The Path To Leadership

Leading with Purpose: Mike Sinnett's Journey in Leadership

January 11, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 18
Leading with Purpose: Mike Sinnett's Journey in Leadership
The Path To Leadership
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The Path To Leadership
Leading with Purpose: Mike Sinnett's Journey in Leadership
Jan 11, 2024 Season 1 Episode 18
Catalyst Development

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Embark on a leadership exploration as we sit down with Mike Sinnett, the visionary President and CEO of Missouri Kansas Goodwill. Mike's journey is a true testament to the power of change, guiding us from his four decades in banking to his inspiring role leading an organization that is so much more than thrift stores. We uncover the transformative strides Goodwill is making under Mike's guidance, from championing sustainability to impacting lives through job creation and community service. The conversation offers a rare glimpse into how a leader can shape the future of an organization and its surrounding community, all while adhering to the principles of 'one team, one mission.'

The second part of our discussion pivots to the art of crafting dynamic teams, where Mike shares his wisdom on cultivating an environment where trust flourishes and communication is paramount. Drawing from his rich background, including his influential work with Catholic Charities of Denver, Mike illustrates how to inspire and maintain a mission-driven team, ready to face challenges head-on. By setting ambitious goals for Goodwill in Kansas City, this episode serves as a clarion call for community involvement and exemplifies how collective action can spark remarkable transformations. Tune in to hear a leader who not only talks the talk but walks the walk, proving that leadership isn't just about direction, it's about making a difference.

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Embark on a leadership exploration as we sit down with Mike Sinnett, the visionary President and CEO of Missouri Kansas Goodwill. Mike's journey is a true testament to the power of change, guiding us from his four decades in banking to his inspiring role leading an organization that is so much more than thrift stores. We uncover the transformative strides Goodwill is making under Mike's guidance, from championing sustainability to impacting lives through job creation and community service. The conversation offers a rare glimpse into how a leader can shape the future of an organization and its surrounding community, all while adhering to the principles of 'one team, one mission.'

The second part of our discussion pivots to the art of crafting dynamic teams, where Mike shares his wisdom on cultivating an environment where trust flourishes and communication is paramount. Drawing from his rich background, including his influential work with Catholic Charities of Denver, Mike illustrates how to inspire and maintain a mission-driven team, ready to face challenges head-on. By setting ambitious goals for Goodwill in Kansas City, this episode serves as a clarion call for community involvement and exemplifies how collective action can spark remarkable transformations. Tune in to hear a leader who not only talks the talk but walks the walk, proving that leadership isn't just about direction, it's about making a difference.

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Katie Ervin:

Hi everyone, Welcome back to the Path to Leadership. I'm really excited. Today I have a special guest. Hi Mike, how are you?

Mike Sinnett:

I'm great. How are you Happy New Year, Katie?

Katie Ervin:

Thank you, Thank you. Happy New Year to you. Did you guys have? Did you have a good holiday? Kids and everything.

Mike Sinnett:

It was glorious, did you?

Katie Ervin:

call ou for the holidays.

Mike Sinnett:

I did. Yeah, all of our family, our immediate family, is back there Children, grandchildren and so forth. So we went back, but came back to Kansas City where we enjoyed the New Year's holiday.

Katie Ervin:

It's nice. Good yeah, we. I tell people we had a wonderful holiday, but it was weird because I have a 19 and 21 year old and my 21 year old had to work on Christmas, even Christmas day, so they've never woken up in our house. They've always woken up in my in-laws house. So new traditions this year.

Mike Sinnett:

New traditions? Yeah Well, as as as the journey continues, those new traditions become more and more important.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. So well, can you just introduce yourself to everyone, letting one know who you are and what you do?

Mike Sinnett:

Sure, my name's Sinnett and and I'm the president and CEO of Missouri, kansas, goodwill, and I've been in this role five months.

Katie Ervin:

Very good. Well, in full disclosure, I am so honored I just joined the board and after a year of begging to come on to the board, so I'm I'm excited you're here and I'm excited to be on the board.

