Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely: Practical, Philosophical, and Principled Leadership Concepts for Business and Life

Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely: Practical, Philosophical, and Principled Leadership Concepts for Business and Life

by Theo Etzel


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626342545
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

W. Theodore “Theo” Etzel III is a lifelong Floridian and a successful business leader. In 1995, he became president and CEO of Conditioned Air and grew the company from a $2.7 million operation to a $40 million organization in 2014. The company has since received the National Contractor of the Year award from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and the Uncommon Friends Foundation Business Ethics Award for its commitment to integrity in business practices.

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Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely

Practical Philosophical, and Principled Leadership Concepts for Business and Life

By Theo Etzel

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2016 Theo Etzel
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-254-5



"I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions."


The best leadership advice I ever received wasn't from a Fortune 500 CEO or business expert. It was from my mother.

"Son, spend your heartbeats wisely," said this woman who had served in the civilian services, screening letters during World War II. In her wisdom, my mother knew that each of us has only so many heartbeats on this earth. Behind every hour we work and every dollar we spend is a heartbeat. We trade heartbeats like currency. They give us buying power in the grand scheme of life. That's why, as a leader, the very best thing you can do for yourself and your company is to make sure what you're doing is really worth trading for those heartbeats.

Each of us has only so many heartbeats on this earth.

Think of each heartbeat, of each moment, as a gift. When people give you a gift, they have traded their heartbeats to allow you to receive something from them. It may not be what you would have chosen, but it represents a part of them. So, too, does a gift you give to others; it is a reflection of a personal resource that you traded so that they could have something special from you. Each of us has a different idea of value or worth in spending heartbeats. My advice is to make sure that you believe, in your innermost being, that what you are trading your heartbeats for is worth it.

Why is this so important? The most successful leaders understand the lesson my parents taught me as a young boy — that everything doesn't revolve around me. Keep in mind that when people give you money for your business, they have given you their own heartbeats in exchange. Measure those with respect.

* * *

Leadership Heartbeats

• Spend your heartbeats wisely.

• Make sure what you do in your life and in your company is really worth trading for those heartbeats.



"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader."


I am a member of Vistage, an international association of CEOs, executives, and business owners of companies that generate $3 million or more in annual revenue and that employ at least five people. Those of us involved with the organization were sad to lose Vistage leader Charles "Red" Scott in 2013, but he left a legacy that continues to help us manage things and lead people. I follow his eight principles of success. He argued that every leader should possess

• a feeling of being lucky;

• a sense of greatness;

• a strong work ethic, a willingness to work long hours, persistence;

• a sense of urgency;

• enthusiasm;

• the willingness to take risks;

• high self-esteem; and

• a belief in God.

Each of these traits gives leaders the ability to address problems as they come up and to do so in a way that is not only best for the company but also best for the people working in it. Leaders with a feeling of being lucky will be more likely to take risks when a situation calls for it, but they will also be more appreciative — and protective — of what they have built in the company. A sense of greatness and high self-esteem gives them the confidence to set lofty goals and achieve them. A strong work ethic ensures that leaders will do the work that is necessary for success, and when that's combined with the enthusiasm to follow through and a sense of urgency, leaders are able to get things done quickly and decisively. Finally, a belief in God gives leaders a set of principles to live by and to lead their companies by so that they can achieve financial success in a moral fashion — through hard work, good decisions, and by treating their employees and customers well.

Manage things. Lead people.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (December 1906–January 1992) was a US naval officer. Dr. Hopper was an American computer scientist and one of the first people to develop a compiler for computer programming. She is credited with popularizing machine independent programming, which led to the development of one of the first high-level programming languages, COBOL. She also coined the term debugging, which is still used today.

She is famous for many things, but one of my favorite quotes attributed to her goes like this: "You manage things; you lead people."

Things can be moved around, and they stay where you put them. They (usually) do what you tell them to and rarely complain. People have goals of their own, a will, and feelings. In order to do their jobs well, people need to be convinced that what they are doing is important and for some purpose, and it helps to have someone they respect in charge.

In one of my previous corporate positions, my leader was a guy who used his job to avoid his situation at home. He had placed personal ambition in front of family time and spent more hours at work and away from home than was needed. It becomes easier to slight our loved ones because we feel they will easily forgive us, or we simply don't want to face what's happening at home, so we avoid those issues by working more. Neither is a good habit.

