Wayne Roberts ’85 is driven and motivated to help others. His fascination with the unique strengths and skills of each person is the cornerstone of his leadership approach and something he leverages extensively to put people in roles and opportunities that best leverage their abilities, interests and strengths. This focus on understanding the individual has defined Roberts as a coach and leader. Roberts told a group of Business Honors students at Mays Business School recently that you must truly know and manage yourself before successfully managing others. According to Gallup’s StrengthsFinder Assessment, “Individualization” is consistently his top strength. “When you get to the point of understanding your strengths and how you’re wired, you then get comfortable with yourself and how to leverage your own strengths,” he said. “Coaching others is when it really gets fun and rewarding.”
Roberts is chief operating officer at Accruent, an Austin-based company that provides real estate management software and services.
He shared specific recommendations with students to put into practice communication, meeting, coaching and leadership practices. For example, he shared the company meeting cadence, which is derived from Patrick Lencione’s Death by Meeting. He holds weekly tactical team meetings with his direct reports, monthly strategic full-day meetings, quarterly off-site meetings and ad hoc strategic meetings when needed. Each of the meetings has a specific agenda, purpose, cadence and attendance.
But where Roberts believes everyone gets the most benefit is in weekly one-on-one meetings with each employee. “Each of my one-on-ones are different. I tailor them to the individual, which is another example of playing to my strengths,” he said. “We get more done in that one hour together every week than in any other setting.”
Among the many lessons learned and recommendations Roberts shared with the group is the notion of “FOUR” – an acronym he created that summarizes what he has observed that defines those most successful in the business world. “The F in FOUR stands for Failure. Those that aren’t afraid to fail, who stretch themselves, get out of their comfort zone, fail smartly and then learn from those failures are the ones that succeed long term.”
Similarly, being “Outcome oriented (“O”) rather than immersed in the tasks and processes means you never lose sight of the ultimate objective and can see the forest for the trees. Those that are big picture oriented and long term greedy are more successful than those that maximize short terms results.” Not surprisingly, Roberts believes that true Level 5 leaders are also Unselfish (“U”).
Resiliency (“R”) is another common trait of the successful people Roberts has known. “Their grit, determination, iron will and work ethic is remarkable and sets them apart,” Roberts said.
While not the only factors, Roberts shared with students that FOUR seems correlated to success in his experience. “It’s the old adage – common sense, uncommonly practiced.”
The students who heard Roberts speak at Mays said they were impressed with his humility and insistence on getting to know his employees. “I want to be able to apply his ideas to my career down the road if I am ever a manager, and I hope to be able to stay as humble and patient as Mr. Roberts seems to be,” said Caitlin Smith ’17, a Business Honors and supply chain major.
Sam Richter ’16, an accounting and Business Honors major, said he was interested to learn how a relationship-oriented leader operates in a workplace. “Over my four years in college I have discovered that I am a relationship-based leader, so it was an amazing experience getting to see what that practically looked like in the workplace,” he said.
Business Honors and finance major Conrad Shillings ’16 described Roberts as a “very friendly and outgoing man, with a lot of wisdom and care for us.” He recalled one of the specific lessons Roberts shared with the group. “My favorite takeaway was the F in FOUR, the failure,” Shillings said. “He said to embrace and welcome failure, because we learn the most from our failures and only grow stronger.”