The Primitive Podcast: 2020 Highlights and Reflections

Posted by Kade Wilcox | January 11, 2021

2020-learnings

Hey guys, Kade Wilcox here. Welcome to The Primitive Podcast. 

In 2021's first recorded episode we are just going to do a solo podcast, and I want to share a couple of things. 

The first thing I want to share is a little bit about why we do The Primitive Podcast, what our aim is, and what we're trying to accomplish. The second thing I wanted to cover are some of the lessons that I learned getting to interview some really great leaders in 2020. We certainly couldn't cover something from every episode, but I wanted to highlight a few things that really stood out to me and meant a great deal to me.

First Things First

First of all, some gratitude. 

I'm really grateful that you listen to this podcast. 

We're really excited about the future of the podcast, and we're really grateful and thankful for how the podcast went in 2020. We learned a lot, not just about leadership and business from the folks that we are privileged to interview, but also the process of creating content, the process of preparing and recording the podcast, and all the things that relate to it. We really learned a lot and we're really excited about the future. 

But we're also really grateful. Things like this don't work if people don't listen and you have, and are, and we're really thankful and hope you'll continue to do so in 2021. 

The Impact of Great Leadership

I'm excited about 2021 for several reasons. 

One is the opportunity to continue to learn from really great leaders and their principles, insights, and tips and tricks. I fundamentally believe that one of the greatest things for society is a great leader; great leaders in homes, great leaders in churches, great leaders in communities, and great leaders in businesses.

I believe great leaders make the biggest impact on the world on every level of society, regardless of what level that is. So that's why we focus the podcast on leadership. We want to learn from leaders. We want to highlight leaders. We want to get their message and their lessons and their insights out to the world as a way of encouraging all of us and inspiring all of us to be better leaders. 

I also really love the opportunity to learn about people's businesses. I'm certainly biased in this way because I own multiple businesses, but I think businesses in general have a tremendous opportunity to change the world and to make a great impact on people's lives by giving them meaningful, great work, by paying them fairly and generously so that they can provide for their families, and by creating great cultures that benefit them as a whole person – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. 

By highlighting and learning about businesses, we get to press into that idea that business can make a huge impact on society. I'm just very selfish in my desire to learn from leaders and to learn from great business leaders as a way to improve ourselves and to continue to make an impact. So we're really grateful for 2020, really thankful for your time and your attention, and really excited about what we have ahead in 2021. 

We're going to work really hard on this podcast. We're going to try to invite some really great guests. We're going to put a lot of effort into making valuable content and a valuable experience for you so that you too can grow alongside us as we try to be good leaders and good business owners.

Insights, Failures, and More: A Recap of 2020

So let's recap some things that we really learned in 2020. (This episode will probably go fairly quickly.) 

I have 13 different leaders and 13 different ideas from each of those episodes that really jumped out at me and really made an impact on me. I'm going to highlight each of these fairly quickly, but if one jumps out to you or is more meaningful to you than others, by all means, go back to that episode and listen to that leader flesh out these ideas in more detail.

But, here we go with some of the things that I learned from interviewing great leaders in 2020.

William Ware (Episode 7)

First of all was William Ware, president of Amarillo National Bank. 

One of the things he talked about was the role of a leader is to really set the tone and bring the energy. And I really resonated with that. I think the way he talked about it in his own podcast was he gives out a lot of high fives, and he really sees, at least in part, one of his roles as a leader is to establish and set the tone for the organization. 

The reason I resonate with this is because something I've experienced in my own leadership is that you have a lot of ups and downs, a lot of left turns, a lot of right turns, some good days, and also some bad days. And you cannot allow those things to take you off mission. So to speak in terms of establishing energy for your team, your team deserves and needs you to always bring the energy. It doesn't mean you can't be honest about tough times. It doesn't mean you can't have off days. But generally speaking, and I see this all the time, even in our leadership meetings, amongst our best leaders, that the tone of the meeting is often set, almost exclusively by me. And it is my responsibility as the leader of our organization to bring energy, to set the tone for the organization and I really appreciated William's insight in that regard.

Coach Gomez (Episode 3

The second lesson I learned is that people want to be challenged, and I learned this through Coach Gomez. 

His episode was remarkably good. He made a comment about challenging his players, and he talked about how, when he recruits freshmen and he brings them in, one of the things that he always shares with him, and I quote, is, “You're not that important.”

