Shelia Butler of Jola Interactive On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times
Have a true vision: A clear vision is crucial for guiding your business through uncertain times. Just as you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, having a vivid vision, as outlined in Cameron Herold’s book “Vivid Vision,” provides a roadmap for success. This vision serves as a North Star, aligning your team and stakeholders toward a common goal.
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 Shelia Butler, Director of Operations at Jola Interactive
Shelia Butler, the Director of Operations at Jola Interactive, is a seasoned professional with a passion for talent, technology, and transformation. With a background in co-founding successful companies and industry consulting, Shelia brings a 360-degree education and knowledge base to her role. Her leadership, coaching, and communication skills foster a positive work culture while driving efficient management and customer retention. Shelia embraces the challenge of providing advanced digital business platforms, encouraging innovative thinking and breaking free from traditional beliefs. With an impressive educational background and a commitment to continuous learning, Shelia is poised to make a significant impact, positioning Jola Interactive for long-term growth and empowering clients to thrive in a dynamic digital landscape.
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?
I started my career in the home furnishing industry by accident. While working on my MBA at Baylor University a creative friend and I co-founded Aidan Gray Home (AGH), where I served as the Chief Operating Officer. We worked hard and AGH quickly became a prominent player in the market, experiencing remarkable growth and earning recognition.
After selling my interest in AGH in 2010, I decided to take a new path and established my own consultancy practice, which proved to be quite successful and allowed me to work with some of the biggest names in the industry. As a consultant, I was able to share my extensive knowledge and expertise in manufacturing, systems, operations, and logistics. Helping organizations overcome their toughest challenges and make informed decisions has been incredibly rewarding.
But my entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there! I co-founded Handley Drive, a venture that turned out to be a success and was eventually acquired by Uttermost.
I’ve since continued with my consulting practice and recently took a role as Director of Operations for Jola Interactive.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ll be honest; one of my earliest blunders was accidentally including a client in an email meant for my business partner’s eyes only. Talk about an embarrassing moment! Needless to say, I didn’t exactly paint myself in the best light. As soon as I realized my error, I didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and reach out to the client directly. I owned up to my mistake and sincerely apologized. To my surprise, she was actually impressed by my honesty and willingness to admit my blunder. In fact, she became a loyal client thereafter. This experience taught me a valuable lesson: we’re all human and mistakes happen, but what truly counts is how we learn from them. Oh, and one more thing I took away from that incident: never write anything you wouldn’t be comfortable saying face-to-face.
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?
I’ve been fortunate to encounter countless incredible individuals who have inspired and supported me along the way. However, there’s this one person, Dr. Don Huff, who truly made a huge impact on my life. He saw something in me from a young age that I never saw in myself. Don became my mentor and biggest cheerleader, pushing me to reach for the stars. Thanks to him, I’m now on a path filled with unlimited possibilities.
Here’s how it all unfolded. Before this, I had been working as a respiratory therapist in the healthcare field. I had worked hard and climbed up the ladder in that profession. However, I reached a point where I wanted a change and decided to apply for a teaching position at a local community college.
The interview process was tough, but overall, I felt confident in how I presented myself. Then came the moment when I was called back to meet with Dr. Don Huff, the Dean of Allied Services. As I sat down with him, he expressed his interest in having me join their faculty. However, his next words caught me off guard.
Instead of offering me the position I had applied for, Dr. Huff explained that he and the hiring committee saw something in me that made them believe I would be a perfect fit for a different role. They wanted me to step into the recently vacated position of departmental director.
I was both surprised and curious about this unexpected turn of events. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel intrigued by the prospect. Driven by my curiosity, I eagerly listened to Dr. Huff’s reasoning behind their decision, eager to learn more about the new opportunity that lay before me.
Fast forward a few years, and something incredible happened. Dr. Huff approached me again, this time with an exciting proposition. He wanted me to lead the development of a brand-new respiratory therapy program at a different community college. Without hesitation, I decided to follow him on this new adventure.
Together, with an incredible team by our side, we embarked on this journey. We poured our passion and dedication into building what would eventually become one of the top respiratory programs in the entire state of Texas. It was an amazing accomplishment, and I couldn’t have done it without Dr. Huff’s unwavering belief in me.
