Larry Shaffer of Insperity: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain…

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Larry Shaffer of Insperity: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times

Maintain Composure — Leaders who are cool under pressure are able to make sound decisions and serve as role models for others. When employees see a calm and confident leader, they feel more secure about the future and are free to concentrate on their responsibilities.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Larry Shaffer.

Larry Shaffer is senior vice president of marketing and business development for Insperity (NYSE: NSP), a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions. He joined Insperity in 1999, serving in a variety of roles, including district sales manager, general manager, vice president of mid-market services and senior vice president of strategic development. Shaffer holds a Master of Business Development from Regis University.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My backstory begins with my family and my faith. Growing up in an humble American family is something that I am very grateful for. However, I was never challenged to pursue success or lofty achievements. As a young teenager, I realized that I wanted to rise above my upbringing and achieve greatness beyond my natural abilities. This mindset helped shape my adulthood and career trajectory. After ten 10 years of youth ministry, I moved into the business world at age 32. My start in business later in life caused me to apply principles of success that would help me gain traction and momentum and become the hallmark of my career in business.

I consider myself an avid life-long learner, and this is how I was able to see success early in my new career. Knowledge is power, and my desire to continue to learn and advance my career was a critical moment in my life to reach success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

These funny mistakes don’t seem so funny at the time or in that moment, but it’s interesting to reflect on them. I started my journey in the business industry with no background, education or experience in the space, but I was determined to continue this journey I set for myself. My career began in sales, selling life insurance. Due to the success I witnessed with other sales professionals, I thought I would also accomplish success right away. What I quickly discovered was you first need to build your resources and network and, generally, make the right connections to achieve sales goals. With a mortgage, a wife and children, and no savings, I made less money in my first year as a sales professional than I ever did in previous roles.

Within the same year, the agency I worked for held a sales contest where each sale entered you into a drawing. I only made one sale, and I won four World Series tickets. However, instead of attending, I chose to sell them to pay our mortgage. This challenging time and unprecedented mistake on my end, taught me how to evaluate my time, skills and resources, and to properly plan for any career setbacks that may occur. It was an invaluable lesson I’ve carried with me ever since.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

As I started my new business career in sales, which was much later in life than my colleagues, I found comfort in a good friend and local business leader. Allen was a well-known and established CFO for a large restaurant firm. His success and trajectory was inspiring, and his encouragement helped establish my aspirations. His success exceeded his own expectations, and after acquiring the restaurant firm at a young age, building an empire and learning through his business challenges, Allen was able to retire at the age of 55. He is someone who helped me think, act and execute decisions at a higher level, which I will forever be grateful. For example, Allen would encourage me to manifest my aspirations in writing and he recently showed me those 25-plus- year-old aspirations I wrote down. Him continuing to support my career and sharing how proud he is to witness my success means more than I could ever express in words.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Insperity has been a purpose-driven business from the beginning and has experienced decades of success by making a difference in thousands of businesses and communities nationwide. The company was formed more than 35 years ago on a strong foundation of taking care of the people component of a business by creating a corporate culture by design — one in which employees thrive that leads to a high-performing workforce and business success. Insperity clearly demonstrated that it was ahead of its time before corporate culture rose to prominence in the workplace. Insperity’s mission to help businesses succeed so communities prosper reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to make a difference in the lives of others, including its employees, those of its clients and their families, and the community.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

While challenging times, whether it’s a pandemic, economic uncertainty or labor shortages, tests the mettle of all leaders and gives them an opportunity to rise to the occasion, those who have a strong foundation based on taking care of their people will naturally elevate this philosophy when times are tough. As a leader and representative of Insperity, I have always believed that people are a company’s greatest asset, so staying in close contact with employees, practicing empathy, learning employees’ wants/needs, and offering flexibility and support are some of the ways I lead my team in good times and bad. When leaders demonstrate care and concern, employees realize they have their backs and together they can face and overcome adversity that results in a stronger team.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Based on my strong faith, optimistic attitude, and supportive colleagues and family, giving up is never an option for me. I am truly blessed to serve an outstanding organization that is led by a motivating chairman and CEO who always sees the glass half full and sets a great example for senior management by providing valuable expertise, guidance and support that facilitates individual, team and corporate growth. With an executive leadership team rooting for me, professional development opportunities and the necessary tools, I am driven day in and day out to overcome challenges and succeed.

I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?

