up our sleeves. The bad news is sort of like that. The Great One of my favorite movies is Apollo 13 and they realize they have to move from the main ship to the limb. Where they they’ve learned. They’re going to have to conserve their battery and they gotta go and they have to go immediately. They’re already late. And that’s kind of those experiences happen, way more often today than they did back in the 80s and 90s.
Brad Wolff 14:24
That and that’s where the lifelong learner is so key. Also, what I’m curious about is, you know, certainly you have unwelcome change is not uncommon. Not all changes, like, Wow, I’m so glad that happened, what is it that you do in terms of how you look at disruptive on welcome change that you find helps you succeed and helps you create a culture that succeeds?
Howe Wallace 14:51
You know Brad, One of the big things for us is that that we try to maintain our composure, you know, this is to not be shocked or not to be rattled when something like that comes along and really kind of move on. I have a chief operating officer his big thing is, hey, put the let’s get the facts on the table. And so, it is not. It’s not to sit back and think about it’s not sit back and think about what’s going on with the problem and shaking her head and crying about it. It says let’s get to work on it. So that’s a big that’s a big thing for us.
Brad Wolff 15:37
So right so you don’t get caught up in the complaints and fear and all of that, you get caught up in what do we need to do to adapt and maybe even capitalize
Howe Wallace 15:48
Yeah, its Read one of the books that we’ve all read in our organization that we’ve paid attention to was by Jay Bilas and he’s a he’s a sports commentator and he talks about he played basketball for dude. And he talks about their, their approaches next play you don’t celebrate too much or you don’t you don’t resent what goes on yet. He moved back down to court and slapped floor, and he said, Okay, what’s coming next. And that’s, that’s kind of mentality. We try to maintain and this agile world not. Hey, no limit, no limitation. Let’s move on. Let’s figure out what we need to do now. Right!
Brad Wolff 16:29
And that sets a culture because the culture is driven by what the leaders do if you were panicked your people would develop that habit as well. Now, Howe, what do you consider to be the most important character traits that are needed to be a highly effective leader?
Howe Wallace 16:50
You know, I talked a lot about you know there’s certainly can go through; there’s an element of being a role model. You certainly have to model what you intend to have done, you know, you can’t say one thing and do another. So, I think that’s an incredible Trade that you have to distribute in me. And I think that I think the second thing is that is the courage piece of it, and especially related to communication as an HR guy facilitated. I don’t know if it’s thousands, but certainly hundreds of organizational improvement efforts. I’ve never once had anybody say to me, communications, perfect. You know, it’s not.
There are always people who want to know more need to know more wish they knew more and my experiences. If you don’t communicate well. People make things up and they’ll, they’ll create your own truth. And so again that’s another reason I write this blog is I tried to, you know, we’re transparent. We’re still transparent where their numbers were a $550 billion company. And anybody who has access to our intranet. We have an intranet to communicate with can look at our financial state. We don’t keep that private and so in at the ball. He said, I really want people to know how little money we make you know if and how tough it is.to make a living and see where they contribute to it.
And so, so I think transparency is a characteristic that I value and I intention is another one is hey, you gotta wake up every day and hit the ground with an idea about what it is you’re going to do to improve things and not you know, I try to fight against complacency. We insist on habit building is what we’re trying to do from safety to quality and to embed those habits in such a way that they build on success, not where we lose our balancer.
Brad Wolff 19:04
And I want to highlight what you just said about habits, everything you said is highlight worthy, but I won’t have time to highlight everything that habits. I think people way underestimate that how important that is because the end of the day 80 90% of the time we’re acting on habit, not on just choice at that moment.
