Tim Patterson, chief growth officer of Intelligent Waves, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding his leadership approach with the company as well as how his values and drive for success continue to push Intelligent Waves ahead of the curve in such a competitive industry.
In addition, Patterson also discussed the core values that are essential to build a great team and drive success as well as his advice for anyone entering our industry to build their resume and advance their careers to be in the best position during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
“My approach is to foster an open culture of information sharing, collaboration, and accountability. Each member of the organization has a say. But, when a decision is made on an approach or plan, we collectively must have a laser focus on implementing and achieving the outcomes. Up and down the management chain, accountability for our actions and desired outcomes is key to an effective culture.”
You can read the full interview with Tim Patterson below:
ExecutiveBiz: What do you believe are your core strengths as a leader, and what lessons have taught you the most about driving success?
Tim Patterson: “I’ve learned that success truly happens as an outcome of organizational success, not just the work of one individual. There are three tenants that I’ve tried to emulate from the leaders and mentors I’ve had that created strong organizational and mission success. They are communication and collaboration, trust, and then setting a plan and executing it.
Communication and collaboration rely on transparency- ensuring that everyone understands what’s happening, why we’re doing it, and then, most importantly, what are the expected outcomes? What is it that we are trying to drive to? That way, we all understand the goal and end output and then can work towards it.
As we communicate and collaborate, we recognize that each has a different role. How do we individually fit to make our goals and outputs work? We can collaborate if we understand our desired outcomes, what we’re trying to do, and who’s involved.
And a lot of that is fostering that collaboration and not getting caught in stovepipes. I call it connecting the dots where each of us connects the dots. This is my role. This is how it fits and who has another part; let me get them the information.
As a leader, it is critical to realize you must make your organization work, and that’s one of the core aspects of making sure we communicate about it so that we all understand. We drive collaboration individually at all levels working together and understanding what we need to do. This also goes into the second aspect of trust.
Trust is an earned activity and something that many organizations continuously strive to have. It’s earned both up and down the organizational chain. So individual contributors, team members, and team leads must earn the trust of their leaders, that they have the ability, the dedication, and the competency to do their jobs and follow through.
Conversely, leaders must earn the trust of every person in their organization by providing clear leadership guidance, accountability, and understanding that if that person does something, they have the backing and support of their leader.
This allows the team and organization to feel comfortable delivering the needed outputs. So, for me, trust is a big one, and it is earned and lost every day – the key is maintaining it every day through communication and collaboration.
The last tenant is setting a plan and implementing it, especially in the GovCon industry. There are so many needs regarding work requirements and customer space. The world is your oyster, but there needs to be a focus on where we want to go strategically and tactically.
Set a plan, understand what we do well, what we don’t do well, and where we want to go – then implement that plan. When we stop “chasing squirrels” that take us away from the plan to address a short-term desire, we can focus on where we are going and see strong growth.
Maintaining discipline and focus allows fewer bids, and more wins, resulting in more robust growth and faster growth. Implementing the right plan for an organization, whether it is customer-based, capabilities-based, or both, drives exponential growth.”
ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe your management style and core values for building a winning culture?
Tim Patterson: “My approach is to foster an open culture of information sharing, collaboration, and accountability. Each member of the organization has a say. But, when a decision is made on an approach or plan, we collectively must have a laser focus on implementing and achieving the outcomes.
Up and down the management chain, accountability for our actions and desired outcomes is key to an effective culture. Some key core values that I imbue with my teams are;
Inclusion, Communication, and Accountability
From my perspective, in an open and transparent organization, it is crucial that people understand what the organization is doing, what other people are doing, and then most importantly, why we are doing it.
When we share that information at all levels, they understand the organization’s goals and strive to reach them. As we each understand our roles at our own level, we can focus on those areas, so they fit into the larger picture and direction of the organization.
Accountability on all levels is very important. We need to make sure that leadership is accountable for taking care of the men and women underneath them. But then each individual and the entire workforce is also responsible for our actions and outcomes.
Data, Data, Data drives good decision making and results in great outcomes
A decision can always be made, but in many cases, especially in our industry, we use our gut when we need to make quick decisions about individuals or opportunities. Listening to your gut can be helpful, but there’s a lot of information that we can hone to make better decisions.
We must learn to incorporate data and make better decisions rather than going after work based on the size and scale. First, we need to ask questions. Is this a good customer? Do they buy the way we need them to buy? What does the competition look like? Who is the government customer, and what are they trying to do? What is their landscape?
Asking these questions enables us to make good decisions based on the data. Then as we gather that data, we collectively have that conversation, and people understand the reasoning. The process improves because people understand what data we need to make good decisions to execute and move forward.
This is key to a small business transitioning to a large, such as Intelligent Waves has.”
ExecutiveBiz: What core values do you believe are essential to building a great team and establishing a foundation to drive success in such a competitive industry?
