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“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became the CEO of Entelechy” With Terry Traut

Work-life balance isn’t a thing so don’t try to make it something. I’m guessing this lesson will be greeted with some naysayers, but let me explain. Part of my reason to start my own business was to spend more time with my middle-school-aged girls. As a manager in a high-tech company, I rarely got to […]

Work-life balance isn’t a thing so don’t try to make it something. I’m guessing this lesson will be greeted with some naysayers, but let me explain. Part of my reason to start my own business was to spend more time with my middle-school-aged girls. As a manager in a high-tech company, I rarely got to spend quality time with them. Starting my own business allowed me to attend virtually every school event, sporting event (and there were LOTS), and — to the chagrin of my girls, get involved as dance chaperone, school committee member, etc. Moreover, we took more vacations and outings together than ever. Sure, I had to make up for that time working after the girls went to bed and weekends. In fact, work never really shut down, but neither did life; in fact, life came alive when I dropped the artificial line between work and life.


I had the pleasure to interview Terry Traut. Business-focused. Transparent. Practical. Results-oriented. Terry understands what drives leadership and change in organizations. For 27 years, he and his team at Entelechy have designed, developed, and delivered hundreds of programs in the areas of leadership, management, and customer experience for clients like Thermo Fisher Scientific, Sprint, Republic Services, DIRECTV, Constant Contact, BNY Mellon and many more. Terry has personally created training for 60 leadership experts including Marshall Goldsmith, Warren Bennis, Jack Welch, Sir Richard Branson, John Kotter, among others. He’s a prolific writer, authoring numerous articles, whitepapers, and, notably, a chapter, “Lies about Learning to Lead,” in Larry Israelite’s book, More Lies About Learning (ATD Press). Terry holds a BS in Education from St. Cloud University and a MS in Human Services Administration from Boston University. He has completed all coursework for EdD, Human Resource Education from Boston University.


Thank you so much for joining us Terry! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always enjoyed learning and development: the theory, the application, and the impact. My first post-college job was that of an elementary school teacher. While I found out quickly that I wasn’t called to teach children, I loved my role in teaching adults … teaching teachers how to use computers in the classroom (that will date me!) In the pursuit of my masters and doctorate of education, I was introduced to this whole new-to-me field of management and leadership and the positive — and sometimes negative impacts leaders had on their people. In forming Entelechy, Inc. back in 1992, I combined my love of training and development with this most amazing thing we know as management and leadership. For 27 years we’ve been helping leaders increase their effectiveness and, as a result, the effectiveness of their people. People feel good about their work, their contributions, and themselves. They go home happier people. The world is a better place when leaders are better leaders.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

My passion is in developing people, not developing a business. However, if I wanted to reach more leaders and positively impact the lives of more people, I needed to learn how to develop and run a business. After working hard to be the entrepreneur, the businessman, the financial planner, the sales director, I realized that I’m not great (okay, not even good!) at all these things. What I think I AM good at is building a place — a space — for people to achieve their greatness. My lesson, therefore, is to lead from strength. At the same time, running a business requires that you pay attention to important things like business development, cash flow, hiring, etc. Find people who do these things well … and love doing them; then delegate and celebrate their successes!

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

Hiring the right people is key. Back before work-at-home was even a thing, I hired mothers who wanted to get back into their career, but on their terms. Some wanted part time, some wanted flexible hours, and all wanted to work from home so they could continue their primary role as parent. While I didn’t want our clients to know that we all worked from home (back in the early ’90s, that wasn’t cool), I felt that I had uncovered a gold mine of talent who were passionate about their work. We continue to tap into that gold mine and provide a unique place where we can work together, grow together, help our clients achieve great things, and — where I’m most proud — enable each employee to be the best spouse and parent they can be.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

Develop business constantly. As a small company you’re either selling or doing; that’s a recipe for failure. Instead, you need to sell while you do work or you’ll run out of work.

Think long term. Employee development, business development, strategy; how does what you’re doing today get you to where you want to be tomorrow?

Take a chance on enthusiasm. Skills can be developed. Passion, eagerness, willingness to learn; those things can’t be easily developed. We hired a person with no corporate training experience. While she had an education background, in my experience, that actually would work against her. Yet, she was so passionate and focused that it was hard not to hire her. We did and, five years later, she is one of Entelechy’s most prized resources.

Life-work balance isn’t a thing so don’t try to make it something. See my “burn out” advice below.

People are the reason. I love the fact that some of my employees have been with me since almost the beginning of the company. It means that they’re getting something important from this thing called Entelechy, and that makes me proud. While most of our clients are huge, we’re not. Yet time after time we’ll hear from a client who’s moved to another company and wants to bring us in. It means that as a company we’re providing something valuable, and that makes me proud. Our company has positively impacted tens of thousands of managers who have positively impacted hundreds of thousands of employees, and that makes me proud.

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Work-life balance isn’t a thing so don’t try to make it something. I’m guessing this lesson will be greeted with some naysayers, but let me explain. Part of my reason to start my own business was to spend more time with my middle-school-aged girls. As a manager in a high-tech company, I rarely got to spend quality time with them. Starting my own business allowed me to attend virtually every school event, sporting event (and there were LOTS), and — to the chagrin of my girls, get involved as dance chaperone, school committee member, etc. Moreover, we took more vacations and outings together than ever. Sure, I had to make up for that time working after the girls went to bed and weekends. In fact, work never really shut down, but neither did life; in fact, life came alive when I dropped the artificial line between work and life.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Donna Iacopucci is my Chief Operating Officer and essentially runs the company. She’s been with me for 22 years and has helped build the organization into what it is today. There are too many stories that exemplify Donna’s enthusiasm, energy, relationship-building skills, and ability to manage multiple projects through delegation and employee development.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

My goals have not shifted, but they have crystallized. Over the past 27 years, the most heartwarming part of the business is when — unsolicited — attendees at one of our many customized leadership programs reaches out to say that “your program/models changed my life.” People talk about how our coaching model has changed not only their communication with their employees, but also with friends and family. They share how their confidence as a manager helped them pursue career trajectories they might not have ever considered. And they recite and paraphrase the models and techniques! In other words, they KNOW the material and they VALUE what they know.

Knowing how effective our models and techniques are, my new goal is more altruistic than it was: I want as many leaders throughout the world to benefit from these skills and the positive impact they have on employees. In short, I want to make the world a better place, one leader at a time.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

See “I want to make the world a better place, one leader at a time” above.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I would start a movement where people can learn to dialogue using research, data, and reason and not resorting to bumper-sticker reaction and divisiveness. It seems that we as a society have grown polarized on topics that matter and discourse, empathy, and problem-solving have largely disappeared. From climate change to abortion to gun control to separation of church and state, we cannot agree, we can’t even understand the other’s position.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My recent articles can be found at http://articles.unlockit.com/ and I am active on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/terrytraut/).

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