Betty’s Show Notes
Leading without a title: it’s tough, it’s risky, it’s not always as efficient as leading with a title. And sometimes you feel like you’re running uphill because you’re often seen as having no authority. But leadership goes beyond the CEO or the shareholder or owner, but they are not the only person in the organization who matters.
And even though I have a title now, I still lead without a title. It takes trust. People want to follow you when they can trust you. Trust is earned and developed over time, it’s not easy, and it requires a focus on helping, serving, consistency, and a genuine concern for the job and the people you are responsible for. It takes a lot of time and effort to build all that and to learn to look for opportunity.
Join me as I talk with Janet Smith Meeks about this other type of leadership in part two of our two-part interview.
Janet Smith Meeks, Healthcare Alignment Advisors
Janet Smith Meeks has devoted nearly four decades of her professional life to the healthcare and financial services industries. As a C-suite executive and corporate director, she has vast experience in finance, strategy, operations, marketing, business development and leadership effectiveness.
Janet has served in executive roles for four nationally known healthcare systems, including Trinity Health (the second largest Catholic Healthcare system in the nation) and the prestigious Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Janet spent nine years as president of Mount Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio where she led the organization to peak performance through applying the key ingredients of Gracious Leadership.
As co-founder and CEO of Healthcare Alignment Advisors, Janet uses her experience to guide C-suite executives across multiple industries in strategies that are designed to optimize corporate performance within a positive work environment.
Janet is the author of Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before.
“Inspiring Women” Podcast Series
“Inspiring Women” is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. The show is hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and presented by Brady Ware and Company. Brady Ware is committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home. Past episodes of “Inspiring Women” can be found here.
Betty: [00:00:28] Leading, it doesn’t take a title. Leadership is such a hot topic in today’s world. We have tremendous amounts of leadership areas – between our homes, our businesses, at school, the community, and, dare I say, politics. People are looking for leaders.
Betty: [00:00:47] Leadership, to me, is simple. It’s pure influence. You don’t have to have a title to do that. Sometimes, the title obviously makes it easier. It’s why I’m doing a podcast about this topic. This is part two on leading. Today, we’re going to talk about leading, no title needed.
Betty: [00:01:07] I just want to give you a quick summary of my last podcast, in case you didn’t get to listen to it; I would challenge you to listen to it. Really, we talked about leadership being influence. It starts with you.
Betty: [00:01:18] You have to own when you lead. Your mindset has to be open to many types of different change, and circumstances; you have to be willing to look at things totally different sometimes. The most important thing is you’ve got to show up every day when you lead. Yesterday is over.
Betty: [00:01:36] Be responsible with your time. We also talked a lot about that. When you do finally get to have a title where you can influence, be responsible. Make sure you’re using it for the good. Then we ended with Janet Meeks. She’s the author of “Gracious Leadership.” You will really love her interview today. You’re going to just really get into it.
Betty: [00:01:55] Leading without a title, it can be really tough. It’s risky. It’s not as efficient, sometimes. You feel like you’re running uphill. You are perceived, really, as having no authority. It takes a lot of depth of commitment. Leadership goes beyond the CEO. It goes be beyond the shareholder, or the owner. They are necessary, by all means. We have to have somebody there, but they’re not the only people in the organization that lead.
Betty: [00:02:24] Many years ago, I was not the owner. This was before I was the owner. I was the employee, and I absolutely led without a title. It frustrated some of the owners within that organization, because I was treated like an owner by my peers. I had the respect, and it paid off for me. Even today, as the owner, there are times I still lead from behind, without the title. Then, eventually, I had a lot of reward because of that hard work. I get to lead my office. I serve on the board of directors. I direct a women’s initiative at Brady Ware.
Betty: [00:03:02] I didn’t always have the titles, but I have them now. I guarantee you, I’m still leading without a title. What does it take to do that? Well, it takes trust. If you’re going to lead without a title, it will take trust. It’s the simple truth. People simply want to follow you, when they can trust you. Trust is earned, and it’s developed over time, and it is not easy.