Mike Sinnett:

But we're excited to have you. It's going to be a great journey. We look forward to what you can do to support our initiative and and to you know, really understand where we want to go on our journey, and surrounding with a strong board is really a key, essential part of our success.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I agree, I agree. Well, and before we jump all the way into Goodwill, can you kind of talk a little bit about your career journey and how you landed here with us?

Mike Sinnett:

Yeah, you know it's been a pretty seripitous route. I mean, I've kind of done a lot of different things. So I was in banking for 40 years in Kansas City, denver, memphis, back to Kansas City, then back to Denver where most recently I was working with community banks of Colorado. Then I got to a point where I was just the banking industry had changed a lot and I was ready to maybe look at something else, been doing it all my life and wanted to get back. So I had breakfast with the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Denver where we met and he says you know what I need your business acumen and I'll take care of the mission side. And so I went to work for Catholic Charities of Denver where I was the vice president in charge of shelter and community outreach and I was in that role for seven and a half years and, quite frankly, that role really did position me for this opportunity that I took advantage of last August as the new president and CEO of Goodwill.

Mike Sinnett:

My attorney that when I was at the bank, we became friends, we talked almost daily. So he was on the board and called me and said would you ever think about coming back to Kansas City and I'm like, well, that depends on what you're what you're talking about. So, long story short, I'm back in Kansas City. I've got my brothers here. I've got my wife's family's here. Her parents are still alive, so it's an opportunity to be back here and kind of help take care of them and then allow me to have some fun trying to be the strong leader that this company deserves.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah. What an interesting journey, and you know when this podcast we like to talk about. You know, the path to leadership is not straight. It is a windy road and we take that path.

Mike Sinnett:

Yeah, absolutely, and I think that's a great comparison is, you know, I have taken lots of turns and twists and I worked about every job in the bank that was available to me, all the way to the regional president role. And you know, banking it's evolved a lot over the years and, with the admin of technology and you know, some of the nationwide competition that comes to the banking industry just has changed and it just wasn't fitting what I wanted to do with my career and it was time to move on and it was one of the best decisions I made. And now I feel like I'm giving back to the community, whereas before I felt, like you know, profits and shareholder return were always the rallying cry. Well, here the rallying cry is how do we take care of people and how do we be the reason someone smiles?

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, and that's the thing I love about Goodwill. I mean, when people think about Goodwill, so often they think about the stores, but it's so much bigger than that. So can you talk a little bit about the services and how Goodwill serves the communities?

Mike Sinnett:

You bet and you know that's the common thing is, everybody knows us by our brand, by the stores that we operate. But really we're much deeper than that and there's really four distinct ways that we serve our community. One way is we take away the landfill choice for gently used clothing and wares. You know, if you say, well, this t-shirt it's pretty good, but I've outgrown it, and rather than throw it in your trash and put it in a landfill, you donate it to Goodwill and we take those donated goods and we resell them in the store. We serve a demographic that creates an affordable clothing option to them through gently used goods and products, clothing, and then what we don't sell in the store, then we sell in a secondary market by bulk, and then what doesn't get sold there, then we actually recycle the majority of what we have. So plastics, metal, glass, computers, clothing we've got big machines that actually bail the clothing and we sell it to textilers. So you know, so the recycling is really part of, you know, trying to be a green employer, trying to do things for our community. But then really the proceeds from the primary reason is the social enterprise is we take the proceeds from those sales in our donation centers and our stores and we put those to work on a workforce development initiative where we focus our niche.

