Leadership and Supporting Employee Potential with Paul Green

Welcome to episode 93 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss Leadership and Supporting Employee Potential with Paul Green, Chief Development Officer of Angel MedFlight.

Original Recording Date: 09-16-2020

Topics – Leadership and Supporting Employee Potential

02:12 – Meet Paul Green

  • Paul Green is the Chief Development officer at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance and was the CIO (Chief Information Officer) when he started with the company.
  • Paul held the title of CIO at his previous company as well.
  • He started in IT in 1998 as a kid thrust into a Network Administrator position at a public company. No one else there knew much about computers.
    • The CFO was confident Paul knew more than other employees at the company.
    • Paul shares a story about working as a night auditor while in college and setting up the new property management system for a fellow employee who struggled to get it right.
  • Listen to the challenges of running Dell Optiplex hardware on Windows 98 from back in the day. Paul compares the difference in computer setup then vs. now.
    • Coming through the ranks back then required real learning. Multiple iterations were required to get better.
    • IT now is about software more than hardware (was previously more about hardware).
    • There were few best practices back then and a lot of people just figuring things out on their own.
  • This past experience allows Paul to think about things different than others.
    • Instead of thinking outside the box, Paul didn’t realize there was a box in the first place.
    • Paul did not start in IT to do things a certain way. He was doing his own thing and followed his father and grandfather’s examples of doing things right the first time.
    • Something as simple as zip tying wires inside a server case mattered. Attention to the small details communicates to others that you are about the work you are doing.
    • "The details are what really count in IT." – Paul Green
    • The difference in having a nice application and having a really good application is the details. Take Instagram vs. Facebook for example.
    • John mentions the idea of polish as an accumulation of many details. Think inside the box before you start thinking outside.
  • Is this attention to detail Paul mentioned something managers appreciate today?
    • It depends on the manager’s experience. Paul had a CFO who cared nothing about details (only completion) and contrasts with his current CFO who cares about every detail.
      • It was more about how "clean" something was done, which lends itself well to paying attention to details.

11:44 – Management vs. Leadership

  • Paul has seen the entire spectrum of management.

    • If Paul is not willing to do something himself, he should never have to ask an employee to do it.
    • He likes to work alongside his employees to accomplish goals while simultaneously helping support their growth.
    • "It’s not my job to tell you how to do your job. It’s my job to help you figure out how to do it on your own." – Paul Green
    • Paul likes to ask questions and use analogies to help employees think through a situation. It’s important to pay attention to how employees learn and understand things.
    • Paul enjoys having lunch with employees to understand their personality, how they interact, and how they work.
    • "I don’t have supervisors, and I don’t have managers. I only have leaders."
    • Every single person with a staff is a leader whose job is to make the people below them better, which subsequently makes the leader better and the organization better.
    • Paul references Start with Why by Simon Sinek as a great read.
      • He started a book club inside the company, and they are currently reading Start with Why. The next book will be Talking to Strangers. Understand why you are doing something, and learn how to talk to the people for which you are doing it.
    • IT leaders need to put together the right IT to accomplish the company’s mission. Understand operations within the company to associate the proper IT with the organization.
      • Stop worrying about what a new tech product is. Find the one that fits the situation and goal the best. Tag lines, terms, and fancy acronyms don’t mean much. What gives my company’s goal the best chance to succeed?
    • Nick references Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni and mentions many employees have trouble making the connection between what they do and the purpose of the company.
      • Paul says giving someone a purpose helps them excel.
      • When speaking of his current company, Paul says they don’t change the world. But, the people the company has helped might just change the world one day because of a second chance.
      • Paul lets his employees know they don’t just do IT. Employees are the fundamental underlying reason why Angel MedFlight can do what it does…change people’s lives. Being better at the job helps people facing the patients be better at their job.
      • We have to ensure people understand the role they play in these outcomes.
      • This is a challenge in large organizations. We discuss VMware, Apple, Chick-Fil-A, In-N-Out Burger as examples of companies with very overwhelmingly positive morale and how this creates customer loyalty.
      • John references Idiocracy and an example of a very unenthusiastic employee in a Costco in the movie.
      • Enthusiasm for your organization is infectious. Paul wants to feel that when people from other organizations talk with him.
  • How do leaders get people on board in a way that isn’t just saying the words?

    • Don’t tell someone how to do something. Show them what a company means to you so others can be onboard.
    • Paul tries to be relatable to others as much as possible and shares an interesting story about a discussion with the CFO about his influence on employees.
      • Consistently showing employees that you aren’t going to lead them down the wrong path builds rapport and trust.
      • Showing employees that anything is possible encourages them to think in a similar manner.
      • For those just starting out in IT, say yes to what you’re asked to do unless there’s no way you can do it. Take time to learn how, and use proper resources.
        • Be willing to do what it takes, and ask for more work.
      • When you have spare time, asking a leader for something else to work on shows your dedication. This helps the leader put you in a position to get more work that is a greater challenge. Paul shares a great example of how he has done this for an existing employee and how it changed that person’s trajectory and increased self-esteem.
        • John points out this is a stretch goal and that leaders can help make employees successful in getting to those goals.
        • Paul says if something is a huge stretch, help prepare the employee for it in chunks. Give projects which allow the employee can succeed, and build on that.
  • 33:16 – Detecting and Supporting Employee Potential

    • Sometimes people surprise you. Paul has hired many people over the years.
    • During the hiring process, Paul seeks to ask questions a certain way to determine if the employee is committed to their work and will give full effort.
      • Some of the questions are outlandish. He asks real world questions to test the thought process.
      • Paul is looking for thought process, attitude, mindset, and whether the person is a fit with the team more so than the educational background.
      • A team is better than one person. Paul mentions Moneyball and its ties to the formation of a team.
        • The highest draft pick may not make the team better. It’s about how you will integrate the new team member.
        • Looking outside IT is fine. For help desk, find someone who can communicate, describe the thought process behind what they are doing, etc.
        • Look at the role, and find the right fit for the role (i.e. skills fit vs. traditional background).
        • Paul shares a great story about his lead developer (a Marine who was the lead mechanic on a helicopter and held a job deployed on a boat for a number of years). The environment in which this person worked was very different than those many in IT work in today.
        • Putting together people from different background and different walks of life is almost like putting together a team of superheroes. Paul’s team is a unique group that really gels well together and has delivered some amazing outcomes. "The box doesn’t exist for my team."
        • Nick mentions Range by David Epstein and how Paul’s team seem to fit into the premise that generalists triumph in a specialized world.
        • Paul shares a great example of how a generalist would be best fit for a Security Specialist role and relates this to how the CIA makes their hires.
    • Current leaders need to be setting up employees for long-term success.
      • Someone once asked Paul why he wanted to train people to make them better for the company. This person was afraid this would make the employees so much better that they leave.
        • Some people will leave and move on no matter what.
        • Set people up for success. They may leave eventually, but you will get the best out of the employee while they are at your company. Otherwise, you may be settling for mediocre employees.
        • A mediocre employee who improves is a positive impact on other employees and will infect the entire team.
      • Helping people on the path to success will help you as a leader.
      • One of Paul’s favorite things is watching people grow. Seeing the excitement when someone proves they can do what they never thought they could is extremely empowering.

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  • Ep93: John White

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