Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Hawai’i

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Hawai’i, on my annual post-holidays father-daughter trip. And as I spend quality time with my family in Waikiki, I can’t help but look around and find inspiration in the place we are – this incredible island locale – and share the leadership lessons Hawai’i has taught me.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Hawai’i

Strive to reach the summit.

You might remember the story I shared last year of passing a kidney stone while visiting the Wailea Beach Resort. Once the staff at the hotel found out, they immediately were sending me messages, asking how they could help. Here’s an excerpt from one sent by Samuel Spurrier, director of group sales – “Ginger chews? Gatorade? Our chef is also putting together some assorted teas. Wishing you the best and let me know how I can assist in any way.”

They checked up on me, they were concerned about me, and I was beyond impressed, especially with hotel General Manager Angela Vento, with whom I had the honor of having breakfast with during my stay. She’s one of the few female GMs at a major resort in Maui and her leadership style was influenced by Queen Kapi’olani, one of the last reigning and beloved queens in Hawai’i. Queen Kapi’olani was known for her deep commitment to philanthropy, health, and education for the Hawai’ian people, and in 1890 founded the Kapi’olani Maternity Home. She also lived by a famous Hawaiian proverb, Kulia I Ka Nu’u, defined in a book Angela read called “Managing with Aloha” by Rosa Say. The proverb goes:

Kūlia i ka nu‘u is the value of accomplishment and achievement. The literal translation for Kūlia i ka nu‘u is “strive to reach the summit.” Those who have this value continually pursue improvement and personal excellence. For them, the most satisfying competition is with their previous selves: They consider their life and everything within it to be a work in progress, and they enjoy the effort. ‘Hard work’ is good work when it employs the energies of striving and reaching higher.

Lead with humility.

It’s difficult to talk about Hawaiian leadership inspiration without referencing the great Duke Kahanamoku, whose life and achievements serve as a veritable blueprint for leadership excellence. A gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer and champion surfer, “The Duke” was the first to remind his fans that no matter how famous he got, he was always one of them, a citizen of Hawai’i who worked hard for every accolade he received. In June 1925, when a fishing boat capsized in Newport Beach, California during a tremendous swell, a 34-year-old Duke, who happened to be watching from the beach, sprang to action, using his superior swimming skills and surfboard – allegedly weighing more than 200 pounds – to complete a daring rescue. He was able to save eight fishermen and his friends saved four more in an act that was hailed “superhuman.” But when the reporters descended on the beach to ask Duke about his epic rescue, he was nowhere to be found. With characteristic humility, he had left the scene before the media arrived.

Get it done.

Dr. Donnie Thompson, former University of Hawai’i women’s director of athletics, Martin Luther King Jr. Commission chair in Hawai’i and the first woman to serve as Superintendent of Education for the state of Hawai’i, once said: “Anything worth having is worth having now.”

That sense of immediacy and action may have propelled Dr. Thompson to become a pioneering force in women’s athletics throughout Hawai’i. She helped start the University of Hawai’i women’s sports program and in 1961, was the university’s first women’s track and field coach, making history as the first African American to serve as a coach for women in any National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 institution. By 1972, Dr. Thompson was named head of the athletics program. Immediately, she expanded the program from its then-two-sport offerings for women athletes into eight sports and expanded the scholarship program for women to 30 scholarships. Under her leadership, the University of Hawai’i women’s volleyball team won its highest national honors, putting women’s sports (and women athletes in Hawai’i) on the map for good.

So, what’s the message? Sure, it’s fun to travel somewhere beautiful and recharge for your next sprint but the next time you take a trip, you might consider doing a little research into what makes that place special. Chances are, like I did in Hawai’i, you’ll find leadership inspiration to inspire you anew. And speaking of new, here’s wishing you a very happy New Year!

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from St. Nick

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy weekly executive team meeting followed by succession planning calls, which continued into Wednesday. On Wednesday, I participated in HomeServices of America’s December corporate team gathering and today, I sit down to write this post to you.

There’s no such thing as a gingerbread cookie-cutter template for the perfect leader. All leaders are different and have their unique strengths. However, leaders do share several traits: They inspire, they motivate, they lead by example, and they spread joy and cheer to every member of their team.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from St. Nick

And what better leader to find inspiration from than Old St. Nick? He balances quite a lot on his sleigh and this year had to manage the North Pole through a shifting marketplace, but everything he does, he does with jolly good cheer.

