In the July issue of Gulfshore Business, we provided some thoughts and insights on the nature and development of good leadership. This month, we’re following up by soliciting some expert opinions; this continuation focuses on solid leadership advice from a variety of business leaders in Southwest Florida.
Pete Tuffo, president and general manager of the Southeast region for Suffolk
It’s widely known that relationships are a big part of the construction business. But for Pete Tuffo at national building contractor Suffolk, they’re also vital to developing the firm’s future leaders.
“Leadership begins and ends with relationships,” says Tuffo, who oversees more than 400 employees at the company’s Estero, Miami, West Palm and Tampa offices. “Investing the time into fostering genuine and heartfelt relationships pays dividends far beyond the bottom line. This is not a construction business; this is a relationship business.”
It’s a philosophy that’s carried throughout Suffolk, which offers a variety of programs aimed at helping employees develop leadership skills. Programs offer training and mentoring for emerging talents and new managers at the firm, as well as for mid-level managers with executive potential.
“Having good leadership skills throughout the organization helps establish and reinforce the culture of the company,” says Tuffo. “By having leaders throughout the company, you are building from within as the company grows. It sets up the organization for organic growth from within, which is the best and most stable way to grow any organization.”
Robbie Roepstorff, president of Edison National Bank
For Robbie Roepstorff, a hybrid style of leadership has worked well over her more than four decades in banking. “On the one hand, I want to lead by example,” she says. “On the other hand, I also want to lead by listening. When you have a great team in place, you want to create an environment that lets their great ideas bubble up to the surface.”
She’s helped her staff develop their own leadership skills by providing ongoing training and opportunities to take the lead on special projects. “Without good leadership, a business could stray from its core beliefs,” says Roepstorff. “Without thoughtful and forward-thinking leaders at the helm, a business can stagnate rather than succeed.”
Roepstorff has seen the value of getting involved in her community. “I have been blessed to know and work with many great civic leaders,” she says. “Observing their approaches to problem-solving and consensus-building has been invaluable to me and, I think, is reflected in the growth of my own leadership skills over the years.”
She’s also learned that leadership means never being afraid to take a new approach—or to admit when it’s not working. “It’s OK to try and fail as long as you keep trying to meet your goals,” she says. “But be quick to admit when that decision turns out to be the wrong one. It’s not OK to stick with something that’s not working long after the evidence is in.”
Ted Bill, CEO of Pelican Wire
When Naples-based Pelican Wire acquired a company based in Colorado, it required CEO Ted Bill to look at leadership in a different way.
“I have to work with a group of people I didn’t select, but who came with the business,” he says. “Building relationships with them and figuring out how to do those important things like communicating when you’re not physically in the same facility every day has been a learning process for me.”
Communication is a major component of good leadership for Bill, who oversees a staff of 80 in Naples and a total of 160 employees throughout the whole organization. “You have to make sure you’re communicating the direction you want the business to
go in, so everyone can be aligned and follow in the direction you want them to go,” he says. “Good leadership results in alignment throughout the organization. And the more alignment you have, the more everyone is rowing the boat in the same direction and the easier it is to make progress.”
Bill knows that being a good leader requires constant work and attention. “Leadership is a learning process,” he says. “I don’t think you ever really get done learning about leadership. Just when you think you’ve figured things out, there’s a new wrinkle or twist or dynamic you weren’t prepared for. You have to be very intentional and set aside time to reinvest back into yourself.”
Douglas VanOort, chairman and CEO, NeoGenomics Laboratories
Douglas VanOort has learned that people do their jobs better when they feel they have a purpose.
“For me, one of the important aspects of leadership is to deeply engage employees,” he says. “Companies that engage their employees deeply have a much better chance at being successful with their customers and being successful with their investors. And I think engaging employees starts with being purpose-driven, which is easy for us at Neo- Genomics. We literally save lives because of the work we do in cancer diagnostics.”
Fort Myers–based NeoGenomics works to create a corporate culture in which employees feel valued and inspired. “It’s all about creating a kind of culture and the kinds of employees that customers want to do business with,” says VanOort. “To me, that is a big part of leadership. I think it’s important that the leadership at our company tries very hard to make it a great place to work, and that means listening to your employees and engaging them about what they want and how we can help them become better people.”
The company has taken steps to help its employees better understand each other
and appreciate their individual interests and differences. “I think it makes us all better,” says VanOort. “It’s great when you have people trying to be leaders, learning how to be leaders and asking questions about leadership. That makes us all better people and better leaders.”