Building Connections & Taking Ownership – Gary Lewis
Welcome to the Branch Out Podcast, where we focus on the vital professional skills of building connections and networking! Joining us for our first episode is Gary Lewis, founder and managing partner at Aquila Equity Partners in Detroit. We are so excited to share this great conversation with all of our new listeners, as Gary unpacks the foundational nature of this part of his work and why it should not be an occasional pursuit, but rather a daily attitude and exercise. We also get into how to balance the immediate requirements of work with the long-term strategy of networking and relationship building. For Gary, there is a definite selflessness involved in finding commonality and nurturing a shared interest and the keys he points out specifically are open communication and honest dialogue. Our conversation also covers work-life balance, avoiding burnout, and the need for positivity and fresh energy when dealing with people, so make sure to tune in for this fantastic conversation with a great friend and inspiration!
Key Points From This Episode:
- The core value of networking in building connections.
- Measures that Gary has taken to keep networking central to his work.
- Lessons that Gary learned from a young age from his father and other good mentors.
- The focus on people in your company and others; allowing everyone to win!
- Humility, patience, and balance in your approach to professional life.
- Avoiding burnout and learning the painful lessons that lead to longevity.
- The shared benefits of healthier practices at work and during downtime.
- What is work-life balance? Finding a comfortable and individual standard for yourself.
- Networking requires positivity; don’t forget to bring that energy to the table!
- The integral position of networking in daily work and people-based business.
- Constant evolution and honesty in the pursuit of building connections and problem-solving.
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.
[00:00:20] AD: Hey everyone, welcome to Branch Out. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Before we jump in today, I wanted to put a big thank you to all of those that helped make the Branch Out podcast a reality. We couldn’t have done it without the help of so many of you that provided your thoughts and insights to really bring this to life. So again, thank you.
Today’s guest is Gary Lewis, founder and managing partner of Aquila Equity Partners, a private investment firm based in Metro Detroit. For those of you that don’t know. Gary and I spent a number of years working together in middle market investment banking and he was a major influence early in my career to help me understand the power of professional networking in building connections. I’m very excited for this conversation today, and I hope you all enjoy.
[00:01:02] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.
[00:01:10] AD: Gary, welcome to Branch Out. Super excited to have you here today.
[00:01:12] GL: Yeah. I’m really excited to be here, Alex. Thank you for asking me to join.
[00:01:15] AD: Absolutely. So Gary, I think where I really want to start the conversation today is walk me through some of your personal philosophy on the value of networking and building connections.
[00:01:25] GL: Really good question. For me it’s always been trying to be thoughtful. Try to be patient. Approaching it with kind of a listen first mentality with lead with empathy, and I think is you approach it like a human. And it’s taken me a long time to kind of I would say mature and evolve to that perspective, and I’m 42. You’re catching up on me on age by the way. So don’t laugh. But I think so often networking gets kind of put into a macro-bucket. And what people miss is we’re all human and we all come from different backgrounds, different perspectives, have different dispositions. And if you start off with sort of innately people want to help and if you take the, “Hey, I want to help first,” kind of mentality and do kind of a pay it forward. I do think it can be really meaningful thing for you, but for others. And I’ve really always thought about it as a way to grow personally and certainly professionally. But the foundation for me is networking is a fundamental part of part of business. And really it happens in every setting and so many and so often that you’re not even focused on it. I mean things as simple as people think about it as an external out of the office kind of thing. You’re even networking in the office as well. And I think that’s always important.
[00:02:50] AD: Gary, I really like what you said there, and I think the part in particular is this idea that networking is something that it’s a fundamental part of business. And so many people look at networking as I have to go networking. But the reality is building those relationships is literally part of what you do as a business and fundamentally in your career. So maybe walk me through a little bit from your perspective what have you done to make sure that that always stays core to what you’re doing, right? It’s always so easy to get distracted by the client demands and everything else that’s going on in your professional world. But you have to keep that focus on networking or else eventually your network fades away. So share a little bit about what you’ve done to keep that core in center for you.
