Leading with Significance with Joey Havens

Reading Time: 13 Minutes

In this episode, Joey Havens explains how to build a sense of belonging in your workplace.

Takeaways We Learned from Joey…

Be intentional.

Embrace the goodness in others and build strong connections through genuine care and service. Trust forms the foundation for effective leadership and positive culture.

Be better mindset.

The be better mindset is all about striving for continuous improvement. Don’t settle for a good culture; aim for greatness every day. Focus on growth and progress, challenging yourself and your team to be better in all aspects of work and life.

Create a sense of belonging.

Cultivate a workplace where everyone feels valued and heard, where they can be themselves and know that their contributions matter. Leaders who show vulnerability and trust will inspire loyalty and commitment.

Excellence anywhere mindset.

Embrace the reality of hybrid work models and adapt to the shifting needs of employees. Offer autonomy and flexibility while maintaining essential structures that contribute to a cohesive work environment.

Embracing the ugly reality.

Starting from scratch requires embracing the ugly reality. To build a strong culture, leaders must be willing to face the shortcomings and areas needing improvement. It takes courage and openness to seek feedback and make necessary changes.

Culture reflects the leader’s identity.

Understand that the culture of an organization is a reflection of its leadership. Accepting and embracing this truth allows leaders to be more objective and open-minded about growth opportunities.

Seek input from your team.

Building a thriving culture involves ongoing communication and understanding the needs and perspectives of your team members. Be receptive to feedback and involve them in shaping the organization’s future.

Embrace the journey to significance.

Leading with significance is not just about success; it’s about making a positive impact on people’s lives. Embrace the journey, prioritize your team’s well-being, and strive for both professional growth and personal significance.

Find inspiration in the pursuit of excellence.

The pursuit of excellence is a continuous journey that starts with embracing the desire to be better every day. Draw inspiration from stories of transformation and success to drive your own growth as a leader.

Combine compassion and high standards.

ead with radical candor, acknowledging the importance of both compassion and high standards. Balancing empathy and accountability creates a culture of growth, where team members feel valued and challenged to excel.

About Joey Havens

Joey, CPA, is currently serving HORNE as managing partner of strategic growth. He joined HORNE in 1984 and previously served as executive partner from 2012 to 2021, leading more than 1,800 team members to build the Wise Firm while passionately living out his life’s calling to help others see and reach their full potential. Prior to being named executive partner in 2012, Joey served as HORNE’s managing partner of health care services and the managing partner of government services, respectively.

Joey actively challenges the mainstays of business culture and strategic planning. He advocates growing leaders faster using holistic approaches and intentional sponsorship. In addition to his weekly beBetter blog, he is the author of numerous white papers and articles, including “Becoming the Firm of the Future,” published by AICPA. He has coauthored four books during his career at HORNE.

Read the Transcript

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host and executive business coach Allison Dunn. Our guest today is Joey Havens. And our topic today is leading with significance. Joey is a CPA currently serving as managing partner of the Strategic Growth division of Horne. He is the author of a leading with significance how to create a magnetic people first culture. Today he is going to share the insights from the book on leadership and building culture. Joey, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Joey: Thank you, Alli, love to be with you today. And hope you’re having a great day.

Allison: Thank you, I am even better now that we’re having this conversation. And I just love to kick these off with a deliberate conversation about leadership, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners.

Joey: Considering our topic for today, I’m going to say…

Lost in the inherent good in people and be intentional, and how you connect, care and serve.

Allison: That’s beautiful, I think I think the key word in what you just said was trust. And from there, everything else kind of does happen, hopefully naturally. So that’s beautiful. Thank you. Great tip. Here, at Deliberate Directions, we use the terminology, you know, be deliberate in a lot of our leadership topics. So I love the fact that you have a B also as well. So what is a B better mindset? And how do you develop the concepts of be better in a leadership philosophy?

Joey: Thank you. The be better mindset is all about when we’re talking about workplace culture, it’s not how good your culture is, if I ask you, Alli, how your culture is at your company, you’re going to say as good or great or magnetic. It’s just like when you ask about people’s driver’s license, if their driving skills, are they better than the median driver? 80 or 90% of us are going to be better than the median driver, which is impossible. Same thing with culture. We’re all saying we have good a great culture. And it’s really not about how good your culture is, How good can it be.

And that’s what the be better mindsets about is every day, go back to that journey to be better.

And in fact, I’ve written a blog every week for the last eight years and is called to be better blog.

Allison: Okay, fantastic. What’s your favorite blog you’ve ever written about the better? The most popular, maybe your favorites?

Joey: Some of the most popular ones or when I write something funny that I’ve done stupid things that I’ve done, or my funny things, my wife, who we call CC, I’ll tell a story or two on her from time to time.

Allison: Okay. That’s fantastic. How would you suggest listeners go about building a sense of belonging within their organizations?

Joey: The sense of belonging is the key to culture, a psychological safety, you read that all the time. It’s all about a sense of belonging, and can I come and be present and be who I am? Does my voice count? Why, you know, why does my work matter?