Howe Wallace 19:26
Yeah, there’s a fantastic book out by the New York Times writer and then Charles Duhigg on the power of the habit and in the brain science and what we understand about how our brains work and Daniel economists Thinking, Fast thinking slow is another great book in the habits or tool for us that we, but we have to we have to be intentional about mastering them. And then we also just can’t, we can’t. We have to be intentional about building constructively because we’re going to have habits. One way the others will you choose good ones are you let bad ones come your way. And so, I learned a great deal from that we talked about that in our organization, a good bit. There’s nothing like putting a good habit on top of the next habit and maintaining them because the brain thrives on habits and at the same time. if you leave habits, their own resources, they won’t, they won’t come true.
Brad Wolff 20:26
Right, because a lot of the path of least resistance is the more natural habit and the path of least resistance is usually the things that aren’t going to lead to success. And I want to step back because you that you made an appointment point about communicating because if people don’t know they will fill it in with their own conclusions. What percentage of the time you think their conclusions are positive conclusions, rather than negative when they don’t?
Howe Wallace 20:51
That’s a good point. You know, sigh I don’t go so much. Brad with positive or negative as much as I go with wrong. You know that they
Brad Wolff 21:05
Oh, good point that they’re just inaccurate. What percentage of time are they accurate?
Howe Wallace 21:08
I mean, yeah, it’s, it’s the things that people make up in this why I’ve always felt like that. The truth will set you free. And is the people imagine. Thanks. And so you know, we know people who are over overzealous about things. We know people who are ultra-fearful about things. But I mean the truth just helps rain those rain those emotions into what’s real, then we’re much better off. So, I think more about wrong than I do about negative or positive
Brad Wolff 21:45
That is a very that’s a very important point that it isn’t so much the judgment of right or wrong, it’s accurate or inaccurate, because it may be accurate, but it isn’t what you call positive being accurate is more important than because now you can deal with it.
Brad Wolff 22:02
So, what we’ve talked about character traits, how that you feel are very important to being a successful leader, what would you say the most important skills that leaders need to master to be highly effective
Howe Wallace 22:18
So, It’s certainly got to be mindful of your resources steward of your time and steward of what your what’s available to you. You know, one of the things I talked about a lot. And going back to the courage piece is a courageous communication the willingness and ability to confront that that awkward uncomfortable thing may not I have found that to be a key skill for that I’ve, I’ve written because most people won’t do it. But the ability to us to our flea say hey you know this right here isn’t working. The right way and we need to do something about it and here’s what I see helped me to understand. Let me go. Let’s go forward this but to, you know, Jamie Dimon great banking executive says problems stone age will and to me courage communication is the thing that you courageous.
Communication is a way that we get to the bottom of problems. And I like it earlier than later in the process. So, you asked me, one of the things I learned when we started our when we took over and Bob back our business and started Palett One, we were doing it on a pretty skinny budget. And one of the ways I decided I would try to save money as I would be both the HR to see guy because I’ve been the HR guy for years, most of these people knew me as HR and I figured they would follow suit. And I learned really quickly, within the year that they don’t call this CEO, even if they knew him as HR guy until it’s until it’s their last resort. And so, you know, being able to get somebody in play. And be able to say, hey man, when you’re feeling it. Don’t see something, do something mode. When you see something, it’s time to address it. And I know it’s uncomfortable for you, but if you can learn it. You’re going to learn that it makes things better to do that. That’s my confidence and being a being a courageous communicator.
I’ve learned that I don’t have to fear saying something that may feel hurtful or how will they take it that but if that if I’m diligent or raise it, it will. It’ll come to my will come to our benefit in everybody will trust that process. And I’ve learned I’ve our, you know, some people don’t want to courageous communicate because they don’t want to be disliked and I’ve learned that that being the guy who will be the one who says it garnish respect and trust and that that’s a. Those are good traits in which to be able to lead from and run an organization
Brad Wolff 25:10
Those are very sage sound points about courageous communication. But it’s, it’s a matter of people developing that habit. What tips do you have for people to develop that habit because most people I think would agree? I wish I were more courageous and people have learned a fear because there may be because their experiences have led to altercations and problems. What tips would you give them so they can develop the habit of that?
