The Path To Leadership

Steering Through Change: A Masterclass in Leadership with Kansas Turnpike Authority CEO Steve Hewitt

May 20, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 35
Steering Through Change: A Masterclass in Leadership with Kansas Turnpike Authority CEO Steve Hewitt
The Path To Leadership
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The Path To Leadership
Steering Through Change: A Masterclass in Leadership with Kansas Turnpike Authority CEO Steve Hewitt
May 20, 2024 Season 1 Episode 35
Catalyst Development

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When the winds of change blow through the plains of leadership, few stand as firm and adept as Steve Hewitt, CEO of the Kansas Turnpike Authority. Our latest episode is a testament to the power of steering through upheaval with grace and strategy, as Steve recounts his journey from a Parks and Rec job to the helm of a major transportation network. Facing down the challenges of an EF5 tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, he honed the crisis management skills that now underpin his efforts to ensure the safe passage of thousands each day.

Navigating the transition from toll booths to the sleek efficiency of cashless tolling might seem like a daunting task, but for Steve and his team, it's an exhilarating opportunity to reshape the future of travel. In this candid conversation, we explore the heartbeat of change as Steve discusses the delicate balance of honoring tradition while embracing innovation. His insights into the reassignment of staff and the pivotal role of customer feedback in sculpting a travel experience that is not just efficient but future-ready, offer a roadmap for any organization driving toward transformative change.

This episode isn't just about tolls and turnpikes; it's a masterclass in the philosophy of leadership and the art of change management. Steve lays bare the complexities of guiding a storied institution through significant operational shifts without losing sight of its foundational principles. As we reflect on the importance of adaptability and the courage to evolve, Steve's unwavering commitment to dialogue with stakeholders and his thoughtful approach to leadership elucidate why the Kansas Turnpike Authority remains a beacon of progress in the transportation industry.



DriveKS.com | Cashless Tolling coming July 2024

Steve Hewitt is the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s Chief Executive Officer. He works to set the strategic direction of the organization and oversees its day-to-day operations. He also represents the KTA in the transportation and tolling fields. With over 18 years of executive level experience, Steve’s customer-valued and innovative approach focuses on a quality roadway while advancing the organizational overall strategy.
 
 For nearly 70 years, the Kansas Turnpike has been a reliable and customer-valued transportation option, for both Kansas and the region. The Kansas Turnpike Authority remains focused on its organizational goals to preserve and modernize the roadway. 2024 marks the biggest change since KTA’s beginning... cashless tolling. This presentation will take a deeper dive into the decisions and steps KTA is taking to make this historic change while staying true to its values. You’ll learn how cashless tolling will work and what the change means for you.

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.

When the winds of change blow through the plains of leadership, few stand as firm and adept as Steve Hewitt, CEO of the Kansas Turnpike Authority. Our latest episode is a testament to the power of steering through upheaval with grace and strategy, as Steve recounts his journey from a Parks and Rec job to the helm of a major transportation network. Facing down the challenges of an EF5 tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, he honed the crisis management skills that now underpin his efforts to ensure the safe passage of thousands each day.

Navigating the transition from toll booths to the sleek efficiency of cashless tolling might seem like a daunting task, but for Steve and his team, it's an exhilarating opportunity to reshape the future of travel. In this candid conversation, we explore the heartbeat of change as Steve discusses the delicate balance of honoring tradition while embracing innovation. His insights into the reassignment of staff and the pivotal role of customer feedback in sculpting a travel experience that is not just efficient but future-ready, offer a roadmap for any organization driving toward transformative change.

This episode isn't just about tolls and turnpikes; it's a masterclass in the philosophy of leadership and the art of change management. Steve lays bare the complexities of guiding a storied institution through significant operational shifts without losing sight of its foundational principles. As we reflect on the importance of adaptability and the courage to evolve, Steve's unwavering commitment to dialogue with stakeholders and his thoughtful approach to leadership elucidate why the Kansas Turnpike Authority remains a beacon of progress in the transportation industry.



DriveKS.com | Cashless Tolling coming July 2024

Steve Hewitt is the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s Chief Executive Officer. He works to set the strategic direction of the organization and oversees its day-to-day operations. He also represents the KTA in the transportation and tolling fields. With over 18 years of executive level experience, Steve’s customer-valued and innovative approach focuses on a quality roadway while advancing the organizational overall strategy.
 
