Mike Weaver is president and CEO of Weaver Popcorn Co. Inc., which means, of course, that he’s the leader of the company.
But that’s not how he views himself not exactly, anyway. As CEO, Weaver grandson of company founder Ira E. Weaver says that he really views himself as the person leading the leaders. At Weaver Popcorn, it’s up to the managers of each of the 400-employee company’s divisions to lead as they see fit. Weaver’s job is to stay in frequent contact with his division managers, make sure everyone is on the same page with regard to company goals and, above all, provide his managers with the resources they need to get their jobs done.
Smart Business spoke with Weaver about the best ways to lead your company’s leaders.
Make time for communicating in person. The best way to make time for face-to-face communication is when it’s on a schedule and laid out in advance, and everything is planned around being present at meetings. The second thing is reaching out to the senior leaders, and they to me, as needs arise.
I was raised that way during my early years in the company. My dad especially put a lot of emphasis on the face-to-face [communication]. It’s kind of in my DNA, and I’ll be honest, I probably don’t do it as much as I should do it because it is difficult with your time demands.
You just have to find out how important it is to you, and if it is important, then you make time for it.
In addition, you should coach your senior leaders to speak up when they have needs. My responsiveness when they want to meet face to face is important. I try to do it when they need to meet. That sends a key message to them that I’m really here to support them in helping them achieve what we agree they need to accomplish.
That’s important because they’re responsible for being accountable for achieving certain goals. I work really hard on it because I’m not really as good of a listener as I need to be. Perhaps one of the disadvantages of being in one company for years and years is the more you know, the poorer the listener you become. So what I have to remind myself of is that my senior leaders are responsible for achieving certain goals and objectives, and it’s up to them to figure out how to do that.
It’s incumbent upon me to put more emphasis on listening than for me to tell them what they should be doing, unless they ask for advice.
Keep your messages consistent.
Consistency of message is a challenge. The different divisions of our company represent many different types of businesses.
You need to be consistent with your values and your overall mission, but when you get down to the individual division, it becomes a lot more specific with regard to the customers the divisions are serving. You really rely on the leaders for the most part to take that message, the goals and objectives, and make sure that it is applied, carried out and achieved in a way that is consistent with your values and mission, but that it fits those customers and senior leaders. That’s where the responsibility really falls with the senior leaders.
Hire managers who mesh with you. First, we look for values and alignment with our values. That is the first and most important because out of alignment of values comes trust. Without trust, things break apart pretty fast.
To keep trust, it takes a lot of work, so if we have alignment of values, then we have a good opportunity to grow the relationship to one that is based on trust. Without that, we’re doomed.
Once we have the values alignment, then we look for smart people who are really able to adapt to changing challenges and opportunities. My experience is that smart people will adapt faster and understand situations faster and almost welcome a changing environment. That’s what we have in business today.
The third thing is commitment. The folks we have, I want them to be committed to becoming the best at what they’re doing in their lives, including being the best division leader.
However, it is really difficult to identify those characteristics during the interview process. There is no guarantee. It’s about the time you spend and who is involved. When I don’t include other people in the process, it’s amazing how my success rate tends to drop off. I include different people at different levels. I don’t think there is any other substitute for the time you spend face to face in the interview process.
Also, we promote from within. There is nothing like bringing people up through the organization. We’ve had success in filling roles both ways, but when you bring someone up from within, you really know them a lot better than when you bring someone in from the outside.
In any case, it’s the amount of time we spend together that determines to a great degree the probability of the relationship being successful. But it’s tough. There is no magic formula that we have found yet.
HOW TO REACH: Weaver Popcorn Co. Inc., (765) 934-2101 or www.popweaver.com