People understanding the why and why it matters and the sense of belonging. It’s all about being connected to leadership.

And that’s why it’s so important that leaders know their people understand who they are, what are their aspirations? What are their challenges, personally, you know, are they involved in elder care? Is it a about making the kindergarten graduation? What is going on in their lives?

In other words, people will take care of your customers and your clients once they know you care about them. And so it starts again, we’ll use that word Trust, the sense of belonging begins to grow. And it begins to really have a magnetic energy about it.

When leaders are vulnerable enough to trust first, and that’s golden.

That’s one of the gaps we got to get over. We come out of an era where leadership was all about power and control and, and control in somebody’s life and when they’re there and not there. And it’s really He changed a lot. And trust is the key to that, to trust it, people want to do a good job, people want to succeed. People want to elevate, they want to, they want to contribute to something bigger than themselves. And leaders have to be vulnerable enough to trust in that.

Allison: Sure you’re finding this as well, that in where we are in 2023, that a lot of cultures have been impacted by the last few years. And the combination of how we’ve had to do work through some of the COVID years and culture has become one of those topics, where it’s not what it used to be. So how do we how do we help leaders magnify or improve maybe the state of where it is right now, based on just a shift? That’s all happened? And I would I would even be open to say that some people feel like they’ve lost control of their culture, because now it is so different than maybe what they set out to build, and then it changed.

Joey: Yeah, I guess that’s a pretty good take, that I haven’t thought about is people feel like they’ve lost control. And really, we haven’t lost control, we were in a situation where our mindset needs to switch to where we understand that control doesn’t mean excellence control doesn’t mean great client service.

Understanding that the way people work the way they bring themselves to the task of the day, depends on why they’re working. And people are burnt out, because they don’t understand that one.

They haven’t connected to that why. And as leaders, we’re not doing a good, good job with that. I lost myself on that question.

Allison: It’s okay. So I guess, just to take it to next, the next step further is I know that you know, so here we are, right, we now have maybe a hybrid model that wasn’t a part of the original design. Maybe people prefer to work from home and don’t want to come back to the office. And so culture has changed. Maybe not intentionally, not deliberately not, you know, in a way that they’ve had as much control as they may have had in the past. So how do we take an assessment of where things are? And how can we make it a more magnetic culture just going forward.

Joey: And so thanks for getting me back on track, because it takes a mindset of excellence anywhere. Yep. And in other words, people can today do so much of what they do from anywhere at any time. And they may do it different ways. And we’ve done it in the past.

But the reset begins with understanding that we’re not going backwards. This is a hard trend. In other words, hybrid work force is here to stay.

Don’t be fooled by the possibility of a recession and employers getting more of this control back, we are going to be in a talent war, the talent that really can succeed in this exponential world of change is going to be they’re going to be scarce. And if you have growth, you’re going to need that talent.

And so that excellence anywhere mindset allows you to put together a workforce that really what people are looking for today is a little more autonomy into how they work where they work, when they work.

It doesn’t mean they have to have total size. So there can’t be some mandatory meeting schedules, those kinds of things dependent upon their role, but they do want the autonomy to weigh in on that to influence it. And so I think that’s where the gap is, is some employers are trying to go back to pre COVID. Even though the pendulum was already swinging to more and more remote work, people were already moving, COVID just put the accelerator down.

Allison: Yeah. Any guidance as to the first step. If someone’s starting to focus on wanting to create a culture that really reflects this, like, how do we start from scratch?

Joey: The first step is the hardest step. And the reason it is because we have to look at our good culture and figure out where it’s not so good. I call it really embracing the ugly reality of what we have. And the reason it is so hard is because that’s our identity, let’s just say it’s your small company or your family business, or even a large company where you’re the CEO. Culture is a reflection of you as a leader. And so that’s your self-identity, you’re going to protect it, you’re going to, it’s going to be hard for you to be open minded about what could be better, or what might not smell so good.

One of the stories I tell in the in the book is about one of my very my very first car and it did getting a bad smell in it. And the fact that I denied it forever. And people would get in is, oh, my gosh, what’s that smell in your car? It’s the same thing in our culture. The first step is to dig deep, and understand there’s some areas that aren’t working for people. And of course, that takes time, it takes conversations, it takes input from, from our team.

Allison: I love the analogy, because I mean, every culture has probably an area that’s not serving us. Well. It’s a little smelly, right? Like something’s just not right. To allow those things to go on. Is there a is there? Maybe it’s a history thing that people are still holding on to how do we break that or acknowledge it? And then you say, dig deep and like, explain how like how do you make a shift or a change away from maybe what has just been the stench in the car for a while?

Joey: Well, I think it first requires identifying what is it what, what’s inconsistent, you know, your culture is only going to be strong as the behaviors that you enforce, and the ones that you allow. And it’s the ones we allow, that really start to stink, let’s just say, as the team member who is great at client service, are great at getting new business, great at bringing in new accounts. But nobody wants to work on their team. Nobody wants to work with them. Because they chew people up. They’re disrespectful. And we allow that because they generated business. But what if we study that really closely, you’ll find that it can be costing you a lot of money based on the last production loss people and a lot of times there’s churn in clients also because of that. So they’re allowed behaviors is usually where you find the most smelly things.

