Leaders Requires Being an Impeccable Role Model of Leadership with Betsy Bassan at Panagora Group

Leading by example is not just a good idea. It is THE idea. Leaders must be a role model of leadership to their people. Today’s guest is Betsy Bassan, Founder of Panagora Group. Inc Magazine ranked Panagora Group #451 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Her company provides solutions for an open marketplace in health, development, and learning. Betsy shares her journey of leadership. We look at being a role model of leadership to those around you. Join us for this powerful conversation about real leadership.

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Target Audience: Betsy Bassan is the President & CEO, Panagora Group. Panagora Group is a woman-owned small business (WOSB) dedicated to high-impact international development. Their goal is to provide innovative solutions that build national capacity and promote sustainability through robust local participation and capacity building, utilizing highly integrated and private sector solutions. Panagora is a social enterprise with an established USAID NICRA.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Betsy Bassan
I learned early on that I have a certain energy that people find attractive and listen to it’s a voice, it’s a way of speaking, it’s hard to know actually, it’s a gift. And but turning that gift into something that endures and leaves whole companies, as opposed to how you first learn, you have a gift, which is maybe as a camp counselor or something on is a whole nother thing. So it’s creating a really clear vision. It’s explaining that vision in some ways, sometimes I think, you know, it’s like a simple formula. But what makes it not simple, I think is bringing passion to it, creating excitement for people, and just dogged perseverance. It’s like what Woody Allen said, you know, sort of 98% of success showing up. So you just keep with that thing. You just keep generating that excitement, explaining the vision, moving people further along, and being very concrete and granular about what it means to move along.

Intro [1:09]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I help leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [1:26]
You’ve heard the phrase lead by example. When you think about your role as a leader, do you think about how you’re setting the example for everyone on your team? Are you being an impeccable role model of leadership? Are you really creating the kind of experience that your employees want by showing them what you expect of yourself holding yourself to the highest standards? I smile when I say this because we often know that we are leading by example. And we are setting a role model of leadership. But rarely do we think about it. Rarely do we actually let it guide who we are and how we show up day in and day out? And let me ask you a question. If you ever showed up late to a meeting, I probably have we all have, right. But this is a consistent pattern for you, then you’re not really setting forth the example because you probably have been frustrated if people show up for your meetings late. And I could go on and on and on in different areas where you have to be the role model of leadership that you expect of your team. Today’s guest is Betsy Bessan, She’s the founder of Paragon Group, this company has created a unique relationship because she leads by example, she’s the role model of leadership. Paragon group really is an incredible company, they were number 451 on the Inc list in 2019, that fast growth is over 1,000% growth over the last three years. Now think about that. What that means is Betsy has a lot to share with you about what you need to do to be the leader that your team deserves. Before we jump into the interview, make sure you go ahead and get the training, the training that I’ve been talking about recently is something special for you. If you are a founder or CEO of a fast-growth company or want to be the CEO, founder of a fast-growing company, it will go over the three mistakes that get in the way of your growth, just go to genehammett.com/training, you can get it absolutely free. Your gift for listening in today. When you think about your job as a leader. It’s not just to manage the work, but it’s to lead the people to get the three biggest mistakes at genehammett.com/training. And here’s the interview with Betsy.

Gene Hammett [3:37]
Betsy, how are you?

Betsy Bassan [3:38]
Oh, good. How are you?

Gene Hammett [3:40]
Fantastic. excited to talk to you about you know, leadership and culture of a fast-growing company. Tell us about Panagora Group.

Betsy Bassan [3:48]
Panagora Group. Okay, well, we started in 2011. And I, you know, decided to make a whole new start. And at that time now getting closer and closer to 10 years ago, so a decade of this, and just wanted to really have my own platform and have it really reflect my own values, frankly, as a leader, my leadership values. And everyone said to me, you know, like, Why would you do this thing, you’re in a very successful executive in a leading international development company. And I was like, you know, maybe I’m just a glutton for fun challenges. But I’ve done what I can do with this other company. And I do have always wanted to have my own company. I also got breast cancer a couple of years before, and it was a very aggressive form of it. I’m very lucky to be here today. I do not take that for granted. And I felt like Hey, I got a new lease on life, do something that you’ve always dreamed of doing. So I launched it came up with the name and the mission, the vision, the values to really reflect what I really wanted to do, and here we are today. You know, almost 10 years later and named USAID Small Business of the Year last year, so I feel like that vision got turned into reality. It’s very, you know, satisfying for me.

