Chris Carlson, founder of Sportech and Envision Company, shares why relationships, delegation, and humility are central to strong leadership. Surrounded by entrepreneurs his whole life, Chris has learned that life becomes easier and better when you position others for success.
Leaders Take Risks
Chris grew up working on his family’s resort in Minnesota. One of the guests who stayed there over the years sticks out in Chris’ memory for demonstrating qualities of a true leader. This man was:
- A good listener
- An expert at crafting questions that could extract information
When he graduated from college, Chris ended up working for this man. Yet his father’s encouraging words stayed with him — he knew he could build a company of his own. So, Chris took a risk which grew into Sportech, a leading vehicle for OEM design and plastic thermoforming.
The Right People Matter
Chris shares that one of the most important lessons he’s learned in his entrepreneurship is the value of relation-based leadership.
[14:47] “I think the one thing I know now more than ever is that it’s about people. You can talk all you want about process and systems, […] but if you don’t have the right people…boy.”
Once you have the right people, your team can take off. All it takes is clarity around roles and responsibilities and a willingness to delegate.
When you delegate, you give your team a chance to grow. You get to support them, watch them succeed, and feel gratified knowing you helped them achieve great things.
Chris touches on characteristics of lousy leadership he has encountered:
- Lack of personal and situational awareness
- Unpleasant demeanor
- Boasts about pedigree or qualifications
- Doesn’t speak up when they suspect an issue is present within the company
[21:12] “If there’s an absence of humility, it’s nearly impossible to be an effective leader.”
Needing Help Is Healthy
Chris swears by peer groups as a vital resource in developing his leadership. Peer groups provide accountability, resources, and are excellent environments for building business relationships and lasting friendships.
When he needs to find a blind spot, Chris recommends the following actions:
- Ask questions
- Pay attention
- Ask for help from your trusted inner circle
It’s healthy to ask for help. Chris stresses that if you get to the point where you think you have everything figured out, that’s a sure sign that you are in trouble.
Synthesize, Don’t Compartmentalize
Chris has an uncanny ability to blend his work, recreation, family, and faith into a seamless life. He says the key is to stay true to the same values in every situation.
Be clear about who you are and what’s important to you. When you’re genuine with others about who you are and what you stand for, you gain the opportunity to be yourself, no matter the context. Also, be aware that not everyone is like you. Expect them to show up as individuals too.
Chris signs off with advice for young leaders:
[34:07] “Success is determined by our interpretation of and response to failure.”
You have to pick yourself up and keep moving. Perfection isn’t the goal, but growth is. See mistakes for what they are and don’t dwell on them. Mistakes do not define you.