 For nearly 70 years, the Kansas Turnpike has been a reliable and customer-valued transportation option, for both Kansas and the region. The Kansas Turnpike Authority remains focused on its organizational goals to preserve and modernize the roadway. 2024 marks the biggest change since KTA’s beginning... cashless tolling. This presentation will take a deeper dive into the decisions and steps KTA is taking to make this historic change while staying true to its values. You’ll learn how cashless tolling will work and what the change means for you.

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

www.cdleaders.com

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

Dr. Katie:

Hi everyone, welcome back to the Path to Leadership. I'm really excited for our guest today. He is new to me and maybe for some of you not going to be new to you, but we're going to have a really interesting conversation about leadership and change management. Hey Steve, how are you?

Steve Hewitt:

Good yeah, I'm great. I don't know if it's good morning or good afternoon. I'm losing track these days, working so hard. But yes, it's great to be with you.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, it's funny. It's like, yeah, what day is this? And then it's like, oh no, it's just Monday at this point, well, I am thrilled to chat with you. As I mentioned, we're going to talk about leadership and change management. But before we jump into that, can you tell me one kind of who you are, what you got going on and where you work, all that good stuff?

Steve Hewitt:

Absolutely. I'm Steve Hewitt. I am the CEO, chief Executive Officer for the Kansas Turnpike Authority and we obviously a lot of people probably know the Turnpike. We run from the Oklahoma border up to Kansas City and we basically are the toll road in Kansas and we've been around since 1956. And we're making a lot of changes. But I run the day-to-day. I have an authority board but I manage the team. We've got about 300, you know, 300 full time employees and and we have got a lot of projects and improvements making sure that our transportation system is good for Kansas. And that's kind of what we do day to day.

Dr. Katie:

I love it. I love it Well and ironically, I don't typically drive through Kansas and I am in a program called Leadership Kansas and I was driving to Dodge City and Garden City last Wednesday through Friday, so spent spent quite a quite a bit of time on the turnpike.

Steve Hewitt:

Well, good, thank you. We appreciate your, your, your, you driving us, and that's what we and what we want to do. We, we want to make sure that when people get on us, they got a good, reliable, safe system, and so we appreciate you coming on us and driving because we know you have a choice. Because it's a premium, you got to pay a little bit. So we, we try to offer a good product for those folks that are out there.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, it is, and we're going to get through some of the big changes that you guys got going on. But before we do that, how long have you been there? Can you tell us about your career journey and how you've gotten where you are today?

Steve Hewitt:

Yeah, so my journey is unique. And well, I say unique I mean a lot of people go through a lot of changes in life and I've been with a turnpike. Now this June, middle of June, will be my 10-year anniversary. I will be CEO for nine and a half years. I took over as CEO in January of 2015. I came in in June of 2014.

Steve Hewitt:

And so my career journey is I listen, I'm a Kansas kid, grew up in western Kansas, grew up in the Pratt and Greensburg area, graduated high school at Pratt, went to Pratt Community College, played sports, finished at Fort Hays State. I kind of was a sports kid. I had Parks and Rec, grew up in Parks and Rec, took my first job in Parks and Rec out of college, being in the city working for Parks and Rec. I ended up being a city manager. I felt like I bounced around Kansas City, missouri, into Oklahoma. I bounced around a little bit. I wanted to be a city manager. I can do what that guy does. I'm working for the city manager. I felt like I could do that.

Steve Hewitt:

So my choices back in the early 2000s were hey, do I want to be an assistant at a bigger city, or am I ready to take on a small town and, ironically, greensburg and I say that because I had family in Greensburg said the little town of Greensburg, and I say that because I had family in Greensburg. So the little town of Greensburg at the time, 1,600, 1,500 people. Their city administrator was moving on, retiring and they needed somebody. So I said, well, what a great way to cut my teeth. I've been a parks and rec director for a few years. I was like I'm ready to do this and I dove into it Now, ironically, about why I say Greensburg and why my first job being a manager, being a top leader. I've been a department head since I was 28 years old, but you know now the big dog working running the city, um, that was in um 2006, the summer of 2006. So I thought, man, I've got the bull by the horns running my town. I'm going to learn a lot over the next few years.

Steve Hewitt:

One year later, the EF5 tornado came through Greensburg and I was the city administrator during that tornado that wiped out 90% of the community. So I immediately am trial by fire, learning how to lead people that I manage, lead people that I don't manage community information, community conversation, planning, infrastructure. I was thrown in the fire. I spent five years rebuilding Greensburg. I then moved into Oklahoma as another city administrator down in Clinton, oklahoma, for three years. I actually then dealt with a drought and water issue, had to rebuild our water department and create a water plan for them, and I was doing that.

