Tom and Toby Bozzuto embrace after Tom receives the MFE Hall of Fame award at the MFE Conference in September in Las Vegas.
Tom and Toby Bozzuto embrace after Tom receives the MFE Hall of Fame award at the MFE Conference in September in Las Vegas.

This article was originally published on the MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE website but has some relevance for the construction supply industry as well.

Many leadership experts focus on the value that flexibility and adaptability have in driving success. Indeed, they agree, success comes from the ability to change. And, often, such change isn’t obvious. In a cyclical industry like housing, sometimes it takes a new perspective to open the door to change or to understand where and how flexibility can be felt in a productive and valuable way.

“Over time, it’s easy to fall into thought traps and ruts, and to begin to believe that because of your experience and industry longevity, your perspective is always correct,” says Todd Henry, founder of creativity consultancy Accidental Creative and author of the books Herding Tigers, The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder Than Words. “However, that experience can also work against you, because over time you develop assumptive ruts that limit where you look for new ideas. By inviting a diversity of opinion, experience, and perspective into your decision-making process, you remain pliable and open to opportunities that you might otherwise ignore because you weren’t looking for them.”

Tom Bozzuto couldn't agree more. Bozzuto, chairman and co-founder of The Bozzuto Group and this year’s inductee into the MFE Hall of Fame, has created his own art to building an inner circle of counselors by surrounding himself with talented leaders who are willing and able to adapt to change, including his son, Toby Bozzuto, president and CEO of The Bozzuto Group.

The best people to include in your inner circle, says Henry, are individuals who have seen you at your highs and lows who also know you well enough to know the patterns in your life and who can help you see things you’re too busy to notice.

And while it's necessary to remain flexible, it's also critical to maintain processes, says Jason Forrest, owner and CEO of The Forrest Performance Group, a sales training company. Forrest coaches flexibility within the confines of a strategic structure to avoid chaos or profit leaks.

Bozzuto and Henry both assert that talent needs resources, and then autonomy.

“Highly talented, creative people need to be given clarity of expectations and rails so that they understand clearly where they should focus their energy, but at the same time they need freedom within those boundaries to innovate, think in new ways, and take strategic risk,” says Henry. “So, there must be some clear operational boundary markers, but you also need to create some room within those boundaries for the team to ‘play’ a bit. Otherwise, you’re in danger of turning your most valuable hires into cogs in a machine.”

Here, in this short video, Bozzuto shares how he created and, now, how he maintains his team and the values his company represents.

Maybe building the team isn’t the challenge so much as keeping the team in place. That, as Bozzuto and Henry know, means creating trust.

“Loyalty is a function of trust. Your team needs to know you have skin in the game, and that you're a person of your word," says Henry. "Most leaders don’t blow it in the big ways. They aren’t overtly lying to their team. It’s the small breaches of trust—making simple promises they can’t follow through on that add up to big problems over time. If you want to inspire loyalty, you need a trustworthy mission that the people on your team can see you sacrificing for as well, and to ensure that your word is your bond, and that when you need to change your mind, you bring your team along on that journey so that they aren’t blindsided.”

Forrest says loyalty is engendered by meeting six human, employee needs:

  1. Certainty: the need for safety;
  2. Variety: the need for fun;
  3. Significance: the need to be heard and feel important;
  4. Connection: the need to be a part of a group;
  5. Growth: the need to improve; and
  6. Contribution: the need to help others grow.

"Several years ago, I received my certification in strategic intervention," says Forrest. "I learned that when you meet three or more of a person’s six needs, you create an addiction. I want every employee to be addicted to working at my company."

Retaining the labor force to provide innovation, differentiation, and a high level of productivity will be critical to your success today and tomorrow. Can you create the company "addicts" you need?