I didn't respect that. The sad thing is that a lot of people fall into this easy trap. Respect in the workplace starts with the leader, with you. Here are the top tried-and-true tips that I've come to rely on to earn and maintain the respect of my employees:

• Be yourself.

• Don't call yourself the boss.

• Don't lead with fear.

• Don't take yourself too seriously.

• Motivate; don't dictate.

Be yourself

I once read an article about the president of Costco and how he prefers to be treated like every other worker. His nametag reads only "Bob." I share his views on being approachable. If you can extend this philosophy through your business, then your employees will strive to work with you, not against the grain. Your employees still know you are in charge and hold power, but it is not necessary to announce it everywhere you go in a self-aggrandizing way. That just makes you less approachable and puts a wall around you — invisible to you but very visible to others. Approachability equals information; walls will leave you in the dark.

Don't call yourself the boss

Just the other day, someone said, "Hi boss!" to me, and although I appreciate the respect, I hate the word boss. The word has a negative connotation and is inextricably linked with power. I think that word should be struck from employee–employer relationships. The word boss has its roots in the Dutch word for "master." The connotation of the boss from a few decades ago is someone who leads out of fear and an abuse of power. Clearly, this does not resonate with people today (although some still try), and the younger workers entering the workforce do not respond to this type of treatment. My personal preference is not to be known as the boss.

Seek the right people, with the right talents for the position, equip them as needed for the job, and then get out of their way.

My job is to build stars, not be the star. I'm not the star player; I'm just the coach. If you have or want to have a coach mentality as a leader as I do, you must be prepared to seek the right people, with the right talents for the position, equip them as needed for the job, and then get out of their way so they can perform. This does not mean forgetting about them — quite the opposite. It means being there to support their efforts and making certain they are on the path to success for both the company and themselves.

Don't lead with fear

The management/leadership philosophy that it is better to be feared than loved keeps people off base and in fear of their employer and position. It keeps them subservient, but I reject that as a form of proper leadership. You can be strong as a leader and well respected without relying on fear. To me, leading through fear is just a sign of weakness in your own leadership skills and shows a lack of understanding for underlying leadership principles.

Leading with fear will crush your business. Employees who have to carry around the weight of fear in the workplace will certainly always seek the safest way to perform their duties. This may not always be the best for the business when innovative thought is required, as it is in today's global environment. Innovation and idea exchange are stifled if people are in constant fear of you, for their job security, or of challenging the status quo.

I go around every morning and step into offices and say hi like every other employee. I want my employees to respect me but not to be intimidated by me. We shouldn't be buddies, but we should have a friendly professional relationship, in which we respect each other. This way, they are open to my leadership and willing to do their best work for me and for the company.

Don't take yourself too seriously

It's okay to laugh at work. I have a self-deprecating humor and poke fun at myself, but I can still maintain a serious attitude when it comes to running the business. Balance the two, and you'll have a working environment that's tough to beat. When downturns in business occur and tough decisions on spending must be made, it's usually not a laughing matter. In fact, the people around you would probably think you are taking the situation too lightly and are not really concerned about them or their future if you reacted lightheartedly. In the more normal, day-to-day business activities, being able to share a laugh or not-so-serious moment with people brings the team together. Knowing what situation calls for what reaction and behavior is the responsibility of all leaders in an organization.

Motivate; don't dictate

One of the ways you show respect for your employees is to give them a reason for the task you are asking them to perform. People want to be inspired and not simply told what to do, where to do it, when to do it by, and how. Yes, people want guidelines and a safe zone to operate in; boundaries are key concepts that all of us want for general direction. Inspirational leaders motivate through big ideas and by giving purpose, not by brandishing a stick.

People want to be inspired and not simply told what to do, where to do it, when to do it by, and how.

If you dictate to your employees what they should do and how they should do it, if you micromanage and simply expect them to obey without thought, your employees may do what you tell them, but their hearts won't be in it. They'll only invest the heartbeats necessary to get the job done to its minimum requirements and move on to the next assignment.

However, if you motivate them, give them a purpose within the company, and allow them a personal stake in the work, they will shine. They'll work harder because they have a reason other than being told to work. They'll work more carefully and invest more of their heartbeats to meet their own career goals, which when they are aligned with the company's goals and yours, benefits everyone.

