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013: Gerry Barber: We were dysfunctional

Podcast Show Notes with Gerry Barber

Gerry was fortunate to learn a valuable lesson as a young leader that helped to change his path. Being an eager and confident leader he volunteered to lead a team in a business simulation as part of a leadership development program. Gerry thought he knew a lot about leadership, but he didn’t know what he didn’t know. His first day was a disaster and they were pretty much dysfunctional as a team. Listen to Gerry as he tells his story and the epiphany he had that caused him to turn things around so you can use his experience to move onward and upward faster.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Check out Gerry Barber getting over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet

“Leadership and learning are indispensable of each other.” JFK told by Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“If you stop learning you are not going to be a leader for very long.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“Change is absolute and change is happening so rapidly today.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“Social media is the future of interactions for our world.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“When you learn together you become stronger together.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“Leadership is about influence.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“Realize your team brings something to the table.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“To be a great leader you need to be able to give each team member the time they need.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“Sit down and write your leadership point of view.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

“Keep business simple.” -Gerry Barber Click to Tweet

As a young leader, Gerry got the got the opportunity to participate in a four-year executive management program. The group of 30 people was split into separate teams that would compete against each other in a simulation to run all aspects of a business. Being eager and confident Gerry volunteered to lead his team for the first year. He thought he knew a lot about leadership at that time, but he didn’t know what he didn’t know. That first day he had a very difficult time. He was telling people what to do and was asking folks to do this and that and wasn’t doing some of the things that he really should do as a leader. When the team convened that day they were pretty much dysfunctional as a team. After a long night of reflection about all that went wrong he finally came to the realization that leadership is not about telling people what to do or making decisions.

Leadership Epiphany

Leadership is not about telling people what to do or making decisions, it’s about influence.

Advice for others

Realize your team brings something to the table and while you are the leader it’s a collective experience.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Limited time to spend developing others.

Best Leadership Advice Received

You need to sit down and write down your leadership point of view.

Secret to Success

Living as a servant leader and putting my people first.

Best Resources in Business or Life

Books and CIAC certification, memories, mentors

Recommended Reading

You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference

Leading at a Higher Level, Revised and Expanded Edition: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded

Contacting Gerry

email: gbarber [at]

Phone: 615-882-7792

More Resources

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

Show Transcript: 

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

013: Gerry Barber: We were dysfunctional


Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success.  And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligent practitioner, Jim Rembach.

Jim Rembach:   Thanks Kimberly. Okay Fast Leader legion, I am blessed to get the opportunity to introduce to you the person that I get to introduce to today. Gerry Barber has been a longtime friend and I always link to him to help me get over my own hump. He’s full of wisdom. He’s full of reserve energy that is rare and greatly appreciated, I don’t know, maybe he got that from living and growing up on the South side Chicago where he played a lot of baseball, and that’s one of the connections that we have together. I don’t know about the rock ‘n roll drummer that he was trying to be able to become but he had to grow up just like we all do. 


He moved into what I would refer to as operational excellence and he work with a lot of organizations and retail customer care and support and has built leaders throughout his own career. Today, he lives just outside of Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jenny of 38 years and has two grown boys. Gerry Barber, are you ready to help us get over the hump?


Gerry Barber:     I’m going to take you up and I’m going to take you over. 


Jim Rembach:     Awesome. 


Gerry Barber:     Let’s go.


Jim Rembach:     Alright. I’ve given our listeners a brief introduction but can you tell us a little bit more about what your current passion is so that we can get to know you better?


Gerry Barber:     I’m very passionate about what I do in my work which relates to contact centers and shared services. I have fun every day at the office but when I’m away from the office there are many other things that I like to get involved with. One of those is putting my top down on my little Miata and riding the back roads of Tennessee. It’s a great stress reliever and a fun way just to get lost on a Saturday afternoon, I can’t wait spring is coming and so I should get a lot of days coming up be able to do just that.


Jim Rembach:     Thanks for sharing that with me. I appreciate what you had referred to as far as the therapy associated with that and wish you sunny days. So, here on the Fast Leader Show we are always looking for inspirations that will help us get over the hump. And we like to focus in on leadership quotes or passages to help us do that. And I know throughout the course of your career you probably had several that you had to lean on in order to help you. But, is there one that stands out that you’d like to share with our listeners?

