When Quint Studer speaks, count on his pearly whites dazzling. His leadership model, as he shared in a recent episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast, is that he wants everyone he works with to speak directly to him. “If I have spinach in my teeth, I want my team to tell me,” Studer said, flashing a smile and sharing an example. “That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with my team.”
That leadership style has allowed Studer to serve as President of Baptist Hospital in Florida and found several businesses serving his two passions: healthcare excellence and strong communities. A children’s hospital now bears his name and hundreds of thousands have read his books on leadership and business operations.
He even brought minor league baseball to Pensacola and now co-owns the team with Two-time Masters Champion Bubba Watson. If anybody has a right to think of himself as a local hero, one who believes his own press clippings, then surely it is Studer.
But Studer does not. He has learned that the bonds that connect with people are not always about what you’ve accomplished but what you’ve been through—and overcome. “I do a lot of public speaking,” said Studer, “and the applause I get after my official introduction is invariably polite. But after I’ve begun talking about being sober for 39 years, and the struggle I went through with alcoholism and my hearing impairment, the audience claps like crazy. It turns out that people relate more to your vulnerabilities than to your strengths. I learned the keys to a great leader include being self-aware and teachable.”
Studer says that self-awareness and teachability aren’t ends in themselves but rather “help us turn obstacles into opportunities and promote creativity.”
His baseball team’s creativity grabbed headlines in 2020 after the COVID pandemic halted normal operations. Rather than shutting down completely and furloughing their staff, they turned the stadium into a giant Airbnb. The “risky” venture brought in revenue to the team, provided a much-needed source of entertainment during the pandemic and earned international publicity. Best of all, the Blue Wahoos didn’t have to resort to hiring an expensive PR firm to do it, thanks to Studer’s approach to creative brainstorming. “As a leader, what you want to do is create the environment where people provide ideas,” noted Studer. “The key is to create a safe enough environment where people aren’t afraid of looking silly. They’re not afraid of throwing an idea out.”
- Be generous with your credit. If an employee comes to you with an idea that you’ve already had, give them credit for it. Tell them it’s a great idea and worth pursuing. “If you claim to have had the idea already, you’ll never get a second one,” said Studer. “You’ve deflated their ego and inferred that you’re smarter than they are.”
- Learn how to turn down an idea without turning down the person. If somebody’s idea won’t work, explain to them why it won’t work rather than suggest to them that theirs was a “bad” idea. “When I told somebody we weren’t going to follow their advice and paint our ballpark seats pink, I told them we considered it but felt that the color would fade quickly, and the cost to replace them every year would add up,” Studer explained.
- Don’t kill an idea that failed once before. There are many reasons that ideas fail or succeed. Success or failure, in the past, is no guarantee of success or failure in the future. “You have to be willing to come back to some things that maybe didn’t work before,” Studer said. My company is doing a gratitude symposium and it’s proven to be popular, but I don’t know if it would’ve worked three years ago.”
- Let people know they can challenge you. In most work environments, employees shy away from challenging their boss, especially in front of other people. Doing so may seem disrespectful or downright insubordinate to many people, but Studer says he tries to welcome a challenge that is directed not at him but at the problem. “Sometimes, when somebody challenges me, I’ll ask them to give me until our next meeting to think about it,” Studer says. “Then, if they’re right, I’ll say so. If you never let yourself be won over, people will shut down.”
- If it won’t hurt anyone and isn’t illegal . . . give it a go. When Studer was president of Baptist Hospital, he learned that elderly people who had to walk from the physician’s offices in one building to the X-ray center in another sometimes grew tired and leaned against the wall to rest. “When somebody suggested putting benches in the hallways, there was an immediate pushback about fire safety rules,” recalled Studer. “I said, well, why don’t we just throw a few of them in there and see what happens? If it flops, it flops.” Studer says that not only did the benches not flop, “they made for comfortable seating for the fire department when filling out their safety reports.”
- Be okay with failure. Just as it’s important to be generous with your crediting of others for ideas, leaders should be appreciative of ideas that don’t work. “The important thing is that you try and you learn something,” said Studer. “Perfectionism is what kills innovation.”
Have a listen to a master conversationalist and business leader so you can multiply your team’s creativity!