The use of a mobile whiteboard to share leadership and productivity tidbits with my team came about quite accidentally and was never part of a plan. I transitioned from being a paramedic to being an entrepreneur with a couple of partners in the late 1990s and spent fifteen years building and developing a software company. We had amassed a significant client base and built an incredible team, most of which had grown with us during the 15 years.
We survived the dot-com bust, the fundraising difficulties after 9/11, the economic recession of 2007, and the healthcare uncertainty created by the HITECH Act and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). We beat the odds and thrived when most were failing. We were understandably worn out, and several of our team was ready to consider the next steps. Our leadership team met one evening to evaluate the future and voted to find a suiter and plan our exit. While I was the lone dissenting vote on a team of incredible leaders, I knew it was right for them, and I quickly got behind the decision to begin positioning our company for a sale. I had one condition…we pick a buyer that would assure us a voice in how our clients, the team, and the product would be managed going forward.
Fast forward passed the yearlong M&A process, and we closed the deal with an incredible company that matched our vision and assured us of what we needed to be comfortable. Our clients and team would be taken care of during and after the transition. In fact, the entire team made the change and still works for the buying company as of me telling this story. The only losses were my dear partners (and mentors) on the Board of Directors and my co-founding partner, the CEO. They were ready for retirement and chose to ride off into the sunset while I continued forward.
The transition went well, and I couldn’t be happier with our selection. The buyer was an incredible company with a history of success and a commitment to excellent staff and client support. I agreed to a 2-year transition period in which I would continue to manage our existing team, clients, and product as well as consult on the integration of the two solutions.
I assumed I would remain somewhat isolated from the core company and continue to manage the business I had started; however, that quickly changed. I’ve been known to have a Type A personality, and I’m willing and anxious to speak to a situation if I think I can help. One email to the new CEO, a quick meeting and the next thing I know I’m moving to Boise, ID to take over the GM role for that office.
The transition to Boise was tough. I was taking over for a GM that had a loyal following in the office, and I was seen as the reason for his departure (I wasn’t of course). I know it was just as tough on them as it was me and I would have to win them over through my consistent leadership and a shared vision of success.
They gave me the worst office in the building. It was a misshapen office with floor to ceiling windows on three walls, and the one solid wall was unusable. That doesn’t sound horrible, but all I could think was, “there is no place for a whiteboard.” How can somebody lead strategic planning sessions in an office without a whiteboard? So, I kindly asked for a mobile whiteboard to be brought into my office. That was the birth of #wisdomofthewhiteboard.
I quickly found that I don’t use the whiteboard very often and it just takes up space in my awkwardly designed area. So now I have the whiteboard, and there is nothing on it. I had a thought one morning while I was sitting in my office and preparing for the day. I want my team to know who I am and what I think. What I believe. What ideas stir my passions. I pulled my mobile whiteboard over, and I wrote my first message. I then faced the message outward so that it could be read through the glass walls as team members passed by my office.
Team members began going out of their way to walk by my office to see if there was a new message posted. I’ve even had team members tell me they went back to their desk to Google the contents of the message just to read up on various concepts (SUCCESS!).
Leaders...Your team needs to know who you are. What motivates you? What inspires you? Don't assume they know.