Steve Hewitt:

But while I was in Greensburg I met a lot of people in Kansas that really helped Throughout the state, came into Greensburg and helped us Engineers, politicians, people in high business efforts and economic development.

Steve Hewitt:

And I was in Oklahoma.

Steve Hewitt:

I didn't love being where I was at and I expressed that to a few of my good friends and they reached out to a few of my good friends and they they reached out to the secretary of transportation and said you know, the guy at the Turnpike's retiring, you should reach out to that Hewitt guy in Oklahoma, bring him back to Kansas.

Steve Hewitt:

And a conversation that took about six, seven months back and forth and lucky enough that the board agreed to bring me in and I came in kind of in a learning role for six months and then took over after that and the rest is history and really proud to be in an organization like this where I can stay. I feel like I have the best public job in the state that I get to do so much. You know what people don't realize I don't take any tax dollars created by the state, but we run it like a business, and yet in a public way where we're open, we're honest, transparent and we have to work really hard to gain your business but provide a really good quality infrastructure. So I work with a board, like I did with city managers and city council members, but I've got a great staff and we're doing improvements and we plan, we have vision and that's my journey in a nutshell, to be honest with you.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, wow, just soaking all that in because what a journey. And to walk in to be a city manager. And then it's like, okay, here, what's the crisis in? Here, to figure it out. And it's not a small crisis, it's a big one.

Steve Hewitt:

Well, and I'll even add, I was homeless like everybody else. Our house blew away, so I'm like everybody. I lived in a FEMA trailer for 24 months me, my family, my wife, my son and our dog. So it was definitely a time of learning. I was obviously younger 10 years ago or 15, 17 years ago. Today I think this May and it just. But what a learning opportunity. And I think it's. Yes, I was not fun, but I met lots of good people. We all rolled our sleeves up and and figured out a way to make it and rebuild it and do some good things. So I'm proud of that and it did set me up for my career, where I'm at today.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And you know it's interesting listening to your career journey because we do a lot of work at Catalyst Development with local and federal and even state government and I'm just thinking through everything that you've done and you're right talking about the turnpike, because obviously you have your internal customers that you're serving your employees and your team and everything, but then you also have external customers that you have no necessarily relationship with and you personally won't see the majority of them. You kind of manage that whole, doing what's good for everybody.

Steve Hewitt:

Yeah, that's a good point. You know, I think the number one thing is with any organization and listen this is stuff that I think good leaders talk about all the time is having a vision, having a plan and then, but communicating that vision and plan and then executing that vision and plan. But it takes everybody to buy in, right, and you first. You know we first did that. We got here. We need to have a plan. Where are we going to go? Right, you know, it's not your grandfather's turnpike anymore. People were asking, hey, things in other states across the country are improving and technology is getting better. And, yes, you're right, you know we have our internal buy in. Listen, you got to listen. This is gonna be better, for for us, efficiency is important, being prudent with our dollars and making sure we've got a good product for our own staff. But then also, we had 37 million trips last year on the Kansas Turnpike and we know about 50% of those folks come from out of state. So it's getting that message out. But I don't know where they're all coming from, right, so I-35, i-70, I don't know where they're coming. It's in a lot of commercial traffic and people they're driving through. But, knowing we have to listen, we've got to try to communicate, we've got to try to get the information out, we've got to try to get feedback, we've got to engage with employees, internal staff, board members as well as how do we reach those folks externally with communication efforts. So I think it's important that you kind of I know this is a weird analogy, but it's like the shotgun effect you shoot and you're shooting and it's going a lot of different directions, but you're trying to hit something right. You're trying to reach somebody somewhere so they can understand what you're trying to do and try to get that feedback.

Steve Hewitt:

We really engaged, really, I will tell you, 10 years ago. We really started with really communicating really good with customers, doing customer surveys, getting feedback from what customers want, what they see, what they think they need to deliver to get their family where they need to get to in a better, more efficient way, a safer way, and then including our staff listen, what are you hearing? What do you know we need? What should we look to improve on? And we dove into this. Hey, let's do more, let's be more, let's do it better, let's do it more efficiently and let's not just focus on now. But what can we keep doing that keeps improving for the future. Let's focus on now. But what can we keep doing that keeps improving for the future?