Brian Tracy is a well-known author I consider to be the original social media influencer, before social media influencers existed. His material was found on cassette tapes, and the series I would listen to as a sales professional when I first started with Insperity was The Psychology of Selling. Tracy encouraged his readers and listeners to continue developing, educating and training. His philosophies aligned with mine so well and helped me to succeed in my professional trajectory. About 10 years ago, I had the pleasure of sitting in his living room in San Diego, Calif., for a one-on-one session to discuss potential partnerships with Insperity. It was a full-circle moment discussing business with someone who taught me so much early in my career in his very own living room. It was such an amazing experience in my life.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The key to leadership during challenging times is having a calm and collected composure not only because employees look to leaders for a better gauge on the situation, but also because a calm demeanor helps to facilitate key decision-making that is required for continued operations. Leaders who are cool under pressure typically have a clear mind and are better equipped to see the bigger picture in order to lead their companies to greater success on the other side.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

No matter the circumstances, communication and connection are always key to boosting employee morale. Leaders should keep employees informed through clear and consistent communications via company and team meetings, video updates and emails. When employees are kept in the loop as much as possible it helps to alleviate concerns and frees them to focus on the tasks at hand. Leaders should not only find ways to stay connected to employees, but they should also plan activities that help co-workers maintain strong ties. Frequent one-on-one check-ins through quick phone chats, texts and/or DMs; brief team meetings to touch base, review goals and celebrate wins; and team-building activities to gain knowledge, develop relationships and increase camaraderie are ways for leaders to help ensure a highly engaged workforce.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

When communicating difficult news, leaders should always be proactive and defer to the adage, “honesty is the best policy.” If leaders get ahead of the situation so all stakeholders hear it from them first and the circumstances are presented in an accurate manner with strategic plans to address the situation, employers gain more respect and loyalty from their teams and customers. While delivering negative news is not easy, leaders who are straightforward about what is happening and have a plan to deal with it should experience a smoother path forward with the support of a dedicated team to help overcome the obstacles.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Sharp leaders typically thrive during uncertain times because it allows them and their teams a chance to develop innovative plans and solutions that may not have otherwise come to fruition. They are confident in their abilities to be agile and adapt to a changing landscape, so they are not overly concerned about unpredictability, but rather identifying ways to be bold while also preserving a measure of caution to stay the course. One rule of thumb is to plan for different scenarios, “if this happens, then that occurs,” which can provide a solid roadmap to reference if or when there are disruptions. Exceptional leaders are typically molded during turbulent times, which helps them tremendously in the future because they have previous experience to guide their plans.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

When companies remain true to their mission, vision and corporate values throughout the ups and downs, it helps inform interactions and guide decision-making for an aligned approach that will carry the company through turbulent times. If companies lean into their mission, vision and corporate values to dictate actions there is less confusion and it can pave the way for a smoother outcome.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The overarching mistake companies make during difficult times is succumbing to knee-jerk reactions, which can lead to other missteps, such as focusing solely on the bottom line, reducing headcount, failing to effectively communicate with employees and resisting change. Leaders should keep the bigger picture in mind to help avoid errors and identify opportunities for a competitive advantage. Above all, leaders should remember that employees are the lifeblood of an organization and without them there is no business, so keeping their needs top of mind is crucial.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Maintain Composure — Leaders who are cool under pressure are able to make sound decisions and serve as role models for others. When employees see a calm and confident leader, they feel more secure about the future and are free to concentrate on their responsibilities.
  • Exhibit a Positive Attitude — Leaders set the tone for companies, so exhibiting a positive attitude will go a long way toward increasing employee morale, engagement and performance.
  • Display Empathy — When leaders put themselves in others’ shoes through empathy, they have a better understanding of employee situations and can develop solutions for desired outcomes.
  • Take Care of People — While leaders should always take care of their people, there might be specific things that pertain to a current situation that leaders can address by thinking outside of the box. For example, with the rising cost of consumer goods, assistance with gas/groceries and/or providing complimentary lunches can help make a difference for employees.
  • Adapt to Change — Leaders should possess a mentality that is flexible and open to change in case processes and procedures need to shift to accommodate challenges. In addition, turbulent times can afford the opportunity for innovation and new products/services that can lead to more business and a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Failure is an illusion and to me it does not exist.” Michael Jordan.

Any journey to accomplishing success is filled with roadblocks, but you must propel forward instead of letting it set you back. Always be fearless and never let fear take the lead. Change your mindset so that fear doesn’t become an obstacle.

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Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Larry Shaffer of Insperity: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.