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Leader of the Month for December 2006:

Hyrum Smith

Hyrum Smith

LeaderNetwork.org has provided two mediums for you to experience the leadership insights of Hyrum Smith: (1) read about Hyrum Smith below and (2) listen to excerpts from a leadership conversation between Brian McCormick and Hyrum Smith. In order to begin playing the audio in a separate window, click here Hyrum Smith audio. To download LeaderNetwork.org's leadership podcasts (including the interview with Hyrum Smith), copy and paste the following RSS link into your preferred podcast software: http://www.leadernetwork.org/leadership_podcast.rss.

Hyrum Smith's Story

In Hyrum's own words:

My father was a professor of speech, and I grew up in Hawaii with the mindset that you have to get a college degree, get into a big corporation, and grow in a big corporation. So I did that. What I discovered when I got into identifying my governing values was that the thing that I really wanted to do was teach. I looked at the academic world, and I didn't have the credentials to teach in the academic world. So I decided, "I'll teach in the corporate world. They'll take anybody in the corporate world (which is true)." So I created a little company back in 1983. The initial name of the company was H.W. Smith and Associates. We decided to teach time management because there was a recession on, and we thought we could teach people to be more productive. I had a pretty good career at ADP as a sales manager, so I had some credibility in corporate America. There were just three of us: my wife, a good friend of mine, and me. We went out and created a seminar, started selling it, and it just kind of exploded around us. What we did was we got under people's skin with this whole idea of governing values and how it impacts what you do every day, and it surprised people. Back then, and even today, when you get into a training session, most trainers are afraid to get people emotionally involved in what they are doing. But I personally believe that until you get somebody emotionally involved in making a change in their life, they are not going to do it. So the whole idea behind the I-Beam experiment (a visual image Hyrum creates in his presentations to lead people to identify and prioritize their governing values), is to get under people's skin. [After hearing the I-Beam presentation, people] will sit there and say, "What would I cross the I-Beam for?" You have to get them emotionally thinking about it, not just intellectually. You have got to get them in their hearts. Most presenters, I've discovered, go through the brain: They are intellectual. You have got to be intellectually in tune to survive those kinds of presentations. On the other hand, someone like Ken Blanchard is wonderful, and he is good at getting people emotionally involved. That is the direction we took with [the company], and it just took off. We discovered that people were hungry to find that they could close the gap between what they were doing and what they valued. Most people have values, they just never thought about identifying them. Though they have them, they never codified them; they never wrote them down. The minute you write them down, you put light on them. Light is the best disinfectant; you put light on something, and all of a sudden, "I can do something about it because I know what it is." There are a lot of people who are overweight, and they don't know why they are miserable. Well, they are miserable because they are overweight. The one big emotion that people come out of our workshops with that excites me is they come out with a new and renewed sense of hope. And I figure if I can help people get a renewed sense of hope about doing something with their lives that matters, that is a win. We have created a business around that; it is kind of neat."

As offered by Brian McCormick:

What is it that you value in life? What would you risk your life for? These are a couple of the questions that Leader of the Month Hyrum Smith uses to engage the emotions of his audiences. Among other things, Mr. Smith is a teacher, a motivator, and a storyteller.

As a teacher, Hyrum Smith advises his audiences on how to improve their lives and instructs people on the process and importance of identifying their core values. Then, he teaches the importance of prioritizing those values. By explaining his valuable techniques for planning success, focusing on productivity, and teaching the fundamentals of execution, Hyrum Smith is an excellent mentor.

In order to reach the people he addresses and engage them at a deeper level, Hyrum Smith demonstrates skill as an adept storyteller. He can engross an audience with his entertaining stories and his effective use of universal humor. He supplements the stories of his personal experiences by drawing on a vast knowledge of historical events. This enables him to effectively illustrate his points. For example, he draws on his understanding of the Roman Empire and weaponry of war to provide a clear explanation of the two elements you need in your personal productivity system: training and tools.

A hallmark of the effective leader, Hyrum Smith knows how to motivate. While listening to his advice, you are motivated to take action. But he does not simply cheer you on. After offering you the mental picture of what your life could be like, he provides you with the roadmap you can take to gain success.