Gene Hammett [5:11]
Share with us the vision that you came up with.

Betsy Bassan [5:15]
Well, the vision really was about the name itself. You know, Panagora means, if you will, all marketplaces or an open marketplace and this idea that we need an open marketplace to talk about the global issues affecting poverty, how we identify together what works in that Gora in that marketplace, in the exchange of ideas, identify what works, and build on that so that we are more effective in our development interventions in a variety of developing countries. And that’s really what we’ve we’ve truly been about our mission is making the world a better place for good. And when we talk about for good, we mean that it is both doing good as a social enterprise, but also that we’re making it stick that we’re working in a way that is evidence-based, data-driven, building on prior investments and trying to move the needle ever, ever further along and really making a dent in global poverty.

Gene Hammett [6:23]
I love the mission and vision that you have for this company. Betsy, one of the things that we were doing some research around you as a leader, was the fact that you believe that you’ve got to be a great role model for your team. We’ve heard this before. But where does it come from for you? And what does that mean?

Betsy Bassan [6:44]
What does it mean? Well, you know, I, I learned early on that I have a certain energy that people find attractive and listen to it’s a voice, it’s a way of speaking, it’s hard to know, actually, it’s a gift. And but turning that gift into something that endures and leads whole companies as opposed to how you first learn you have a gift, which is maybe as a camp counselor or something is a whole nother thing. So it’s creating a really clear vision. It’s explaining that vision in some ways, sometimes I think, you know, it’s like a simple formula. But what makes it not simple, I think is bringing passion to it, creating excitement for people, and just doggedly persevering. It’s like what Woody Allen said, you know, sort of 98% of success showing up.

Betsy Bassan [7:44]
So you just keep with that thing, you just keep generating that excitement, explaining the vision, moving people further along, and being very concrete and granular about what it means to move along. like creating really clear plans, and detailed ones, about what people will do what it takes to, you know, move each step. We call them to work plans, in my business, we call them strategic plans. But then, you know, being really vigilant about what’s happening in your marketplace, and continuing to refine those plans and pivot as you move forward. But continuing that extreme communication, and transparency with people, you know, having lots of touch points, points of engagement, whether it’s planning sessions, weekly staff meetings, and open-door policy. And I think the other thing is really showing that you care about your people, I mean, authentically, and I think a lot of us have been tested in that way during COVID. And also now in the Black Lives Matter movement, and helping people, you know, to find their centers in that and treating them really humanely during a period of intense upheaval for all sorts of reasons. So all of those things together. It’s like no one thing. But I do think the constant explaining a lot of times they say I am the aligner in chief, you know, it is my job to just keep bringing people back to the vision and the way.

Commercial [9:19]
Hold on per second. Did you just catch what Betsy said about caring? You’ve got to show that you care. A lot of leaders know that they must care about their employees. But right now what we’re going through the uncertainty, the fact that we’ve never been this, we don’t know what the future looks like, getting back to work. Is it going to be remote? how clean is the air going to be? Are you going to get sick? Or so many issues are going through the head of your employees? What if you took the time to show them that you care and you can empathize with them, as you’ve never done before. What if you just took a few extra moments every time to listen to them and acknowledge them, recognize them, showing you care Isn’t that a weakness? In fact, it does take time. But it pays off tenfold. And back to the interview with Betsy.

Gene Hammett [10:07]
One of the things I wanted to go deeper with you on this Betsy is about alignment, I kind of have a feeling that a lot of companies don’t really understand what alignment is they have that vision of a crew that’s in like one of those facile notes that they get wrote.

Betsy Bassan [10:23]

Gene Hammett [10:24]
And I get that vision of alignment. But I think there’s more to it than just having everyone do the work. Right. When you think about alignment, what comes to mind?