He saw potential in me that I didn’t even recognize within myself. Throughout the process, he served as my mentor, guiding and supporting me every step of the way. It’s thanks to his belief and mentorship that I was able to achieve such a remarkable feat.
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?
Certainly! I’d be happy to share a story from my own experience about leading a team during uncertain and difficult times. One of the most challenging situations I faced as a leader was during the COVID-19 pandemic when I had to navigate the downsizing process at my previous company.
As the leader, I recognized that tough decisions needed to be made to ensure the long-term viability of the organization and the well-being of our remaining employees. However, I also understood the emotional impact that downsizing can have on individuals and their families.
During this difficult period, I focused on leading with humility and grace. I understood that being transparent and empathetic was crucial for maintaining trust and morale within the team. I held open and honest communication sessions, clarifying the reasons behind the downsizing and assuring employees that their contributions were valued.
I knew I had to be vulnerable and lead with my heart to lead effectively. I encouraged open dialogue, actively listened to employees’ concerns, and offered support where possible. I created a safe space where team members could express their emotions and ask questions, allowing them to feel heard and acknowledged.
I also leveraged my coaching skills to help employees navigate uncertainty. I provided guidance, set realistic expectations, and encouraged them to focus on personal growth and development opportunities that arose from the situation. By emphasizing resilience and adaptability, I aimed to instill a sense of optimism and determination within the team.
While downsizing was undoubtedly challenging, I strived to maintain a positive and supportive environment. I firmly believe that leaders are made, not born, and my prior experiences in honing my leadership skills during good times played a significant role in guiding me through this difficult period.
In the end, although the downsizing decision was tough, I believe that my approach helped my team members feel supported and valued. It was a valuable lesson in the importance of humility, vulnerability, and leading with empathy, even in the face of challenging circumstances.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I never considered giving up in the face of challenges. The thought of giving up isn’t part of my mindset. While I do experience moments of discouragement, I firmly believe that there is always another way to overcome obstacles. I have an unwavering belief that everything can be figured out with the right approach.
Embracing change is crucial, even though it can be daunting for many individuals. Personally, I have found that honest and open communication plays a pivotal role in navigating these situations. By fostering transparent dialogue, I can better understand the perspectives and concerns of others, which allows for more effective problem-solving.
What sustains my drive is a deep-rooted conviction within myself. I recognize that challenges and setbacks are temporary and solvable. Instead of dwelling on surface-level issues, I strive to ask the right questions and identify the core problems that need addressing. This ability to dig deeper and uncover the real underlying issues is something I am passionate about and excel at.
By constantly seeking solutions and understanding that there is always room for improvement, I find the motivation to continue. I believe that progress and growth are possible in any situation, and that mindset sustains my drive to persist through challenges.
In summary, giving up has never been an option for me. I approach difficulties with a mindset focused on finding alternative paths and solutions. Open communication, a fearless attitude toward change, and a firm belief in the temporary nature of challenges all contribute to my unwavering drive.
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?
I have had the privilege of reading many impactful books on leadership, but if I had to choose one that left a lasting impression on me, it would be “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” What made it even more meaningful was the story of how I was introduced to the book. Allow me to share it with you.
At the time when I was about to complete my MBA, there was a fellow classmate whom I greatly admired. He possessed an air of intelligence, mystery, and success as a business owner. I found myself at a crossroads, contemplating whether to leave a secure job and embark on my first entrepreneurial venture, or stay on a safer path. Seeking guidance, I approached him for advice.
In response to my request, he simply said, “I’ll pick you up for lunch.” When he picked me, he handed me a copy of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and started driving. The journey had begun.
Within a few minutes, he parked the car in front of a large beverage distributor in Dallas, and I followed him, unsure of our purpose there. We walked past security gates and through an open building where employees glanced at us curiously. I was confused but kept pace with him. It was during that walk that I realized there was a profound lesson unfolding before me.
