Transparent leadership creates trust with your people. When you embrace openness within everything, you have a chance to create a remarkable culture. Employees feel heard and valued. The transparent leader must be courageous. My guest today is Adam LaBarbera, CEO of EETechMedia. His company was ranked #301 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. We talk about the power of being a transparent leader. Adam shares his journey to figuring it out. Discover why being a transparent leader drives company growth
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Angelo Poli: The Transcript
Target Audience: Adam LaBarbera is the Co-founder, CEO of EETech Media & Marketing. EETech Media & Marketing is the only “digital-first” company built from online engineering communities rather than traditional print-to-digital publishers. Redefining the modern B2B media company by empowering the smartest voices with the platforms to create premium content, connecting with an annual audience of over 22.8M+, next-generation, electrical engineering professionals.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
I think you just be yourself. Everybody has that part of them that people like you want to associate themselves with so you just sort of let yourself be goofy and jokes and not be too serious all the time. It’s always your balance right. Like what is your called you may already be predisposed to that you’re already doing it. But for me I had to again it was part of the step process that I realized that very serious is perceived as very serious and intense. So to let some steam off from time to time is really getting help.
[00:00:31].470] – Intro
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs. The fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammond. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
[00:00:48].070] – Gene Hammett
How transparent is your organization. Transparency takes a lot of courage. You as a leader if you have the ability to be more transparent with your employees you can create more of a connection. They crave being included they crave being inside this. This doesn’t mean you have to have open book management but it helps does it mean you have to you know open up everything. But it helps. But what you do have to do to have transparency is be really honest. Invite them to give you feedback. Invite them to truly share with you what’s on their mind.
[00:01:23].060] – Gene Hammett
And both of you have to be willing to be transparent. You and the employees. Now transparency is a really hot topic these days. It’s one of the hot buzzwords if you will. It’s one of my number one articles on Inc magazine. If you’ve googled radical transparency you would be able to see it. But I talk about transparency today because I want you to be a transparent leader. Transparent Leadership is one who has the courage to be open and be honest and be able to take that feedback in. I wanted to find someone in my network that had the ability to talk about this with you.
[00:01:58].030] – Gene Hammett
We found Adam La Barbera. He is the founder of EETechMedia. And Adam really talks about his journey of leadership and some of the ups and downs and how he found out his way to being a Transparent Leader creating transparency throughout the organization. So we’re going to talk about that in today’s episode but I’d love for you to tune in to other episodes so make sure you subscribe and make sure you continue to listen in and use the information there in the interviews and the solo episodes behind the scenes to be a better leader to evolve. Now let’s get ready to to listen to the interview with Adam.
[00:02:38].590] – Gene Hammett
Hi Adam how are you?
[00:02:39].920] – Adam LaBarbera
I’m good. How are you?
[00:02:40].990] – Gene Hammett
I’m fantastic. Excited to have you here at Growth Think Tank.
[00:02:46].070] – Adam LaBarbera
Thanks for having me.
[00:02:47].760] – Gene Hammett
I’ve already let our audience know a little bit about you as a leader. But tell us a little bit about EETechMedia?
[00:02:52].420] – Adam LaBarbera
So EETechMedia is a media company that focuses on the electrical engineering industry which might sound like consumer electronics but we’re working with component manufacturers to help market their products to engineers. So for example a customer of ours might be a brand like Intel and trying to reach an engineer at always going to make like an iPhone or something like that.
[00:03:17].210] – Gene Hammett
And you have about 60 employees or so?
[00:03:21].100] – Adam LaBarbera
Yes 60 globally.
[00:03:23].410] – Gene Hammett
And you’re pretty young so leadership is something is it come natural to you or is it something that you had to work on.
[00:03:30].000] – Adam LaBarbera
I think I think based on my personality type I always kind of gravitated towards wanting to lead the charge for better for worse. So I think in sports for sure I was captain of teams that I was on or at least I pushed to lead then and then I was I coached some youth programs and stuff like that. I think once you realize that it’s something you like to do you then gravitate towards more of that learning.So I think it’s a little bit about.
[00:03:57].710] – Gene Hammett
Well we talked a little bit about your fast growth journey a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about this preparing for today’s interview. Give us a little bit of of the journey you’ve been on. Just you know high level you were number three I want an INC list. What else would you like to kind of say to the audience about growth.
