Nick White, Director of Facilities for Ascension Borgess Health, and Nancy Turtle, Kalamazoo Community Bank President at Mercantile Bank, give their perspective on leadership.
First thing you do in the morning?
Nick White: Make my bed.
Nancy Turtle: Brew a cup of coffee. I don’t function well without it.
Nick: A 140-pound golden lab named Tyler.
Nancy: Tippy, a black Cocker Spaniel.
First thing you would bring with you to a deserted island?
Nick: Depending on the island, I would probably bring water.
Nancy: My family. I could be anywhere as long as I have them with me.
What is the key to good leadership?
Nick: Empowering your associates. That comes through building relationships. Communication is key—if you can’t communicate, you can’t build that trust. I have a “trust-but-verify” philosophy, but I let individuals make their own decisions and drive results.
Nancy: The key to good leadership is being genuine. People want to know that you act with a high level of integrity in everything you do and say. To foster that type of leadership, you need to be humble. You need to be supportive instead of craving to be the center of attention.
When do you get your best ideas?
Nick: I come up with new ideas just by watching. I watch how senior leaders interact with their associates and observe how they treat others. I do a little self-reflection after and ask myself how I can incorporate the best of their habits and mannerisms into what I do on a daily basis.
Nancy: Times of reflection. Life is so busy these days that it truly takes effort to find time to think. I find that the best times to do this are during my commutes or while exercising. I choose not to turn on the radio or listen to music, but instead, I allow some quiet time to reflect. Then, I need to write these ideas down before life takes over again and I forget.
What is your leadership superpower?
Nick: When I think of a true leadership superpower, I think of consistency. When you’re the leader, you can’t be waffling or wavering in your decision-making. You could manage a team with your hair on fire, still get a lot done, but never be a great leader. Stability is what people want—they have too many fluctuations in their own day-to-day lives as it is.
Nancy: My superpower is my ability not to take life too seriously. I think as you get older, you become more secure with yourself. Your experiences make you realize that life will go on. Reading “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff” [by Richard Carlson] has helped too.
When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how do you determine who to hire?
Nick: I read, and love, “The Ideal Team Player” [by Patrick Lencioni], which emphasizes the importance of being smart, humble, and hungry. So, instead of asking cookie-cutter questions in an interview, I try to determine if a candidate has those three personality traits.
Nancy: I would hire the one with street smarts. You can typically tell when a person has this or not. A candidate’s ability to apply common sense and think out of the box when needed is a critical component to success in my opinion and will set them apart.
What mistake do you see leaders making more often than others?
Nick: There is a lot of pressure on leaders today to be on the cutting edge of technology and social issues. Some leaders respond to this pressure by taking over work that would usually be done by their team—they become more of a dictator or manager than a leader. These leaders are generally very good at what they do but struggle to trust their team.
Nancy: Leaders get in trouble when their egos get in the way. Resisting change and clinging to a “my-way-or-the-highway” mentality doesn’t cut it anymore in today’s business climate. In light of the current generational shift, there is a much greater need for open-minded leadership.
What resources would you recommend to those wanting to become better leaders?
Nick: I got where I am today because I attended Catalyst University and Managing from the Middle. In addition to professional development, it’s also important to find social platforms where you can take yourself out of the workplace, shake hands, network, and make friends. It can be a step outside your comfort zone, but you learn a lot through interacting with others.
Nancy: It’s so important to continually invest in yourself and your leadership skills no matter where you are in your leadership journey. Local mentorship programs like Leadership Kalamazoo are great tools for emerging leaders, but seeking out less-formal mentorships is also important. I would encourage professionals to seek a mentor who isn’t necessarily in the same line of business, but one who exhibits leadership qualities and values that resonate with them personally.
What city do you live in and what do you love about it?
Nick: I love Southwest Michigan because it’s beautiful. I grew up in Traverse City, and I’m a huge fan of the west side of the state. I live in Richland; it’s a small, close-knit community, but there is so much to do. There is Gull Lake and Fort Custer; plus, the North Country Trail runs right by my house—my kids and I love it.
Nancy: I live in Mattawan—Texas Corners to be exact—and love the small-town community environment. Concerning my work life, I have been in downtown Kalamazoo for over 20 years and have loved seeing how far this community has come. I am especially excited to see all the development currently underway and can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will bring.