Randy Wilhelm communicates at Thinkronize Inc Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2008

After an employee survey

showed that some of

his 65 employees at

Thinkronize Inc. wanted

more communication, Randy

Wilhelm looked to the past

to fix the problem. When the

company — a digital deliverer of K-12 educational content — was smaller, Wilhelm

would order pizza for his

employees, and they would

talk about what was happening at the company.

But as Thinkronize grew,

the co-founder and CEO got

away from that method of

communication. However,

when the survey showed that

move had been a mistake,

the pizza deliveries returned.

“My statement to the

group, to my leader team,

was, ‘For us, right or wrong,

pizza is comfort food,’” says

Wilhelm, who led the company to fiscal 2007 revenue of

about $10 million.

Smart Business spoke

with Wilhelm about how to

paint your vision and how to

communicate it so that

everyone understands.

Q. What are the keys to

being a good leader?

The way I define whether

you’re a good leader is

whether people are following.

It’s really creating an environment where people are

drawn to it almost magnetically. Then they’re drawn to

where you are going. For me,

what it really comes down to

are a couple of factors.

We’ll call it vision and communication. In order to be

able to lead effectively,

you’ve got to be able to communicate where you’re going. I’m talking about

painting a vision that the

team can see themselves participating in because if they

can’t see themselves inside

that environment, they’re

going to be reticent to go

there.

When you’re painting, we

just remind them that it

might look big, and it might

look difficult, yet it’s very

attainable. When I am talking

about vision to people, I am

always painting the picture

and drawing mental images

for them of what it’s

going to look like

when we get there.

That helps people

draw themselves

toward following that

vision. For me, good

leaders are really good

communicators.

Help people see

themselves in that

place and help people

understand that as you

go along that path

toward getting to that

vision, you are going to

have rocky roads and

sometimes you are

going to have to deliver bad news. If I can

share to them the ‘why’

that’s behind the ‘what’

— the ‘what’ is the bad

news. But, if I share the

‘why’ behind that and help

them see how they fit into

that, they can remain productive and comfortable.

Q. How to you paint that

vision so that all of your

employees understand it?

Vision has to be something

that is visible and real. We’ve

boiled our vision down to

some core four- or five-word

phrases, and we have them up in the office so everyone

can see them. They see them

when we walk through the

doors, first thing in the

morning, and it just reminds

them of why we are here.

We do hold quarterly meetings for the team, where we

go off-site, and any question

can be asked of the leadership. All the information is

shared, good news and bad

news. We are a very open

organization with our data.

Now, they don’t know

everything, that’s obvious.

But, being open and having

them feel part of the process

is really critical. I think the

good leaders and leader

teams really just use those messages to motivate people

to achieve things.

(The vision) needs to be

repeated often and regularly.

These are no-brainers. It has

to be communicated regularly through a variety of different vehicles. If you, as a

leader, are living that yourself and are consistent with

that, people are drawn to

that by your integrity to that

vision. So it creates a magnetic draw because it’s

always there.

Q. What is a pitfall to avoid

in business?

I think the thing that hurts

organizations or the thing

that hurts leaders is when

you don’t have people’s trust,

and you can lose people’s

trust a variety of ways. For

instance, a way that you can

lose credibility very quickly

is when an employee comes

to you and says, ‘I need to

have a conversation with you

about so and so, but you

can’t tell them that I talked

to you about it.’

In essence, I, as a leader,

have been neutered and

marginalized by that

employee.

So, you’ve got to know that

that’s not the kind of environment that we have here. I

can’t accept that. If you want

to tell me something, know

that, if it’s important, it’s

going to be communicated to

the right people.

If you don’t want to tell me,

don’t. But you don’t give

someone the right to marginalize your leadership — and

people do this all the time.

It’s a way that they gain a little power.

HOW TO REACH: Thinkronize Inc., (513) 731-4090 or www.thinkronize.com