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Transparent Leadership in 2021

Day two of the Financial Leadership Summit reminded me about the importance of authenticity.

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Day two of the Financial Leadership Summit reminded me about the importance of authenticity. As finance executives navigate myriad choices and uncertain outcomes, key to mitigating risks and protecting those around you will be openly sharing your journey. Stephen R. Covey once said, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Now more than ever, the content of your character will be the door opener, the deal maker, the team leader.

Our opening session was led by Jonathan Keyser, founder of Keyser, a commercial real estate brokerage named “The commercial real estate industry disruptor” by the USA Today. Jonathan transparently shared stories about growing up a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, his tumultuous beginnings in commercial real estate, and how he’s designed an organization around selfless service and the three levels of reinvention. The first level, Self, is built upon authentic self awareness and remembering that you must always work on the blind spots you don’t know that you don’t know you have. Change starts with you. It can be uncomfortable, but be your word in the smallest of moments.

Second, Company Culture, comes from listening actively to your team. When stress is high, you can lighten others’ load by not punishing mistakes. Jonathan ends each staff meeting with a simple question, “Where am I making mistakes?” Asking this, and listening without judgment, creates a safe place for team members to feel heard and drive transformation. The third level, serving Clients and Collaborators, is delivering an unreasonable level of service. Pick your community partners based on cultural alignment as they publicly become an extension of your executive and company brands. It can be a long game, but loyalty is earned.

I’m so grateful for Rosanne Bump, Executive Director of the FEI Twin Cities chapter for hosting a speed networking event. I loved meeting and welcoming new Twin Cities member John Marshall. I smiled ear-to-ear when I heard Mark Meyers from FEI Nashville was starting a doctorate program. And, I was reconnected with Bret Lawson, who took me under his wing at FEI Arizona in 2014 and opened many unexpected doors. He shared his journey with me then and I find unique ways to repay his kindness today. 

Nick Espinosa, Chief Security Fanatic and CIO of Security Fanatics, led us through a fast paced and deeply informative look at the dark web and cyber risks organizations are exposed to daily. In his session, Hacking the Hackers and Protecting the Future, he mentioned that last year saw a 300% increase in cyber crimes, that there are four million cyber security jobs open, and that human error is a major cause of most issues companies face. Simple steps you can take to limit risk include not using corporate email addresses for managing personal online accounts, enabling two factor authorization on capable sites, and not allowing employees to use their personal devices for work tasks (often called BYOD, or bring your own device). If you missed it, be sure to watch Nick’s session on demand. Nick live demonstrated different dark web search engines and it was fascinating.

Tom Peff, from Workday, and Greg Tuman, from Capstone Logistics, led us in their session entitled Looking Forward: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail, Why Every Business Needs a Plan. Greg offered wonderful insights into Capstone Logistics’ reasons for choosing Workday, their implementation timeline and process, and how the software has saved them resources. Although deeply tactical, Greg openly sharing how he managed the Workday implementation while Capstone was acquiring other businesses was truly insightful.

Our final educational session of day two of the 2021 Financial Leadership Summit, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs): Fad or Future? was delivered by EY. Traci Twardowski, Associate Director, Marketing and Business Development moderated a panel discussion that included Karim Anani, Americas Transactions Accounting Advisory Leader, and Mark Schwartz, Managing Director, Equity Capital Markets Advisory. In 2020, there were roughly 250 SPAC transactions. In Q1 2021, there were over 300. There has been a rapid evolution of SPACs in a short period of time, and the EY team is seeing heightened attention from regulatory bodies. As of now, they’re seeing the most transactions occurring in tech companies that are disrupting old line industries, and in healthcare. Karim’s opinion is that SPACs are not a fad, that they can be a nice capital source option.

Thank you to Ledgent for hosting Rock and Roll Networking. We were treated to an awesome video sharing bits of history behind The Beach Boys, Heart, Prince, and Green Day and the items each donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. We then competed in a trivia game based on the video and fun facts about the city of Cleveland. The 2022 edition of Summit is scheduled to be hosted by FEI Northeast Ohio.

Covey is also quoted as saying, “What you do has greater impact than what you say.” Authenticity is our thoughts, habits, and actions. It’s recognizing our mistakes, asking for feedback, and choosing a new course of action where more voices are heard. It’s laughing with and celebrating one another. And, its admitting that you had no idea that Kokomo was a fictional island The Beach Boys made up.

Executive coach Michael S. Seaver is emcee of the 2021 Financial Leadership Summit. For more information about his recently released book, I Know, visit