Howe Wallace 25:41
Well, I think that one way to do it is to practice it before you do it, you know. So, so if the outcome is you know dispelled point my career, I’ve been doing long enough. That that I’m not uncomfortable waiting in okay but some people are. Okay. So, I said, I always tell people away you get the best at it and say, hey, that’s something I should have courageously have communicated. I still need to courageously communicate it, because a problem still exists.
I’m going to go find somebody I trust, and I’m going to role play with them the communication process. I’m going to say it this way and you can get feedback before you do it and get somebody tell you not be might think of this or are even I don’t believe I’d say it? I don’t know that you’re right you know but people can help you when you when you just do it. And I think that’s the thing is if you’re uncomfortable just doing it.
To role play it and find somebody to help you with it that you admire that will give you good feedback that you trust and then go do it and then see how the chips fall and my again my experiences chips are going to fall in such a way that everybody was glad that it was raised up if you do it, it doesn’t it doesn’t have to be done, hot, it should be done cold you know? I mean…
Brad Wolff 27:07
Not emotionally driven
Howe Wallace 27:08
Not emotionally driven when you decide to do your courageous communication. I think it’s important to make the problem the boss, not the person. And so, if you can frame it is a problem, an issue that needs to be developed and worked on as compared to, hey, you did something wrong here. I think that that’s a key phrase that you can use in terms of working it out in your head to describe what the problem is, compared to the behavior. Hey, we don’t like the outcome here, what can we do to change it. Those are good ways to do courageous communication.
Brad Wolff 27:47
So, There are a few key points what I get from what you’re saying Howe, one of them is that you’re focusing on what the problem is, rather than the person being bad wrong or something else.
Brad Wolff 28:02
Another is that it’s a skill and skill is developed and the way most of us have learned to address things that we quote aren’t happy about is leads to more conflict. So, it’s really there’s a real teaching and learning process on how to do it well and you’re not living in your own head, because the internal dialogues in our own head are not very accurate and they often lead to creating a bigger problem.
Brad Wolff 28:34
So, what’s your definition of Personal Development?
Howe Wallace 28:40
I think probably the biggest thing is having a plan for it Is not again, I go back to that trade of intention. And so, a question that you can always you should always be prepared to answer is, is when it comes to your, your role as a professional in development. What are you working on? What are you trying to what are you trying to work on it and then the plan continues on out? But what’s your method. Who’s your coach what outcome you’re trying to achieve and it a point that that’s the best the guard against complacency is if you’re not working on something, you know the phrase we use is you’re not you’re not getting better.
You’re getting worse and we want to be in the we want to be in the business of getting better at what we did and that’s one of the things that I’ve learned you know I’m 64 years old and, in some respects, I’m as good as I’ve ever been in some aspects. So, while I might be declining and I’m not as good at basketball players. I once was. I’m a better executive and I would contend, it’s because I learned a while back that it’s better not to coast. It’s better to be waking up thinking about how you’re going to get better how the organization is trying to get better initiate action to make sure that that goes on.
Brad Wolff 30:12
So, would you expand a little bit about the term use that. Who’s your coach?
Brad Wolff 30:18
The issue is often people think of their development as just a solo job, so share a little bit more about what you mean in that area.
Howe Wallace 30:32
If you read any there’s some great books out these days, you know, the Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and the 10,000 hour you know Talent Is Overrated book I think the guy’s name is Tobias, who wrote it, but those books talked about the fact that that skill development comes from putting in a time and having a coach outside yourself who helps you get better than what you’re doing. Now sometimes you gotta coaches that are internal to your organization teams that you’re on. Sometimes you have to seek them out as mentors and sometimes their third party. You know, like the podcasts or the books or those kinds of things that you do, but I think it’s a proven deal it dealt developments accelerated when there’s outside feedback and outside contributions to what you’re doing and so I think having a coach, having someone you look up to somebody who can give you feedback about how you’re doing. And who’s a partner with you in the program knows what you’re trying to do all those things contribute to making development happens.