Gerry Barber:     Jim, yes. There’s one that throughout my career keeps on being in the forefront of my mind. Leadership and learning are indispensable of each other, that’s a quote by our late great Pres. John F. Kennedy, and simply put that, if you stop learning you’re not going to be a leader for very long. Change is absolute and changes are happening so rapidly today that that quote in itself is more important than any other that I think about on a daily basis.


Jim Rembach:    There’s some really important information that we can glean from that. But for you, how do you apply the meaning of that quote in your life today?


Gerry Barber:     That’s simple. I subscribe to servant leadership. Servant leadership means simply you put your people first. And when you put your people first that means you want to find the ways that they can grow. Grow in their career, grown in their lives and get satisfaction from what they do. So, I invest a lot of time in my team members and my people to insure that they grow as leaders.


Jim Rembach:     You had mentioned something to me before that I stood out when you started talking about having people that are better than you working for you. There’s  so many of us that live in fear and we don’t want transfer what we know to somebody else because—they may take my job—how do you overcome that fear so that you can thrive? 


Gerry Barber:     This is a question that’s a difficult challenge for one zig, alright and many of us leaders have somewhat of an ego. I’m going to be honest here, I’m in the twilight of my career, meaning that retirement is only a couple years away. And recently, I have worked very hard to help my team become the best they can be but I’ve also added a team member who I firmly believe has a greater chance of taking our contact center to an even higher level of performance over the years. One of the things that this particular individual brings to the table is a great and deep understanding of social media. Social media is the future of interactions for our world and with her here shall be able to help us move forward. I don’t have that fear anymore, I in fact been embraced the fact that will take the legacy of what we’ve built here and enhance it even more for the new social world. 


Jim Rembach:     I guess there’s maybe some struggle that some folks. If there’s somebody who has a particular skill or knowledge and you really develop their skills even more, how do you help that person do just that?


Gerry Barber:     One of the things that I’ve used, I was going to talk about it later in our  discussion but I’ll bring it up now, is that I’ve built a lot of learning on having book clubs. And so we’ll take a book and I don’t just sit there and teach, everyone who is part of that book club for the period of time, usually it is six weeks and we meet once a week, we take a chapter or two or three at a time to discuss. Each individual who becomes part of that book club will take a chapter, and the books are great book on leadership, on business or on contact centers. Whatever the flavor of the day is for us to grow we do it together. When you do it together you learn together and you become stronger together.

Jim Rembach:   Oh, some really sage and powerful advice there. However, I know that getting to the point to where you are now and being somebody who’s probably producing leaders at a much faster rate than you did at your youth you had challenges, we all have them, we have humps that we need to get over. Can you think of a time where you had to get over one and that kind of shape and guided you to really where you are today, can you share that with us please?


Gerry Barber:     Let me share a story, and you’re going to have to bear with me because this maybe a little drawn out here but I want to get some of the facts out. It’s circa 1983, I was very young leader, and I have been working with Quill Corporation at Lincolnshire, Illinois at that time. I got the opportunity to participate in a four year executive management program put on by the American Management Association. This program was built to meet once a year for a full week and then have homework and deliverables in between the year. So, it was it was set up where we were broken up into five teams of six people, so there’s roughly 30 people if my math is right, participating in the program together for all four years. We came together and on the first morning of the first day I think I had one of the best leadership lessons I could’ve ever had in my career. So, on that first morning we broke up into teams and six of us came together as a new team. 


Each of us came from a different business, different business model even maybe a different part of the country, because this was not just exclusively regional, there was folks from L.A. as well as Chicago and Boston and in other points in between. So we got together, and heady me, raise my hand and said I’d like to lead the first year, because he had to name a leader for each year, and I said I would be a leader for the first year. And so there we went on our first day and the object of the of the four years is through simulation run a business, everything from HR management, manufacturing, development and producing a products in paper and theory in this in the simulation all the way to managing profit and loss and managing the business. And at the end of four years, each year you would get rated as to where you were at against the other teams. 