[00:04:19].590] – Adam LaBarbera
You know it’s there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I think you get lucky sometimes you have your opportunities that could go either way. You were in a meeting you had a big sale you’re trying to make. You don’t even maybe know what the differentiator was to get it. And I kind of call that locker and it could’ve gone either way. So for me there’s these things that happen and you try to predict and you try to plan for them set yourself up but you have these 50-50 chances and you hope you get enough of them to go your way.
[00:04:49].710] – Gene Hammett
Well we’re going to talk about you know finding your leadership style and really about finding a sequence that unlocks leadership styles. What does that mean finding your sequence?
[00:05:03].090] – Adam LaBarbera
So it’s kind of something that I identified in myself. For me it was like the steps I took to to push my personal growth in and to focus on. So I think for everyone it’s going to be a little bit different but I can at least say what it was for me and how I went about it. But it’s understanding yourself right it’s finding your weaknesses and strengths filtering them out and then focus focusing on each one in the right way.
[00:05:29].730] – Gene Hammett
So let’s unpack that a little bit. What steps did you take to to understand the sequence of leadership style?
[00:05:39].530] – Adam LaBarbera
For one is just like the need to be better. And so it’s consciousness for me it was just having a conscious effort to see my environment how it is interacting with people and what the results were. Almost as though you were calling a data input in inputs and things of that nature.
[00:05:58].980] – Commercial
Hold on for a second. Adam just talked about the need to be better. When you’re a leader you really need to evolve consistently. You need to push yourself not just by reading books but by talking with people having the right mentors having the right coaches your evolution doesn’t happen just by happenstance. It happens with intention. How intentionally you about being the leader that you need to be. Now back to Adam.
[00:06:26].570] – Gene Hammett
Well that’s a start. What do you do after that?
[00:06:30].090] – Adam LaBarbera
Right. So once you become conscious of these things you’re going to discover you know you discover things about your environment maybe prior to leading a company to leading a company. So I think for me like the examples my family pretty risk adverse family. And then you get to a point where you see that and you say okay maybe I take a little bit more risk because I know I have an affinity to being that way. Maybe that’s limiting me. So you start to use that discovery phase to to point out these things that might not necessarily be like a hard weakness but definitely something that might hold you back.
[00:07:09].010] – Gene Hammett
Is there anything specifically that you did in there that you would say helped you find what you and that discovery process.
[00:07:17].050] – Adam LaBarbera
I think you have to have humility. Ultimately if you’re not willing to go to to point out the things that are a problem you think you miss out on a lot of opportunity to grow. So I think humility is probably the biggest one and then and then remaining mindful of those things that were incorrect. Just kind of work on them right. It’s not like a light switch on and off. It’s sort of there’s a progression.
[00:07:43].630] – Gene Hammett
Now I want to ask you this because you mentioned an electrical engineering I don’t know if I shared this video of the audience probably doesn’t know but I got a degree in industrial engineering which is the easiest of all the engineering. Everyone makes fun of the industrial engineers I’m sure you probably have. Right?
[00:08:00].650] – Adam LaBarbera
Right. Yeah I mean I think it’s funny because we just moved into the market for automation control engineering so it’s similar to industrial depending on what you’re you’re in but yeah I don’t think the one that maybe gets the most grief is maybe civil engineering I’m not sure. Yeah.
[00:08:19].990] – Gene Hammett
Well industrial engineering was that the easiest course of action for me when I was at Georgia Tech and that was that was what I chose but it actually fit really well with me. But there was a lot of technical aspects and the reason I ask you that behind this is technical it probably comes natural to you but it’s what’s connecting with others in your leadership style is that is it a natural thing for you.
[00:08:46].400] – Adam LaBarbera
Not really. I would say for me it was really intense and very serious and when I’m at work it’s very much a go go go mentality. I think if you if you’re not filtering the human side of a working with a lot of people that it can become kind of a stark difference in attitude right everyone that’s working for you is becoming close with each other they’re developing friendships and if you’ve ever been an employee of a company you’ve been a part of that as a leader you you have to walk this line of how friendly you are. I think at first you you assume a lot like you have to be very serious all the time and perhaps quite stiff and then you see that maybe even limiting that’s what I noticed was that it would limit me and how I could interact and what I could get out of people. So you start to build a little bit of a friendship connection and I think it just makes you more human and approachable.
[00:09:38].630] – Gene Hammett
So what have you done in your leadership style to make sure that you’re you’re in tune with the humanity of leadership?