At a kickoff meeting on an air conditioning installation job for a big general contractor, we — all the subcontractors — were assembled in a circle. We knew this was a fast-track job. The general contractor's project manager led off the meeting with a series of threats about penalties for delays and overtime demands, ranting and raving for no reason, and cursing at every turn. We were shown no respect, and it was clear that he did not want to be doing this project at all. No motivation was handed out that day. We shook our heads in amazement after the meeting. Conversely, I've been to kickoff meetings where ideas for cooperation and efficiency were solicited and respected. People felt needed and desired. And they worked harder, faster, and better in that environment.

Employees don't want to be berated. Embrace cooperation and never forget to let your team know you have faith in them to complete the job in a way that will best benefit the client and, in turn, the company.

It's important to maintain a relationship as a leader in which accountability can be demanded of the team without resorting to scare tactics. In the end, the work must be done, and in order to ensure that it is, a leader must understand the difference between being friendly — professional but pleasant — and being buddies — where the relationship overshadows the work — with your staff.

Recently, a high school student asked me whether I was an authoritarian leader or a friend to my staff. My answer was that I am a friendly authoritarian. At the end of the day, I have to be an authority, but I prefer to be approachable and friendly. However, I am not friends as high school students would perceive it with my staff, because that would diminish my objectivity: I might not be able to make the right decisions for the company.

Optimistic leadership

Hope is not a business plan: Saying "I hope things turn around" will not actually make them turn around. However, hope, as part of a positive attitude, must be central to any leader — in good times and bad. Whether we like it or not, we leaders are on stage all the time in front of our staff. We may not even know we are on stage, or we may take it for granted, but our coworkers take their cues from us every day. If we do not show a winning, positive attitude about our business, especially when tough decisions are called for, the resulting negative attitudes in the office and in the field will spell disaster for the organization.

If you are not feeling 100 percent one day, maybe it's one of your less glorious days; if you're not ready to walk into the building and say, "It's showtime!" then stay away from the office that day until you can get yourself back to being the leader you know you need to be. No one can be "on" all the time. We are all human. I've learned that if I walk into the office glum that day — acting like Eeyore — I'm going to have a passel of Eeyores.

As a leader, you have to be consistently positive in your outlook and attitude and must demonstrate that. It's all part of being on stage, part of what you are called to do. If you want others to mirror that, you have to be that person. Don't be a hypocrite; live and lead by your values. There is no easy way to stay true to your principles; you have to work at it. Part of that journey comes from finding the joy in living how God wants you to live, which gives you more ability to say no to the pressures of society and the world.

Be humble

In business and life, we are called to be humble rather than prideful. This ties in with my other tips as well: If you are humble, it's easier to be yourself, and you're not likely to want to be called the boss. Successful leaders know they cannot be self-centered or prideful and at the same time remain open to corrective lessons — much less advice — from their colleagues and especially not from their employees. This advice might be something you would never have thought of on your own, and it might be brilliant.

This is why you, as the leader of your organization, need to be a good listener. You have to be able to listen and see things from other people's viewpoint to understand what's important to them. More important, if you're so full of pride that you can't take constructive criticism, then you can't listen and receive good advice.

In the end, you'll have to make a decision, and people will probably have some variations on their approach to the situation. But all input should be considered in formulating the final decision. I'm not preaching leading by consensus. While that can take place, and it's great when it does, that is not the total goal here. Being open to other viewpoints and giving proper consideration usually yields a better decision.


Excerpted from Invest Your Heartbeats Wisely by Theo Etzel. Copyright © 2016 Theo Etzel. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1 The Value of Heartbeats,
CHAPTER 2 Traits of Effective Leadership,
CHAPTER 3 Leadership in Practice,
CHAPTER 4 Creating a Corporate Culture of Accountability,
CHAPTER 5 Mentor Magic,
CHAPTER 6 Getting a Business Started,
CHAPTER 7 Marketing,
CHAPTER 8 Running a Business,
CHAPTER 9 Best Practices and Change,
CHAPTER 10 Hiring the Right Employees,
CHAPTER 11 Motivating Your Employees,
CHAPTER 12 Employee Retention,
CHAPTER 13 Avoiding Burnout,
CHAPTER 14 The Business of Discipline,
CHAPTER 15 Doing the Right Thing,
CHAPTER 16 Biblical Principles,
Recommended Reading,
About the Author,

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