And, certainly, go back and listen to the episode where he expands upon that, but it was really fascinating to hear him talk about how players need to understand that they're not that important. Their parents may think they're the world's best basketball player, they may have grown up on teams where they were the best player or whatever the case might be, but in his organization and with their culture he wants them to understand that they're not that important. The team is what's important and no one is more important than the team.

I appreciated that, even in the context of business, that there's no one in our organization who is more important than the other. We all have unique roles, we have distinct roles, we all bring a tremendous purpose to the organization, but no one is more important than the next guy or the next gal. And it's a really critical mindset and philosophy that I think is important to every organization. 

He made some comments like he wants his players to live vicariously through the success of their teammates. That really stuck out to me that he talks about how you can learn a lot from a kid about how they're cheering on their teammates when they're on the bench, and that was a really powerful visualization for me. One of the things he challenged me to think about is, do I see my success through the lens of what brings me value and how I'm individually and personally successful? Or, can I find enjoyment and purpose in helping other people be successful as a way of being successful and finding fulfillment in my work and my own life? It was just such a great episode and some really, I think, interesting ways to see how really deep down we all want to be challenged and disciplined, and he does it in that way for his players.

Drayton McLane  (Episode 22

The third guest I want to highlight is (no offense to any of the other guests) probably my all-time favorite guest I've ever got to spend time with and that's Drayton McLane.

One thing that really stuck out to me, and there was a lot, but the one thing I wrote down here that he talks a lot about was guiding principles. He talks about things like writing down who you are, and he even used this phrase, “Write down your integrity.” He used words like Christian belief, and honesty, and integrity, and values as it relates to his own integrity. And it really stuck out to me in the sense that he actually wrote it down on a card and he keeps it with him. 

So in his coat pocket, all the time, he has a card where he's written down who he is and he has defined what his integrity is in such a way that if he's ever challenged in those ways, he's reminded very quickly, “Nope, this is who I am, and I'm not going to make any decisions or do anything that compromises who I've said I am and who I've said my integrity is.” 

It was really powerful.

The other thing he talked about related to who you are along with your integrity was family. 

Here's a guy who worked really, really, really hard and built significant sized companies, owned a major league baseball team for 20 years, and from the very beginning prioritized and set boundaries around how he was going to spend time with his family. That's something I personally appreciated because it's easy for me, and maybe for you too, to get wrapped up in all the activity of what you're trying to accomplish, whatever that accomplishment is. And you start to lose focus on things that really are significantly more important than the thing you're trying to accomplish or the activity you're trying to pursue. And so to hear him at 80 something years old, reflect back on his early leadership days, prioritizing who he is, and then not compromising those things, was really great.

Another thing he shared were these three rules related to risk and how to approach things in his business. I share them because they're somewhat related to these guiding principles that he talked about even for his own personal leadership. There are three roles, and I really liked them. I think about them all the time. And perhaps they will encourage you too. Number one is you can never violate a law or your own personal integrity. Quite practical, quite pragmatic, quite obvious, but I loved how that was the number one thing, that when he was encouraging his leaders, encouraging his team to take risks, to do big things for the company and for their own lives, you can't violate the law and you can't violate your own integrity. So, very straightforward and very principled.

 Number two – I like this one a lot – don't bet the company store. He said, if you have a million dollars, don't do something that's going to cost you a million dollars, don't do a risk of a million bucks; be calculated in your risks. Certainly take risks, certainly push the envelope, but do it understanding really what the boundaries should be and the limit should be to that risk. And then I love this one. I loved hearing him say this in the podcast, but he said, if it fails, make sure you're still alive. So don't take such huge risks that it could be fatal. And as someone who loves taking risks, that was a great reminder for me.

So that's Drayton McLean, I'd highly encourage you to check that episode out if you haven't already.

Keith Bryant (Episode 4)

The fourth leader I want to feature here is Keith Bryant. 

Keith Bryant is the Superintendent at Lubbock Cooper ISD. I really loved spending time with him. He talked about vision and vision casting, but the thing that stuck out to me about what Mr. Bryant said about vision casting is the way that he approaches it, which is listening and understanding your stakeholders. 

When I first heard that it sounded really obvious to me, but then as I reflected upon how I view vision and communicating vision in my own leadership, I do feel like I probably don't evaluate or even consider the listening and the understanding your major stakeholders perspective and point of view as a way to shape vision. It's not to say, and I don't think this is what Mr. Bryant was saying, that stakeholders and team members and things like that should dictate or determine to the leader what the vision is going to be. Because that is a unique role of a leader to create the vision, craft the vision, curate the vision, cast the vision, and lead the vision. 

