Brad Blevins: Leaders Ensure a Workplace Free from Mediocrity and Morons

This week we did an interview with Bradford Blevins, a former US Army soldier, a Managing Partner and result-oriented Organizational Strategy Advisor from gothamCulture. He is focused on ensuring organizations can define their value proposition, mitigate process inefficiencies, reduce operating costs, and provide the highest quality products & services; all while leveraging the organization’s leadership strengths and culture.

Working closely with federal and defense agencies, he brings an interesting perspective when comparing them with the private sector.

He also shares some insight on leadership based on more than ten years of experience in management consulting and strategic planning.

What are the key factors for a well managed organization?

Processes Defined: without corporate processes for basic organizational functions (how you do, what you do) it is difficult to set expectations, hold staff accountable or ensure consistency in how the business is run and/or how products and services are developed.

Flat, non-hierarchical, ‘thought’ inclusiveness: any well run organization should promote a culture that allows for stakeholders at all levels of the organization to provide feedback, insights, new concepts, ideas, and dialogue building.

Fostering innovation like this helps make the organization run better and give everyone a stake in the development better product and services that meet customer requirements and/or expectations.

People or Customer Focus (that is the question): Cart or Horse, Horse or Cart. You cannot lead with both. Any organization that says they focus equally on their people and their customer aren’t truly focusing equally, or fairly, on either.

It sounds better to say both; however, is far less contradictory or confusing, and allows for better alignment of resources, processes and investments, if a firm chooses to focus on one or the other.

You will, no doubt, always do things to ensure success in both–and for both–of these groups. You will, no doubt, see greater return on investment if you get honest with yourself up front and state that one of these is your main focus, and then ensure those processes, policies, investments and decisions align to that stated focus. At gothamCulture, we choose our people. If the people are trained, heard, and taken care of, they will in turn take care of the customers and it’s a win-win for all parties involved. Choose your horse.

Tactical and Strategic Balance: Never forget that both of these managerial lenses are critical to your organizational success.

It takes today’s tactical operations, staff, and clients to bring in revenue, mature products/services as they are applied in the field, and to uphold and deliver your brand and culture consistently.

It takes tomorrow’s strategic planning to understand how to bridge the gap from today’s tactical operations to the company you want to become in the future. Always keep both in perspective.

What sort of mistakes are common among entrepreneurs, when coming up with long term strategies for a company?

Entrepreneurs are constantly under pressure to limit longer-term strategy conceptualization or investment in longer-term strategic moves. Smaller businesses tend to have limited resources today that can be applied to what larger companies would call R&D (Research & Development) for tomorrow.

Investments in your people and bench strength, technology, and assets that may or may not be required for immediate return may seem unreasonable considering how much capital may presently be on hand.

While any good entrepreneur is always–and should always–assess ROI, they should remind themselves to consider the old business saying, “you have to spend money to make money”.

Thinking through the ROI or Business Case for investment options that balance a small business portfolio between short-term, mid-term and longer-term revenue generation is the best option for any entrepreneur.

What is the leader’s role in a workplace and how has it changed during recent years?

A leader’s role is to ensure a productive, mission-oriented workplace that is free from over-management, mediocrity and morons.

A leader ensures a culture of change, possibility, innovation and success by accepting vulnerability. We must fail at times to success in the long-term.

This is a change from the older, more traditional focus that a leader’s job is to command and /or dictate priorities and tasks. Instead, today’s successful leaders must inspire through questions and mutual discovery with staff.

Based on your experience, have most companies managed to adapt to the 21st century business climate that is dominated by technology and the Internet (and millennials)?

Technology, yes, for the most part. It is leveraged, encouraged and embraced.

Millennials; well, the word is still out. Companies want to say they have adapted to millennials; however, we’re in a transition phase, where organizations have more millennials than X’ers or Baby-Boomers. The shift and adaptation to millennials is being forced, naturally, now by the law of aging in the workplace.

Most companies, from a positive perspective, are planning and talking about how to best manage and run a company for and with millennials. However, implementation in practice is proving more challenging than many expected right now. Keep the conversation going and we will all find a way together.

When putting together a strategy for a company, how important are work culture and values compared to maximizing profits and growth? Is company culture as important as many believe or is it more like a buzz word?

A strategy is very critical for an organization. A strategy, however, is nothing more than words on a page if the behaviors, values and overall culture of the organization is not in place, well defined, and alive to bring that strategy to fruition.

Strategy is implemented through the culture and values of the people that move the organization towards that strategy. To answer your question: Yes. Your culture, as defined by the collective values, assumptions and behaviors in your organization, is critical to driving strategy.

You’ve worked with federal and defense agencies. Is there a big difference in culture and values, when you compare it with the private sector?

Absolutely. The organizational culture is more consistent and hierarchical in Defense.

At the end of the day, when a 2 star admiral or senior executive within the halls of defense or legislature makes a decision, the ‘troops’ follow suit and get in line. In the private sector, that is not always the case.

The private sector encourages more open-ended thinking, dialogue, questioning, and collaborative solutions; sometimes to the detriment of being able to make a sound final decision that all can align with.

In my opinion both sectors can learn from one another; success lies in a mixture of both cultures (the best of both worlds): Collaborative dialogue and solutions with a final decision being made, followed, and held accountable.

What do you think the main challenges will be for running a company in 2020?

  • Talent: Recruiting & KEEPING talented and skilled employees, especially around millennials and the generations to follow, given the generations’ changing values.
  • Cloud: For those that aren’t there yet, moving from a paper based to a completely cloud based administration & operations system.
  • Markets: Finding niche markets in overly saturated markets. This may require international versus only national focus for smaller and mid-size firms