Jerry Winchester

Jerry Winchester likes his employees to do things on their own. The president and CEO of Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc.,
an emergency response company that offers prevention, response and restoration capabilities to the gas and oil industries, says that in
his work experience, his greatest bosses gave him an assignment and the freedom to accomplish it, something he does today with his
400 employees. Empowered employees help companies reach their goals, Winchester says, and last year, Boots & Coots hit revenue of
$97 million. Smart Business spoke with Winchester about how to play to your employees’ strengths and empower those who are willing
to be empowered.

Empower those who want to be empowered. It’s
important to understand the dynamic of
your company. Look at where people’s
strengths are. Assign certain tasks, stand
back and observe. Those strengths will
then surface quickly.

We have employees who thrive on
being empowered and those who are
scared of it. When you have people who
are capable of doing and achieving more,
giving them the ability to go do these
things, not getting in the way and
empowering them to make decisions on
behalf of the company can have a positive effect, especially when you are
developing people and want to see how
they will react in certain situations.

You’re talking about people you can
develop and see how comfortable they
are going out on a limb. Do they believe
in themselves? Do they believe in what
they’re saying? Are they confident
enough in their abilities to take a risk?
That’s one of the things that as a leader
you are always looking for — people
who are aggressively moving ahead so
that you’re not constantly trying to prod
them into a situation, but you’re out
there trying to rein them in some.

It’s like athletics; you can’t coach
desire. When you’ve got people who have
desire, empowering them is just the fuel
to move them forward. When you can get
that mix together, you’ve got somebody
who can go do some strong things.

Work with those you can’t empower. If you’ve
got somebody who’s great at taking
direction and doing exactly what they’re
told, and they pride themselves on following the rules, then trying to move
them out of their comfort zone into this
aura of empowerment sometimes is the
wrong thing to do.

If you’ve got a person who is an introvert and you’re expecting them to be in a
job where they have to be an extrovert,
they spend all their time supplying the
energy to be extroverted instead of
spending their time doing other things.
It’s counterproductive. It’s difficult on them because they are not as happy in
their position.

If an employee is good at following
processes and implementing established
rules, then you want him in a job that
allows him to do that, that works well
both within the way his personality is,
the way he makes decisions and the way
he is comfortable working. It would be a
lot better to try and define his strengths
and make sure that his job is aligned
with that or allow him to work within the
dynamic of a team where his diversity
helps the team dynamic rather than
hurts it.

Align company and personal goals and objectives. You can’t imagine how much
smoother it is when everyone is moving in
the same direction, so you’re not constantly dealing with conflict within your
organization about the direction in which
you are headed or how to resolve something. It’s a whole lot easier to manage and
communicate within a company whose
goals are aligned from top to bottom.

Clearly communicate what the company’s goals are and empower senior management with the flexibility and right
tools to effectively manage employees’
expectations.

For certain employees, even though
they think they don’t affect share price or overall financial performance of the
company, they absolutely do, so you’ve
got to set goals and objectives for them
so that they align with the same goals
and objectives that you’re working on.

If someone was struggling with either
aligning or understanding the goals, sit
them down and ask them what the issue
seems to be and listen to them. If they’ve
got a problem or some preconceived
notion of what the problem is, hear that
and deal with it rather than just telling
them over and over again and trying to
make them understand what you’re saying
because obviously you’re not connecting.

Reward employees. Set goals and objectives for employees and deal with that
monetarily or whatever manner is the
best. We look at people who have been
successful or have done a good job and
want to give them the opportunity for
advancement.

We’re looking for the next group that
can step up. Not only can they measure
success by saying, ‘I’ve been rewarded
well for this,’ or, ‘I got a promotion,’
but, at the same time, they can see that
the company has done well, and they’ve
left a legacy, and they’ve helped build a
program that they can look back and
say, ‘I did these things; I accomplished
this stuff.’

For the people that are driven to do
that, those are the kinds of things they’re
looking for. Somebody that’s in the mode
of ‘I like a more comfortable job here
and don’t have to make any decisions,’
success for them is that they get through
the day without getting nicked up or running afoul of the rules.

For other folks, success for them is
measured in a different way. It’s looking
at the individual and what they think.
Some of them want to see the tangible
effects of their work, and some are happy
just knowing that the ship is still moving
along and the company’s still afloat.

HOW TO REACH: Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc.,
(281) 931-8884 or www.bootsandcoots.com

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