A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Reflections of a Successful Leader

The following article originally appeared in the October newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC.  Reprinted with permission.

Recently, Larry Brookshire, the former owner and leader of Fisk, the large electrical contractor, offered some deeply insightful comments, to a group of both general and specialty contractors. Many in the Houston Commercial Construction Community know Larry. He is respected as one the most successful leaders, by all standards used to judge business executives. And, he is very deserving; his is an “up from bootstraps” story. Raised by a single mom, he put himself through the University of Texas to get an Electrical Engineering Degree and then later though law school. Clients, employees, and peers all admire and celebrate his success.

Larry said having time away from the daily arena has allowed him to be thoughtful and reflective about lessons learned, and he has found three things that he would do differently. He advised his appreciative audience to consider doing them too.

First, he would take more time away from the business. He realizes that you gain a very different perspective with time and distance. You see solutions to challenges that appear insurmountable, and you also see opportunities and priorities. “Build an organization that can run without you, and take time away regularly,” was his counsel.

The second thing he would do is move much more quickly to get rid of people who do not fit the company culture, no matter how good their results may be. They drag down overall team performance in the long run, and impact the organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent. Larry says that it is very clear to him in retrospect that the adage, “culture trumps strategy every time” is true.

His final recommendation would be for CEO’s and Senior Executives to spend more time in the hiring process, especially in this time when it is crystal clear that top talent is the true differentiator, almost the only one, for most construction companies. The CEO and an aligned senior leadership team will have the most impact in articulating purpose, vision and culture. There is a high return on executive time spent this way.

Larry is a perpetual learner and big thinker, annually attending Harvard Business School Programs, participating in YPO, regularly travelling globally, and appointing retired McKinsey partners to his board. He is an inspirational example for all of us, and we appreciate his sharing these valuable thoughts.