The Leadership Game Plan: How Todd Barrish, President of Indicate Media, Builds Trust

This is the second time that I have interviewed Todd Barrish, President of Indicate Media. In the first interview we talked about re-framing complex problems. It was a great interview and I learned a great deal.

So why did I ask Barrish for another interview? Simple – Todd is smart, approachable and more importantly a leader who understands that the team is more important than the leader. Not to mention I have some new questions, and I knew that Todd would not disappoint.

The Interview

How does a leader build trust?

In order to properly build trust, a leader must look both inward and outward. Looking inward is about one's character and the way a person chooses to live his/her life. Words like integrity, truth, and honor immediately come to mind. By default, these actions help identify a person’s moral character. The more respect you have and the more you identify with who a person is, the more you're obliged to trust and be led by them.

A leader also must look outward to build trust. Leadership is recognizing the way people are thinking and showing them a way forward. What may be in the best interest for the leader (as an entrepreneur) may not always be in the best interest for their team. Getting your team to trust that you are on their side and showing them the right way forward always needs to be taken into account. When people believe in who you are as a person and what your outward objectives are, they will follow.

How are you developing others on your team?

There are many structured programs out there businesses could implement to develop their team members. In addition to such programs, a leader must recognize each and every person operates differently. Development is about providing insight when needed, letting people run with their ideas even when the outcome isn't certain, listening to the feedback of your team, engaging in consistent dialogue to talk out ideas, taking advantage of teachable moments, etc.

Additionally, internal structure creates development. Setting up a meritocratic structure where employees are incentivized to go above and beyond in essence allows them to play a part in pushing their own development forward.

What are you currently doing to develop your leadership?

Lately I've been trying to listen to audiobooks on leadership. I have found hearing out specific skills and techniques (as I travel to and from the office) is great way for me to learn and get inspired. Everyone agrees leadership is hard, and certainly no one is perfect, but continuing to develop leaderships skill is essential as a business owner.

I also try and always learn from past situations and think about how I could have handled them differently. Being able to recognize a situation and provide leadership in the moment is something I work hard at. Finally, talking to other leaders is invaluable. There is so much to learn from your peers.

How do you provide support for your team, especially during difficult projects?

The biggest thing I've come to understand when it comes to leadership around difficult projects is no one project is the end all be all. Fortunately, our business doesn't live or die by any one project and so while sometimes things can be stressful, I always try and let the team know that all we can do is do our best.

Nothing else is acceptable, but if at the end of the day we hit that bar, things fall where they may. I have learned in too many cases there are political things happening on the other end of a project that we don't know about and simply can't control. Our focus is on working smart, believing in the work we're doing, and trying to hit home runs each and every time we step to the plate. This attitude needs to start from the top.

There are moments when you have a tough decision to make. How do you go about looking for a different perspective so you know for certain you are making the right choice?

This is a great question because as an entrepreneur and team leader, there is always a different perspective. Particularly when it comes to business structure, taxes, etc. While of course you have advisors and accountants, at the end of the day, they simply make recommendations, and you have to make final decisions.

I 've come to recognize in myself that I need to ask lots of questions. Sometimes over and over again until I feel I totally get it. In the early days of running Indicate Media, I would be embarrassed to ask the same questions over and over again, so I wouldn't always do it. I thought maybe others just understand things like tax code better than me. I have come to realize that isn't the right strategy, and it's the job of your advisors and accountants to keep answering the questions until YOU are satisfied, not THEM satisfied they have given you the right answer.

See the difference? Once I feel I fully understand something, I am better able to make the right choice.

Looking for new markets is a primary responsibility for a leader. How do you plot the course to make sure your company is prepared for that new market?

In the public relations business, we view each potential client the same way we view new markets, so we have a lot of experience in this. The way you prepare is through research. They are numerous resources on the internet you can find to help you learn about something new.

We also ask lots of questions to anyone we know in the market to get as much perspective and information as possible. A smart leader plots the course by being organized in their research and diligence and knowing where to turn when questions arise.

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