Leadership requires a constant stretching of our current skill set. Answers From Leadership podcast guest Jon Stolpe knows this all too well.
Jon is a Christ-follower first and foremost, and also a husband and father. He’s an engineer by background, and serves as an operations manager for a local branch of a major international building automation company.
I’m excited for Jon to share about his experience stretching and leading in his family and the organization he works for.
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Jon, what else would you like listeners to know about you?
First, thanks for the opportunity to be on your podcast. I’ve become friends with you through the blog world.
A little bit about me. I’m an engineer. I went to school for engineering. Later, I went to get my MBA. And I’m an operations manager for a large manufacturer in Philadelphia.
I love what I do but I also like what I get to do on the side. One of those things is to be a husband. I get to be a dad. I get to be a writer and a blogger. I’ve been doing more speaking lately and that’s been exciting.
I’m also a runner. And I would definitely consider myself to be a leader.
How did you come to consider yourself a leader?
I think I’ve probably been a leader in some form of a leader in one way or another as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if that’s something my parents pushed on me or if leadership was just natural.
But I’ve been leading for most of my life. In Sunday School, I was one of the kids who took charge. I was a leader in school and school plays. I had leadership roles in student government. Even into college, I was leading.
All of those experiences have contributed to who I am today.
So, today I have the opportunity to lead in my church. In the youth group. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead in small group ministries.
What does leadership look like to you?
I think leadership when it’s done best starts from a point of servanthood. Servant-based leadership is really essential to leading a team.
That means getting in the trenches with those you’re leading. Or maybe leading by example.
It also means bringing value to whatever organization you’re leading. You can’t just go and show up. You need to bring something with you.
What difficulties have you faced in your leadership journey?
We as leaders, lead other human beings. We’re leading imperfect people and we’re imperfect people.
What I love about leading is the relationship piece. This can also be the biggest challenge in leadership.
Dealing with performance issues can be a challenge. And I don’t like confrontations.
It’s hard but it’s something that you have to do if you’re going to take up a leadership role.
Why do you think it’s important for leaders to stretch themselves?
As I was thinking of how to theme my blog, the idea of stretching really came as a theme that I thought would be appropriate for following as I write. For me, stretching is part of life. If you’re not stretching and growing, you’re not living the life you’re meant to live. And this applies to leadership.
You mentioned one-on-one meetings. I’m guessing you haven’t always done those?
That’s true, I haven’t. I wish I could say I have. And, honestly, I wish I could do it more. But the reality is that there’s a lot of other commitments in my job.
So, being intentional with scheduling a monthly one-on-one meeting gives me a chance to put aside the projects they’re working on and plug into them.
As you began implementing these one-on-one meetings, did you receive any resistance or pushback?
Honestly, no… I think there was a little bit of “really?” I think as people saw what I was doing, they became thankful that they knew they had a monthly opportunity to touch base with just me.
You touched a bit on how you were stretching and growing yourself through reading blogs and listening to podcasts. Are you growing yourself any other ways?
Yeah, there’s so many books out there that are helping me. And I think my mastermind group is one of the biggest things that is stretching me.
The mastermind is pushing me to areas that I hadn’t explored before. I think that rubbing shoulders with people, I’m a huge proponent of community.
There’s a verse in the Bible, Hebrews 10:24 and 25, that talks about spurring each other on to love and good deeds and not forgetting to meet together. We need to remember that as leaders.
How did you put together your mastermind group?
My mastermind group is led by Ellory Wells. Ellory reached out to me and we talked.
I’d been considering joining a mastermind. And his ask came at just the right time.
I get to connect with Ellory and a woman across the country in Washington and another young man in Georgia every other week for an hour and a half. It’s such a great opportunity.
We each take turns being in the hot seat where we bring something we’re struggling with or need help processing to the meeting and they will help walk me through some of my next steps.
And you’ve found this to be a great help?
Absolutely! For many, it’s a concept that hasn’t been explored. I would challenge you to seek out some kind of mastermind.
If you can’t find one, create a mastermind. Plug into other leaders. Commit to meet together and lay out a framework.
Speaking of growth, do you think leaders can ever stop growing?
That really gets to my core philosophy. If you’re not stretching and growing, you’re not really living.
No matter how old or young you are, there’s stuff out there. Find a mentor. Find someone who can press into you. And find someone to mentor.
What do you wish you would’ve known about leadership 10 years ago?
I wish I would have known, and I still need to learn, is how to say no. A people-pleasing vein that runs through me. I hate to say no to people.
We need to learn to prioritize. We need to learn to say no so that we can capitalize on the things we need to be capitalizing on.
One of the podcasts I listen to is Entrepreneur on Fire by John Lee Dumas. He often talks about the word FOCUS. His acronym for FOCUS is Focus on One Course Until Success. It’s such great advice but so hard to follow!
If I had learned 10 years ago to say no a little bit stronger, it’d be interesting to see where I’d be today with my leadership.
Can you recommend one or two books to help a leader stretch?
Sure, there’s a couple of books I would recommend. A couple of my leadership favorites and I might mention more than 2 here, but Love Works by Joel Manby is an awesome book on leadership.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share with up and coming leaders?
Sure, I think that leadership starts as soon as your career starts. If you really want to grow as a leader, you have to raise your hand. Ask for opportunities.
One of the catalysts for me was that I asked for new challenges. I didn’t wait for my boss to come to me.
I’d also encourage those who are listening to always ask for feedback. When I started as an engineer, I didn’t know very much about what I was doing or the product I was designing. But I did know how to relate to the people who were working on my buildings. In the middle and the end of every project, I would ask those who were working on the projects, How could I do this better next time.
How can listeners connect with you?
The obvious place is jonstolpe.com. I wanted to let you know that I set up a special link for your listeners. Almost 2 years ago, I wrote my first book On Track: Life Lessons From Track And Field. I’d love to give your listeners the first chapter if they go to jonstolpe.com/answers.
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