[00:09:47].530] – Adam LaBarbera
I think you just be yourself. Everybody has that part of them that people like and want to associate themselves with so you just sort of let yourself be goofy and jokes and not be too serious all the time and it’s always your balance right. Like what is your cult you may already be predisposed to that you’re already doing it. But for me I had to. Again it was part of the step process that I needed to realize that I’m very serious as I’m perceived as very serious and intense. So to let some steam off from time to time is really good and healthy.
[00:10:17].660] – Gene Hammett
Well do you believe in leading by example inside of your company?
[00:10:25].880] – Adam LaBarbera
Oh yeah 100 percent. Yeah I think I’ve seen it both ways. Right the leader who leaves people to be really autonomous and do everything to themselves and so what they end up doing is maybe culturally they don’t show up to the office very often or they work travelling want to lead by example to be there and to be in front. And so I made a really conscious decision to not travel quite as much as I could or maybe want you to be easier to know the work ethic to push we’re very young company very young people in the company. And so I think you’re kind of everyone’s still training really hard to go pro you know to go to big leagues.
[00:11:08].040] – Commercial
Let’s take a break. Adam just talked about leading by example. We’ve heard this in leadership and we know how important it is but really are you leading by example. Are you being as courageous as you need to be inside your leadership. Are you confronting the employees like you really need to be. Are you having difficult conversations to grow the business. Are you making difficult decisions. Are you being as courageous as you need to be I talked to a lot of fast growth leaders and here’s the reality. Even though their sales are soaring their courage could use some work. And I say that with a smile because I really want you to understand that being a courageous leader is not just something I say at the end of the podcast when I say lead with courage it is what I truly believe it is the really small thing that you can focus on to really lift amazing amount of work and really engage people have the courage to say what needs to be said to do what needs to be done spend the money and invest wisely in yourself and in the company.
[00:12:12].150] – Gene Hammett
What else did you do to find your sequence of leadership style beyond discovery.
[00:12:19].390] – Adam LaBarbera
I can’t say that there’s a there’s a whole lot more that I haven’t already said it’s it’s really you know for me is transparency and there’s honesty empathy that goes with that. I think those are things that other experts have been talking about for a long time. And not to say that I’m an expert on all of these things but at least from what I’ve learned about myself those have been a really big change. Change points for me and benefits to filter into the transparency the honesty to be empathetic understanding what somebody is you know when they’re late or they’re late on a deadline it’s understanding why deducing what may be made there they’re the project fall apart.
[00:13:00].760] – Adam LaBarbera
We tell people for one when you make mistakes you’re almost more valuable now than you were before you made the mistake and it gives people a sense of confidence that they can take chances and and do things differently that they’re not going to do the jobs that can be threatened the livelihoods not at risk.
[00:13:16].460] – Gene Hammett
So I want to. There’s two things in their own unpack. One is the transparency and the other one’s making mistakes so how far do you go in having transparency is it is it open books. Is it beyond open books and something else.
[00:13:32].140] – Adam LaBarbera
Right. Totally. It’s I think so open book is it would be pretty severe. I think that’s really sensitive information. We talk about sales a lot. We talk about our goals. It’s no secret in terms of the people who who do earn the most in the company but we treat everyone with a lot of respect in terms of what they should do. We actually just had kind of like a town hall meeting yesterday in the office talking about where we’re going what management is thinking about acquiring in terms of assets or markets we’re going to be in and those people who really don’t even need to know those things.
[00:14:09].730] – Adam LaBarbera
But we want everyone to know that they’re part of it. We want to hear their ideas and maybe they’ve seen something that we’re not. So we yeah we’re very transparent about strategy what we’re thinking even if it’s ugly. I think that’s probably the most important thing is if we’re talking about certain assets we might do completely different reactions with and we want them to know it’s not it’s not their fault it’s they’ve worked really hard on it. And management is just seeing it differently. And sort of in a defensive management right.You’re gonna have new data come in. You’re gonna have to change and make up your mind one way or another. So we’re just trying to be honest about even we make mistakes. But to not give up sort of thing.
[00:14:54].200] – Gene Hammett
You know it takes a lot of courage to have real transparency with your team and to talk about mistakes actually can be a benefit of you seen that across the culture?
[00:15:04].450] – Adam LaBarbera
Yeah. I think if anyone again if you’re ever in a business and you’re working for someone you’ve been it’s been difficult to talk about a mistake. It’s just you can see how are you going to get to the truth. Are you going to get to the better idea and a better solution. We don’t want to spend time putting out fires so we don’t let them get to be that big. So you start having transparency and you hear there’s always going to be you know a bit of recourse. So it’s never gonna be perfect but yeah it’s been a benefit for sure and I don’t think that’s really on purpose is just the style that we take in.
[00:15:40].280] – Gene Hammett
You know when you mentioned two about mistakes about being okay with it I find that fast growth companies have more of a tendency to be okay with mistakes failures and things like that that we’re learning from that we’re moving forward because of bigger companies resist that people in those jobs like they don’t want to take those chances because it’s they feel like their jobs at risk every time. How have you communicated that with your team.
[00:16:13].260] – Adam LaBarbera
Well I mean I think anyone who’s been in a company right and you see these these things happen well for one it’s like I’m in a position of owning my company I am CEO and I and I own the company so a lot of what I do and say is really going to happen right. And if I don’t take care of my people who’s going to you know there’s that creatures can take care of your customers and so on and so forth.
[00:16:35].390] – Adam LaBarbera
But it’s really true. If you don’t take care of people do you really want to go and hire a whole new group of people. It’s exhausting. Hiring is a huge honestly a huge waste of time and it’s really difficult. You want to take really good people and make them better and you don’t want to lose them. So we find a way to keep people. Everything I’m saying is really logical to me it doesn’t sound like it’s a you know something I want. I’m trying to be different it’s just that I don’t have time to mess around.
[00:17:05].480] – Adam LaBarbera
So when people have mistakes you have to think about that like someone’s going to make mistakes. There’s a difference between making an honest mistake and and then make like a stupid one over and over again. Right. Sure. We have people who who have and really problematic and you have to deal with that accordingly but I don’t think every mistake is in that category. There’s different levels different levels of honesty transparency with that stuff. So yeah it’s nothing. We were like consciously doing on purpose except for this sort of survival in the growth of the company to be a smartass with our time.
[00:17:38].780] – Gene Hammett
So this whole conversations really led to this transparent leadership has that led to like growth at the company. I mean you guys were growing really fast if you have a lot of people. How does it truly fit into the growth of the company.
[00:17:55].940] – Adam LaBarbera
Yeah for sure. If you don’t even really know me to be honest like I don’t even know that when I’m going into it you know you think you know this big company mentality you have to sort of fake it to be a make it so you’re not necessarily transparent the beginning and then you start to to push on on that transparency and communication and you’ll see the results. There’s some really good results that come out of it. So for one yet transparency is pushed to that growth because for example we’re very truthful with our sales teams and what’s coming.
[00:18:29].030] – Adam LaBarbera
What we need to see and we ask them to give us honesty we ask for them and for that return because we want to hear the bad like we have to have that we can’t let something fester and destroy an aspect of the company that oh my god all of a sudden we see it and it’s a huge disaster. So that for us is just kind of part of it. Yeah. It’s always I think we’re probably always going to point at that as why one of the reasons we’re successful.
[00:18:57].470] – Gene Hammett
Well do you have any rituals that you have inside of your meetings and structure that kind of reinforces this aspects of transparency.
[00:19:07].000] – Adam LaBarbera
You try to I think I think when you first start talking about in your you know you have a mike in front of you and bunch of people are looking for you to inspire them and you have an idea and then I just stop. Honestly I just start talking about what matters what I’ve heard in conversations over appeared whatever the period time is and you just speak from the heart kind of thing. And it just comes naturally I don’t think for me as a public speaker I could read from a script and do a very good job I think I have to say what’s on my mind and what I’m observing and it’s just part of all of those other steps that made that happen.
[00:19:41].590] – Gene Hammett
Well Adam I really appreciate you joining us here at the Growth Think Tank and sharing your journey of leadership in a fast growth company. Really appreciate sharing and talking about EETechMedia. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
[00:19:56].480] – Adam LaBarbera
Yeah thanks for having me Gene. Appreciate it.
[00:19:58].870] – Gene Hammett
Wow what a great interview I really love the fact that he talks about transparency in a real way and talked about the mistakes that he has and sharing the good and the ugly the good is easy to share right. But the ugly people could be concerned about the health of the company but they must know this and you must train them to be honest with you. I really believe this because our employees crave this level of honesty or transparency. If you aren’t doing it then they will find someone else who will. Hopefully or you’re loving the interviews here at Growth Think Tank. Make sure you share this with someone that you know.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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