- About Us
- Forum Network
- Member's Area
March Blog: Six Keys to Successful Leadership
Guest Blog by Lisa Nichols, CEO and Co-Founder of Technology Partners, Inc.
From someone who has co-led Technology Partners, Inc. for nearly 30 years and has been named one of most influential businesswomen in the St. Louis region, you would expect great leadership advice. Lisa Nichols delivers.
While leadership is a much-studied topic, Lisa presents a mix of fresh content and tried-and-true advice in her Six Keys to Successful Leadership, honed from early leadership examples, her daily work with TP, her podcast “Something Extra,” and her community involvement.
"I'm definitely not a command-and-control type of leader,” she laughs. “I would describe myself as a more collaborative coach, cheerleader type of leader. I think as a leader, it is important that we share what are we trying to accomplish to engage our team, then empower them to do the job right.”
She came to her leadership style through many examples. “I feel very blessed to have had the people in my life to teach me about leadership. First, I want to honor my mom and my dad. My dad was a plant manager, and he also had a side business. He was an amazing man, an amazing dad. He kept people at the center. His relationships were so important to him; because he truly cared for them, people would go the extra mile for my dad. I learned so much from just watching him,” she continues. “And my husband, Greg, is probably one of the most admirable leaders that I have ever known: I learn from him every day.”
Lisa also mentions two impactful bosses: Harold Baker at McDonnell Douglas and Dave Baumstark at Ceridian. “Dave was a former Marine. He had very high expectations. He was tough, but he was always fair. He made me feel empowered to do the job, but he was always there to help if I needed it,” she says.
The combination of these influences informed her Six Keys to Successful Leadership:
Be a person of your word. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your team needs to be able to count on your word,” she explains. Trust and transparency are part of Technology Partners’ seven core values.
“We interview TP people for Spotlights on our blog, and I read them. I see the importance of this coming up again and again. They know this is a company with leaders who are true to their word, whom they can trust. Our longtime Client Manager Jason Keiser said it best in a recent spotlight: ‘It's not hard to find a company that talks the talk. It's really hard to find one that actually walks the walk.’”
Lead with love. “Love is not a word you use often in business, but if your team doesn’t believe you care about them, you’ll not have a lot of influence with them. Focus on how you can care about them more. Know their family, their life apart from the office. Don’t always make it about the 8-5. ‘Jump in the well’ with somebody when it’s necessary.”
During the pandemic, she shares, the company’s HR team kept TP people engaged with events like virtual painting classes, yoga, and virtual trivia. They sent Garrett’s popcorn to employees for a home movie night. “Love is a verb. We are constantly trying to figure out what can we do to ‘put feet’ to that. What actions can we employ that show that we care?”
Don’t act like you’re the smartest person in the room. “You need your team. They are very gifted people, just as you are. So lean into them. Ask for their opinions and ideas. I guarantee that when you do that, you’re going to come up with more wholistic, innovative solutions,” she says.
Her greatest challenge is discernment – picking out those things most valuable to the business objectives. “There are so many good things coming at me every single day. Discerning which opportunities to pursue is going to be the difference between doing well and just mediocre. I will be the first to say I don’t have all the answers,” she smiles. “I always say, ‘There’s wisdom in many advisors; Just make sure you have the right advisors!’”
Be consistent. Lisa and Greg’s friend, Eduard de Vries Sands, CIO of Axia Women’s Health, says leaders need to be predictable. “People need to know what they can expect from you at all times.” She agrees. “I want my team to see me as the same person today as I was yesterday. Volatility causes anxiety with your team. Try to be as consistent as you possibly can be: You may be dying on the inside, but you have to stay calm, cool, and collected on the outside so you do not cause undue anxiety in your team.
She adds, “Stand firm on your principles, but also have a growth mindset. Your principles really should not change, but the method by which you go about things might change, based on what you learn.”
Focus on listening more. One of the most important leadership traits is listening, Lisa says. “I truly seek counsel from my team. I listen to them and I trust them. They are on the front line, oftentimes talking with clients. Also, if you want to know where you need to go as a business, listen to your clients.”
The importance of this cannot be understated, she continues. “Learn and grow in this area. Read books like “What is It Costing You Not to Listen” by listening expert Christine Miles, or read the work of Jane Adshead-Grant from London. [These women are also interviewed on her podcast, Episode 210 and Episode 143 respectively.]
Do your own self-care. Lisa’s friend Lance Witt says, “You’ll do no good to anyone if you don’t pay attention to this – You’re going to burn out. Be sure you’re taking care of yourself.” Lisa puts it another way: “The best gift you can give to your team is to bring your best version of you.”
While Lisa has defined these Six Keys to Successful Leadership, she clarifies that she is not finished growing as a leader. “I don’t think you ever arrive. You continue to develop, because you’re put into new situations. I always encourage people to take time to do the retrospective on their actions, especially in less-than-ideal situations. You’re likely to repeat it if you don’t learn from it – and I’m always learning!
About Lisa: Lisa Nichols is CEO and Co-Founder of Technology Partners, Inc. She and her husband, Greg, founded Technology Partners in 1994 driven by their passion to revolutionize the staffing industry with their transparent business model. They co-lead the business today. Greg and Lisa have made it their priority from day one to create mutual wins for their employees, clients, and the communities in which Technology Partners operates. This has led to Technology Partners winning many awards, most recently including:
Top Workplace, 2018–2022 (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
Best Work/Life Flexibility, 2018 (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
Largest Temporary Staffing Firm, 2021 (St. Louis Business Journal)
Giants of Industry, 2022 (St. Louis Business Journal)
4th Largest IT Consulting Firm, 2022 (St. Louis Business Journal)
2nd Largest Software Dev. Firm, 2021 (St. Louis Business Journal)
Top 3 Most Innovative Companies in St. Louis (St. Louis Small Business Monthly)