Brad Wolff 31:49
That is a great point and one that I think is very important for people to realize is that we can’t see ourselves accurately and we don’t know. We don’t know and that doing it on your own and thinking that that’s going to be effective is really a much more difficult slower process. And I think some people think that they may see it as weakness. If they asked for help, versus I should be able to do it myself.
Brad Wolff 32:19
Now, what do you see as the relationship between Leadership Effectiveness and Personal Development?
Howe Wallace 32:27
To me, they’re not really very different you know, one of the things I’ll ask people is when did you first identify as a leader, you know, and a lot of people don’t want to don’t identify as a leader and don’t think they are. And, you know, in my way of thinking you’re either leading or following and I don’t think anybody follows all the time. You know, so that your there’s their times in the world. When you’re the right person with the right idea and you know the right step to take and you need to be willing to lead it.
Time now for me though back. I started; I tell the story identify it as leader when I was in fourth grade. I was put in charge of my class softball team to play the other classes softball. By that time, I was already an organized sport and when we went out to play that team. I assess my classmates and put them in the right positions and we had to write batting order and we warmed up and we drilled and that other team showed up to play recreational softball and we kicked their butt. And as I was running off, we’re going back to class the other class teacher seek signal me out and said, Mr. Wallace.
That was one of the best examples of leadership. I’ve ever seen from fourth grader and that those words helped me identify as a leader for the rest of my days. So, I enter situations and arenas these days and all my life is I’m either looking for leadership or I’m looking to follow the leader. I’m looking to provide the leadership, but I won’t stick around in a situation where leadership doesn’t exist. And so, for me, leadership developments been a big part of my life and it’s something that I’m interested in and study. And so, it has a lot to do with my personal development as well.
Brad Wolff 34:31
So, capitalizing on what you just said that you look at as a study is seeing leaders. What I’m gathering from that, how is seen leadership as a profession, rather than just a task that you do?
Howe Wallace 34:45
Yeah, again at the site even said, I use the word I did to me leaders’ identity and it’s that’s even bigger than a profession.
That’s indeed. And so, I mean, when I’m thinking about leadership. You know, I want to. I’m sitting in Sunday school. I want to live in the class with a provocative thought or if my family and my three adult children and why you know I’m looking to lead that situation. If my kids weren’t on a softball to my kids were on the softball team that wasn’t being well coached, I volunteered to coach. Those are the kinds of things if I can bring skills to the situation that I see, I’m not reticent doing it. So, it is a lifestyle as far as I’m concerned.
Brad Wolff 35:39
It’s a way of being right. It isn’t just tasks. So, you you’ve elevated it way beyond what most people do. And the results and impact that you have as a result of looking at as a way of being rather than just something you need to do. As the results are obvious, and there’s a clear distinction between the way that you’re doing it and the way that people typically go about it.
Howe Wallace 36:02
And so, because of that, you know, Brad. I think it’s important you know like, like I said, everybody has to be willing to take their leadership opportunities and responsibilities when they’re presented to them. And so that’s why I asked that question, do you identify as a leader and if they don’t, I try to persuade them of the opportunities are missing to be leaders when leadership is called. And so, it’s a mean we see that all the time we, you know, the crises in our schools where kids don’t have the right kind of parental leadership. Well, you know, if you have kids, you need to step up as far as I’m concerned. you know, you need to step up and provide the leadership that they know what they need to do and get to where they need to go and it does have to be a social problem because everybody has the capability to lead and I think people shirk that responsibility, more than they should.
Brad Wolff 37:06
And I want to expand on that a little bit. Technically, the definition of leadership is influence or impact. So really, we’re all leaders. It’s just what is the impact? So, you can’t default outside of having a leadership role and certainly we’re leading ourselves. Even if we choose to follow, we’ve made a leadership choice to hand over so we can’t, we cannot abdicate being leaders in a real sense, in my opinion.
