Leadership Agenda: Michael Araten

Michael-Araten

In my interview with Michael Araten, chief executive at K'nex Brands LP, the Hatfield toy company, we talked a lot about management philosophies, and, not surprisingly, leadership. I asked him what advice he'd give to a fledgling CEO, or for that matter, to any leader. 

"If you’re a leader of a group -- I think about this a lot -- you are putting on a show every day," he said. "So who’s your audience? What’s important to them? Speak in a way that’s meaningful to them with content that matters to them, because if you do that, then they’ll follow you anywhere. In the business sense of audience, you’ll probably hear customer or consumer, but if you are teacher, your audience is students. Or you might have multiple audiences, we do. We have audiences of grandparents, and parents and schools and kids and retailers. I think that’s the core of it.

"Beyond that, listen," he continued. "I also watch "Judge Judy" and "Judge Judy" says you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I try to listen more than I talk. I think you learn a lot more that way and you are able to make better decisions that way and the people you are talking to tend to feel much more respected that way."

Third, "you have to delegate," he said, repeating that phrase for emphasis. "You have to delegate, which means you have to trust the people around you. When I talk to people about this, I say our progress happens at the speed of trust. Trust doesn’t get built overnight. It ties into our philosophy of keeping people around for a long time because once we build that trust, we want them.  You can go faster with people you trust."

Tuesday: One more out take from my interview with Michael Araten. I just loved his account of getting ready for President Obama's visit to his company in Hatfield last November. So wild. 

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