We walked through the entire facility, reaching the back fence before turning back toward our car. Throughout the walk, he casually asked me questions about the business I was considering starting and periodically said: “Act like you’re supposed to be here.” It became clear to me that this was an exercise in understanding the power of confidence and purpose. He was teaching me that in life, we often find ourselves in situations where we or others doubt our presence. But by acting with conviction and purpose, we can overcome those doubts and truly belong.
As we returned to the car, he smiled, we got in and drove away. He emphasized that I would frequently encounter circumstances where I might feel like an outsider or where others might question my place. The key, he said, was to carry myself with confidence, act as though I belonged, and move forward with purpose. That experience left a mark on my leadership journey, shaping my understanding of the importance of self-assurance and intentionality.
The combination of the book itself and the real-life lesson I learned that day has forever influenced the way I approach leadership. I have come to appreciate the significance of projecting confidence, believing in my own capabilities, and embracing purposeful action. This experience serves as a constant reminder that true leadership requires conviction, even in the face of uncertainty or skepticism.
In essence, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” not only provided valuable insights on effective leadership but also introduced me to a transformative lesson that continues to guide me on my journey as a leader.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
During challenging times, the role of a leader becomes even more critical, and it revolves around effective communication.
Effective communication is vital in challenging times. Leaders must be transparent, open, and honest in communicating with their teams. They should share relevant information, address concerns, and provide regular updates to keep everyone informed and engaged. Clear and concise communication helps build trust, maintain morale, and foster a sense of unity within the team.
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?
When faced with an uncertain future, boosting morale becomes crucial, and leaders play a vital role in inspiring, motivating, and engaging their teams. Here’s what I believe a leader can do in a less formal manner:
First and foremost, being intentional is key. As a leader, having a clear vision and purpose and communicating it effectively to the team is essential. When people understand the direction and goals, it creates a sense of purpose and boosts morale. So, share your vision and ensure everyone is on the same page.
In addition, coaching is a powerful tool. Instead of just telling your team what to do, ask questions and involve them in problem-solving. You empower them and foster their growth by helping them find their own solutions. Constantly providing advice without giving them space to learn and contribute can be demotivating. So, embrace a coaching mindset and guide your team members toward their own success.
Moreover, maintaining open and transparent communication is crucial. Keep your team informed about any changes, challenges, or progress. Encourage them to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. When communication flows freely, it builds trust and engagement within the team. Regular updates and opportunities for dialogue can help alleviate uncertainty and boost morale.
Lastly, clarity is essential. Clearly define expectations, roles, and responsibilities. When everyone knows what is expected of them, they can work more confidently and efficiently. Provide constructive feedback and recognition for their efforts. Celebrate achievements, no matter how small, and create a positive work environment encouraging growth and collaboration.
In summary, to boost morale during uncertain times, be intentional in your communication and coaching approach. Involve your team in problem-solving, share a clear vision, and communicate openly. Encourage growth, provide clarity, and celebrate successes. Doing so can inspire, motivate, and engage your team, fostering a happier and more motivated work environment.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
When it comes to sharing tough news with your team and customers, there are two key things to remember: clarity and honesty.
First, be clear in your communication. Keep things simple and straightforward so everyone understands what’s going on. Lay out the facts, explain the implications, and discuss the next steps. Being clear helps your team and customers grasp the situation and know how to respond.
Second, honesty is crucial. Be upfront and truthful when delivering difficult news. Don’t sugarcoat or exaggerate the situation. Be honest about the challenges and address them openly. People appreciate honesty, even if the news is tough. It builds trust and credibility in the long run.
Also, remember to be empathetic. Understand that the news may affect people emotionally and show that you care. Be there to listen to their concerns and answer their questions. Showing empathy helps maintain trust and strengthens relationships during difficult times.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
When the future is so unpredictable, making plans as a leader can be a tricky task. However, here are some that have helped me and the clients I’ve worked with over the years:
- Stop overthinking it!
- Get clear on your vision: Start by having a clear understanding of your long-term vision and goals. Know where you want to go and what you want to achieve.
- Break it down: Take your vision and break it into smaller, actionable steps. Think about the milestones and objectives that will lead you there. This way, you can focus on tangible tasks instead of getting stuck in what-ifs.