Steve Hewitt:

And I think that's a responsibility as a public agency we need to have keep things affordable, but keep a really high quality, reliable system that's safe for everybody our staff and get that buy-in and then continue that communication with the customers and make sure we provide what they need, because, again, you had a choice. You didn't have to drive on the turnpike, but you did, probably because it was easier, quicker, faster and wasn't too expensive. I hope that's what you'd say, but that's what I need to make sure I'm providing my customers so they keep driving us and we keep providing that good service for the state of Kansas.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, I mean, you're absolutely right. It's like, okay, we have now on our phone Waze or Google Maps or whatever you use. And when you pull it up, it's like, okay, you can go this way and it's going to take this long and you can go this way. It's going to take this long and you can go this way and it's going to be 45 minutes quicker, but it's going to cost you $7. And it's like I have a six hour drive. $7 is nothing compared to my time, so I'd rather spend $7 and have a smoother, quicker way home than to drive the two lane. Lovely, you know gravel back road.

Steve Hewitt:

And safer. I want to make sure it's safer too. So I mean it all encompass all those things and making sure that that mission and vision, those values, are pushed out every day, internally to externally. And that really goes into tons of communications, tons of involvement, engagement. I always tell my staff if you want to be engaged, you got to be involved. I'm trying to be involved with every single staff member, making sure they get the message, making sure that I hear their voices, and then doing that same thing with the customers, and I think we do a really good job. I always want to do better, I always want to do more, but I think we're figuring out what people want and how to deliver that to them.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, well, and it's such an exciting time that you guys are doing right now. If people haven't heard, and before we go into that, just as I was preparing for this and as I was driving on the turnpike it took me back to. I'm very open about this. I'm 48 years old and when I was 17, we were going up to my great aunt's farm north of Topeka and there was a group of us in one car and some of my cousins in the car behind us. And as we're getting ready to pull up to the turnpike, my cousin whipped in front of my mom's car and we get to the toll booth and someone jumps out and is like we don't have any money, we need money. And that was what 31 years ago, when, I mean, you should have been carrying money, and nowadays, none of us well, I shouldn't say none of us, that's a wild generalization but the majority of people don't carry cash, and even you know to slow down for credit cards. So can you talk about this massive initiative that you guys have going on?

Steve Hewitt:

Yeah, no, it kind of goes back to what I was talking about. We really dove into communicating and trying to gather information from customers 10 years ago. You can drive lots of different places across the country and figure out. You know, some places have got that technology where I don't have to stop at the booth. Number one, I think we, we dedicated everything first with safety and I think when you have to stop at the booth, you're going full speed, you have to stop in your car and you're worried about someone going to stop behind you or hit you or slow down. I think that's a safety concern. Right, you put a block in the road, right? So, number one well, how do we eliminate that? Number two the technology is advancing and so we need to figure out a way to protect our revenue but also allow the safety element to let the free flow of traffic happen, of traffic happen.

Steve Hewitt:

So, again, that engagement, trying to learn from other turnpikes across the country, bringing in top-notch consultants to help us hey, what would fit with us? Because one of the things you got to have the money, you got to be able to collect the money to make sure the roadway and the things and the infrastructure and everything is out there can pay for it. Right, you've got to have a good, strong system. You want affordable toll. So you had to figure out a system that works. So you had to start engaging both. How could you afford to do it? What's the technology look like? What do customers want? And it started to morph into hey, well, first we have the gates and then we remove gates. So then if you had a K tag, you can start moving around. And then that survey of people talking to us about hey and I'll say when I say we surveyed customers, last year alone we had 38,000 people answer our survey. So it's not like we're not getting people to respond. And 85% of them say you know what, we like this cashless idea, because we don't want to stop. I mean, I have money, I want to get where I want to get. I love the KTAG. I don't have a KTAG, send me a bill. They like this because. And so we just dove in. Hey, it's going to be an investment and we, financially, were in a good position. Now I know what people eventually say. They say, well, you know, we love the toll collectors, the collectors in the booth, and love talking to them. And well, it, ironically, was great time for the coal collectors to move forward, because 75% of them, when we started 10 years ago to today, will be at retirement age. Wow, well, that's good timing.

Steve Hewitt:

We didn't want to keep investing in the infrastructure that we already had. That wasn't going to be it. We were going to have to do some of that. So let's go to a better technology. Let's remove the boost. Let's talk about moving forward.

