I have a theory that I shared with my team throughout my career. My role as a leader was to find great talent, give them the tools to do the job, and then get out of their way. I still feel very strongly about all three of those. Finding talent is not easy. Developing talent through providing the tools and the training is challenging as well. Letting the individuals develop, even when they are making mistakes, is the hardest challenge.
I spoke with Ned Hunter, Executive Vice President at Kito Corporation recently and he shared what has made him successful. Ned leads a very large portion of Kito, globally. He is a thoughtful, soft-spoken individual with a charismatic way about him that earns a strong following from his team. They follow him, not just because they like and respect him, but also because of how Ned challenges them to grow into new roles. Some of the roles may be surprising, even to the individual in the role. Ned has that kind of eye for talent, and the heart and stamina to develop his staff. He trusts his instincts.
It’s rare that we think about a high level executive coaching and developing their team. Most of the time we are sharing stories of great strategists making great decisions. What makes Ned stand out is his people strategy. People are the life blood of any organization. Great strategies poorly executed fail. Mediocre strategies executed well, can bring great results. Kito benefits from Ned’s strong strategy and his team’s excellent execution of those strategies.
Ned started his career with Kito as the CEO of Harrington Hoists and advanced from there to become a Senior Executive Officer, Chairman of the Americas, then was promoted into his current role where he leads the corporate subsidiaries and market operations globally, except for China. I first met Ned when he was a Senior Director of National Accounts and Government at Grainger. Ned was at different level than his peer group, myself included. He was extremely professional and highly respected.
Ned saw his role as one to develop not only customers for Grainger, but also develop his team so that they could perform at this best. He provided them opportunities to grow in their current role. He has done the same with Kito.
He started by using discovery. He would observe his staff in 2-3 different group sessions to see how they interacted and then he would evaluate based on 11 different criteria, including traits like financial acumen, interpersonal skills, time management and negotiation skills. He then identified strengths and weaknesses and helped to create plans to address them. “With the right combination of people and talents, the sum is greater than the parts.” He continues to observe, to look for growth in the individual and the teams.
Ned found talent in people that may not have even seen it in themselves. He worked with his finance manager to develop him into his CFO. He worked with his sales leader to develop him into the CEO that could replace Ned as he moved into new roles.
The gift that Ned brings to his team is his ability to be patient. He coaches them based on his view of what he sees. He “plays the tape” so that they can get a clear picture of their behavior, then offers suggestions on how they can grow. He uses data, derived from asking questions, then listens. He is curious about what and how people think. He actually listens.
I’ve worked with leaders who do not invest in their team’s development. They believe they hire people with talent and their either “get it” or they need to leave. That is a costly way to grow your business. The investment in hiring and developing talent that can grow, leads into a long-term strength. Ned Hunter not only knows this, he has perfected it.