- Take action: Put your plan into motion. Assign responsibilities, allocate resources, and set realistic timelines. By taking decisive action, you can start making progress toward your goals.
- Stay flexible: Continuously evaluate your progress and the changing landscape around you. Be open to adjusting your plans as needed. Keep an eye out for new opportunities or challenges that arise along the way
Remember, success doesn’t come from dwelling on the uncertainties. It comes from having a clear vision, breaking it down into manageable steps, and staying adaptable as you move forward. By following these guidelines, you can confidently lead your team and navigate the unpredictable future.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Vision and clear communication serve as the “number one principle” to guide a company through turbulent times. A strong vision provides a sense of purpose and direction, helping the company stay focused and resilient amidst challenges. It serves as a guiding light, inspiring the team and stakeholders to navigate through ups and downs. Additionally, clear communication ensures that everyone is on the same page, fully understanding the goals, strategies, and expectations. Open and transparent communication fosters trust, alignment, and collaboration, enabling the company to adapt and make informed decisions during turbulent times. With a compelling vision and effective communication, a company can weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side.
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?
Here are three common mistakes I have observed businesses make during difficult times, along with key considerations to avoid them:
- Lack of clear vision: One mistake is not clearly defining your vision. Without a clear direction, it’s challenging to make strategic decisions and rally your team. To avoid this, take time to articulate a compelling vision that aligns with the changing landscape and future goals.
- Failure to reverse engineer: Another mistake is not reverse engineering your vision into actionable steps. Breaking down your vision into smaller, achievable goals is crucial for progress. Ensure you have a well-defined plan with measurable objectives that will lead you toward your vision.
- Falling Back Into Old Habit: Reverting to old habits and clinging to familiar ways of doing business is a big problem. It’s important to recognize that what brought you success in the past may not be sufficient for future growth and resilience. Embracing change and adapting to evolving circumstances is crucial. To navigate the path to success, businesses must be willing to explore new strategies, innovate, and continuously learn and improve. Remember, to reach your desired destination tomorrow, you need to break free from the confines of the past and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.
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.
Here are the five most important things a business leader should do to effectively lead during uncertain and turbulent times, along with a brief explanation or example for each:
- Have a true vision: A clear vision is crucial for guiding your business through uncertain times. Just as you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, having a vivid vision, as outlined in Cameron Herold’s book “Vivid Vision,” provides a roadmap for success. This vision serves as a North Star, aligning your team and stakeholders toward a common goal.
- Break the vision into manageable steps: Breaking it into smaller, achievable steps helps make it more actionable. Know the key individuals and processes involved in creating and implementing your business’s vision. You can set specific milestones and tasks that keep your team focused and motivated by breaking them down.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Open and transparent communication is essential during uncertain times. Regularly share updates, challenges, and progress with your team and stakeholders. Keep them informed about the company’s vision, objectives, and any possible changes. Effective communication builds trust, alignment, and a shared sense of purpose.
- Ask, don’t tell: Instead of simply giving orders, empower your team by asking for their input and ideas. Encourage open dialogue, collaboration, and problem-solving. You foster a culture of ownership and engagement by involving your team in decision-making and valuing their contributions.
- Measure and pivot: In uncertain times, measuring your progress is vital, and being willing to pivot when needed. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your strategies and adjust your approach based on data and feedback. Being agile and adaptable allows you to seize new opportunities, mitigate risks, and stay ahead of the curve.
Each of these elements is crucial for effective leadership during turbulent times. By having a true vision, breaking it down, communicating openly, involving your team, and being willing to measure and pivot, you can lead your business through uncertainty with clarity, agility, and resilience.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it… it’s just easier if you do.”-
If you’re interested in exploring new perspectives and personal growth, “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie is worth considering. This book delves into the concept that we can choose whether or not we suffer. While it may initially challenge your beliefs, it offers insights that can be eye-opening and beneficial for both your personal and professional life. I’ve personally found value in its teachings, which have influenced how I navigate various aspects of my own journey. Feel free to give it a read and see if it resonates with you.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Shelia Butler of Jola Interactive On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.