Steve Hewitt:

We first moved to open road towing, which, on the main line, you could kind of skirt by and not have to stop unless you had a K tag. But then we started working with other states and getting that information and then we just had to put the plan together. Hey, we need to have a plan, let's finish the plan. We said 2024, it's July. That's what we're going to do.

Steve Hewitt:

Remove the toll boost. We're going to have this cashless effort and we started 10 years ago no-transcript. Today, over 70% have a KTAC. So people already don't want to stop at the booth. They just I don't want to stop at the booth. I don't want to give you if a credit card or find a quarters in my change, whatever, I want to keep moving forward. And we also knew if we could keep tolls low if we could get the human capital piece out. So the 25% of collectors that are left we can put into a call center, because when you don't have a K tag you may want to call and pay your bill and do some of those things. So we know we have to have some more people on the phone.

Steve Hewitt:

But just this whole thing kind of just like a big stew. But it all started to come together. The recipe started coming together that we can good timing equipment investment. We had the money. It's going to be about $100 million investment, by the way, when we're done, staff equipment investment. We had the money. It's going to be about $100 million investment, by the way, when we're done, staff infrastructure we could put this all together.

Steve Hewitt:

So five years ago we actually put the final piece together and said, hey, let's get to that 2024 mark. We did it, we put it together and we are now 41 days today away from opening Cassius Tolling. And again, it's really simple, if you have a K-tag, not to jump too far ahead, but if you have a K-tag, your life's not going to really change at all. Just keep moving. If you don't have a K-tag, I want you to get a K-tag. It's always going to be cheaper, but if you don't have one, not a problem, you can jump on the after. We're going to find you, we're going to send you a bill, pay it and I guess the obstacles you could say the toll booth are gone and it's more efficient, more effective and it's going to be better long-term for the entire system.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah Well, and it's just fascinating to think about this whole process. And you're right, other states have done this and are doing this. And you know, in our travels we're constantly getting bills from from other states. Just reading the license plate and then whoever it's registered to and even in rental cars my husband for work all the time, you know he'll he'll just get it, get the bill and just pay it. It is kind of a massive change for some old school kind of people that are used to visiting with the toll collectors who are lovely. It shouldn't be that disruptive.

Steve Hewitt:

It's the best timing. And listen, we love toll collectors. They have been the gatekeeper of our revenue for over 65 years. But complacency can't be the conventional wisdom, right? Just listen, I'm actually.

Steve Hewitt:

If you want to talk about leadership a little bit, I would dive in from a standpoint, from my philosophy standpoint, that conventional wisdom tells us that things are going well, why change? But if you leave it alone, I actually feel like if it's not broke, let's break it, let's make it better, let's take a deeper dive into maybe this is working, but is it really the best way to work? And we did that. And complacency can sometimes breed failure and I just I didn't want to get to that point. I wanted us to look forward. Our board wanted us to look forward. Our staff, our leadership team, wanted us to look forward. It was a good buy-in.

Steve Hewitt:

Listen, it's been communicating to staff on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, making sure we involve them, because there's still a lot of folks out there our own team saying, well, there's a lot of people that don't have a KTAG, how are you going to find them? Listen, this is not a new technology. We've got cameras. They can find them. We've got agreements with other states. We'll send them a bill, they'll pay. If they don't, we'll send them to collections. We'll go through all that.

Steve Hewitt:

But it's just an ongoing communication effort to change to the right I think to the right direction. That's going to be good long term, because we knew it couldn't sustain this way forever because then you would have to keep charging more. And listen if you're really going to be safe and you're really going to be efficient, you had to make some changes. Yeah, it was working, but it wasn't working the way you should want it to work and I think from a standpoint, it was bold leadership by myself, by my leadership team, by our board to all say, hey, let's take a hard look at the way we operate and let's make that change because it's best for the customer and it's really going to be best for not only our customer, our employees, our system. And that's what we had to do. And we had to go through those conversations. Difficult conversations happen a lot and that's okay to have the conversation, but have the plan, talk it out, and we did that and we're excited about to roll this out here in just a little bit more than a month now.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, well, and it's fun. I teach a change management class and change is scary, even when it's good change, even when it's positive change, and it takes that strong leadership and I'm fascinated because of the magnitude. You talked about the size of your organization, but also just the government and getting government. I'm sure there was hoops and barrels and things you had to go over and through and just the push forward and this is the right decision. And it's going to be scary and it's going to be hard. And I just wonder, you know, do you have a change management philosophy? Was it something where you're just like it's about the people, it's about the leadership, let's move forward.

