Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Dustin: Like most people, I was terribly afraid to speak in public. In school, this fear drove me to hunt for the little-known loophole that allowed me to get credit for the class without having to take it. Years later, I would find myself back against the wall with no way out. Forced to speak, I did it and discovered I loved speaking along with the many benefits one gets from standing up in front of others. I would then go on to speak in front of thousands of people all over the United States, the Netherlands and even as far as Russia, not to mention the international webinars we conducted. Surprised by my discovery, I then started a company that trained others how to overcome their fear, speak and communicate effectively. In doing so, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with well known athletes, business celebrities and thought leaders.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Dustin: I invested nearly nine years in building a business, dreaming of a silicon valley like exit one day. Out of the blue, I woke up realizing I no longer wanted to be on that path, so I exited without the big day I always envisioned. After taking about 6 months off, I decided to reinvent myself, including moving my family all the way across the country. During that “reinvention time”, I grappled with confusion, depression and incredibly dark times. However, out of that, I discovered more about myself in that time than in the previous five years. I’m grateful to have experienced this because I’m more fulfilled than I’ve ever been and truly doing what I’m meant to be doing. I believe that everyone should re-invent or add a major new experience to their life, at least, every 5 years.
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Dustin: Being a rainmaker is relatively simple – ambition, drive and good ol’ fashion hustle. Building and leading a team of rainmakers requires another set of skills. Getting to that next level of leadership requires listening and empathy. Naturally, as an achiever you’ll want to act and problem solve yourself. However, as an effective leader, you’ve got to listen to your team, put yourself in their shoes and empower them to arrive at their own answers. Even though they are going to stumble, go down wrong roads and make mistakes, an effective leader allows for this and then provides feedback along the way.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Dustin: 1) Continually Put Yourself In The Environment – As you progress up the “leadership ladder,” it’s easy to find yourself a bit removed from the areas that were instrumental in you getting to the top. Making it a priority to put yourself back in these environments will open up new opportunities and new ways of seeing the world. Revisiting areas will give you new awareness as you are coming from a different perspective now.
In addition, be sure you are putting yourself in new, and perhaps uncomfortable, environments. The greatest opportunities for us to grow are in the areas we don’t know and haven’t formed opinions on. Although you might not feel entirely confident, if you let your curiosity guide you, you will discover new things about yourself, your team and the process.
2) Share The Why – It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the “what” or the “how”, especially when sharing complex projects with your team. The savvy leader shares the “why” and further fosters a conversation about it, so stakeholders understand why it’s so important. Simon Sinek, most certainly, discusses the power of WHY in his works and I’ve found that sharing “the why” enables flexibility, sparks curiosity and contributes to the overall happiness of the team.
3) Consistently Overdeliver – We’ve all heard this, but this recently struck me in a different light when reading Life Is A Contact Sport by Ken Kragen. Ken was responsible for We Are The World, Hands Across America and managing the careers of Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Trisha Yearwood and many other well-known entertainers. He built his career around the power of giving and the philosophy that when you overdeliver you truly get back more than you give. In most contexts, you hear companies adopting this mindset when it comes to customer service, however, I’ve discovered this works in all areas of business and personal life.
With this mindset, you can walk into any situation and benefit. The astute leaders say to themselves, “What can I learn here?”
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Dustin: Surrender. Observe. Transcend. Despite our desire to create results and control situations, when you make the time to see what’s really taking place, you get access to a lot more information. This is especially beneficial when things get heated or emotions are running high. Often times, people are clouded by this and are not getting the entire picture. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t prepare or avoid confrontation altogether. Instead, this is about taking in all the information that’s available to you and then powerfully moving forward.
Next time you find yourself in a not so ideal situation, remember to just step back and heighten your senses, so you can pick up all the information and then think about what are all the different and creative ways for up leveling myself or my team from this situation.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Dustin: Teach. By far, the best way to pay it forward is to teach, mentor or coach others. When you do, you gain access to another level of clarity and mastery of the subject. An additional, perhaps equally powerful benefit, is putting yourself in a different environment, which provides emerging opportunities, new ideas and relationships you might not have been exposed to otherwise. You don’t have to be an expert to teach others. Simply observing, asking questions or even reading a book and then sharing it with those around you is an incredibly powerful way for anyone to pay it forward.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Dustin: My grandmother picked up tennis later in life, but made sure all of her grandchildren started young. Early on, I discovered the power of practice and that if you want to get good, you’ve got to put in the time. Tennis also forces you inward. Miss a shot. Gotta let it go. Something on your mind outside of the tennis court? No time for that because that darn ball keeps coming back to you. In reaching that next level, just like in business, you’ve got to start thinking a few steps ahead. I’ve also made some great business connections, friends and allies on the tennis court.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Dustin: Whatever your goal – lose weight, start a business or meet the love of your life, just commit to taking one small action a day for an entire year. That “one small action” could be to read an article, watch a video on the subject or listen to a podcast. Just something. When you take action every day, you build momentum and as a result you’ll be surprised at where you’ll end up and, often times, you’ll discover that it won’t take you a year to get there.