Betsy Bassan [10:34]
Well, I treat I you know, for better for worse, think of what I need to be able to really pull in the same direction. So what I need to pull in the same direction with everyone else is to understand where we’re going, why we’re going there, and how we’re going to get there. So I’m constantly trying to share that make sure we’re really on the same page and that people feel that they are in roles where they can do their best. And I often take what I call an appreciative inquiry approach, building on strengths. You know, a lot of people use performance evaluation and other tools to address weaknesses, I try to build on strengths, I want people to feel that we are using what they most want to do and what they’re best at. But also just keep them really well informed and involved. So I do everything in a very participatory manner. We have really joint planning sessions, I put it all out on the table because I want people also to just feel the ownership. Our plan, for example, for 2020, is to build it, own it live it, we build it together, we truly own it across the company, and we can live it. And it doesn’t mean it stays the same all year. And sometimes that’s hard for people. But we have to pivot with the marketplace. I mean, we obviously I mean COVID is the biggest example of that we had to pivot to do the weight, you know, our work this year, the way that we intended. But just keep people involved use the same participatory methods. So they continue to feel that they’re building it together. They really own it, they can really live it, it’s theirs. It’s ours, we’re together.

Gene Hammett [12:29]
I’m smiling, when you put them put in there the aspect of that opponent, I want to talk to you about that. But I want to catch something to make sure it’s really clear for the audience here. Yeah. You said the plan is what? Give me just a little bit more depth around this. What is this? Exactly the plan?

Betsy Bassan [12:45]
Yeah. So, you know, we’re a consulting firm, and we primarily implement USAID contracts and subcontracts. Um, so we have to weave all of that together as a company and say to ourselves, what do we have existing? What do we want to acquire, and to create a strategic plan each year for the company for our work that will guide us in terms of so many different elements, how we have what we plan to bid on areas where we want to build capacity, and we pull it all down, really to metrics. And we have three big metrics, client feedback, staff satisfaction, and sales. And even though sales is the biggest driver, I put it at the bottom of the three metrics, because I want people to realize that the important thing is, and this comes back maybe to your question, you know, of customers over staff, I do put client feedback at the top because I think that’s the biggest metric as to whether we’re meeting our aspirations for innovation and excellence.

Betsy Bassan [14:03]
I put staff satisfaction Next, you know, we do the staff engagement survey, the Q 12. I want to know that staff is happy and that it’s a good workplace and that they feel challenged, but not overloaded. And it’s a very fine line in a consulting firm to achieve that. I want to feel that it’s a happy workplace that they really like coming there. And if they feel that it’s, you know, a collegial professional, and I really recruit people, I didn’t always do this. This was learning that I had over time. I look as carefully at whether a person has a track record in playing well in the sandbox as they do. As to whether they’re technically qualified. It’s really important to me that the workplace be a place that people feel comfortable and not threatened but supported and that they can achieve really good work.

Commercial [14:59]
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Gene Hammett [15:11]
Actually, this aspect of own it, one of the things I’ve learned through all of my research with hundreds of founders, like yourself on this podcast, my next book is around this concept of people owning it. And when I say it, it’s really that feeling of ownership. Mm-hmm. You don’t have to use financial tools like options and things like that you can take people to a feeling of ownership, what happens from there is they own the goal, they own the process, they own the client satisfaction. When you’re using that in conversations with your people, how exactly do you kind of get them to know that they really have owned it?

Betsy Bassan [15:50]
Has it they really owned it? Well, I do use on, you know, participatory planning methods a lot. And I do a build-up from the ground up. So each division or team is having input into what we call the strategic plan, and helping to really define what we’re going to do. It’s just really clear to me over time, that that’s how people do their best work. And I there, there’s no real secret sauce to it, except for that you use participatory methods so that the ultimate way forward, whatever you want to call it is commonly developed. And people end up saying, Oh, yeah, I did that part, or I made that point, or this is my, you know, goal, or, or people will say, well, it changed through this, you know, group process, but I was part of the change. And we all made it together. And this is what we agreed on.