So, I took that leadership position, I thought I knew a lot about leadership at that time but I didn’t know what I did know. And so, on that first day I had a very difficult time, I was telling people what to do. I was asking folks to do this, that and wasn’t doing some of the things that we really should do as a leader. When I left that day we were pretty much dysfunctional as a team. I went back to my hotel room and had a lot of time to think about all that went wrong and at the end of the day, and in the beginning of the morning, I came to the realization, and this is my Aha moment, that leadership is not about telling people what to do or making decisions for the larger group, and in fact with this group which is different than what I had managed before, these were all peers. They came from different organizations, they were probably senior managers of this or director of that. And so—why would they listen to me? They didn’t have to. They didn’t have any fear, I wasn’t paying them as would happen in my job before? And thus it occurred to me and that hump that I had to get over was, I had to learn that leadership is about influence that is the lesson that I learned. When I  so when I figured that out, and it’s probably two o’clock in the morning, I got a couple of hours of sleep and we met back again at 8 AM at the facility and I simply apologized to the team for my actions of the day before and that I wasn’t really displaying a leadership view. I was humble about apologizing and that I want to listen and engage and see where we could take it. Well, the good news is that I think alone my humble apology helped influence a change. And from there in the first year we came in second, the five teams. But had I not had that realization, and had I not kept that all these years, I don’t think I’d be the leader I am today. 


Jim Rembach:     So many pieces of insight. What you’ve learned that we can leverage to help us get over the hump much faster than we would otherwise. And that epiphany that you shared with us, we called them epiphanies, a lot of times here on the show, I think I’ve even been through myself, but when you look at many different pieces within that story and our Fast Leader Legion having the challenges that they have, what advice would you actually give them to help them move forward faster?


Gerry Barber:     Realize that your team brings something to the table and that while your leader assigned or unassigned whatever it is, and you don’t need a title necessarily to be leader—I love that book incidentally by Sanborn—that it’s a collective experience and the idea of trying to come to some clear vision with and for the team is extraordinarily important to success but listening first before doing.


Jim Rembach:   Oh, I love that, thank you for sharing that with us. When you start talking about what really excites you today with the work that you’re doing, what is it?


Gerry Barber:      While I mentioned I’m in the twilight of my career, I’m having more fun now in my career that I’ve had in all the years prior. I’ve had such tremendous opportunity to really become the leader I wanted to be and to act on that. After six years of leading the Lloyd’s contacts and our operations, I was given the opportunity and responsibility to lead now a full transformation of our expense management operations, which I am so excited about at this point time in my career because I can do all the things that I’ve learned and put them into practice again even at this late date, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. 


I’ve been into it a year now, it’s a cultural transformation, it’s a technology transformation, and it’s a process transformation. And while I’ve been in it for a year there’s still a lot of things that we need to do. The cultural side of it I think has been improved and were moving along with the great solid organization with a clear vision and the right strategies in place to be successful over time and take us from good to great and so, I’m excited. Now comes all of the technology and the process improvements that we’ve measured and have said, these are our strategies to the affect transformation. So, now I get to see and be part of a team who will unleash those transformational activities over the next two years before I say goodbye.


Jim Rembach:     The Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. 


Gerry Barber:     We’re having fun.


Jim Rembach:     Alright, here we go Fast Leader listeners it’s time for the—Hump Day Hoedown. Okay Gerry the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insight fast. I’m going to ask you several question and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Gerry, are you ready to hoedown?


Gerry Barber:     I’m going to try, try my best. 


Jim Rembach:     What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?


Gerry Barber:     That’s very simple. My time is at a premium and to be a great leader you need to be able to give each team member the time they need to improve themselves. I’m finding it harder and harder with having multiple responsibilities, contact center and the expense management of organization, to give the right amount of time. Hopefully I see my way clearer in about six months where I can really then begin to devote my time to individuals versus just the transformation.


Jim Rembach:     What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?


Gerry Barber:     Actually it came from a book. And in that book it said: You need to sit down and write your leadership point of view. I think for your legions you’ll understand that it really talks about who you are and how you got to the point of the leader you are, what your expectations are for yourself, and what your expectation is for your team members and your peers in which you do business with or interact on any life situation? And so, that has been very dear to me. 