Betty: [00:03:27] To be trusted, there’s just some real minimums. You have things that you have to do to be trusted. First, you have to do what you say you’re going to do. If you say it, then you better do it. You have to focus on helping, and serving. You certainly have to be consistent. Nobody likes a leader who is not consistent, and they never know where they’re coming from. You have to genuinely care about the people, and what it is you’re doing.
Betty: [00:03:56] Who do you trust in life, right now, and why? Is that you? Do you act that way? Believe me, it takes a lot of time and effort to build that. Never underestimate that. When you’re leading without a title, trust is the core to what you’re doing. It also takes a lot of patience to lead without a title.
Betty: [00:04:15] I came across a really great quote from [00:04:18] Robin S. Sharma. I [00:04:22] like this visual that he kind of gives. “I want you to think about a farmer in a field, totally barren; acres and acres of it. Then I want you to picture it totally, totally full of beautiful high, growing, green corn stalks. Think of those two pictures. All it is is that the farmer has patience, and he trusts the process. He just has the faith, and the deep understanding that through daily efforts, the harvest is going to come. Then, one day, almost out of nowhere, there it is, and you have this field full of good, really good corn to pick.” Let’s take that quote to your world. Patience, trusting your process, and knowing that through daily effort, the harvest is going to come.
Betty: [00:05:15] For the listener today who is the leader with the title, start thinking about those leaders in your company that don’t have a title. You know who they knowledge, and hopefully you’ll do something about it. In order to lead without a title – trust, patience … You have to be the solution, and not the victim. You have to look for the opportunity, if morale is down, culture’s tanked, piles of work are overwhelming, turnovers keep happening … The employee from hell sits next to you. In fact, if you were the title- had the title of HR Director, you would probably ask them to be alumni, the first day you were on. Clients expect way too much. Some of the clients owners think are great, and they’re really not. They should also become alumni. Does this sound familiar to you? By the way, every business, every organization has these issues.
Betty: [00:06:06] The difference is how those who lead handle it, title or not. Be the solution, and not the victim, and look for that opportunity. When people are negative, be positive. When the work piles are high, figure out how to prioritize them. Look for opportunity. You’ve got to observe your surroundings to see that opportunity, so that you – you – can save the day.
Betty: [00:06:31] Here’s a quote I found: “Sometimes, saving the day is pretty uncomfortable. Sometimes, being the leader without the title, when there’s a titled person right next to you, isn’t real comfortable, but the more you leave your comfort zone, the bigger your comfort zone becomes”
Betty: [00:06:46] In order to lead without a title, you have to have the mindset of a leader. Remember, great leaders talk about vision and ideas, not others. Having that mindset, when you’re leading without a title, of a true leader – it’s a choice every day. You have to choose to be your best. If you really believe what you’re doing matters, and if you really have purpose, and a vision of the future, then that choice is easier.
Betty: [00:07:13] Those are key things that you have to have. [00:07:16] You have to truly … It matters in a vision. [00:07:18] I really have that in my life. I really believe in the marketplace, the business world, the economy, and that accounting has a role to play in that. The success of the marketplace then ensures that the employees that work there have provision for their households; those households, or communities in which we work, and all play, so it matters what I do. It matters what my peers do. That’s a key component, when you want to make the choice to be the best every day. Then I have a vision of what that marketplace can look like, and you’ve got to be able to perceive, or show that, and influence those around you.
Betty: [00:07:56] To be a leader without a title, it takes ability. You’ve got to be able to create value. It’s what leaders do, title or nothing. There’s nothing worse than being busy at something, and working hard for really very little value. Let me put it to you this way, why would you paint a car, overhaul its entire interior, put a new stereo system in, if there wasn’t an engine in the car? The car really has no value, and everything you’re doing around it has no value. Doesn’t matter that it’s got cleaned-up paint look, right? If you can’t create value, you probably should walk away from the organization you work for, or volunteer for.