Steve Hewitt:

Well, I think listen, I'm not one to say that you have to continue to change all the time. I think it's now this may be really a very simple cliche that you know a simple tweak here and there is all you need to do sometimes, and the other times you need to take a full different direction and the other times you need to take a full different direction. And I would say this isn't a tweak, but it's not completely getting away from what we do. Listen, our traditional values from 1956 have not changed A safe, reliable, efficient, affordable road and system to make sure that things can get from point A to point B safely and it's not too expensive those are still in place. But the way you do it utilizing different technology and utilizing different tools in the toolbox, because we have more resources at our fingertips than we've ever had. And so I'm not here to say that you know, I come to the office today and say we're going to change everything today, every Monday, we're changing something different. No, I'm not here to say that. You know, I I come to the office today and say we're going to change everything today, every, every Monday, we're changing something different. No, that's not the philosophy, but I do believe you have to keep looking at yourself and keep monitoring your operations and keep going through you know really efficiency reviews and and and conversations. It's an ongoing conversation that has to take place in any organization and I think CEOs will tell you across any organization complacency, don't let us set in too long, but don't be too aggressive to change and just have a knee-jerk reaction because something doesn't work. I think it's evaluate, I think it's monitor, I think it's conversations, I think it's ongoing review of yourself and your operations and your customer feedback is important and I think good quality Fortune 500 companies do it all the time Right. Maybe it's a little brand change, maybe it's a system change, maybe it's something simple, maybe something large, but whatever it is, this didn't happen overnight. It happened to conversation, planning, reviews, feedback, surveys, all the things we did. They're doing constantly and we're doing that.

Steve Hewitt:

Listen, once we get done with cashless tolling, it doesn't mean our job doesn't stop evaluating what the next thing is or what the next. I guess tweak or change is right. We're going to keep making it better. It may not be as drastic, so you don't feel like you did with this. This was a big change, but we just can't be complacent and let things sit and think well, we're done, now we can just sit and do nothing for five years.

Steve Hewitt:

No, no, no. We have to keep thinking. Well, what does infrastructure look like? What is the safety element like? What new technologies are out there? What are customers saying to us? It may be a business rule, it may be a technical thing, it may be the way billing goes out. I don't know what it could be. It may be anything, but we just got to make sure that we continue to evaluate, evolve and make sure we're doing the right thing. So my change management philosophy is not just everyday change, every year change, no, but I keep evaluating myself. Our teams keep evaluating themselves as a team, talk about it, communicate with our customers, our employees, our board, keep our board involved and making sure that we are taking a hard look at ourselves all the time. Are we doing the right thing, the best thing? And maybe we are, but maybe we need to tweak it every now and then.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I think that's fantastic and it just made me think. You know, I talk to leaders so often and and you know, with leadership skills and and who we are as a leader has to continue to evolve and and I was recently doing a talk and I have some people that say I'm good, I've checked that box and it's like no, as a leader, you got to keep refilling that box and you got to keep growing. And if we just to put it in the terms of transportation, if we just put it on cruise control and think that our leadership skills are going to get us someplace, we're either going to hit something or we're going to run out of gas.

Steve Hewitt:

So how do you keep yourself just personally throwing as a leader no-transcript, read, watch videos, educate myself, try to stay up with trends and other leaders and other organizations and other businesses are trying to what they're doing and what the trends are. What's the new? You know what's the new thing out there? Or just you know what are others going through their struggles? And whoever lay you know?

Steve Hewitt:

I just I think it's an ongoing internal challenge to myself to want to be better. You know, I give a lot of leadership, conversation, talks and different things to people and I just keep telling them listen, I'm challenging you and I have to get up and grind every day, and I'm going to challenge you to get up and grind every day and I'm gonna challenge you to get up and grind every day too. But it's not just doing the day-to-day everyday thing, it's am I doing better, can I do better, can I do more? And I think that's I continue to tell that to myself and I continue to challenge to my staff and to others and to others. I may guide a little bit by saying listen, get up and grind, go through it, don't be afraid of change, keep evaluating yourself, don't get complacent.

