A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Leadership Done Right

“If you’re going to copy someone, use some sense and copy someone who is doing it right.”
Heather Kinzie

I have had the pleasure of working with The Chariot Group for nearly three months and last week, enjoyed three of the four “kick off” days for the new year. Rick Thomas and Denise Thomas bring everyone together for four days to regroup, plan and otherwise enjoy each other’s time and talents. They also thank their staff by throwing a big party at the end of the four days…and they invite other stakeholders to join in the fun so they can better develop relationships with everyone.

Rick and Denise

I have known Rick and Denise for a few years so I have always known they are great people, but this post serves to summarize my “ah ha” moments about them as leaders. Lest you think I am simply bragging about them because they are my part-time employers, know this: I am a consultant by trade and have no problems being critical about sub-par leadership and management practices. I didn’t get into this business to placate people and I don’t plan on starting now.


Rick and Denise are transparent in nearly all aspects of their business. They don’t believe in full disclosure but they do believe in sharing as much as possible to gain understanding, acceptance and buy-in. They understand transparency is essential to ensure both the spirit of and the reasons for the decision are understood and followed. They understand that knowing the why is invaluable. And finally, they understand transparency, when possible, helps employees become advocates of a plan, rather than simply being pawns who only execute the plan.

Part in parcel with transparency is owning up to vulnerabilities, mistakes or failures; these things don’t make us weak but instead, demonstrate courage and liberate us to grow and improve. Rick and Denise, by allowing their employees to see their flaws or misfortunes, are building the relationship, modeling healthy communication and empowering their staff to do the same.

Team/Staff Engagement

Rick and Denise facilitate and inspire collaboration and engagement. Trust me, they have every excuse NOT to in that they’ve got staff in four different states, they’ve got staff in the field, they’ve got staff in “outside meetings” galore, Slide1etc. However, they are not satisfied with excuses and they strive for active communication, active engagement and “group think.” Furthermore, they know they are responsible for providing the necessary resources when collaboration is needed.

Rick and Denise provide numerous technological solutions aimed at facilitating meaningful long-distance engagement. (Of course, given their business, they have these in spades.) However, they also encourage group discussion and brainstorming by modeling it with their own teams. They empower their staff to “talk it out” by suggesting ample discussion or promoting question/answers. Finally, they demonstrate their commitment to group engagement by being patient with the time it takes to make it happen.

Team/Staff Commitment

Rick and Denise drive employee commitment in numerous ways and ironically, one of them is by inviting their teams to not live/breathe The Chariot Group’s work. They often remind employees, through their words and their actions, that “life” and health important, family and friends are important, school is important, etc. Then, they grant permission to staff to take care of those things. In other words, they clearly communicate that they care about their employees. Their employees, in kind, respond with caring about the organization and committing even further. (I call this the “give a darn boomerang.” Show me you give a darn about me and I will, in turn, give a darn about you.)

Rick and Denise also build staff commitment by showing sincere excitement about the work, the future, etc. Rick, in particular, consistently communicates how excited he is about an idea, a solution, a plan, etc. It is contagious and you can see and feel the energy spread to the employees. (Trust me, I’ve seen non-sincere or forced cheerleading sessions; they are very painful and in stark contrast to a meeting or discussion where Rick is successful at getting people energized or on board with a plan.)

Making Work Fun

Rick and Denise are pretty fun people; one needs only see them in a social setting to recognize this as FACT. They are also very, very serious about work and again, one needs only to see them here to validate this. But the two things need not live separately here at The Chariot Group! Both owners not only find the balance in their own way but recognize their staff’s sweet spot between the two is going to be different from their own.

Case in point: “Increasing the Fun to Misery Ratio” was the name of a three-hour presentation during the “kick off week” wherein all employees were in attendance. Think about that – two owners invited every employee to learn how to increase the joy they have at work. They wasn’t a mandatory session on getting more done with less, or a session on prioritizing and follow through, or some obligatory lecture about being more efficient. Instead, the employees were invited to identify what they enjoyed doing and were permitted to figure out a way to do more of that while still getting the work done. The employees loved it! Each became more self-aware and made a plan to make some changes…not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the organization.

It is possible that we can get a lot done…a heckuva lot done…while laughing and enjoying ourselves. Rick and Denise recognize the benefit in a happy and joyful team and they pro-actively engage in activities that increase the likelihood of such.

So there’s a few of my “ah ha” moments; thanks for taking time to read my insights about two people I believe are demonstrating good leadership; feel free to copy them!

You can connect with Rick or Denise via LinkedIn, or you can follow Rick on Twitter or find him via his blog, the Unknownium.

Best of luck to you in your leadership journey!
CollaborationCommunicationEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEngagementGood FaithHappinessLeadershipPerformance ManagementSatisfactionTeamworkWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • January 19, 2016

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