Betty: [00:08:39] If you aren’t perceived as value, maybe you should consider that, or you create the value, and you seize the opportunity. If you’re so good that they can’t ignore you … If they do, maybe they need to- maybe you need to reconsider things, but if you’re so good that they can’t ignore you, that influence will continue to go on, and you will lead, because you’re not just good; you’re probably really great at what you do. Take time to make sure that your game is not just good, but great, and add that value.
Betty: [00:09:11] Leaving without a title, you’ve got to put people first. My team is led by my tax manager, Loranί, who decided for ’19 that our mission and tagline would be, “People, purpose, and process.” Accounting is not exactly real motivating – spreadsheets, software, the new rules, the new laws – but the people it affects, and the process, how it gets done, can be inspiring, because you can see, again, what we do matters. The people getting it done, and the process, then, to get it done is crucial.
Betty: [00:09:47] You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. There is nothing like a leader who takes all the glory. You know who those are. Most importantly about it, don’t get trapped into the mindset that you give up your influence as that leader without a title, because you just don’t think you have any. Putting people first – huge, huge deal.
Betty: [00:10:12] I searched the internet to find examples of leaders that were behind the scenes. There’s plenty of them, but the one that really caught my eye was a janitor of a school, middle school, at that, with about 900 kids. Imagine the mess every day. The janitor, Mr. Eugene, as the students called him, was given a standing ovation by the kids, and the teachers of the school for his service; service of a thankless job.
Betty: [00:10:38] He did it with such grace. He did it by greeting kids every morning, by high five, by bumping the fist; always smiling, and not complaining. If a mess needed cleaned up, he just did it. He accepted this award so humbly. I cannot imagine those kids, as I watched them stand and cheer him on, and high five with him, I cannot imagine that they will never not stop talking about Mr. Eugene in their middle school. He was the janitor. This is how he conducted his life.
Betty: [00:11:12] I end with this thought: become the leader you want. You may just be surprised at the results, not just on your professional life, but on your personal life, as well. Never get trapped up in thinking you can’t lead without a title, and have influence. Leading with a title – use it responsibly. Leading without a title – it takes courage, and perseverance, which can result in such fulfillment, and reward.
Betty: [00:11:41] The last podcast, I interviewed Janet Meeks, who is the author of “Gracious Leadership.” You want to stay tuned for another interview with her. It’s really going to be good. It’s going to blow you away.
Betty: [00:11:51] Today we’ve been talking about leadership without a title. It’s my privilege today to have someone who truly is an amazing leader. Janet Smith Meeks has devoted nearly four decades of her professional life to healthcare, and financial-services industries. She is an amazing executive, and director, and she wrote a really, really great book, “Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before.” I’ve read this book. and it really is just impactful with such simple things. It’s amazing what the power of those simple things can create in leadership.
Betty: [00:12:26] I’m just so thrilled to have you here today, Janet. We’re going to just talk a little bit about leadership from your perspective. Leaders without a title – the podcast is a tougher one, because leading without a title can be harder. Really, to me, leadership is influence. Janet, I’ve got a couple of questions about leading without a title. Leaders without a title, obviously, must lead through influence. Would you share an example of how you led through influence earlier in your career, when you didn’t have the C-suite title?