Mike Sinnett:

We work with people who have specific barriers and barriers to employment, and we all know what the power of work is to being sustainable, to providing for your family, all of those things. But when you can't find work or you need help finding work, that's where we step in and that's really the purpose behind Goodwill is working with people that have barriers. What can we do to support them where they are in their journey? We don't make them fit the puzzle part that we have. We try to create the puzzle to fit them, and so we've got a team of employees here that work with them, understand where they are in their journey. What can we do more? We've got collaborative partners all through the community on how we can look at technology or manufacturing or a lot of different segments, and we'd like to expand that through the expansion of more stores, generating more revenue and then being able to do more to the community than what we're currently doing, and that's kind of a longer term vision for us right now.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I love that and you know to me like the heart of it all, I love that it's you know, meeting people where they are and you know when we first met the first time you were talking about, you know you all have individuals that you know do building cleanings and stuff like that. And I made the connection that one of my good friends works in the federal building and he always is talking about and I should have asked him the name, his name, before we jumped on the call, because he's always talking about this gentleman and how sweet and kind he is and how fantastic he is. And when we were talking I made the connection that he is in the program through Goodwill and is employed through it and it's just such a cool connection and opportunity that you all give.

Mike Sinnett:

Yeah, and I think that's another aspect of that workforce development.

Mike Sinnett:

We actually have a niche business where we work with under a federal contract with the federal government, the oh, I just lost the name of the building the downtown building here in Kansas City.

Mike Sinnett:

It's 22 stories and all of our employees that clean that building 75% of them, have to have a documented disability so that we can support them and put them to work. We pay a great wage for that and the team I've been over to the building a number of times and it's pristine. I mean, they keep it so clean and it looks so nice. But we've got some employees that have been there for many, many years and they just love their job. They take great pride in what they're doing. And we also have a similar situation or arrangement with Department of Defense. We have a cleaning crew up at Fort Leavenworth, on the fort, and there's up to 80 buildings that we clean on the fort, so they literally go into the fort through the front gates and provide cleaning and janitorial services. So that's another niche business that we have, but it's under that umbrella, katie, of workforce development.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, and I think that's so great because the stores are critically important, because they fund this type of backdoor and so I had someone say I go into Goodwill and sometimes the selection is not great and I challenge people when they're donating, please donate to Goodwill, please take your stuff, because the only way for those stores to have goods to sell is if people are donating. And I think that's the thing that sometimes people don't make that connection.

Mike Sinnett:

Yeah, and I think that's a great point, katie, and that kind of goes to my earlier comment about, well, you could take that old clothes and you could throw it away, but here you're actually going to put it to good work. We talk about putting the power of work to work and that's generated through those store sales. So we're helping the environment, we're helping the community, we're building jobs, we're building awareness and we're just. You know we're going to be celebrating. I know we talked about this before, but we're going to be celebrating a 130th anniversary this year providing community service to the Kansas City area. That's something we're very, very proud of.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, I love that, I love that. So I encourage people as you're cleaning out your you know everyone's going through January cleaning and make sure that we actually my husband will tell you we actually took 14 bags Clothes. My daughter was home from college and so had her go through her closet. My husband's been on a weight loss journey, so he he takes his stuff and then he goes in the store and then brings more stuff home, which is fantastic.

Mike Sinnett:

So yeah, we love that. That's one of our best customers right there.

Katie Ervin:

He just keeps coming around to it. So, yeah, well, I think that's so great, and and the other cool thing I like is and we talk, we've talked about this since the first time we met is your heart for leadership and for people and how leadership is so important In all of this, and so can you talk a little bit about what strong leadership means to you?

Mike Sinnett:

Yeah, and I think you know there's there's a lot of you Google that you're gonna get a lot of textbook answers. But you know what I'm gonna share with you comes straight from my heart, having been in a leadership role, for you know, 90% of my life it feels like. But you know I would start with you know purpose driven results. I mean leadership is something you you've got a, you've got a vision. You drive results. All the different things that build strong leadership, strong communication skills, the ability to influence, and then that's a pretty important term that I use is influence. You know I can't make you show up at 8 o'clock in the morning, but I can certainly influence you to be here at 8 o'clock in the morning.