Howe Wallace 37:35
No, in fact, you know, I, you, yes, a while back, and I didn’t say this but you know one of my skills that I’ve developed as leaders, not so much the I don’t want to appear like I always run to the front of the class and take control but you know it’s helping to find out who the leaders are around, you know, being a student asking questions. You know, you do as I don’t know. Have you ever done gone out and done these field exercises where you’re doing the simulated exercises so that you can? You know, you get over a wall or you walk over a pole or you do those things that are outside outdoor challenge things.
And, you know, one of the things I learned a long time ago is the right question. There’re some people who think, Okay, we’re going to do this and someone just immediately jumps to the front and to me. The question is, is anybody ever done this exercise before and know how to get to know what the successful answer is so you know sometimes leadership is the right question. Sometimes leadership is working to define what the right problem is, but it’s not having all the answers, and it’s not always being the one who push the button
Brad Wolff 38:48
Exactly! And that’s, that’s really helpful that you clarified and expanded on some of the things that you said before. And the point about being a great leader is admitting that I think is admitting you don’t have all the answers, because if you know, then you can’t learn learning requires ignorance, because you can’t learn what if there’s no ignorance. So, what regular practices? Howe do you have that you feel help your effectiveness as a leader the most?
Howe Wallace 39:24
Well, you know the preparation pieces that I talked about. Take advantage of all the opportunities to stimulate thinking that I can but, but in terms of how I lead day to day and responsibilities, I try to be available. I tried to be close communication loops. Frequently, and so, you know, I try to be in touch with my folks and have them know that they can be in touch with me. If I would say most of my efforts on communication and making sure that text and emails and phone calls are made that people know I’m thinking about them and touch it in. I’m far from a micromanager my trust him to tell me what’s going on.
I’ve got I’m very I’m very conscious of what I’m good at and what I’m not. And so, I’m I found that I’ve been effective delegator in that regard. And so those kinds of things are you know what I do to be in touch with my folks and build a team and make sure they all have agendas move ahead.
Brad Wolff 40:46
And when you’re dealing with an employee that’s a very difficult employee? What are some things that advice that you give to leaders to help them improve or move on from the organization?
Howe Wallace 41:04
Well I think that’s exactly A. can’t you don’t suffer in silence. You know, like I said, you don’t let the problem fester. There, to me there’s no you gotta confront things as you see him that that need to be cured that need to be handled in a different fashion, you know, as you see him. A lot of times, as things go on and on and on until you get to the breaking point. I used to when I was an HR guy would teach our guys there there’s you guys know in every employment situation where you see something and you said that person may not make it. And the key is when you see that thing that causes you to think that it’s time that should be a trigger to do something about it and but frequently, it’s, it’s, they don’t do anything about it when they may not make it until they I’m not, I’m not comfortable with them stay in. And then, then that’s when they want to confront it and as you could have. You could have addressed it way down the road and have a chance to redeem somebody or get them on the right path. And I think a lot of terminations are because of our lack our failure to respond timely as compared to courageously communicate
Brad Wolff 42:25
That’s a great point because a lot of times it’s a leadership failure. That’s completely blamed on the employee when there’s shared responsibility in it. And what would you say is the biggest setback or obstacle that you’ve overcome that has actually been a key to your improvement and success?
Howe Wallace 42:47
Well, there’s all sorts of understanding, you know, I’m now I’ve been in business since I’ve been working in the business world and entered it in 1981 that time interest rates are 14 or 15%, I was brand new guy in the business world, and I didn’t have the perspective to understand that this too shall pass. And so again, as I mentioned before, preload trauma. I’m about getting to work, whatever the situation is. And so, but it took me two or three business cycles learn that, hey, this too shall pass is tough right this minute, don’t you know just keep on plugging was kind of do the do the right thing here and do the best we can and let the situation sort itself out. And so I can their setbacks.