St. Nick abides by the four disciplines of execution. First, he focuses on his Wildly Important Goals: bringing cheer to everyone around the world and putting smiles on our faces during the holiday season. Second, he acts on his lead measures. He loads his sleigh, maps out his gift-giving route and slides down chimneys to deliver gifts. Third, he keeps a compelling scoreboard, checking his list twice and keeping score of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Finally, he creates a cadence of accountability by meeting with his elves once per week all year long. During these meetings, his elves announce how many toys they’ve assembled that week and how many they’ll commit to assemble in the week ahead. (“This week I made 10 LEGO sets, five bicycles and two yo-yos, and next week I’ll make 12 LEGO sets, seven bicycles and three yo-yos …”)

He’s jolly. Leadership is about maintaining a positive mindset, and you can’t get much more positive than the always-smiling St. Nick. Maybe part of his jolly attitude comes from always giving back to others. Humans (even St. Nick!) are hard-wired to have positive responses to giving back. After we complete a kind act, our brain’s pleasure sensors are activated and our bodies release feel-good endorphins, which has been called a “helper’s high.” Over time, giving back can even reduce overall stress levels, which is good news for St. Nick because he’s dealing with a lot of moving (toy) parts each holiday season.

He’s a master at time management. Deliver presents to children across the world? Check. Do it all before the sun rises and the hot cocoa is on the stove? Check. If St. Nick’s time isn’t managed properly, he can’t succeed at his job, shimmying down chimneys and delivering presents across the world in the span of a single night.

He knows how to achieve team chemistry. St. Nick manages a huge staff of elves and reindeer! Each one has an assigned task, and St. Nick knows that the holiday season can’t happen unless there’s perfect holiday chemistry within the team. Here’s that famous passage from The Boys and the Boat, modified with holiday cheer:

“There is a thing that sometimes happens in [a sleigh] that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many [sleigh riders], even winning [sleigh riders], never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called ‘swing.’ It only happens when all [reindeer] are [flying] in such perfect unison that not a single action by any one is out of sync with those of all the others. It’s not just that the [reindeer] [dip and soar] through the [night sky] at precisely the same instant. [Thirty-two reindeer legs] must begin to pull, [sixteen antlers] must [be perfectly aligned], eight [reindeer] bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight [reindeer] backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action – each subtle turning of [the sleigh] – must be mirrored exactly by each [reindeer], from one end of the [sleigh] to the other. Only then will the [sleigh] continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between [homes as St. Nick delivers his presents]. Only then will it feel as if the [sleigh] is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. [Sleigh riding] then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that’s what a good [sleigh’s] swing feels like.”

So, what’s the message? Now that we’re all inspired by St. Nick, let’s end this message with “Simple Abundance“ readings shared by Tammy Maddente, president and general sales manager of First Weber, to her team earlier this week:

  • On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of my Undivided Attention
  • On the second day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Enthusiasm
  • On the third day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Creative Energy
  • On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures
  • On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Tenderness
  • On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Good Cheer
  • On the seventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Beauty
  • On the eighth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Communication
  • On the ninth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Surprise
  • On the tenth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Wonder
  • On the eleventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Peaceful Surroundings
  • On the twelfth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Joy

Happy Holidays!


Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from the World Cup

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls before flying to Orange County. On Tuesday, I participated in the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by the HSF Affiliates Leadership Summit. On Wednesday, the team finished the Leadership Summit, which was followed by the HSF Affiliates holiday luncheon. Today and tomorrow, I’ll host four succession calls from my home office in Northern California, puppy June by my side.

Lately, it seems like everyone has been captivated by the excitement of the World Cup, which began late November and will culminate on December 18. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks in Qatar as countries battle it out for a win. Here are a few lessons inspired by the World Cup:

Continue Reading

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jimmy G

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday I traveled to Dallas to attend Pierce Allman’s celebration of life (read a tribute to his leadership and legacy here). On Wednesday, I was back in Orange County to attend Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Lifestyle Properties’ grand opening event and today I traveled to Houston to be a guest speaker at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties Annual Managers Retreat where I will present The 17 Ways To Win

In A Changing Market, How To Create A Lifeplan and The HomeServices System.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jimmy G

It was a tough week to be a 49ers fan, despite an earlier victory against the Miami Dolphins. On Sunday, we learned starting quarterback Jimmy “GQ” Garoppolo was out for the rest of the season with a broken foot. (In better news, doctors have since said that he doesn’t need surgery and could return in seven or eight weeks, just in time for the playoffs.) And while that’s not the kind of news you want to hear as a Niners fan, Jimmy G is the kind of leader you’d want to have in any situation. Here are the characteristics that make him such a fantastic leader:

  • Perseverance
  • Confidence
  • Toughness
  • Love
  • Identity
  • Humility
  • Calm
  • Collaboration

Now let’s dive deeper into how those characteristics play out on and off the field for Jimmy G:

  1. Perseverance. Any list of Jimmy’s leadership attributes must start with perseverance. No matter his injuries or his perceived ineffectiveness by the general NFL media, Jimmy just keeps doing his thing. He is not flashy, he does not have gaudy stats, he just wins football games. Jimmy seems to have established the culture of his team. His work ethic is second to none and his attitude is always positive. He’s been through many battles and Jimmy has earned the respect of his teammates. So when the game is on the line, the 49ers often pull through.
  2. Confidence. Jimmy is a winner. His confidence in his winning abilities and attitude have propelled his career. He was 19-7 in his last two years playing at Eastern Illinois and threw for 84 touchdowns. After he was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots – right in the middle of their dynasty’s glory days – he won two Super Bowl rings playing as Tom Brady’s backup quarterback. At the 2017 draft deadline, the 49ers traded to get him and just one month later, he was the starting quarterback for the Niners, helping the team to five consecutive wins to end the season. He has an overall 39-18 record as a starter and a .684 win percentage, which puts him in elite ranks with the likes of Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. 
  3. Toughness. Jimmy is tough and often plays through injury, maybe to a fault. But this toughness also translates off the field. In the offseason, the 49ers had hoped to trade him but shoulder surgery in 2021 prevented them from making the trade. No matter the scenario – good or bad – Jimmy has a linebacker’s mentality while playing a quarterback position. He’s not afraid of contact. He’s what you’d call a “flatliner,” enabling him to perform well even under the most trying of game situations. Whatever you say about Jimmy G (high turnover rate seems to be the most prevailing criticism), you can’t say he’s not tough. Injury after injury, recovery after recovery, he’s returned to show up and win.
  4. Love. Jimmy’s teammates love him and his leadership style, no matter what the media thinks of his abilities. The 49ers’ tight end George Kittle said: “When Jimmy’s rollin’, I think we’re rollin’. He’s a [heck] of a leader out there, and he really inspires us to play our best ball.” Three seasons ago, the 49ers nearly won the championship. Last year, they almost made it into the Super Bowl. He helped get all that done even with painful injuries in his throwing shoulder and thumb.
  5. Identity. Jimmy is the undisputed leader of the 49ers. Key wins last year during the playoffs arguably put him among the franchise’s most significant players, including Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Joe Staley, Frank Gore and Bryant Young. Somehow, Jimmy’s leadership has a unique ability to consume everything into its orb – his identity is the team’s identity because he leads it. When he shakes off mistakes, the team can shake off mistakes. When he walks into the locker room with confidence, it brings confidence to every single player. When he makes plays that are scrappier than they are superstar-quality, the team plays scrappier, too. He was committed to the team even after Trey Lance was named starting quarterback at the beginning of 2022. He gives the 49ers franchise a foundation and upon this foundation everything else is built. His playing isn’t perfect, but he knows how to put a win together. That’s been the legacy of the 49ers’ success.
  6. Humility. In February of this year, Jimmy delivered a heartfelt goodbye video, knowing his days with the team were coming to an end: “Faithful, thank you very much for everything,” Jimmy said. “It’s been crazy, man. Just all the comebacks at Levi’s, comebacks on the road, ups and downs, it’s been a [heck] of a ride, guys. I love you guys. See ya.” As the story goes, Trey Lance broke his ankle in the first quarter of San Francisco’s Week 2 win against the Seattle Seahawks and Jimmy returned to the team as quarterback. In discussing the incident, Tom Brady said: “I’ve known Jimmy since he was a rookie and Jimmy and I have been friends a long time. And just seeing him, how he’s handled kind of his own adversity, is really gonna prepare him for what’s ahead. It’s interesting in the NFL, you know, when one door closes, I think another one opens … And as tough as it is for Trey to get injured, Jimmy steps in there and does a great job … things have a crazy way of working out. … You never know when that opportunity’s gonna present itself and when you get it, you gotta go out and take advantage of it.”
  7. Calm. When trouble comes, Jimmy G never panics. 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said: “I’m impressed with his demeanor just as a leader. A lot of people give him [trouble] for whatever. But he’s as cool and collected of a quarterback as I’ve ever had and he’s a perfect guy to lead us to where we need to go.” Kittle said: “Jimmy G, you can’t say enough about that guy. The [bad things] that he takes … Just consistently people try to pull him down and all he does is try to deliver. And he leads this team. He’s the sense of calm in the huddle, he’s the sense of calm in the storm. He allows us to play football at a high level.”  
  8. Collaboration. When Trey Lance was set to replace Jimmy last year, you’d think the quarterback would scoff at any chance to make Lance better. The opposite was true. “He’s been a big bro to me when he came in,” said Lance. “He could have made things [horrible] for me last year and he didn’t. He helped me out with everything. Jimmy might have taken some inspiration on this one from his mentor, Tom Brady, who helped him after the 2014 draft when he joined the Patriots. Former 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders summed this one up best: “There’s certain people who know who they are. Jimmy G. knows who he is. Jimmy G. plays with swagger; Jimmy G. has his own swagger. He’s not walking around saying it, but Jimmy G. plays with swagger. Jimmy G. is a leader. He’s a natural leader. I’ve played with a lot of quarterbacks. When I tell you this guy is a leader, he’s a leader. He allows guys to follow him, not just by how he works, but when he comes in and he’s running meetings like coaches? He’s a natural born leader.” Bottom line: He helped Lance because he wanted Lance to succeed.

