5 Easily-Copied Traits of an Excellent Leader

Harold MacDowell, CEO of TDIndustries, sets a standard for company culture that you should imitate. Here’s how.

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Posted by: Paul Spiegelman is founder and CEO of BerylHealth

There has been a lot of “buzz” about TD’s company culture.

I like MacDowell, and was excited to learn that many of the things I’ve been doing to maintain and improve the company culture at BerylHealth over the last 28 years are the same as what Harold is doing at TD, which employees nearly 1,800 people.

MacDowell and I also agree that strengthening company culture is not only the right thing to do, but is good for business. TDIndustries, which had more than $400 million in sales last year, has made Fortune’s 100 ‘Best Places To Work’ list for 16 years, and its internally-estimated stock valuation has outpaced the S&P 500 index every year for 20 years. All of TD’s employees are owners since it is an ESOP.

So let me share some of the things that impressed me about what Harold does at TD, all of which can be easily duplicated in almost any business. And he and both I agreed that few of our ideas were original; they were unabashedly stolen from others:

1. He’s committed to servant leadership.
Not only does MacDowell epitomize this leadership style–he shares leadership with others, and puts his staff first–but everyone in the company is required to go through formal servant leadership training. Your people don’t have to be born to be servant leaders. You can train them.

2. He set up formal and informal feedback mechanisms.
Jack Lowe, the company founder, used to invite groups of employees to his home for spaghetti dinners. His son continued the tradition as “breakfast with Jack” so he could get important, open feedback. Since he took over from Jack Lowe Jr. as CEO in 2005, MacDowell makes sure that all of his senior leaders have similar sessions at least quarterly, to listen deeply and keep communication open.

3. He holds his leaders accountable.
All leaders participate in an anonymous annual evaluation by their reports. If they don’t score at least an eight on a scale up to 10, they’re evaluated again six months later–and must show improvement.

4. He squeezes out those who don’t fit at TD.
No company has a perfect track record of hiring the right people every time. At TD, MacDowell and his team realize that if they work according to a set of core values, those who don’t fit will self-select out. If not, the MacDowell and his senior executives make tough decisions, and sometimes let people go.

5. He keeps everyone in the loop.
Like many companies, not all employees have access to the same information at the same time. More than half of those work for TD don’t even have company email. So TD developed a smartphone app that helps keep everyone connected.

Paul Spiegelman is founder and CEO of BerylHealth, which manages patient interactions for hospitals, and co-founded the Small Giants Community with Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. Read more at PaulSpiegelman.com. @paulspiegelman

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