But I do fundamentally believe it's critical in this. I believe what Mr. Bryant was saying is that for a leader to have a really good vision it has to come on the back end of listening to your team and any of your other major stakeholders. And that was a great challenge to me, and I really appreciated the way he mapped that out and would be fascinated to hear from you on what that means for you. 

Who are your stakeholders? How does what your stakeholders believe and the convictions they have shape your vision as a leader and for your organization?

Rick Betenbough (Episode 23)

Rick Betenbough was another guest that I learned a tremendous amount from. He owns Betenbough homes along with his dad. It has an amazing company culture and is a great success story. 

The thing he shared that really jumped out to me and encouraged me was what I just called inviting people to more. He actually used those exact words in the podcast. He shared the phrase, “inviting people to experience more” and I was really thinking about that challenge in the context of work. 

If you work, you actually spend more time working in your life than you do anything else. You work more than you sleep. You work more than you spend time with your family. You work more than you travel. You work more than you eat. You work more than you do any of those other very essential things in your life. But as it relates to the quantity of time, you actually spend more time working than anything in your life. And so when you think about that, and then you think about the responsibility and the role you have with people who are under your leadership and that you're responsible to lead and to care for, this idea of inviting people to experience more in their life and in their work was a really challenging concept to me. It really inspired me because I think, again, going back to Coach Gomez's podcast and what we learned from him, people want to be challenged. Even though people are going to communicate it and respond to it in varying degrees based on personality and all kinds of other factors, I think ultimately people want to be challenged. They want to be invited to expect more, to be more, to do more, to dream bigger, to think bigger, or whatever the case may be. And I really appreciated the way he put that.

The other thing I learned from that episode was when we were talking about the personal growth of a leader, how Rick views his own personal growth and how he works towards personal growth. He talked about collaborative growth and how he really views his own growth in the context of a community, in the context of a group of other leaders, and how it requires a tremendous amount of humility to allow that group to shape where a leader needs to grow and their own personal development. And so, again, usually when you think of personal development, you think of it very much in an individualistic way like, “What are you doing to personally develop yourself?” He flipped that, and he talked about his own personal growth in the context of a group and called it collaborative growth, which I thought was really, really powerful and something I really appreciated.

Kathy Crockett (Episode 25)

Kathy Crockett was another extremely great guest that we had on the podcast in 2020 and something that she shared that really resonated with me frankly, because I'm terrible at it, is what she called creating space

Leaders have to create space in their life for growth, and after that episode, I remember looking at my calendar on my computer and looking at how I spend my time. My time is always allotted to productivity, right? It's like, how could I move the ball forward in whatever thing I'm moving the ball forward in? And I was challenged because I didn't see a lot of space. I still don't. So I guess I need to listen to her advice more aptly here, but I didn't see any space in my calendar and prioritization of my calendar, where I was creating space to think, to learn, to reflect, to imagine, to dream, and just creating space. 

Not to sound too crazy here, but really creating space for God to do something that he wants in that space versus me being the one dictating, “This is how I'm going to spend my time.” 

I don't know how to do it. I haven't done it yet, but something about it resonates with me as a way of really maximizing our own strengths and our own skills is creating that space as leaders to reflect, to be thoughtful, to be mindful as a way of being better, more productive and things like that. So I really appreciated her insight there.

Every guest we have, I ask them what they learned about failure and what their approach is to failure. And so several of the guests had some really great insight on failure. The next two guests really stood out to me.

Michelle McCord (Episode 26)

Michelle McCord is the superintendent of Frenship ISD. I loved this phrase that she shared related to how she views failure. She said her greatest failures have led to the most clarity of purpose. 

Think about that. 

What she is saying is that her greatest failures in her life have led to the moments of the most clarity of purpose for her life that she has had. I thought that was really profound. That one function, one purpose, one way to learn from failure, or for failure to shape us, is to allow failure to really clarify our sense of purpose. When I think about that related to Primitive in the last nine years of building our company and growing our company, I can see a lot of moments of failure that were a consequence of us not focusing on the thing that we should have been focused on. 

And so what Michelle was encouraging us in her podcast related to failure is to evaluate the failure as a way to determine more clearly and precisely what we should actually be focused on in our leadership and in our organization. It was a really encouraging thought for me and something that I've really tried to take to heart, particularly as we evaluate failure in our own lives and in our organizations.

Dr. Amy Thompson (Episode 29)

Amy Thompson, CEO of Covenant Women's and Children's Hospital, had some really great thoughts on failure as well. The phrase that I really resonated with, and I wrote down, is leadership as an exercise in failure. 