[00:03:36] GL: It has to be a priority. You and I have talked a lot about this in other settings. It’s balance. And balance is not perfect. You don’t automatically wake up and have utopia. And so if you sort of start off with that fundamental construct that you’re either networking or you’re not. And it’s black and white, right? That’s not going to be true. And as I was saying a little bit earlier, you’re networking in the office. The reality is – And you and I have been – We’ve evolved career-wise both of us. That trend is going to continue.
And so your current colleagues today in most cases will be your ex-colleagues tomorrow. The age of somebody’s at the same organization for 40 years has substantially changed. Balance is really important. Fundamentally, your job is always number one whether you’re back in the world where you and I spent time together trying to execute a specific transaction, or your job is analytics, or your job is managing a client relationship per se in being more of a project manager. That needs to be number one. And how you balance that is hard, because on the one hand you sort of say, “Hey, how do I progress?” For those people, and you’re definitely in this camp, I’m a gunner. I want to keep evolving and growing in my career. How do I do that but still kind of balance my responsibilities? And you got to push the system.
And I’d love a little bit of your feedback on this as well, because I think you and I had many long duration conversations of I want to go do X or I want to go do Y. And it’s not a fair expectation to say that you can execute your daily job consistently and build a network simultaneously. You did really good and are doing really good job of doing that. I hope I’ve done that too. And mastering the balance of how you do that, I think the biggest thing is communication, communication with your teammates, communication with your family, communication with clients or portfolio companies or whatever that might be, because we’re all human. There’s unfortunately not 27 hours in the day, but it’s also how you grow, right? It’s how you accelerate or throw gas on the fire from a career perspective. Any thoughts on your end from that?
[00:06:01] AD: Yeah. No. I think you’re spot on there. And what I’ll say in the communication standpoint, I think it’s communication for feedback, and I say that in the sense of any time you’re trying to balance – And as you said, you and I have had plenty of these conversations and I have fallen out of balance many times in my life and I’m sure I will continue to fall out of balance. It’s something that I think we all as humans struggle with in keeping that balance. But it’s more than anything, you have to make sure that you’re not in some ways falling out of balance in the sense of only focusing on nothing but the work in front of you without any thought about the long-term future. And that’s where the networking and the relationship building really comes in, is it is a long-term thing. It is something you have to do over the long haul. And to keep that balance, you’re going to fall off one way or another. And what you have to really do is, as you said, it’s communicating. And I love that you said it’s your team, it’s your clients, it’s your family, it’s your friends, it’s even with yourself at times and really just ask, “How am I doing? How am I feeling?” and getting that better balance in there.
And you said you’re going to fall out of balance. And when you do, you try to lean back the other way and inevitably you’re going to fall out of balance the other way at one point or another. It’s a cycle. And the sooner you accept that cycle and rather focus your energy by being cognitive of the idea that you have to seek that feedback and have to always think about that balance, the better you’ll do it actually keeping it.
[00:07:27] AD: No doubt at all. And I’m passionate about networking. It’s fun. In some ways I grew up –My dad’s a serial entrepreneur. I was able to sponge from him, whether I was acknowledging I was doing that or not. It’s something that was always an ability to do so. And for me I view it as an evolving opportunity. And I was fortunate enough to be kind of able to have a handful of really good mentors in my career that helped me do it. But as philosophically, how do I think about it? You try to be friendly. You try to be a listen first empathetic person who you treat someone how you would like to be treated. Plus, quite frankly, so many people think about networking as an opportunity to help yourself. I view it as an opportunity to help others and it’s a relationship. It’s not a relationship for today. It’s a relationship for 20 years from now. And it’s something that you got to kind of flip it to a selfless disposition, in my opinion, in order to really be effective at it. You have to find commonality, right? You have to find what are the pain points for the other person? Or where do you have a shared interest? How can you help them?
Or you and I in an investment banking context, a lot of our, I would say success, was driven by our outside of the organization relationships who we were very fortunate to build I would say long-standing friendships with, not just sort of transactional relationships. And when you can flip it from a transactional mentality and change that into something that’s a lot deeper, it’s a lot more meaningful. It helps you build trust. And if you can be persistent about it and make a priority and think about it almost as you’re enhancing community, that to me is how you create a roadmap. But again, everybody’s different. What works for me may not work for others. I just happen to think about it as it takes energy. It takes positivity.