There’s she built a brand new plant and 2000 you know 2007 and when we were getting ready to open it economic conditions were such that the plant that we thought we were going to be able to use. We never we just didn’t open, you know, we sat there with invested at 4 million bucks invested in infrastructure and all wired up, ready to go all the equipment sitting there and we just didn’t need it was a it was a plant that was going to be next at some plants we already had it did not have we didn’t need that capacity. We didn’t need to suffer through the learning cycle.
And so, to be able to look at our bank and who we’d borrow money from and say, hey, we’re just not going to do this right now because economic conditions that dip so fast. That those are those are an example of a tough decision to make that you do it, but I would have done it. If I hadn’t lived through other tough stuff before and the next thing that occurs. You know, we’ve had tough thing since the acquisitions, May we wish we hadn’t made or investments we wish we were didn’t come to fruition. It’s fast, what we’ve done and I’ve just learned head. Keep working the problem and if you if you do it as a team, you know, you might find the resources amongst shit to be able to solve it.
Brad Wolff 45:12
So, what I also hear from this is the willingness, just to be real honest that I’m not perfect. Everything I do isn’t accurate. I make mistakes. I have judgment lapses I’m human, and that willingness is the beginning step, I believe, of improvement because if you insist that you’re right in everything you did is great. You can’t learn and grow.
Howe Wallace 45:40
Yeah, it’s, you gotta have enough that you go to, not quit. And then, and not too much ego to force you to go longer down a bunny trail.
Brad Wolff 45:53
So, I want to kind of wrap up what you said about this too shall pass. What I’m gathering from that. And I want to make sure and clarified that I’m on the right track is the big leadership responsibility as being a calming force that takes a more long-term perspective rather than a freak out panic force that many leaders have
Howe Wallace 46:19
It just suddenly starts to sit back and say, Okay, this, this is a bad situation, what can we do right now to make today better than yesterday. And to bring it back into that mini arena and say this are what we’re going to do what we’re gonna do today. And then, you know, our goal is always an organization to pause many good days on top of each other as we can. But there’s going to be a bad and when that bad day occurs, it’s not you don’t. There’s a guy who writes it bad situation. No situations persistent is not personal. It’s not permanent, the three P’s, as I said, it’s not going to live whatever’s going on and gonna last forever. You, you probably put too much weight on it because of who you are and what you’re doing. And it’s not gonna, it’s not going to persist. It’s not a permanent situation there’s chances to improve where we are. And when you get all this free going on and we can keep that perspective as you’re going through it. You don’t have to. You don’t have to worry about what the future holds, because you do have an impact on making it better.
Brad Wolff 47:36
And Howe, What’s the funniest craziest experience you’ve had as a leader that you can actually share?
Howe Wallace 47:44
I tell you what I’ve thought about that question and I don’t know. I’m going to give it one of the I began to learn the power of people in our plants back in when I was an HR guy back in the 90s we decided that we were going to step up our communication with our employees, we’ve been doing some training and guy persuaded us,
Hey, you know, and you think about things about this long setup. But the thing was is that so many of our companies are leadership base and we make our decisions in the office and we walk out. So, this is a funny story, but it’s an illustrated story. And so, we had learned to start asking the people what the situation was and one of the most dramatic things I ever did. We had a customer that was coming aboard and they were going to be very big in the United States. And they called us at one point said, hey, we’ve gotten our first big breakthrough and we need you to build as many pallets as you can just tell us how many will give you an order for that. And it’s going to go that way for a long time and we went to our plan.
This was in rural Georgia. We sat. We sat and we sat and we decided how many we could do. And the number we came up with was 45,000 a month. And I remember saying to our guys. I said, let’s go out and ask people what they think they can do. And so, we went out and asked the team know leadership and Bob, I just said, hey, these guys are getting ready to ramp up they wonder how many towns that we could build and when they came back. They told us 53,000 and we said, okay, really tell us how you’re going to do that. They had a different Manning plan and we had a different scheduling plan that we had. And we said to them, at that point, said, hey, 53,000 we’re telling them we committed, we’re committed. And so, we went out and did that process.