In other words, if you're leading anything, leading your home, leading a business, leading a few teammates, leading anything, leadership is an exercise in failure; if you're leading anything, you're going to experience failure. Why? Because we're people. We're imperfect. There are times where we miss it. We miss the target, we swing for the fences and we miss, and by signing up to be a leader, you are signing up for failure. And I like that. It's real, it's true. Any leader – anytime you've led something or you've observed a leader – you're gonna observe failure. And I loved how she positioned that.

She said a couple of other things related to failure that I thought were really powerful. If you're not failing, you're not being honest with yourself. 

In other words, if you don't see a failure in your own life, it's not that there isn't failure, it's that you're not being honest with yourself. Again, we're people, we're human, we're fallen, we're flawed. And so if you're not learning from failure, if you’re not observing failure, if you're not seeing failure, it's not because you're not failing. It's not because there aren’t areas that you can grow in and do better in. It’s that you're not being honest with yourself. And I found that to be true in my own life, and I really appreciated that encouragement.

One last thing she said about failure that really stood out to me is that when you model admitting failure, when you acknowledge failure, when you're comfortable with failure,  your people will follow you. In other words, if you go back to what William talked about (setting the tone) is really applicable here.

If you set the tone that failure is okay, if you set that tone that you're committed to learning from failure and that failure is a healthy thing when treated appropriately, you release or free your team to do the same thing. And they're going to be much more likely to learn from failure and to acknowledge failure. And I think, in the end, what happens is you end up creating a much more transparent and honest culture, because everyone's comfortable with failure. It's not that you like failure. It's not that you're trying to fail, but that you create this culture that's transparent and open and vulnerable to failure for the purpose of learning and doing better and being better for each other and for the people that you serve. So I really love that.

Dr. Ken Jones (Episode 25)

Dr. Ken Jones, a former chancellor of LCU, now retired, gave one of my favorite definitions of leadership. It's this great phrase, I hope I never forget it, but he said, "Leaders work for their good and speak for their welfare.

Just think about that for one moment. 

I'm gonna read it one more time and just think about it in your context and your position of leadership, whether that's in your home as a mom or a dad, as a husband, as a spouse, leader of a small team, or a leader of the organization. For you in your context of leadership, think about the statement and what it means for you. 

Leaders work for their good and speak for their welfare. 

As I have reflected on this statement, it has made a tremendous impact for me that every day I wake up, my role and responsibility as a leader in everything I do is supposed to be for the good of those I'm leading. It's to be for the good of my wife. It is to be for the good of my children. It has to be for the good of my friends. It is to be for the good of my teammates and my employees. It is to be for their good. And not just the work I'm doing, but the words coming out of my mouth. And this is really challenging because words have power, right? And so, as a leader, when you speak, are the words you're sharing, is the way you're sharing it, is the tone of those words for the good of the people you're leading, is it for their welfare? 

What a challenging, challenging idea and what a powerful way to view leadership. I really appreciated the episode with Ken Jones. If you haven't listened to that one, I would encourage you to go back and do so. That statement on leadership, leaders work for their good and speak for their welfare, was probably one of the most impactful things that I heard on our podcast in 2020. And I'm immensely grateful for it.

There are three more leaders that I want to highlight here along with something they shared that really resonated with me, and then I’ll wrap up this episode.

Blake Buchanan (Episode 30)

Blake Buchanan is the CEO and one of the owners of Bahama Bucks – a shaved ice company which is now a really large franchise organization. 

The thing I learned from him was the importance of perseverance. I had no idea the story of their tenacity and grit. That it took them 20 years as a company to get to 20 stores. Now I believe they have over 3,500 locations. (Whatever it is, it's in the thousands, but I’m pretty sure it’s over 3,500.) But it took them 20 years to get to 20 stores.

99.99999% of people give up on their dreams and their aspirations and their hope way quicker than 20 years. Listening to his determination and the tenacity and the grit, and not just theirs, but as a family, as a leader, and the people that they were building the company with (the owners, his family, his extended family, their friends), the number of people who contributed to their success over 20 years as they were tenacious and persevered through all of that journey was really powerful.

The other thing I really appreciated about Blake is, first of all, he's really high energy. He's really fun to be with. He's funny, he's creative, he's really generous. And something he shared about his family was the idea in their family was to always be adventurous. He talks about that in the context of trying to get to 20 stores over 20 years. So not only was he grinding it out in the business, not only was he grinding it out financially (those were very difficult years, financially, as he shared in the podcast), but he did not let that impact the experiences his family and his children were having while dad was trying to build this company. 