Sometimes people need a hug. Sometimes you got to help bail somebody out of a mess. But if you fundamentally pull yourself back and say, “I’m getting out of bed today. I want to go make a difference.” Well, technology helps, but people make the difference and that’s how if you can make an impact on somebody’s life, they’ll be – Whether that’s direct or indirect, by the way. That will help you.
[00:10:01] AD: You’re so spot on there. It’s the idea of you’re trying to help someone, right? And you said it so well. And that was something I’ve picked up from you through years of working together was pay it forward, help other people. And if you start with that, every little bit of help is good help, right? In some ways, like you said, maybe you’re bailing someone out, maybe you’re helping in other ways. But even just simply being able to be that conduit to connect to other people, right? I mean how many times did someone call you and say, “Hey, I’m looking for someone that can do ESOPs,” or just whatever it may be. And you’re like, “Hey, I got a guy.” And that is such a value add to have that there.
[00:10:39] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.
[00:10:48] AD: So one thing I want to jump into a little bit here, and this is in particular for those that do work in the deal world. You said that they’re not making it transactional and really thinking about it from a relationship standpoint. And it’s super easy. When you’re in a deal setting that everything’s transactional, right? We sat in the banker role, but then you had the attorneys and the accountants and the buyers and all the other parties involved in that. But what can you do or what are some maybe some mindsets you can go into those with where you can say, “Hey, this is an opportunity to build my network and to continue to build relationships with other people.” I mean they’re people that you’re getting in front of other great professionals that you frankly have a lot of time to work with and build those relationships.
[00:11:30] GL: And many times more so even than your own teammates. I mean the irony of that. So I’ve sat in an operating role. I’ve sat in a private investing role. And I’ve sat in an advisor role. And consistently in each of those forums you’re working with people. You and I have had the fortune to be able to work with some really high-quality, genuinely good people. Not just successful, but just genuinely fundamentally great human beings.
And when you’re walking into a setting like that and you’re on the other side of the table, it’s very easy. We’re all competitive to a certain extent. It’s very easy to make it almost combative. I sort of think about it as if it’s fair, it’ll be long term. And when you start running into kind of binary dynamics, and I approach it with that mentality, someone’s going to get upset along the way.
[00:12:27] AD: It’s the negative of the zero-sum mentality, right? If you think that one must lose for the other to win, it just simply won’t work when you’re in that type of position, right? Everyone can win. So Gary, let me ask you, what advice would you give 10 year younger Gary or 15 younger Gary? What are some of the things you look back and say, “Man, if I would have just realized this earlier, it would have made a meaningful impact in your career.”
[00:12:53] AD: Something that I’ve really thought about a lot recently, this working from home thing is definitely provided an opportunity for reflection. I would say things around, be patient. As I think back to how I was in my mid to late 20s, high energy, wanting to conquer the world type of approach. And so often I was not pacing myself. You could kind of take that a bunch of different ways. But I would say that’s really what was driving. Be humble. I think that’s evolved over time. The sort of hubris has been dampened. You can still be confident. You can still have a thoughtful approach, but I would say calm that down. And the balance between personal and professional life matters.
I’m fortunate that I have a fantastic wife who is about as patient as you can get with me, and she’s great, and my kids are another awesome part of my world that I just didn’t have a great balance in my mid to late 20s. It’s okay to fail. So often at that age everything had to be perfect. Everything had to be this sort of idealistic outcome. And the successes were important. The failures were important, but it’s really what i learned out of both types of experiences that I think have made a bigger impact on me. And many times, as a lot of people say, it’s the failures where you learn most. And that’s probably the best advice I could give myself.
The one thing I would say, you and I have done this a little bit by accident in some ways, but explore. So often people say, “Hey, this is my career path and this is what I’m going to go do.” I’ve found it to be very helpful to have sat in a handful of seats. It helps with empathy. It helps with perspective. I think it helps with credibility with the people across the table when you’re in a business setting. And it’s something that is I think diversity matters in every sense of the description. And with the diversity that you can control, push those limits. And again, with a mindset of helping others and being a strong teammate and a great listener and being empathetic, but explore, experiment. It’s okay to fail. Not every outcome has to be ideal. That is, if I could talk to the knucklehead version of me who was 25 and wanted to go launch hostile takeovers and conquer the universe, those are some of the things that I would say. Tone it back.
