Dustin Hostetler is the founder of Flowtivity, LLC and the practice leader and lead consultant for Lean4CPAs by Flowtivity. Flowtivity revolutionizes process improvement initiatives within public accounting and other professional service organizations.
As a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with extensive experience working inside a large regional CPA firm, Dustin has taken proven Lean techniques from the manufacturing floor and tailored them to bring ground-breaking value to public accounting firms. His innovation and passion brings true efficiency to accounting and tax.
Beyond his innovation within the accounting profession, Dustin performs Lean Six Sigma consulting for other industries including manufacturing, retail, food service and professional services. He has led the implementation of lean, strategic planning and financial analysis in organizations of all sizes and across a variety of industries. From large enterprises to small manufacturers, he utilizes strategic thinking and customizes solutions for each challenge. We are excited to feature Dustin this month and find out more about his unique view on what it takes to be successful and to lead others to success.
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
DH: I’d like to give two examples, one from public accounting and one from a well-known national leader. In public accounting, the person whose leadership style I admire most is a guy by the name of Bob Mapes. Bob is a mentor of mine and was the partner in the office of the top 100 firm I began with back in 2005. Even though I wasn’t a CPA and was operating on the consulting side, I had a number of opportunities to observe and study Bob’s interactions with his teams and his leadership style. He later became the firm’s Tax Segment Leader. What I admire most about Bob is his willingness and genuine interest to take the time to develop and train all of the young people below him. It wasn’t very often that you could pass his office and not see a Staff, Senior, Manager (or even an Intern) getting direct guidance and feedback from Bob.
What I observed Bob doing is what we call “collaborative review.” Bob always challenged his team members, gave them opportunities to expand their knowledge and comfort level, but at the same time he was right there to lend his support and give you the confidence you needed to get the job done. I think there are far too few leaders and partners like this today in public accounting. Therefore, all of the knowledge these “wise owls” have is slowly going away as they retire. Not Bob. He was committed to take the time to transfer as much knowledge as he could. What a valuable asset.
Bob is also an innovator, he was never beholden to the status quo and as I had the opportunity to work with him, I found him very open to exploring new concepts and ideas. He has since retired several years ago but still remains active in business as the Interim CEO of a large lumber company in Ohio.
Although I have never met him personally, the second person I admire is Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines). I think of words like courageous, loyal, optimistic, innovator, paradigm-changer, and humble when I think of Herb. His people loved him – because he showed he cared about them. They, in turn, did great things for the company. His customers loved him because of the service and value they received. He also believed in a concept that I fully agree with: that there are leaders at every level in an organization and we need to cultivate and harness the power of those leaders.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
DH: Optimism for the future. I’ve observed many and have personally worked for leaders that have a first instinct of “glass half empty” thinking. This outlook wears on their people and their teams. A leader needs to be an optimist. They need to help shape a vision, believe in that vision, and work tirelessly to get their teams to align and perform to that vision. Being skeptical of new opportunities and creating a sense of pessimism and negativity is unhealthy for a leader and their organization. It is okay to have some healthy skepticism. But, at some point, you need to make decisions and move forward with change and new ideas for growth.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
DH: Passion. If you have passion, you can get almost anything done. You can get your teams to perform in the biggest moments and achieve the best results. Your personality, if you have passion, is often contagious. People want to come and work for you. To be clear, I’m not talking about being an out of control zealot who drives their teams to work crazy long hours. I’m talking about seeing someone have a genuine interest and passion for what they do, coming to work, serving clients, and helping to grow others. There are some young up and coming leaders who appear to be just going through the motions. You can never really tell if they’re fully committed to the cause or not. They show glimpses of great things and passion, but it may not be consistent enough. Give me someone with passion and less technical ability over someone with great technical ability but no passion any day as a leader. The person with passion will figure out how to overcome their technical weaknesses by using the team they surround themselves with and will always outperform those who lack passion.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
DH: I try to instill confidence in others, develop a level of trust that they feel comfortable with in their role and in me, and I give them opportunities to showcase their talents. You have to continually come up with new challenges and opportunities to expose your team members to help them grow and develop leadership. You have to recognize and thank them. In essence, you need to show them that you care. If you’re doing these things, it’s natural that they are going to want to go above and beyond and will naturally start taking on more responsibility. That creates organic and natural leadership development.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
DH: A couple of the points I mentioned previously come to mind. Show some passion for what you do. Ask for opportunities and when you get opportunities fully take advantage of them. Don’t let others down. Begin learning how to delegate and as we often say “train your replacement.” You’ll never be able to grow into a new role if you don’t have someone taking what you’re currently doing off your plate. Essentially, start doing what that next level in your organization, that next leader that you look up to, is doing. Even though you don’t have the title necessarily, start understanding and doing those things and it will be natural that you’ll have the opportunity to progress into leadership. Don’t just put in your time and expect an entitlement after so many years. Earn it and prove it first. Then, there can be no questions as to your leadership ability.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
DH: Empathy – I genuinely care about the projects, team members, and client organizations I have the good fortune to work with. I take seriously the requirement to establish a foundation of trust and have my teams know that I am personally invested in their success as well. Showing people you care is so important.
Results-Oriented – I challenge my team members to always look beyond the status quo to truly make a difference. That means taking calculated and warranted risks and expecting the same of your team. There is safety in “this is what has always been done” thinking but there is not as much growth opportunity thinking that way. I expect my team members to seek that growth opportunity.
Optimistic – I give my team members a sense of confidence and optimism in what they are doing and their personal abilities. When someone feels they have the support and encouragement of their leader, they can excel so much more than if that optimism is not there. They need to see the vision and see that their leader has a genuine optimism that they can reach that vision together.
Passion and positivity are sometimes underrated and overlooked by some firms and organizations. It is fantastic to hear someone speak so enthusiastically about these two leadership qualities! And, I was struck by Dustin’s admiration and kind words for Bob and I hope that Bob gets to read this post so he knows the impact his leadership has had on Dustin!
Who do you admire most as a leader? What if you took the time to write down your thoughts and express your admiration? Chances are it would mean a great deal to the people who have impacted you the most to be able to read about how they have impacted and shaped those around them!