And certainly everyone was trying to build it. I really admired that. As leaders, it's really easy, at least it is for me (and I don't want to project this on all leaders) but for me, it's really easy to be absorbed in what I think is important while I'm trying to accomplish my own aspirations. And so what I admired about Blake was they're trying to build this great company, they're trying to build a great culture, they're trying to build a company that's successful financially. And in the midst of a 20 year struggle and showing perseverance, he'd never lost sight of his children and his family and what they wanted as a family. And I really admired that. So I appreciated his honesty and him sharing those things.

Alex Fairly (Episode 31)

Alex Fairly I believe is the only guest who's been on our podcast twice. 

I've known Alex, personally, for two or three years now, and every time around him I'm encouraged, I'm inspired, and I'm motivated. I really enjoyed having him on the podcast several times. But one of my favorite things I learned from him among all the things I've learned from him is when we were talking about a time of crisis. I asked him what he learned about himself as a leader in a time of crisis, and he said that there is more in the tank than you think. And so I really thought about that. 

There's more in the tank than you think. 

What really stood out to me there is that when times get hard or when we're trying to accomplish something great – it doesn't even just have to be when times are hard or when things stink; it can be also in those moments where we're trying to accomplish something great – there's usually almost all the time more inside of us than what we think or believe in that moment. And so to hear a leader like Alex, who is successful by almost any definition (he's a great husband, he's a great father, he's a faithful Christian, he's a successful businessman, he's involved in his community, he has a track record of great accomplishments and almost anything he decides to commit to) say that in moments of crisis or in moments where you're trying to accomplish great things, that there's always more in the tank than what you really believe, was really challenging to me. That’s something I really, really took to heart.

The other thing he talked about in terms of times of failure is you come to grips with your own failures and shortcomings. Again, I really appreciated that when your team needs you the most, when you're trying to accomplish something great in the moment that he was not blind or lying to himself about his shortcomings, but the opposite. It was in those moments where he was needed the most, where he was working the hardest, where he was trying to accomplish the greatest thing, it was in those moments where he came to grips with, and he saw, his own own failures and his own shortcomings. He wanted to learn from them, and as leaders I don't know of many more things that are more important than us being honest about who we are and where we're falling short, because ultimately we're responsible for a lot of people. And if we're not acknowledging, if we're not coming to grips with our own shortcomings, we're never going to be our very best self for our team. And they deserve that. And so I really appreciate Alex sharing those insights.

Keith Mann (Episode 35)

The last insight I want to share from the 2020 podcasts was from Keith Mann. 

Again, I think this resonated most with me because I struggle with it, so it really stood out to me. He talked about in moments of crisis, how critical it was for the leader to be present. So in times of crisis, the leader has to be present. I think initially the reason this jumped out to me is because I immediately viewed being present in a very particular kind of way. And the way I viewed being present was in the context of what I understand to be Keith's personality, which I would say is very different from my own. 

So one of the reasons that jumped out to me is I was trying to understand what he meant based on his personality, his leadership style, his experience, his company, their culture, and what it meant to lead by being present. And it was a really challenging exercise to go, “Okay, this is really powerful.” 

And it makes sense, right? No one would say that a good leader escapes during the crisis or a good leader goes and hides while everyone else deals with it. No one would say that. No one would believe a good leader would do that. But to really reflect upon and think about, in our organization, based on our culture, based on our team's personality, based on our team’s and our client's needs, what does it look like for me and for us to be present in times of crisis when things are challenging? What does it mean for us to show up and be present for one another so that we can be thoughtful, so we can make good decisions, so we can be good listeners and things of that nature. So I really appreciate Keith sharing that. It was really challenging for me because I had never really thought about how it looks for me as a leader, with my personality, with my strengths, with my weaknesses, to be fully present as a means of serving our team and leading us through challenging times. So I really appreciated that insight from him.

There’s so much more I could talk about. 

Every guest we had was super good. Every episode had tons of nuggets just to learn from, and to press into as a way to become better leaders. I encourage you, if you haven't listened to them, go listen to them.

And thank you.

Thank you again for listening to the podcast; I’m really excited about 2021. On our next episode, we're actually going to do an interview with Morgan, our marketing director at Primitive and myself, and set the tone for 2021. And then the weeks following that, we'll go right back to interviewing some great guests and learning about their businesses and their stories and their journeys and their insights into leadership. So thanks for coming along for the journey and I’m really excited to hear from you and to produce great content for all of our edification in 2021. 

Thanks for listening.

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