[00:15:37] GL: Yeah. No. I think you’re so right there. I struggled with it. I’m sure everyone that struggles with the same idea of when you’re in your your mid-20s, late 20s, early 30s, there’s this mentality of you have to be able to run through every brick wall that exists. And while that is a great mentality and can certainly help you in your career a lot, you have to remember that after you get through so many brick walls you start running out of energy. And that’s where burnout enters, and burnout’s painful. I’ve been through burnout. I’m sure you’ve been through burnout in phases. And burnout is so painful and it’s so hard to come back from that it’s something that if you can avoid. And actually I want to go back, and you may not even remember this, but I can remember clear as day what about five years ago sitting in the office with actually you and Mac and you both sat me down and said, “You need a hobby.” And it was because I was in that mode. I was in that the first 12, 18 months at Cascade. I was very much in that around-the-clock working mode and trying to run through every single brick wall I could. And that was really good advice.
Now I haven’t always held on to that the right way. I’ve gone back and forth. I’ve lost balance in ways and all sorts of those things. But what I really take away from what you said and share it is there is so much value in making sure to structure those things in your life earlier rather than later to help keep some of that, because if not, burnout’s going to sneak up behind you. And I was guilty of this and I know many people have said, “Oh, I will never burn out. No. I’m good. I’ll never burn out,” until you burn out, and that’s not a place you want to get to.
[00:17:07] GL: And sometimes, and unfortunately you have to go through that yourself to really appreciate what you and I are saying. You and I did both, I think, early stages did a poor job of balancing also family, friends and other kind of concepts. And that needs to be an equal priority. The bigger question, and I’m going to flip it back to you, is how would you suggest managing that in the office?
[00:17:35] AD: It’s a really good question, I mean for me personally, because I don’t know all the right answers behind this. I just know what I’ve done for myself and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. I think it goes back to the idea of being intentional. And we can apply this to networking, to career success, to balance, to everything. It’s having some intentionality behind it and really sitting back and saying, “Okay, what am I doing and why?” I think for me the biggest message I’d love for our listeners to take away is remember that it’s so easy to get stuck in the day-to-day grind of things and totally lose sight of what’s going on, right? Especially if you’re in the ideal world or in some high-pressure setting where there are timelines. And listen, I get it. You have client demands and sometimes there’s no way around it. You have to get it done. But also recognizing that if that’s the mentality you approach it with indefinitely, that will lead to negative outcomes in the long run.
And tying it back to some of the networking and relationship building side of things, if you early on aren’t intentional about saying, “Hey, we’ve got to build these, right? I’ve got to spend this time and this effort.” You’re going to wake up one day and realize that you don’t have that network or you don’t have that balance or you don’t have the family or whatever it might be. And all of those things you have to think about earlier on. And again, be very intentional about putting that structure into your life.
[00:18:54] GL: I’ve evolved on this. When I was in New York and you’ve heard me both say it with pride and also complain about it, you’re doing 100 plus hour work weeks consistently for years on end and you wake up and you miss going to Northern Michigan and you miss that balance of friendships. And it’s really important to finding an outlet. And it’s not just for you. It’s for your teammates. It’s for –
[00:19:19] AD: And your clients.
[00:19:20] GL: Correct. It’s for everybody. And in the world that you and I have spent time in, there’s this underlying almost kind of machismo about how hard somebody’s working or are you the all-star? Or people who you know stayed up 24 hours in a row to get X, Y and Z out. You got to go through a little bit of that to gain perspective, but I think is particularly, some of the younger folks who might be listening to this. Try to find balance, but be proactive in the communication around it. That is something that you and I have both seen others miss, and it gets misconstrued. It’s, “I’m doing this. Here’s why I’m doing it. And I want to be able to turn off my phone. I want to be able to turn this off.” You’re not probably going to find a bigger advocate for that than the two of us. But you got to make sure that your teammates understand why. Understand what you’re doing. It can be dual prompt.
