the ceo magazine, leadership
Deb Weidenhamer, CEO, iPai Auctions and Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers  

After founding and operating several companies over the last 18 years, I’m confident of one thing: The success of any business depends on the quality of its management team. When a company struggles, the problems inevitably stem from issues with the leader. When a department flourishes, it generally has a cohesive team working for and with a talented leader.

At the onset of my entrepreneurial endeavors, I had to overcome many obstacles that taught me lessons I now use on a daily basis in my leadership role. From these challenges, I’ve created team development systems and business philosophies. Also as the founder and CEO of global businesses, I’ve had the opportunity to look at leadership development from different cultural perspectives, with particular emphasis in the Asia-Pacific cultures that represent a much different workforce than Western-based companies. Some of my key lessons include:

Celebrate Personal and Professional Successes: Host personalized celebrations tailor designed for your team when they achieve major personal and professional milestones. Helping your team grow inside and outside the business shows them you are committed to their well-being. If they are happy in life, they will be happier in their careers and catapult your business’ success.

Don’t Focus on Obstacles: Obstacles exist, but your attitude determines our ability to overcome. Teach your team members not to focus on obstacles and mirror the behavior in yourself. This will help everyone focus on what is really important and the goals to be achieved, rather than focusing on situations that can rob the joy from achieving those goals.

Make Small Corrections Quickly: I’m currently writing a book titled ‘Manager’s Best Friend – How to Treat Your Employees Like Dogs.’ Just like with a puppy you give a quick ‘no’ to stop chewing your shoes, you need to do the same with employees. Quick, small corrections at the onset of a relationship set boundaries and expectations, and stop mistakes or behaviors before a bad habit forms. Everyone appreciates feedback, but in a polite corporate environment we are hesitant to make comments about small issues. Then we wonder why the puppy is laying by our favorite pair of shoes that are now torn to shreds with an innocent look on his face. It’s because, after all, we never said ‘no.’

Never Stop Growing: One of our company’s core values is to never stop growing. We believe in training and investing time in our team through on staff business coaches that monitors annual, quarterly and monthly goals with each team member. We also have other training tactics such as bringing in specialists for personal goals such as budgeting and healthy living.  The important thing is to invest in your team and share that you care about them on a deeper, more personal level.

Be Authentic: We read and talk a lot about being authentic, but in reality, many of us are actually taught to not be our authentic selves. When I stand out to other people – it’s because I am who I am. We are taught that everyone has to like us, but this simply isn’t true. Clients and employees alike appreciate authenticity, making your company easier to interact with, more competent and very fair.

Stretch Your People to be Their Very Best: My philosophy in business is to be a fearless risk taker, giving all to my team and clients in pursuit of our goals. My personal philosophy is very similar – to be a rock of stability, and to make everyone stretch to be their very best. People love and hate this “be better then you believe you can be” quality, but really appreciate a leader who encourages them in reaching to be their very best.

Be Aware of and Appreciate Cultural Differences: Every culture is different. In some cultures, every encounter has a ritual to it, and the smallest details matter, whereas in others, details are unimportant. While it may be okay to politely decline a social gathering with government officials when you have a schedule conflict in some countries, in others, it is the ultimate sin, coming off as arrogant.  Be a student of cultural differences and appreciate them as part of what contributes to the real experience of life.

As a leader, thoroughly examining your own philosophy and embracing other philosophies that you put into action will help increase morale within your company and increase your bottom line.

About the Author

Deb Weidenhamer is the founder and chief executive of Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers. She is also the founder and chief executive of iPai, the first wholly foreign-owned auction house in China, which helps Western businesses gain access to the Chinese market. Weidenhamer was also a principal cast member in the Discovery Channel’s first-ever auction television docudrama series, Auctioneer$, and her two companies have been profiled by NPR, Fox Business, and The New York Times. She is based in Phoenix but travels frequently to China, and also pens a New York Times small business blog entitled “Capitalizing on China.”


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