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:13:01] Absolutely, Betty. For the overwhelming majority of my career, I was not in a line function with a lot of employees. I was in a staff function, such as leading strategic planning, or marketing, where I definitely had employees, but I didn’t have the 1,900 employees that I was blessed to follow when I was at St. Anne’s.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:13:23] You take me back to my early days at my first employer, which was Bank of Mississippi, now BancorpSouth. I was a management trainee, and then immediately after that was named the administrative officer, and was an assistant for Mr. Patterson.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:13:42] Mr. Patterson asked me if I would coordinate the bank’s responsibility associated with a 10k run call the Gumtree Run. It had about 2,000 runners. That may not sound like a big responsibility, but to a 24-year-old kid, it was a big deal.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:14:03] It was important, because it was my responsibility to make sure that we had every intersection covered with a guard, who was trained to know when to be there, what to do, when they can leave. I was barely known in the bank, but I had to start building relationships with people, getting to know them, being kind in my conversations with them, which, by the way, was the only way I knew how to be, but, then, asking them for their help.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:14:32] We did that. We were able to successfully staff this race for several years without incident. The main thing, after the event was over, was taking time to celebrate, and to thank them, and to give those volunteers the credit for the great work they had done. Yes, I had organized it – Mr. Patterson knew that – but we wanted to give to the praise to the people who were on the front line, really making it matter.
Betty: [00:14:59] That’s one of the key things is giving the right people the right credit. A bad leader takes all the credit, when they really-
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:15:07] Always.
Betty: [00:15:08] -when you’re only as good as your team.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:15:09] The bad leader takes the credit when things go well. When they don’t go well, they point the fingers at others.
Betty: [00:15:16] Right. You led a large hospital for almost a decade. Please share some examples of the employees who led without that title.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:15:26] I think of two or three examples. First of all, let’s talk about environmental-services employees, where they all have exactly the same title; maybe they’re an Environmental Tech I. Even within a group of 10 or 20 housekeepers, leaders will emerge. They can emerge either as naysayers, who are going to want to take the group into a dark place, or they can emerge as positive forces that can help to unify the team, and provide value to the organization.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:16:03] It happened every time, and thankfully, most of the leaders that we had, the informal leaders, wanted to help. What I see that they do is that if a manager needs some extra work to be done, a good leader without a title would raise his or her hand and say, “I want to do it.” A good leader without a title, if some negative information was being spread, would choose to take a positive stance, and to help his or her colleagues see the reality of what is being discussed; not to immediately go to a place of negativity.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:16:44] Nurses … We have lots of front-line nurses, but it’s within the ranks of those nurses that the clinical manager, or the charge nurse will emerge. How we identify the next rising leader within nursing would be to see who, from our front-line nurses, has asked to have stretch assignments; has gone above and beyond the call of duty; has been a positive influence in conversations with his or her colleagues.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:17:17] I think it’s really important for people without a title to really think of it this way: “I don’t have a title yet, but how I show up, and the work that I’m doing every day can actually position me well to have that title that I would want to have one of these days.”
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:17:38] Then, really, there’s a third category that I would like to mention, because I think all too often people miss out on the power of the individuals in these positions. Those are the executive assistants to the C-suite leaders. Although they might not have a title that has the word chief in it, like Chief Executive Officer, the Executive Assistants command a lot of control within organizations. They are the gatekeepers to the executives. They know what’s going on. I would say it’s always a wise thing to befriend the Executive Assistants within any organization. They’re very important people.
Betty: [00:18:21] Good advice. Great advice, in fact. Well, our last podcast, you shared some lessons of leadership that you learned outside of your workplace. Can you talk about any examples where leaders outside of that workplace, they didn’t have that fancy title, but they had a maximum impact?
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:18:38] I think of a couple of examples, Betty. One takes me all the way back to kindergarten, where one of the teachers, Mr. E.O. White, a very precious man, sat with me at the table. I was writing my “N”s backwards. Instead of telling me, “You’re doing that incorrectly,” he sat down with me, and guided my hand, and showed me how to write the “N” the right way.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:19:09] That really struck me, and I have held on to that moment, that memory, forever, because it helped me to understand that instead of telling our employees what you’re doing wrong, it’s our responsibility to show them what they need to do to get it right.