So you can be shutting down doing something for yourself and subtly doing something for the business. I mean going and joining the board of a non-profit can make an impact. It can make an impact on you. It can be you as a different part of your mind. It can make you feel better about making an impact on others. It can be a subtle networking tool. And go join a softball team. Go do biking, right?
I grew up playing basketball, football and baseball primarily, but I played a bunch of sports. I always thought about it as being a good teammate and prioritizing the team. And I think if you think about how cultures have evolved internally within organizations, and I think it’s a way more talked about concept today than five years ago, let alone 20 years ago or 30 years ago. I think finding a way to communicate how you find balance is just as important. Work still has to get done. It’s more of a question of who’s doing it. And if you can be communicative and do it proactively, it helps everybody. And if you can find that outlet, I mean I think it’s huge.
The avenues to find networking, just trying to pull it back conceptually, are in some ways endless. I could be doing it at my kids sports game. I know you and i both have a couple of mutual friends where they’ve, kind of through their kids, ironically, and not purposely, they built a broader network. If you think about things like social clubs, or I know you’ve participated in a bunch of different outdoor activities and things like that. That’s a great conduit. It’s also something where it’s really hard for a business leader, somebody in a leadership perspective to say, “You know what, Alex? You can’t do that?” As long as you have an open conversation around, as long as the balance is happening. And I think the key is a proactive communication. Way easier for you and I to say that, by the way, because it also requires healthy dialogue and open honest conversation. And sometimes there’s a confidence challenge and a communication challenge.
[00:22:25] AD: I think you’re so right there and specifically the communication aspect of it, right? I look back and you talk about the pulling on the all-nighters and working 24 hours straight. I’ve unfortunately put myself in that position. I’ve done that, and it was something that at the time I very much – It was a badge of honor. It was, “Hey, look. I was able to get this done,” and it was something that – And I think many people fall in that same boat. And as you said, in some ways you have to live through it to gain the perspective. It’s easy for you or I to say that and for someone listening that maybe hasn’t gone through that it’s probably harder to gain some of that perspective. But what I will say is that on the other side of that looking back, I realized that you’re wearing that as a badge of honor or that I work all the time as the badge of honor. That’s not necessarily the most value add that you’re ultimately going to be able to do for your team, for yourself, your client, for your friends, for your family, for everybody. Again, it comes back to being intentional.
I love the communication side of it, right? And I’ve been just as guilty as this as anyone, is you kind of find yourself in a burnout mode and then you’re kind of like, “Screw it. I’m just going to shut down or I’m going to start ignoring this email.” And that’s not the right approach rather than having that open dialogue and that open communication back to telling your team, your clients, your friends, your family, everyone that you are working with, “Hey, this is why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
And again as you tied it back in the networking side, I will say for everyone listening here, find and build friends in your network. Someone that – You’re at my wedding last year and I think 85 plus percent of the people that were there from my side were all professionals. They’re all people that I literally have met through networking and I look at them as true friends today. They’re people that I have made friendships, made relationships with, because I viewed it as, “Hey, this is an outlet. This is a way for me to have fun and have that human interaction and get away from work and spend time with other people.” But at the same time, there’re a lot of career benefits behind there. So don’t necessarily think that just because you’re not behind the desk grinding that you’re not also adding value to yourself in your professional career long term.
[00:24:27] GL: By the way, your wedding was fantastic. Let’s just –
[00:24:29] AD: Thank you. My wife gets all the credit.
[00:24:32] GL: You beat me to the punch. She deserves 190% of the credit. You did a nice job showing up.
[00:24:37] AD: I smiled.
[00:24:37] GL: Yeah, a lot. But yes, you did.
[00:24:41] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.
