As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Hyde.
Robert has over 20 years of experience delivering technology-based solutions and digital strategy to a variety of firms. He is a skilled executive business leader who works collaboratively with clients, colleagues and partners to deliver progressive, multi-disciplinary solutions to business problems. Over his career, Robert has worked as a project manager, sales & marketing professional, strategy consultant and technologist. Prior to his position with Payment Source, Robert was Director, Client Services for Architect, a professional services technology firm where he was accountable for Client Delight, Project Alignment and Delivered Revenue from all existing clients.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Before my current role as CEO at Payment Source, I had the privilege of working in a variety of industries, beginning in telecommunications. My interests began to evolve into professional services, which led me to start my own business, 3rd Perspective, which was a management and technology consulting company. I worked with various clients in the telecommunications, insurance, not-for-profit and manufacturing sectors. Over eight years, the business grew from a single consultancy to a small boutique firm. Over that time, I built a ‘customer-first’ reputation, engaging deeply with clients for long term relationships. I continue to nurture that philosophy today. In 2012, I sold the business and joined Architech where I continued to work with them on larger-scale/enterprise engagements, including Rogers, Wind Mobile and RBC. After reconnecting with George DeMarchi, a previous mentor and client in my consulting days, I joined Payment Source and began working with his company as a Vice President of Payment Services.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I got fired from one of my first jobs. I was a summer student working in a gum factory, where one of my jobs was to scrap large blobs of gum off the factory floor. I had the naive view that proposing a change to how a process was being done would be widely accepted. I failed to understand the politics and dynamics of the work environment, and didn’t listen as well as I should have. My EQ (emotional intelligence) had not developed, and I soon realized the importance of learning to “read the room.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
From day one, I saw the late George DeMarchi as a mentor and industry inspiration. In my early 20s, George took a chance on me — a fresh university graduate — and hired me to work on special projects. I didn’t even have a title at first as the role didn’t exist! George built companies, nurtured relationships, and had strong work ethic that I truly admired. At such a young age, he gave me the opportunity to work on many projects and offered enough space for me to make mistakes. Any failures were seen as great learnings and life lessons that I carry through in my own management style today.
To read more about George and his tremendous contributions to Payment Source, I’d encourage you to visit here.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
I couldn’t agree more. At its core, Payment Source is about enabling choice and financial inclusion for all Canadians. We have remained true to that original vision and have built an ecosystem of payers and payees to provide Canadians with as many payment solutions as possible. Across Canada, many people get left behind in traditional financial solutions. Our focus continues to be in finding those who have not been well served, and develop the solutions needed to serve them, such as through our PaySimply and DirectPay platforms. We fill the gaps in the Canadian ecosystem to empower inclusion.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
In my experience, it’s very important as a leader to not get caught in your own reality bubble, or in your own set of processes. A leader must lead through listening and take the time to hear different perspectives across the business. By gathering others’ feedback, you often see your way through a problem you may not have initially been able to see on your own. For me, being a consultative leader has empowered others to be more creative and provided opportunities for people to contribute to the solution — a chance they may not have typically been granted.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I have never been one to give up. In fact, tough problems fuel my motivation as some may even say I run towards fire. But while that motivation comes from within, it’s important to also have a strong support network of colleagues or family or peer groups to share ideas without fear of judgement. At Payment Source, Trevor Cook, our Co-Founder and Director, is that person for me.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
At the end of the say, leaders must point the way during challenging times. Being calm, hopeful, and trustworthy in the team around you gives people the confidence they need to speak up. My role is to raise people up and get them to believe in their own abilities. We need to clear the way for them to do what they need to do, and give them the space they need to be successful.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Be present, accessible and positive. In uncertain times, people want to rally around something so it’s important for a leader to provide that outlet. Remember that you’re often asking people to stretch and think beyond what they have come to know as comfortable. By keeping people together and finding ways to still have fun keeps the situation manageable and more comfortable.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
There is no way to avoid communicating difficult news, but when it does happen, I like to keep it short / to the point, and timely. Your team and customers deserve to know as soon as humanly possible. It’s also important to flag that people digest information differently so you should plan for different modes of communications. Each method — in-person, video, instant messenger, memos, etc. — serve their own purpose and each are important to a different group of people or different type of news. Lastly, I’d encourage leaders to deliver their message multiple times to ensure it’s understood and offer an opportunity for anyone to ask questions openly or privately. It’s not fair to assume that everyone will understand a message immediately, and some news takes time to truly process.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
I encourage my teams to prioritize the act of planning on an ongoing basis. The physical plans are not important and tend to collect dust. Planning will constantly change and it’s in these types of planning exercise sessions where we learn how to respond best to evolving situations. As things become uncertain, understanding what you can and cannot control is important, but knowing how to tell the difference between the two is even more critical.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
I don’t believe that one answer or principle can solve every problem. With so many different types of turbulence, it’s impossible to respond in the same way each time. However, I do believe that taking the time to calmly assess each situation at the onset will help determine what is needed to move forward.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
A few common mistakes I’ve seen are:
- Lack of listening to your team/company. Leaders tend to place the entire problem on their shoulders and don’t look around for support within the organization. Rather, leaders have to be willing to accept that you may not know all the answers and ask others for support, feedback and two-way communication.