When I came first I had read the book, and the book incidentally, I know you’re going to probably ask me what’s my favorite book, this is it it’s called ‘Leading at a Higher Level’ it’s by the Blanchard group, it’s a copulation of everything they’ve done in the business world on leadership for a good number of years and it’s really great shelf reference as well. It walks you through thinking about and developing your leadership point of view, as well as part of the book. And so,  right before I came to Deloitte I had found that book and was using it as research in my role with CIAC, The Competency and Certification Group that was part of ICMI, and utilize a lot of thought processes from that book as we build competencies work [inaudible 16:34] our leadership.


I had used the leadership point of view as my letter to my new teams here at Deloitte when I arrived and I can tell you that it closed a lot of gaps that people normally have like, who the hell is this guy? And what’s he’s going to do us? It was all there in black and white, where I came from, what I believe in, what I expect from myself, and what I expect from them and where we might go as a team together, and it was great. I use it again when I took the leadership role of our expense management organization just a year ago, to also introduce myself and move quickly from ‘we don’t know this guy’ to ‘hey, we’re part of a team. 


Jim Rembach:    What do feel is one of your secrets that contributes to your success?


Gerry Barber:     I mentioned it earlier and that’s living as a servant leader and putting your people first and making sure that we work together to have a clear vision and chart the right strategies for our journey. That journey continues in the contact center and in our expense management organization. 


Jim Rembach:    What do you feel is one of your best resources that helps you lead in business or life?


Gerry Barber:     My best resource is always to go to books and I use that leadership at a higher level as a Bible, so it’s a great desk reference, I think I mentioned that earlier, and I go to that. I also believe in the competencies in the art and science of contact center leadership. So, I utilize the developmental manuals that were built for the CIC certification as my guide too in leading contact center. Beyond that its memories and interactions with a couple of great mentors that I had my career. One that comes to mind is Jack Miller who was the patriarch of Quill and got it started and let it for a good many of years before it was sold to Staples. He always told me in business keep it simple. If I’m going to sell you a pen, here’s what it is and here’s how much it cost and you make the transaction and you go on, so keep business simple.


Jim Rembach:     Great advice. So, you already mentioned your favorite book were going to take that and give links to that on our show notes page where you’ll be able to find at Barber. Alright Gerry, the last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you were 25 years old again, you’re supposed to now manage a group that is underperforming and are disengaged but you’ve been blessed you get to retain everything that you’ve learned up until today. So, you get up in the morning, you head out to work, what you do now?


Gerry Barber:     In a way that happened to me last year. No, I didn’t go back to 25 and wasn’t able to run a fast 40 a yard dash, but it really is that scenario, I was moving into an area of our operations that I didn’t have a lot of subject matter expert for expense management, expense audit card management, if you will for our organization. I was asked to bring my leadership skills to the table to help in this transformation of group, I won’t say that they were disconnected, they were doing good work, didn’t have the right technologies didn’t have the right processes and sorely needed the right leadership.


There’s another book that I will share and that’s called ‘The First 90 days. It was a book written by Michael Watkins, it’s a Harvard Press, I believe, but don’t quote me on that. It’s a book I used when I arrived at Deloitte and it’s a book I used again when I took on the responsibilities for the transformation. Basically in that book it helps you understand how you should go about taking on that new responsibility, that new transformation, that new organization that needs to be improved. And in that first 90 days, it’s so crucial to be listening to help people understand who you are to begin to craft an understanding of what is needed and then to rally people around a clear vision to go into the future for that journey that you’re about to take together. You should not make rash judgments and decisions in that 90 days just to appease your boss or some other group who wants to see the transformation done the week after you get in there, you got to resist those type of things. Following the guidance in the First 90 Days book is absolutely a wonderful way to go about tackling the scenario that you talk about. And so, I would encourage anyone who is starting a new job, starting new roll or taking over a transformation of another part of their organization to read that book and let that book guide you through the process.


Jim Rembach:   Gerry Barber, it was an honor to spend time with you today please share with Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you?


Gerry Barber:     That’s easy. Again I work with Deloitte, I could be found at or you can give me a call at 615-882-7792 be happy to chat with anyone who wants to talk about leadership anytime. 


Jim Rembach:     Gerry, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot Woot!


Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.