And within six months, we were building 75,000 pounds at that location, a month for that, that one customer and trust in the people, all the way through it and for our organization that transformed us into how we thought about asking for contributions and so that same sentence. This is a funny story that may not make the edit boys another place we were in a plant in South Carolina that we just built and this is right after President Clinton instituted a tax increase after he became president and our CEO is telling I was sitting in the back of the room. Our CEO was talking and he was sitting there saying, hey, you know,
Taxes aren’t always our friend. In fact, we built this plant last year. And if we’d had the same tax rate. It’s just been enforced. We wouldn’t have been able to make this investment; you wouldn’t have this job that was the education that we’re giving our employees not to we learned not to always trust CVS to tell them what the thing and I sit next to a guy who was sitting right next to me and he was listening to this. He said, I just wrote it for the wrong, son of a bitch. It was a funny story. I’ll never forget. Again, that that we’re closer to the best interests of our employees and the press and the media and that we can’t be shy about telling it to them as best we can, again, transparency and we can talk about tax policy in a constructive way and two people can disagree. But does not always how you see it on a press and TV and taking responsibility for sharing some thoughts on those kinds of issues or important But I’ll never forget sitting next that guy and seeing it resonate with him, that he might have more than one way to think about who he votes for in the future.
Brad Wolff 51:49
That’s a great point. And what I get from that too is just be authentic, because people, people know what’s real. Anyway, so when you’re not being authentic, they know you’re not being real. It’s not like you’re fooling anyone so, and you build trust and credibility, then you can solve problems when you’re authentic because you’re dealing with what the problems are, So, how this has been very, very helpful and just to add just a little on the, you know, personal human side, you’re a big football fan.
Howe Wallace 52:21
Brad Wolff 52:21
Football season is right upon us. You went to the same school. I did. So, I imagine you’re a fan of the same team.
Howe Wallace 52:29
Brad Wolff 52:30
Okay, so what I’m curious about is there any reduction in your learning and growth podcast use during football season?
Howe Wallace 52:40
Now, you know, again, I’ve given a lot of that up. I’ll sometimes just take it maybe is the VM. I’m not in a mood to concentrate.
I’ll still put on Paul Finebaum and listen to what what’s going on South on football, it’s, it’s fascinating to me and during the season. There’s particularly you get exposed to a little bit more coaches being interviewed and that kind of stuff, too. So, I really learned there been very many times I’ve been listening to an interview of a coach, and I’ll give you one story and then we’ll be done but I was listening one time to Pat Summitt the great basketball coach at the University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach, he’s passed away now and she was talking about, as a young coach that one of her great learnings was that she learned that she could and had to demand more from our players that she had to be able to challenge them to be better at what you’re doing and demand more, and I realized that I was fairly soft on people and that I could step up my leadership by saying, guys, there’s more out here.
There’s more meat on the bone. There’s more. We can go after there’s a way to improve our effort and it changed at that one thought change my approach immediately to how I looked at situations and so being able to end the season. Listen to coaches Nick Saban talk about his process or Urban Meyer talk about his things those are those are those are things that resonate with me and I’ll, I’ll get a tidbit every once awhile. That’s gold.
Brad Wolff 54:22
Well, you know what I’m actually gonna vote for you reclassifying that listening to learning and development.
Howe Wallace 54:29
Yeah. Thank you
Brad Wolff 54:30
Really all you’re doing is learning, learning and development how is that?
Howe Wallace 54:33
Unless just listen to all those people brag on each other about their teams.
Brad Wolff 54:40
Howe, it has been an honor and a privilege and I’m excited when people get to hear this because there’s so many tidbits that are practical real authentic not pie in the sky that you share that can benefit any listener and I want to thank you very much for graciously taking the time because I know you probably would have had something else to do. If you weren’t doing this
Howe Wallace 55:06
Yeah! Brad. Thank you for asking me, and again, I appreciate the Pallet Association from point you in my direction. So, I hope it was worth your effort.
Brad Wolff 55:16
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