Mike Sinnett:

Leadership is collaboration, it's building strong teams, it's a vision, it's a drive. You know one of the things that makes strong leaders even stronger leaders is passing along their experience and knowledge and developing others. And I take great pride and that's one of the things that brings me back every day is is the leadership aspect of development and building strong teams. That's really my driving force, that's kind of my mantra. And then you know identifying and celebrating success at the end of the year or the end of the review period, or wherever that time frame is, is to reflect back to the contributions of your team and recognize all of those skills and attributes that were leveraged together, completed together and Accomplish the, the, the mission and that we talk about here. We talk about one team, one mission, a lot, everybody here. Their role, no matter what their role is, is dedicating to Providing support to people with barriers to get jobs. Everybody in this building and in the stores, we share the same mission.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, yeah, you know, and it's. We both have an affinity for Patrick Glincione. We've talked about that, we do. Well, and hearing you talk, you know I just love it, because you know I always when we work with clients, it's like you got to have that rallying cry. You've got to. You got to understand that everyone's important and, and you know, if we don't all work together, going in the same direction, we're not going to get where we want to be. And so how do you bring that strong leadership, especially being new, into this role? And you know there's opportunity for growth in every organization. So how do you, how do you bring that strong leadership in?

Mike Sinnett:

Well, I think the first key to the success of something like that being brand new to an organization that I did not grow up in is is, by example, just being present, being engaging, being gregarious, being visionary, I mean all of those things but really leading by example. I know, when I talk to my daughter about taking this role on because this, you know, late in my career, this is a big job to take on and I'm like I'm having, you know, discussion and debate in my head and she says, dad, the first thing you got to do is you got to win the locker room. I'm like, wow, that's very powerful. And but it's absolutely true, you've got to engage every member of your team as if they work right next to you, all the way from our store staff, all the way up to our leadership team, to our HR team, everybody gets treated the same way. And then, just honestly, katie, developing trust, I think is such an important thing, because if you don't lead with building of trust, then it's just a house of cards. So that's, you know, clearly an important part of it.

Mike Sinnett:

But then I think, as a new leader, clearly communicating expectations and really setting that understanding of where it is, we're going Through a collaborative process. We're going to do a brand new strategic plan in February. It's going to take us about three months I didn't walk into this building with it because I didn't have the subject matter knowledge of what we do to be able to walk and say All right, guys, I know you've been doing this for years, I'm brand new, here's what we're going to do. No, it's a collaborative process. You bring the team together. You know, I spent the first four months. All I did was observe no significant decisions, no significant changes. I just tried to understand who does what. What's the mission? And number one how are we doing? Are we doing well? Are we behaving properly? Are we working together as a team? And so that was kind of the role. But you know, that's what I think a strong leader does.

Mike Sinnett:

They don't come in and dictate You're not going to get anywhere. I'm doing that. You're going to just offend people. You're going to alienate people. You're not going to create a chemistry that's successful. You come in, you'll be part of the team or roll up your sleeves. I've worked in the store. I've worked in our outlet center. I actually put on the orange vest. I moved all this stuff around, I put the clothing into the conveyor belt that takes it to the baler. I did that intentionally because I want to see what they're up against when we start making decisions at a more higher level. What is the unintended consequence of that decision? Having been in their environment helps me with that. It grounds me.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, that's really powerful, because I think that's a mistake that a lot of bosses make is that they don't understand what is happening around them. As leaders, we really have to step in and understand. Hearing you talk just makes me think about the book. Have you ever read the book who says elephants can't dance?

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, a long time ago, but yeah, yeah, it's been forever for me, but I feel like I keep coming back to that because I'm hearing so much organization saying we're hiring someone who has no experience in this industry to lead us. What he talks about in that book is a really strong leader has to know how to take care of people and surround themselves by strong teams that know how to do that. It sounds like that's exactly what you're doing.

Mike Sinnett:

Yeah, I can't do this job alone. I mean anybody that thinks they can be a CEO and do it all by themselves. They're poorly mistaken. As you pointed out, you have to surround yourself with the best talent possible. That takes time. You want to give people the benefit of the doubt. You want to give people an opportunity to demonstrate and reveal their leadership capabilities. You don't rush the judgment by saying one mistake you're like well, that was it time to move them out. I've seen that. I've experienced that firsthand in some of the leadership I've had previously. It's not conducive to successful environment. It's not a good chemistry builder or team builder. Then people just are so scared. Their analysis paralysis, as we've all heard that term used. They get so worried about what's going to happen. They're not effective. I think that's a great point. That's a great book. I've forgotten about that book.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, I hadn't thought about it in a long time and I was working with a company and their employees were pushing back and I was, like, let me go back and reread that book, because this is really screaming at me. That leads me to my last question that I like to ask everybody. I feel like I've been saying this a lot lately, like please don't judge people on their worst days, because we wouldn't want to be judged on our worst days or our worst decisions. As leaders, we don't always do what we hoped we would do To level your comfortable sharing. What is the biggest leadership or career misstep that you've taken?