Betty: [00:19:28] Very good.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:19:29] That was really impactful at the age of four, or five. Then, probably not surprising to you, the other two individuals who, outside the workplace, have had the most impact on my life are my parents. I shared a bit last week about my father, and the stance that he took, and the courage that he displayed in the midst of the 1960s.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:19:51] Another comment about my father: he was a very busy attorney, and would be all over the country representing his clients, but I don’t ever remember a single time when he missed one of my basketball games. That meant a lot to me. It showed me he cared, and it showed me how much, frankly, that he loved me. He was also the first person, after the game was over, who wanted to go home, and debrief every play of the game.
Betty: [00:20:18] Sure.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:20:19] My mother, in a slightly different way. She never graduated college. She did attend college, but she was a bank teller, and she was very much a community volunteer. She was the president of the PTA. It was my mother, who role-modeled kindness, consideration, and thoughtfulness that has really helped to shape and form me into the person that I am today. I really think, at the end of the day, that although they don’t have titles, per se, as we would view them in the workplace, there probably is no more important title than mother, or father.
Betty: [00:20:57] Right. That influence is so needed in your life, as a child; as an adult child, it still is. In corporate America, of course, we always hear it’s better with more, or with less. What can leaders do without a title to create more value to the organization, and also to grow professionally?
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:21:15] I think there’s a ton of potential for leaders without a title to grow professionally, and to add more value to the organizations. I mentioned earlier that they need to ask for stretch assignments. I don’t know why it is that we are so timid about volunteering to do something that we’ve never done before, other than the fear of failure.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:21:39] I think in organizations where they view failures as learning opportunities, and I’ve heard it said, “If you’re gonna fail, fail fast, and then get up, and go again,” but to take on stretch assignments, and to do them well; then to make it clear to your supervisor that, “I really enjoyed this. I’m so glad you were pleased with the results. Please keep me in mind if you have other stretch assignments …” That truly can pave the way for a potential promotion at some point in time.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:22:10] Then, I think that being a positive force among your co-workers is always going to be extremely valuable, because it helps you to establish your personal brand. You want the leaders of the organization to see you as an optimistic positive can-do person, as opposed to potentially being categorized as a naysayer, or a complainer. Very, very important. I think it’s important that we realize the less time we spend complaining, the more time we have to add value to the organization.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:22:44] Then, lastly, I think that, as a leader without a title, it’s really important for you to have the courage that if you see a concern, or a problem that, rather than grousing about it with your peers, with your colleagues, have the courage to go forward, and share that legitimate concern with your supervisor. I believe that when leaders are so open, and welcoming to hearing complaints, and viewing them as gifts, or opportunities to serve that we can have more transparency within organizations, and perform at a higher level.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:23:23] I think it’s important for employees to understand that we, as leaders, can only fix what we know is broken. If we don’t know about a problem, then, to us, it may not exist. I think that having that courage to speak up is really important.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:23:39] Then, I think that, in summary, you just need to prove your value to your organization by doing what you do in the best manner possible, every day. Then, look for opportunities to become empowered as your leaders trust you. Ask for more opportunity, and then that will give you the potential to be all that you were created to be, and hopefully, to have a promotion down the road.
Betty: [00:24:06] Well, Janet, it has been such a pleasure asking you questions, and just hearing your perspective on leadership, whether there’s a title or not. It’s why I think your book, “Gracious Leadership,” is having success. It’s no doubt that you’ve led like you’ve never led before, and you’ll continue to lead like you’ve never led before. It’s just who you are. We are grateful today for your time, and we would love to direct people to your website. What would that be?
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:24:33] The website is www.GraciousLeadershipbook.com. I do invite you to go to the website, scroll down to the bottom of any page, and sign up for the free Gracious Leader blog. By the way, I just learned that the book is now in 44 states across our nation-
Betty: [00:24:54] Very nice.
Janet Smith Meeks: [00:24:54] -so, it’s continuing to have a big impact, and, for that, I have been extraordinarily humbled.
Betty: [00:25:00] Well, we are glad that you had this passion, and you have lived it out, because we are in a time where we really need leadership; that’s for sure. Thank you, again, and have a great day everyone.