Commercial [16:53]
Hold on for a second. We’re talking about own it. I want to make sure this is crystal clear. When you think about getting someone to own it. Are you taking the time to have explicit communication with them? To make sure that they do I own it, that they are not, you know, a little unsure of themselves? Are you asking questions like, hold on, I want to make sure we’re on the same page here. Tell me what you just heard. And they can tell it back to you and say it with a kind of clarity and confidence that you know, they’ve got it, you can ask them this final question. Do you own it? Hopefully, they look at you with that spark in their eye? And they say yes, the reason I’m going to this level of detail because I’m writing my next book around, how do you get people to feel like owners, this is one little aspect of this. But if you want to have the people that are willing to own it, own the problem, own the solution, own the goal, you want to make sure you’re having the right kind of conversations with them, so that they own it. Back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [17:49]
I’ve seen the value of that across an organization. And really this is the part of this is inclusion, you’re including them into discussing what the real problem is, you’re including them into what are the ideas for us to move forward and solve whatever this challenge is, we’re including them in on making a decision. Another element that I’ve seen is very important is empowerment. Right? You haven’t mentioned that today. But how does empowerment factor into this be a role model?

Betsy Bassan [18:17]
Yeah. I mean, empowerment is critically important. Mm-hmm. Especially in the kind of work that we do. Because, you know, it’s not like, you can just check it off the list. I mean, it requires critical thinking on an ongoing basis, people have to take the work, and figure lots of things out independently, and move the ball forward, and getting the work done. So if they don’t feel empowered, that isn’t going to happen, they’re going to keep coming back.

Betsy Bassan [18:48]
Now, coming back is a good thing in the sense of if you want to build an idea of delegation and ownership, but with accountability, right, so create check-in points, and I create very, very concrete check-in points. I call them mini-milestones, you know, let and I meet weekly with all of my leadership, both as a group and each person. And it’s a real check-in point, how’s it going, you know, how can I help? Where are their issues? How can we troubleshoot together? what needs to change? So they own it, they’re doing it, they’re moving it forward. And I also always say to my people, listen, please don’t come to me and say, What do you want to do? I just, you know, I want you to come to me having thought about it and developed a recommendation that we can talk through together, I will want you to explain to me what your analysis was and what the build-up is to your recommendation. But, you know, think it through and use both of our time really well. And then, you know, let’s make a decision together. And in some cases, I’m just gonna roll with your recommendation and I see that as both Helping people to own stuff, use their critical faculties. And feel that professionally they’ve been challenged and engaged.

Gene Hammett [20:09]
I love the detail that you’ve shared with us today, Betsy, to talk about you being a role model for the Team driving fast growth, being a part of something that is really meaningful to you and your team. Thanks for being here on the podcast.

Betsy Bassan [20:23]
You’re so welcome. Thank you, Gene. Good luck with your efforts. Take care. Be Happy.

Gene Hammett [20:29]
Another great interview here on the podcast. Hopefully, you have tuned in, you took some examples from that. Being a role model of leadership really means that you’ve got to hold yourself to the highest standard, you’ve got to really understand what you expect of others. And really exceed those expectations, through your own work, the way you show up your level of confidence and courage as it relates to getting the work done, and really knowing where you’re going. That’s your job. And it will literally rub off on others. It’s contagious. So leading by example, we know it’s necessary. But the question is, are you doing it? And are you intentional about it? A little bit about me before you run.

Gene Hammett [21:08]
This is a podcast that I love to create to help you as leaders go further than you’ve ever thought possible. I’ve dedicated my life to helping you understand what does it take to move to that next level? We all have defining moments. What is your next defining moment? What do you have to let go of at this level to reach the next? My job is to help you get clear with that. Hope you have the competence encouraged to know how to move forward with clarity through all of those phases. You’ve got to level up if you want to grow to the next level. It’s not just about money. It’s about the impact that you’re making in this world. I help leaders do that. Make sure you reach out to me, [email protected]. That’s my email address. I’d love for you to think about this podcast when you think about growth or leadership. As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


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