[00:24:50] GL: So I’m going to make – It’s going to be a controversial point for some, but I want to raise it because it intertwines. You and I have talked about work-life balance a ton. In many ways, I’m a huge proponent and advocate of it. In other ways, I think the concept doesn’t make sense. Let me explain myself. This has evolved. You and I both sort of had an either or mentality very often. I’ve evolved. You’ve definitely evolved as well. It’s a little bit more work-life integration than balance, and you’ve got a shutdown-shutdown a handful of times in the year in my opinion. It’s one thing to go on vacation. It’s another thing for your cellphone to go on vacation, jokingly, as a parent and as a growing husband. We’ve been married 10 years. I’m still figuring it out. I’m sure Laura will tell you. It’s how you just make it work.
And what works for me doesn’t work for you and vice versa, or Joe, or Steve, or Ashley, or whomever. It’s how it intertwines. And I think conceptually if you lose the mentality of either this or that and just get a little bit more comfortable with there’s going to be some times where I’m going to have to step out or there’s going to be some times where I have to respond to an email. You got to find time to shut down. At least in the world where you’re around transactions or you’re around a high-growth business, the reality is businesses don’t stop because it’s Friday at five o’clock at night.
And in particular if you’re working with executive teams, they’re probably thinking about business at 11 o’clock on Saturday morning when you’re at brunch with your family. It doesn’t mean you need to stop and react to them there, but you got to find a way to communicate. And figuring out the right way to balance. And I realize my position is not for everybody. My position is not perfect. It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with what I’m articulating, and so often, and I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve been trying to hold others to that same standard. That might not work for them. But as I think about it in self-reflection, and I wouldn’t say I’m 100% in this camp. As I’ve evolved, I’ve sort of thought about it as, “Look, I just have to accept this.” And accept that I don’t define myself by what I do. My family’s one, two and three in the conversation. Everything else falls by the wayside. But the reality is I’ve been fortunate enough to sort of create the life that we’ve had based on that, and I enjoy it. Obviously, I enjoy it. Otherwise I’d be doing something different. And how it intertwines and mentally getting my arms around I’m just going to have to do the best of the balance, but understand it can’t be black and white. That’s been important for me. I’d be curious to get your view on that.
[00:27:47] AD: No. I think you make a lot of really great points there. I think the most important of it is it’s going to look different for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all. You do have to look at it and say, “Okay.” You look at other people and see how they approach it and you’re going to try things that work and don’t work, and over time for yourself you’re going to figure out what works. Again, I’ll come back to it, it’s about being intentional and putting thought into it so that you’re actually looking to find what works. But the idea of work-life integration, I’m actually a huge believer in that. And again, you have to find what works for everybody individually. There’s absolutely value in shutting down. It’s something I had to learn. I didn’t learn that until just a few years ago that I was really understanding the value of a true shutdown, of truly turn the email off for a couple of days. And you have to communicate. Like you said, you have to make sure your clients, your team and everybody knows what you’re doing. If there needs to be a backup way to get a hold of you, set those things in place.
But take that clarity. But back to the integration side of things, outside of those pockets of time that you’re truly shutting down and going dark, the rest of it, as a professional, you have work-life integration especially in today’s day and age with technology. It’s hard to escape it. But what I would challenge people to think through is be thankful for those times that you have the flexibility not to be working, right? The Friday afternoon at two o’clock when you’re sitting out on the golf course or the morning breakfast you’re having that you’re not showing up to the office till 11 o’clock or whatever it might be, that’s part of being a professional. That’s part of the benefit that comes with it. And the negative is there’s times where, like you said, you’re going to be at brunch at 11AM and someone’s going, a client’s going to email you and it might be time sensitive enough that you have to answer that email at some point over the weekend. And to approach it with the mentality of Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, that’s not a professional. That’s not what the professional world is today. And I’m not saying there are pockets that that might be able to work, but I think in general the way that professional services work today, you have to have a little more availability. You have to realize that integration is going to come in there one way or another.
[00:29:53] GL: And being responsive matters.
[00:29:55] AD: Absolutely.
