Ryan Marshall has been president and CEO of PulteGroup, USA. Chief Executive spoke with Marshall about his leadership style, how his past experience informs him as CEO, and what he’s excited for in the year ahead. Here are excerpts.
Q: You’ve had a lot of prior management experience within the company. How has that benefited you in the CEO role?
A: Number one, I have deep relationships within the organization. I think that’s working to my advantage in a tremendous way, and that I have built deep-rooted relationships with key leaders and frontline employees in the organization. They know me, they know what I stand for, they know what I’m all about. And so I think there’s a high level of trust that really works to continue to allow me to lead the company in the direction that we want to go. And we’ve got a lot of leaders and a lot of employees that want to continue to partner with me as we execute our strategy.
I’m also an operationally trained leader, if you will. I grew up in the organization, spending about half my career in the finance side of our business, the corporate finance side, and the other half of my career in the home building operations function. So, I think not only do I have those deep-rooted relationships from having been here for 16 years prior to taking the role, but I really understand how this business works and I understand what our strategy is. And those two things I think are contributing to our success, as well.
Q: How has your leadership style evolved throughout your career, and how has it evolved in since becoming CEO?
A: I think about leadership in three parts. Part one is coach, part two is navigator, and part three is what I refer to as a demolition expert. I’ll talk about the coach piece first. I think that’s about putting the right people with the right skill sets in the right positions for success. And then coach—teach, train, and hold people accountable. The things that you’d think about when you think about a coach. A navigator, from the standpoint of laying out the destination that we’re going to, what is it that we’re trying to accomplish? And talking about the various steps along the way, along the journey that we’re going to take, and how we’re going to get to that end destination. And then a demolition expert, and I know it sounds little bit funny, but I very much look at my job from the standpoint of removing obstacles and getting things out of the way that may prevent us from reaching our final destination.
I think, going back to my operational background, that’s one of the things. Because I know and grew up inside of the business and the industry, I have a pretty good nose for sniffing out some of those unnecessary obstacles and we can tear them down and get them out of the way so that our team can be successful.
As far as evolving goes, I think I’ve evolved and that I don’t need to be involved in everything that goes on inside the organization. I’m a hands-on and historically has been a very hands-on leader. But we have a very talented, capable team, and I’m very comfortable setting the destination where we’re going to, setting the expectations, and letting our talented leaders lead the way. I think I’ve evolved my leadership style in that I’m very deliberate in the things I’m choosing to be involved in. And what that means is the things that I choose to engage with, there’s a lot of focus and a lot of effort that goes into those things. And it’s really about making choices, not spreading yourself too thin, trusting your team.
I’m a big fan of a book that Greg McKeown’s wrote called “Essentialism,” which talks a lot about having limited resources, and choosing the spots of where you want to engage. And I wasn’t always that type of leader. I was the leader that was trying to fit 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag, and working from 5:00 in the morning until midnight, and figured that, if I just work harder than everybody else, that would equal success. And certainly, I think I’ve got a work ethic gene that’s helped to contribute to my success, but I do believe it’s about working smarter not harder in this role.
Q: What are some of the common traits that you see in your best leaders within your organization?
A: I look for humble and approachable leaders. I look for intelligent leaders that have a very healthy dose of common sense. To me, there’s just no replacement for good street-smarts and good ability to make real-time, battlefield-type decisions. And sometimes there’s just not enough book learning that can teach you that. I look for leaders that are good teammates, that want to help others win and help others succeed. I like our leaders to be life-long learners, always looking to evolve their style, evolve what they know about this business and what’s changing. Because one thing is for certain in the industry, in the entire world around us, the consumers are changing, and so we have to do that as leaders. I like leaders that will challenge the status quo, that are not willing to accept current performance or the way things are going as “Well, that’s good enough.” I want leaders that are willing to push the envelope.
Work ethic is a big deal for me. I grew up in rural America, and one of the things that I learned at a very young age was to put in an honest day’s work. And that’s certainly something that I think has paid off for me as I’ve gone through my career. And then, finally, I like leaders that are talent developers. Leaders that will give employees and managers opportunities to do more, to challenge them, to coach them, to allow them to fail and fail forward, ultimately with the goal of helping that talent progress in their careers, in their development.
Q: What are some of the things you’re doing as CEO to make sure that employees throughout the organization kind of remain engaged and focused on the larger goals of the company?
A: I think it goes back to one of the things I talked about with my leadership style, and that’s ..navigator. I think my job is to be a great navigator and to clearly articulate where it is that we’re going as an organization and why. There have been a lot of things written and talked about with specifically the Millennial generation. They want to work for a company that has a purpose. And so, I think that’s one of the things that we have that’s unique about our story and our company is we do have a purpose. And the opportunity that we have to be involved with homeowners and their pursuit of the American dream in building a home where they’re going to raise a family and live their life is something unique and special that we have. And it doesn’t matter if it’s someone’s first home or their 20th home, the passion and energy that goes into where people live and how people raise their families is really special, and we get to be part of that.
By Patrick Gorman
Posted By Enoglobal