043 The Story of an East Coast Business Heavyweight with Dean MacDonald

“Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun. If it ain’t fun, don’t do it.” – Dean MacDonald

My guest on The New Leader Podcast today is St. John’s-based Dean MacDonald, a seasoned business executive, entrepreneur, investor and all-around great guy. He had me laughing pretty well the entire time – I wish I could’ve recorded a few more hours with him (keep an ear for his awesome 90s era Blue Jays tale). Dean has an incredible life story and I was taking copious notes between questions.

He was President of a cable company at 25, held several high-profile roles as COO (Rogers), CEO (Persona Communications, Clearstream Energy), and was chair of the BoD for NL Hydro. Did I mention he also owns the Newfoundland Growlers hockey club (2019 ECHL champs)? He knows a thing or two..

In this episode you’ll learn:

– Why hiring is a critical skill for all business leaders, how much time you should spend on it, and how to get it right (hint: it’s not about the interview guide)
– What mistakes young leaders typically make and how to avoid them
– Why culture is king and how to build it effectively
– How unusual and awkward stories can make you memorable, and more!

Special shout out to fellow Newfoundlander Ryan Hurley for making this episode happen 😉

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Listen and Learn

I think I matured as a manager by being a better listener – using my ears instead of my mouth. My early mistakes were ones of either thinking I knew it all, or thinking I needed to know it all because I was the boss – and that’s just a classic mistake.

Hiring the right people

I spent an inordinate amount of time on hiring and ended up with absolutely fantastic people who were a part of my leadership teams through the various companies – many of them I’ve worked in many different companies together. Also hiring the right people who were super smart.

At the end of the day, I’d like to say that in the companies I worked with, it didn’t matter where the best idea came from. We had an environment where an idea can come from anywhere and we can act on it, and everyone took pride in it.

Lots of debate, lots of discussion and lots of discourse, but that always led to a better answer.

What do you look for when you’re hiring a leader?

This may sound odd, but I don’t tend to get too worked up about whether they went to Harvard or they went to a much lesser-known University, because a lot of that sometimes is based on privilege and other things.

If they’ve got the basics, they’ve done their education that’s helpful, I like to look at the non-standard stuff. Were they a team captain in sports? Were they a leader in their school choir, or cub scouts? All that stuff that tells you who that person is. What were their summer jobs? What’s their background?

I love getting people who play sports, because they’ve won, they’ve lost, they’ve learned how to deal with both. Team sports is a great builder of character, goal-setting, etc. So I tend to move a little more in that direction, because that’s something I know more and I’m comfortable with.

I also see it in people who have an interest in the arts. I love hiring people out of the Humanities, because they have a very interesting problem-solving ability than someone who’s very binary.

Links and Resources

Connect with Dean: Twitter

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins