HOUSTON—“Confidence” doesn’t mean a leader is confident that he or she knows everything; in fact, it’s often the opposite. Below Gary Walston, co-founder of Dolphin Debit Access, elaborates on that point and others as part The Corner series of interviews in CUToday.info
CUToday.info: What intangible of leadership is most difficult to convey or prepare for?
Walston: I would say confidence, the confidence that comes from within. This confidence is the result of achieving past successes and maturing into a leadership role, but it's genuine, not bravado. Often, people expect their leaders to “know everything." But leaders who are fully comfortable in the role don’t feel threatened when they don’t immediately know an answer. They know they can find or come up with the answer.
CUToday.info: Are you a fan of a management book or books? If not, why not? If so, which have resonated with you and why?
Walston: Early in my career I spent a lot of time on the road. That was before cellphones and satellite radio, so books on tape were a great way to pass the miles. I always enjoyed business management and self-help books for personal and professional growth. Listening to the tapes, on the road with few distractions, helped mold the core business philosophies and principles that are at the foundation of my leadership approach today. What particularly has stuck with me over the years is Stephen Covey’s series centered on 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The principles of “seeking first to understand and then to be understood” and “creating win/win scenarios" resonated with me and influences how we do business today. Often prospective clients are skeptical of that approach until they see for themselves that we really do want to create a relationship where every party benefits and feels good about it.
CUToday.info: Innovation: four syllables getting all the attention. Deservedly so? If so, can you really drive innovation? Or is it coming at the cost of implementation and delivery?
Walston: Innovation really is critical. Without it, your product or service will die, sometimes a slow death, sometimes quickly. But innovation does not necessarily equal technological advances. I love innovation that keeps the process simple but turns the model, or the expected way of doing things, upside down. We did that with ATMs. We took a consumer fee-based model and turned it around, so most ATM transactions are free to credit union members or bank customers. I will say that regardless of whether something is on the cutting edge of innovation, if it isn’t implemented correctly, it will fail. Execution is still the most critical element to delivering any product or service, innovative or not.
CUToday.info: If you could go back and talk to You On The First Day On The Job, what advice would you share?
Walston: I would tell me to have a goal, but don't focus on only that goal. Don't be consumed with the ultimate prize. Some people want to start a business because they want to be rich or retire early, and if that's all they think about, they won't get there. They won't focus as they should on the next steps. It is incredibly easy to get distracted or discouraged. If you start at Mile 1 and want to get to Mile 1000, you have to take it a mile at a time and persevere. Day in, day out, you have to keep your head down and do the little things necessary. Before you know it, you’ve exceeded your expectations.
CUToday.info: My Keeps-Me-Up-At-Night concern is? Why? And My-Lets-Me-Sleep-At-Night optimism is?
It doesn't happen often, but it’s when I feel that we as company or I individually have failed to fulfill expectations, our own and those of others. As a business service provider, I want clients to be happy and satisfied. I want them to know for certain that we care about them and that we are working hard to keep their perception of us 100 percent positive. But those concerns are countered by my faith and my hope and trust in other people. I am fortunate to be surrounded, both personally and professionally, with great people.