Tim Patterson: “Just like a baseball, soccer, or football team, each position has a role and skill set that complements the others on the field. I believe it is essential to build a team with skills and mindsets that not only fill the role but naturally push others to be better at their job.
Therefore, I seek team members who drive to be experts in their area combined with an intrinsic desire to help others.
Additionally, a mind for business – not specifically business experts, but individuals that understand business drivers and how to implement them. These traits and core values foster trust and accountability within a team resulting in an efficient and effective work environment and growth outcomes that exceed traditional success.”
ExecutiveBiz: How would you advise someone entering our industry to build their resume and advance their careers to be in the best position in the years to come?
Tim Patterson: “My best advice to those entering the industry is two-fold: find a mentor and be a mentor yourself. Mentors can be found anywhere – in your company, government, and community – but it is important to find someone you respect who has a different experience base.
You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not looking for someone who will help you become a better person and professional, and guide you as you address obstacles, seek advancement, and push your comfort level.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of finding a mentor who is not in your management chain, who isn’t your boss, and who is doing different things within an organization. This allows you to learn more about their responsibilities, what they understand, and their approaches to their discipline.
Then, whether it be a finance discipline, a growth discipline, or running an organization, you can start to form what you’re looking to do or how it influences your world.
Mentors also make a great sounding board. When coming up against a problem, you can ask – how do I address this? How did you handle this? What are some good things that I can do to learn and not make mistakes?
In the GovCon industry, we have a lot of people who are great mentors, and it’s finding the person that’s going to fit you. They don’t have to be a model of who you are, but someone you respect that you can learn from, and they can help guide you.
The importance of mentoring someone at the same time as receiving mentoring cannot be overstated. An effective leader must teach and guide others who are learning and growing in their careers. This mentoring should occur both within and outside of one’s organization.
Mentees are the men and women on your team collaborating with you and then eventually becoming the next set of leaders. I’ve learned that before you can move up in roles and responsibilities, you must be able to pass the torch.
Once you have someone who can replace you, it allows you to move up. You ensure that the next level or two levels below are prepared by mentoring.
Doing both is important. If you don’t, you’ll only be helping yourself or only helping others which leads to finite outcomes, individually and organizationally.”
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you feel you made the most impact?
Tim Patterson: At the individual level. Nothing is better than seeing someone put all the pieces together after being part of a process, understanding the “why” we are doing something, and then making that part of how they lead and operate.
It is hard to quantify an impact, as it doesn’t directly address market share, mission strategy, or revenue, but it is very tangible. When an individual is motivated, focused, and truly part of a team, their contribution to the organization, government customers, and teammates results in various impacts – contract wins, revenue attainment, and government mission success.
All of these results are dependent on individuals, and that’s where I focus my awareness when implementing more extensive plans and processes, as the individuals generate the outcomes.”
ExecutiveBiz: How do you define innovation in this age of disruption where you have changing technologies and processes? What is the secret to making innovation successful versus bleeding edge and dying?
Tim Patterson: “Innovation is not being comfortable with the status quo, constantly pushing and asking how we can improve. Is there another approach that would be more efficient or provide better outcomes? To me, it goes back to the culture.
An innovative culture is never happy with where they are but is always looking ahead to where they want to be. And by having a leader, in many cases, a CEO who has that vision of where we want to go and then questioning, are we doing everything we can to get there? That’s innovation at all levels, from my perspective.”
ExecutiveBiz: With emerging technology influencing the federal government and industry more by the day, what are some of the business side of innovation challenges that aren’t always discussed as often as they should be?
Tim Patterson: “In my opinion, we must acknowledge five significant challenges that come with innovation in government: disruption, adaptability, acquisition, compliance, and user adoption.
Disruption: Innovation is constantly occurring within every sector, from enterprise IT to cybersecurity. As a result, agencies that embrace technology and adapt to changing trends are more likely to succeed than those that ignore these developments.
However, while these changes have led to greater relevance, technological advancements also lead to displacement—an unavoidable aspect of innovation.
Adaptability: Federal agencies must respond quickly and efficiently when new technologies disrupt their industry and change user behavior; otherwise, they may fall behind their mission.
Acquisition: Acquiring talent, customers, and funding. As technology continues to grow, so too impacts these aspects of the government. Experts have been talking about business processes and systems to help innovators navigate these areas. The next best thing is DevOps culture.
Compliance & Regulation: Developing new technology means creating something that hasn’t existed before. Federal, state, and local governments all have laws regulating how services and solutions are marketed, where they’re sold, and how they work. When dealing with emerging technology, it’s essential to understand applicable regulations.
Government Modernization and User Adoption: Even if government leaders intend to adopt new technology, there’s no guarantee federal employees will take to it. To ensure user adoption on a large scale, they must invest in training and development programs and provide incentives for adoption. It could include rewards or bonuses for participation or cutting-edge tools and services.”