Mike Sinnett:

I think I touched on it before, but I'll bring it back and that is I can't do this alone. I can't stand up here in this office, sit in here 24-7, not engage the people, type out emails and give instruction via email. I can't be a bureaucrat or a dictator and say you will do it this way, or am I aware of the highway? I mean, we've heard those terms in leadership before, but it's not going to be a healthy work environment. You got to get out of your management by walking around. That's something that I learned early in my career, but it's so very important. Go engage the people. Someone's got a sick kid. Go, how's your kid today? Someone's got this going on. Somebody recently lost a loved one. You go and give a genuine acknowledgement of condolence and understanding and bring the human aspect of leadership to the equation, not the robotic aspect of it. You're going to get a more dedicated team, a more engaged team. I read something the other day that 38 percent of your employees are engaged. That means 3.8 employees out of 10 are engaged. Well, how do you engage them? You go meet them. You go meet them where they're at in their journey and you challenge them. You give them reward, you, give them acknowledgement.

Mike Sinnett:

But so I think when I was young in my career I was like 23 years old and I was named vice president of the bank and I thought that's a huge accomplishment for my age and then I thought, well, with that title I can just start barking orders. Well, I learned very quickly that that didn't work. It didn't work at all. But you gotta build relationships, one handshake at a time, and Lindsey Owning talks about that. You gotta build the relationships, you gotta build the trust and have a common goal, a common purpose, the rallying cry, as you've said, which really sets well with my approach to leadership. So, yeah, that's probably the one I look back and I think to myself. I see on TV current me and old me, old me. Leader was not very good when I first started out, but it was through time and coaching and mentoring that I actually got to a point where I felt like I was comfortable in my own shoes and proud of the person that my mama wanted me to be.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, oh, that's fantastic. Well, thank you for sharing and I think it's having these conversations are so important because, especially on social media, like we always see the pretty and we always see the shiny, and even those of us that are experienced, we still sometimes don't make the decisions that we wish we would, or have a misstep or whatever, and that's what gets us where we are, and so to celebrate kind of that path, I think it's so important.

Mike Sinnett:

Yeah, absolutely, I totally agree yeah.

Katie Ervin:

Well, thank you so much for your time and for sharing everything today. I am really I cannot say enough how excited I am to work with you and to work with the staff and all the volunteers at Goodwill. It's gonna be a fun ride.

Mike Sinnett:

Well, the feeling is mutual. We can't wait to get you down here for orientation and kind of launch you into the first board meeting the end of February. It's a great opportunity to build your development, to understand the nonprofit world, which is vastly different than the for-profit world, having worked in both. There are distinct differences and, but yeah, we welcome the leadership background that you bring to the table, that experience, that expertise That'll just be part of the common goal of all of us is to make us better. I wanna be a best in class Goodwill. There's 155 across this country and I wanna be the best in class Goodwill, but it's gonna take some time.

Katie Ervin:

Yeah, time and community support. So with that, we encourage everybody in Kansas City learn more about Goodwill, understand what the work does and, to clean out your closets, take your gently used donations up there so it can fund all of the greatness that the organization's doing.

Mike Sinnett:

Yes, and we appreciate it. I've got a sign in my office, katie, that says be the reason someone smiles today, and it's one of those things that just reminds you of why you do this every day.

Katie Ervin:

What a gift. What a gift. Well, thank you. Thank you for everyone who's joining us, and we'll talk to you next time.

Mike Sinnett:

Thank you, Katie.

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