About Hyrum Smith

Co-founder of Franklin Covey

Bio: wife Gail; six children; eighteen grandchildren; raised in Honolulu, Hawaii; presently calls Gunlock, Utah, home; favorite place in the world is his ranch

Favorite quote: "This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night, the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." -William Shakespeare

Dream or current personal passion: I have created a new company called the Galileo Initiative. It is four-years-old now. And I still give speeches for Franklin, but I am not involved in the management any more. We discovered a model we call the "reality model." I am quite passionate about it, and I think we can change the way the world thinks with this model. You can go to www.galileoinitiative.com, and you can read all about it. I am limiting my travel now to six days a month. I am on my way to six million miles on commercial aircraft, and that is not an award I aspired to in high school. So my passion, really, is spending more time with my family and my wife: I have six kids and eighteen grandkids. We have a cattle-horse ranch in southern Utah, and I ride horses a lot now.

Turning points in your life: high school, college, military, marriage

Can you think of any time when your leadership was challenged or tested, and how did you respond to that? In the early days of the company, we went through a very difficult time where we went through a major lawsuit. A lot of the people in the company thought it was going to destroy the company. We were small--maybe only 20 people at the time--and we [ultimately] grew to 4000 people. There were some very dark moments when we were not sure that we could make payroll. We had to reach deep and decide, "How committed are we?" We knew we were right, and we ended up blowing the lawsuit away, but we had to shore up and assure the people who were getting things done for us that we were going to prevail. I look back on it now as a good time, but it was very strenuous at the time.

What leadership highlights from your own life stand out? The creation of Franklin has been an exciting thing. We started it in my basement--three of us--and it grew to 4000 people. I guess one of the pivotal points in my management/leadership career was discovering that my role as a manager was to surround my people in an atmosphere wherein they would do what I asked them to do because they wanted to do it and not because they had to do it. What I discovered was that people would do what I told them to do as long as I was in their physical presence. But the minute I left their physical presence, they did what they wanted to do. [So I had to ask myself], "How do I create an atmosphere that says, 'Do it because you want to and not because you have to'"? A lot of people in corporate America are functioning because they "have to" and not because they want to. And people that are functioning because they "have to" require a lot of supervision. People that are functioning because they want to require virtually no supervision. That was a big "aha" for me in my management career. How were you able to get to that point with people? You [must] understand the fact that there are three basic emotions that motivate people to do anything. One is fear, one is duty, and one is love: fear, I have to do it; duty, I ought to do it; love, I want to do it. What I discovered was if I genuinely cared about my people, and recognized what they accomplished, then they would seek that. So we tried to create this atmosphere of recognition of people's talents as human beings. [We recognized] their special differences; diversity is the catchword today. If you recognize that, pay homage to it, and if people realize that you care, they will kill for you.

Gordon Wilson, a senior VP at Franklin Covey--who has worked for Hyrum Smith for the past 12 years--offers high praises of Hyrum. Gordon calls Hyrum a role model who is one of the great heroes of his life. Gordon says he tries everyday to be more like Hyrum, and he says it is nearly impossible to summarize Hyrum's leadership qualities in just a few words because he has so many great qualities. Gordon does offer a brief explanation of Hyrum's understanding, humility, and integrity:

"1. He Understands People. His great leadership stems from his understanding of people. He cares about people and he sees the world the way the 'common man' sees the world. People sense that in him, and because they know he cares, they do their best to follow him because they want to please him. Sure, they care about the mission, but they care about supporting Hyrum even more.

2. He is Humble. Hyrum is able to laugh at himself, poke fun at himself, tell self-deprecating jokes and stories. This endears him to his team because in this way he tells them he is human, and they can relate to that, being human themselves. Moreover, Hyrum always gives credit for the team's accomplishments to the team rather than take credit himself. This in turn reinforces the team's motivation to execute well.

3. He is a Man of Integrity. Hyrum is perfectly honest in every way. He is honest with his people and with himself. People trust him and are willing to take risks in his behalf because they know he will stick with them in the hard times and share the rewards with them in the good times."