[00:29:55] GL: Because the person who’s reaching out most likely for off hours is not reaching out just because. They’re reaching out because they have an issue or something. And looping it back to networking, they want to feel like they’re important. And what I’ve evolved to, again, nowhere near perfect in this description, is I found myself becoming frustrated with my colleagues and my teammates because I was burning out, or my clients, or our operating companies, or some, an investor who we had partnered with. I wasn’t taking ownership of it. I was sort of blaming others. And again, nowhere near perfect in practice, but I had to hold myself accountable for the reaction. And the reaction was, “Yeah. Look, were there some others that may have been impacting that?” Absolutely. But I had to take ownership for how I was reacting and what I could control and how I was reacting to others and how what I was really trying to do was shut off, but I was trying to shut off for a reason. And when I sort of flipped my mindset to say, “Wow! It’s not just them. It’s also about me. And maybe I got to communicate this a little bit better.” And if that means somebody falls out, they were going to fall out anyway, right? Or they were going to have a different opinion or they weren’t going to listen. I can’t control that. I’m going to do the best I can, and the best I can sometimes, and we’ve done this together, 100-hour work weeks, we’re both fried. One of us is fried. And you got to try to be proactive. And it’s not just about you. You got to flip that around and say, “Okay, how are my actions impacting others and how do I control that kind of perspective?” And that was a really important evolution for me.
[00:31:43] AD: I think that’s such a critical point here I really hope our listeners take away. It’s you have to take the ownership for what you can control because that’s all you have control over. Period. And you’re right, there’s times you’re going to deal with people, you’re going to work with people and they may be even in a superior position or in a role where they have a little bit more control over you, and that’s going to feel frustrating. But in the end, you are the only one that can make those decisions about how you react and how you contribute to the situation to either make it a more positive outcome or a more negative outcome. And if you contribute on the negative side, it’s never going to help. It’s not going to make anything better.
[00:32:20] GL: It is. And remember, when you’re approaching networking, be positive, right? Be a positive influence or a positive force in the conversation. And how the other aspects of your life contribute to it are important. It’s okay to be human. Everybody has bad days. And the people in your network have bad days. And sometimes you need to pick them up. And I think about it within the work setting that you and I have been in together. We really tried our best to make it about the team. To quote Bo Schembachler, “The team, the team, the team.” And we really were a family and we always treated it like that. Did we fight like brothers and sisters and all that kind of stuff? Bet your ass we did. But we were really trying in that process, and I’m proud of that. I think if people can kind of take away from this conversation, literally, nothing else, it’s listen first and be a proactive communicator. And if you do that, there’s going to be some good things that follow you in networking. It’s a really important part.
[00:33:20] AD: I couldn’t agree more. And I think the last point I want to make in here is we started the conversation around networking. We obviously got into some of the work-life balance, work-life integration and all those important factors, but I would tie it all back and say, in the end, as a professional, you’re in a people-based business. Everything you do is a people-based business. So every bit of your day, your work, your execution, it all in some ways is part of your network and building those connections around you. And the more to your exact point, you listen, you have empathy and you go in it with a giving heart and the mentality of, “I’m going to control what I can. I’m going to do my best to invite others to their best behaviors and try to improve the value add to all of my network.” I think that’s the winning formula for success as a professional.
[00:34:06] GL: And I think the important things for me are really around thinking about this as a constant evolving concept and one that if you’re genuine, if you show vulnerability, if you try to pay it forward, if you try to take care of solving somebody’s problem. You and I are professional problem solvers at heart. It almost doesn’t matter the problem. There’s an important part of letting people know that you’re there to help them. And gaining that trust in my experience will inevitably help catapult not just your career, but those around you. If you think about it as a – This is a concept that you and I have talked about in the past, networking is actually a team sport. It’s not an individual one. And the opportunity to make an impact not just on yourself, but with others, will lead to even better outcomes. That to me is the constant mentoring and constant assistance is really critical.
[00:35:05] AD: Gary, that was very well said. I really appreciate your time today. Super happy to have you on here. I think it was a great conversation. I really hope our guests enjoy what we had to talk about.
[00:35:12] GL: Yeah. This was a really fun experience, Alex. And I agree, I hope our guests took some good things out of the conversation and really think about this as it’s a powerful tool that does not have to be intimidating.
[00:35:25] AD: No. That’s very well said. It is, I believe, the number one most powerful tool in your professional career is building out those relationships and the network you have. So again, thank you for your time. Appreciate it, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
[00:35:36] GL: Sounds good, buddy. Thank you. Take care.
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