Allison: So I’m just going to visit asking for a friend, let’s say we have someone like that. Now, what do we do? How do you like you’ve allowed it right? So a leader has allowed it, how do they shift away from that?

Joey: Shift away from it with radical candor. You’ve identified the problem, you realize for the future and explaining why Alli, this is why this will not work in the future. Our people are too important. We want to have a wow client customer experience.

Our people have to know we care about them, that we understand them. And we need all of our leaders including you to connect better to treat people with more respect.

I believe that you can do that. And I’m going to coach and work with you and give you the feedback to make sure that we get there together. So it’s that candid conversation has started out. But many times it will end with if you have a toxic leader many times they’ll end up with what where you just got to make a hard decision. Just to encourage people who may feel like they have an individual that can identify in their culture that’s causing a shift in the direction you want to be, sometimes would be most that will be most cultures.

Allison: I would agree with that. That sometimes when you remove the catalyst that’s causing that direction, everything kind of falls back into the into the right place in the space and that strength that you feel that they brought had actually so many more negative impacts than you’d ever even really noticed.

Joey: So it’s one of the things I get the call on the most from different leaders. I got one about six months ago as a firm and they had a toxic leader used to run the firm doesn’t run The firm anymore. And for two or three years, it just gotten more and more toxic. And the other four or five leaders didn’t know how to deal with it didn’t want to deal with it. They were running people off losing clients. I’ve coached them through the conversation to how to make it a win-win to demonstrate how the company we’d better they would be better if they went separate ways.

I didn’t hear a word for four or five months. So I’m thinking, Oh, this one didn’t go good. They call me just last week. Actually, I’ve had two or three calls with them now, but they called. And once they did it, he said Joey, overnight, our firm changed. People came out of the woodwork, some of our best people came forward and said, I had actually put my resume out there. I was leaving, because y’all would not deal with this. One thing has never happened is people have come back to me and said, I wish I’d waited longer to make that decision. Yeah, never happened. So always I wish I’d done that two years ago.

Allison: Yeah. My go to statement when talking to like leaders who are really super challenged. And I’m just like, you know, like, are they coachable? And they’re like, I don’t know what I’m like, Well, okay, if you’re not sure, have you already fired them in your head? And they just don’t know what? And they’re like, oh, yeah, I’m like, great.

Joey: Go to quest. I love that. I’m going to use that, you know, have you? Are you I’ll tell you another story, because my success rate with toxic leaders is not real high. But I’m coaching an executive right now of a middle market company. And he had a toxic leader, he had the candid conversation. He coached that leader daily, daily for six weeks. Now, that’s a lot of coaching, and then they went to weekly, and then they went to monthly. I’ve never coached somebody every day for six weeks. That’s what he did. And do you know today that what was a toxic leader is one of their best people, leaders.

Allison: I mean, if you’re self-reflecting are being asked to self-reflect on a daily basis as to what worked and what didn’t, and making quick modifications to those behaviors, and thinking and communication styles. You can make a change, like, it’s possible,

Joey:  It’s all habit, it’s behavior. That’s why I like its behaviors. And we control our behaviors. And it starts with our thoughts and beliefs. But the worst thing we can do is not share with somebody, you know, the impact of their behaviors if they’re negative? Yeah.

Allison: I agree with that. I think that’s the beauty of the role that we get to play as a mentor or sponsor or coach to someone. But often in a team setting. People don’t have the relationship to be honest that way. Unfortunately.

Joey: Unfortunately, yes, you’re right. Yeah.

Allison: Joey and a lot of your works. There’s a weave of obviously, Faith reflected in that. How does that play out in your process? And in your book?

Joey: What now?

Allison: Faith, you have you believe? Yes, Your faith shines through in your work. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Joey: Well, thank you for that. So highest compliment you could pay me.

I talk about coincidences all through the book. And at the end, when I talk about the two choices we have in life, you know, I just share that there’s really no coincidences, when it comes to God and, and faith.

And I know that in our journey, it the more we did, the more we focused on our people, the more we really tried to serve them and care for them. The more success we had, the more significance we had in their lives, the more success we had, and, and God’s hand was on that all the way but I got to give credit to my faith and my parents who raised me in a Christian home.

Allison: Lovely. I know that your book has just recently been released. And so I want to make sure that our listeners know where they can pick up a copy and then also what is the best way to follow you.

Joey: Well, thanks, Joey. havens.com J Why ha vns.com and you can email me at Joey at we havens.com or Joey dot havens at horn HLR na.com. The book is at all the major retailers that actually hit number one new release and Amazon and several other business categories. It’s got a Kindle version, audio version and it said books on me and all the major retailers you can get online and some of the bricks and mortar also so I would love to hear from you. I do you have to be better blog and you can sign up for the be better blog at Joey havens.com

Allison: Fantastic. Joey, thank you so much for joining us here today. I appreciate it our conversation.

Joey:  Me too. Alli, thank you so much for the opportunity.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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