Hyrum Smith and Leadership

What is your story that best represents leadership? There are lots of stories. I have been enamored by the history of the Civil War. There was a battle in the Civil War--Gettysburg--which changed the direction of the war. Had the North lost the Battle of Gettysburg, they would have lost the Civil War. And that was true of the South: They lost the Battle of Gettysburg, and they lost the Civil War. But there was one event that took place there at Little Round Top where the 20th Maine, commanded by Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, was one of the most wonderful exhibitions of leadership that I have ever heard about. He only had 300 men on that hill and the South attacked it 6 times with 2000 men, and he held them off. He lost half his men--he lost 150 men--and when the South came up the last time, they were out of bullets. They had no ammunition. So rather than retreat from the hill--which would have been the prudent thing to do--he ordered his men to put their bayonets on their rifles and charge down the hill: 150 guys at 1500 Southern troops. It scared the Southern troops, and they fled: They turned and ran. They were tired: They had tried [taking the hill] 6 times. The whole idea of being willing to not only make the tough decision that may have cost him his life--it didn't, but it could have--to charge down that hill, and then to charge down the hill with his men is huge. What most leaders do is they sit in their office and they say, "Go do it." The leader is with his people. You can't ask your people to do something you are not willing to do. Or you can't ask the people to do something that you haven't done yourself. The real mark of a leader in life is as a teacher, a coach. You've got to teach your people: You've got to coach them. I didn't go to West Point, I went to OCS, but at West Point the whole focus of four years at West Point is to teach young officers to give an order and make [their followers] feel like they've been asked. [It is a] very interesting idea.   

Advice to aspiring leaders: I think what most leaders have got to internalize and fully believe is that without their people they are nothing. The respect that leaders need to have for the people with whom (and through whom) they want to get something done has to be huge, and the people have to recognize it. It's all about loving your people. If you love your people, you'll do things that will help them to succeed. When I was at ADP, I said to my managers, "You have to earn the right to fire somebody," which means you have to do everything in your power to help somebody succeed. And once you've done that--if they still refuse to succeed--then you've earned the right to fire them. The respect for the human being is huge for a leader.

Most admired leader: There are a couple [of leaders] for which I have huge respect. One of them is Winston Churchill who was in my opinion an amazing leader for several reasons. Number one was his tenacious unwillingness to fail. And he coupled that with an amazing ability to communicate: He was one of the world's great communicators. Some of the Churchill speeches during the Second World War were electrifying. [Churchill] ranks way up there. There are lots of leaders in American history who I have great respect for. One is Washington. I've done an extensive study on Washington's life, and his men would have done anything for him. By staying with his men at Valley Forge, he galvanized them into an amazing fighting machine because after Valley Forge they didn't lose any battles. He stuck it out in that cold winter with his men, and he didn't have to.       

Traits most important in a leader: I think that leaders have to have a high degree of integrity. [This is evident] if people think and look at what has happened in our natural landscape (with all of these Congressional people that have made big integrity mistakes and it destroys their career--and it should destroy their career). If you espouse a certain set of values, then live your values. If you tell people you are going to do something, then do it. 

Best training programs for leaders: As far as the military is concerned, you have the four military academies, and from a military standpoint, those training experiences are wonderful. You have an additional training college in the military at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, called the Command and General Staff College. When you become a major in any of the four services, you have to go on to that college if you want to go on to attain a higher rank. It is one of the most amazing leadership schools in the world, and [the United States] trains officers from the armies of 120 countries at the Command and General Staff College. It is a fabulous leadership experience. The sad thing in most of our colleges is that leadership is not a big curriculum [component]: There are lots of academics and there are lots of hard skills taught, but you would be hard pressed to find a leadership course taught at most colleges. So where do [people] get [leadership training]? They graduate from college and go to work for a corporation. That's why we have a company: We teach leadership, and we teach time management. There is a thirst for it, so we are brought in to teach basic skills that should've been taught in college. Actually, kids learn more about leadership in their athletics programs than they do in their regular programs in school. Why do you think that is? I'm not sure I have a good answer for that. It's just not something they perceive as necessary to get through college. The academic side of college has always been number one. So they have all these courses that help you: You have your history, your English, and your speech. Then you have your disciplines: your engineering, your medical school, and all of that. But when do you learn how to be a leader? It's really interesting that doctors are some of the worst financial managers in the world, and [managing your finances] is a leadership issue really. They don't teach you that [in college]. You wouldn't believe how many doctors are out there who are in financial trouble because they don't learn how to manage their money [in college].

What are organizations doing that is encouraging or stifling leadership? In a lot of pyramidal, hierarchical organizations most managers fear strength underneath them, which is really tragic. You've got to understand that as a leader you are glorified by the success of your people. If you understand that, then the success of your people is your entire focus because you rise with your people and the success of your people. What happens with a lot of people is if they get someone with real strength underneath them, they feel threatened by that. Rather than giving them their head and training them to be creative and innovative and get stuff done, they block them [due to the fear that], "He will take my job." It's sad, but in a lot of organizations, that's the way it is.

Recommended books: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl; Good to Great by Jim Collins; The Autobiography of Ben Franklin by Ben Franklin; The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck

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