- Don’t stifle creativity. I’ve always found that creativity is born in times of stress and pressure. By not overtly encouraging creativity, you’ll likely receive simple answers for complex issues. In a world that is not black-and-white, we must embrace the imperfect and dig deeper for rich, well-rounded solutions.
- Trying to analyze a situation too much/long. In some cases, making any decision can be more important than making the right decision. We can all agree that finding the perfect solution takes time and resources, but your team is often looking to you to just try something to show progress. Don’t be afraid to make a decision and tweak it later.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
When things are difficult, there are also lots of opportunities that should not be overlooked. Rather than focusing only on fixing the immediate problem, we should ensure we approach each difficulty with a growth mindset to be better prepared on the other side. Ask yourself: what are we prioritizing? How can we grow? What are the shifting trends as a result of this problem? As an example throughout the pandemic, people were quickly changing their purchasing behaviors and shifting towards more digital payments preferences. We can all dissect these trends and determine how we can offer a new product, or update a current product, to meet these consumer needs.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Over communicate: When things are uncertain, you need to find every opportunity to communicate and that means looking at different mediums and methods. Some people absorb more by reading, so you need written communication, while others need to listen so you need town halls. There is not one approach that works for everyone, so you need to understand and prioritize your team’s preferences.
- Leverage other leaders in the organization: Understand who people look to in times of uncertainty, and make sure that person/people are aligned with the message. Otherwise, that communicator could be seen as a source of mis-information, which deflates trust and two-way communication.
- Make a decision: Take as much time as possible, but no longer. It’s important to understand the situation and do analysis, but oftentimes not making a decision is worse than making the wrong one. Early on in the pandemic, I took the approach of making the call to shut the office — we could have tried to keep going with the status quo, but I felt that the uncertainty called for a clear decision. Later on, I clearly indicated that we would not look to return to the office until at least the fall. This clarity helped to settle employee concerns and give them the certainty they needed to make their own plans.
- Go back to your brand purpose: Core values and principles of why you do what you do become a North Star for making decisions. Our company supports retailers — they are the lifeblood of our business, so in the pandemic we dropped our administrative fees to these retailers. It was the right choice because it was core and aligned to our purpose.
- Frequent check-ins: Don’t assume that everyone is alright or understands what is happening. People can be struggling and you need to make sure that they have what they need. I believe in Servant Leadership. Our job is to find ways to support our teams and remove the barriers that are preventing them from being successful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Your weaknesses will never develop, while your strengths will develop infinitely” — Donald Clifton
I really like this quote because too often we try to improve what we are inherently bad at, rather than what we are good at. This means you need to really think about what you do well and what you don’t, meaning constant self-reflection and checking your ego at the door. Many leaders are afraid to show weakness, but the moment I started embracing my weaknesses was the moment I could move past them and find a place where my weaknesses were less important to my success. I then surrounded myself with others who could make up for my weaknesses.
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