Steve Hewitt:

Sometimes it's broke, sometimes it's not, but keep evaluating, keep looking, keep challenging yourself, and I think it's just that daily grind you go through that. I think you'll keep being a strong leader. And listen, don't be afraid to listen right, it's like I don't have all the answers. I need to open my ears and listen and listening. You know, stop talking, listen to what your people are telling you, listen to what customers are telling you. What's out there and that can help you. I think, in that daily grind, I think that's what I try to do every day to try to make sure that, as a leader, I'm doing the right thing for the organization.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, Well, that leads beautifully to the last question. I asked this question of everybody because I'm a firm believer that you know, as you kind of shared your leadership journey, it's not a straight path and it's not perfect. Things happen. So I asked this question of everybody, To the level you're comfortable sharing what is the biggest leadership or career misstep you've taken?

Steve Hewitt:

Yeah, you know, that's a really good question. It's a challenging question really. So, you know, I don't know if I would say anything's a misstep or mistake. I think you're going to make mistakes. I've made a bunch. I've made a bunch of missteps.

Steve Hewitt:

I think the key I would say is that I've tried to learn each time I have and it's led to the next challenge. You know, I could say, oh, I should have taken this job, but I didn't. I should have made that move and I didn't. But then if I would have taken that job, or I would have made that change or I would have gone that direction, then I wouldn't be where I'm at today and I love where I'm at today. And so I just think, where you're at at the time, learn and try to be open to that learning. And if you do step on and I've stepped on a few landmines, trust me, I've alienated some people. I've just tried to learn from those. I'm still learning. I'm as wise as I've ever been, but I'm not as wise as I'm going to be tomorrow and I'm just keeping that mindset.

Steve Hewitt:

I could tell you I should have taken this job. I should have taken that job, I should have done that project. I should have done it differently. I can keep going back and looking at spilt milk and directions. I think I could have gone, but I will say that. I will say that it's made me who I am today and I just try to absorb all those mistakes and mishaps and missteps and I'm really proud that I've tried to learn and I'm going to make some more, and hopefully not as many as I made when I was younger, but or as big. But I listen, it all made me stronger today and I just I keep that philosophy. So I don't have one or two that I could tell you, but I've made a few. But gosh darn, I'm glad I learned from it and maybe some, maybe I'm glad I actually made them because it made me more savvy and wiser today on how to deal with the challenges I face tomorrow.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I appreciate that so much. Well, and as you mentioned, we're 41 days away from the cashless tolling. I know they can go to drivekscom. Is there anything else that we should share or anything that you think is important for people to know?

Steve Hewitt:

Listen, it's big change, but it's really not that big. It's going to be better for all the customers. It's really going to be easy for you. But you probably do have questions. If you listen to this podcast and, just like you said, drivekscom all your information will be there and when we go live, that'll be your portal to how to deal with tolls. Get information, dive into all the details. Information, dive into all the details can always give us a call, you know, but check out our website, check out the DriveKS, get all your information. It's real simple, it's. We're going to make it easy. You don't have to worry about it. If you got a K tag, your life's not going to change. If you don't have a K tag, it's going to be just as easy. We'll find you, we'll send you a bill or you can go to the app or drivekscom. So just go there, get all your information. Don't be afraid to reach out to us and that's really the best way to say it, I guess or to provide the information.

Dr. Katie:

Well, great, I will make sure to put that in the show notes as well. I'm excited as I continue my Leadership Kansas journey. I'll be driving out to Hayes and to Hutch and we're going up to Manhattan, so I'll be all over the state testing out this cashless here in the next.

Steve Hewitt:

That's good yeah.

Dr. Katie:

Actually July, I think. We're going up to Manhattan in July, so I'll get to experience it firsthand.

Steve Hewitt:

Well, I just appreciate the opportunity to tell our story. It is a big change and we're trying to get out and about and this is, by the way I got to tell you this is a great podcast leadership talking about all these different things, and so many companies and different people focus and look at it differently, and I appreciate a chance to talk about that as well as the big change we're making, and so we're excited about it and we appreciate the time you gave us today.

Dr. Katie:

Well, I appreciate you coming on and thank you for the leadership that you're doing, not just for the Turnpike, but for your people and for the community. I'm sure that it's going to be fantastic and there'll be opportunities for you guys to make tweaks and you'll be open to that, which is refreshing as well.

Steve Hewitt:

Yeah, exciting.

Dr. Katie:

So all right. Well, thank you everyone for joining us on the Plata Leadership, and we will talk to you again soon. Bye, everyone.

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