So, what’s the message? While the story of Jimmy G’s leadership was far from straightforward, all this back and forth, testing his toughness, his confidence, and his ability to lead, could very well produce the best version of Jimmy G possible. Coming back from yet another injury, he’ll have nothing to lose and everything to prove – the perfect scenario for a leader as incredible as Jimmy G to shine.

Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: A Tribute to Pierce Allman

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and was a guest speaker for the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties, where I spoke on “Ways to Thrive in a Shifting Market.” Today, I presented to the team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Lifestyle Properties, and tomorrow, I’ll wrap up 15 succession planning calls that happened over the course of this week with leaders from across HomeServices.

Read more: Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: A Tribute to Pierce Allman

While my work schedule was typical, this week was anything but, as I mourned the loss of my dear friend, Pierce Allman. He passed away on November 25 with his beloved family by his side, including his wife, Allie Beth of Allie Beth Allman and Associates, which is widely recognized as one of the most productive and fastest-growing residential real estate companies in Dallas. Pierce’s legacy no doubt contributed to this overwhelming success.

We’ve all experienced that special moment when you meet someone and have instant chemistry. That’s what I had with Pierce.

He lived an incredible life. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, entrepreneur, community leader, preservationist and philanthropist, Pierce co-founded Allie Beth Allman and Associates with Allie Beth. He was renowned for his marketing brilliance, industry expertise, sharp wit and impeccable style. Pierce was not only an integral part of our HomeServices family but also an integral part of American history.

Born January 5, 1934 in Little Rock, Arkansas, Pierce showed a penchant for the extraordinary at a very early age. As a child, he earned 104 out of 105 available merit badges with the Boy Scouts of America, becoming the youngest Eagle Scout in the nation. He also started a paper route for The Dallas Morning News, which he continued into his college days, and thanks to a later scholarship from the publication, was able to enroll at Southern Methodist University (SMU) where he studied radio and television broadcast.

He graduated from SMU in 1954 and joined the U.S. Air Force, serving in the Strategic Air Command in Austin, Texas from 1955 through 1957 before moving to Dallas to work for WFAA radio. He made his way quickly up the ladder from announcer to program director.

Pierce told me his time at WFAA was “an adventure,” recalling how as a crew cut-sporting professional in his mid-20s, he was about 25 years younger than the average age of a WFAA employee. During his time there, he pioneered many innovative programs and initiatives, including a call-in talk show (“in those days, it was a little edgy,” he said) and much of his programming would evolve into what we know as standard, modern-day radio and podcasting today.

At WFAA, Pierce met a young Texas Christian University graduate named Allie Beth McMurtry, who became the absolute love of his life. They married in 1963 and about one month after the wedding, on November 22 (exactly 59 years and nine days before this tribute is published), Pierce witnessed an event that would change his life forever.

Where were you when JFK was shot?

It’s a question that defines three generations – The Greatest Generation, The Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers. A moment of tragic remembrance …

I was in my third grade class …

But Pierce was there. And not just standing among the crowds as the motorcade passed by but across the street from the Texas School Book Depository and then, inside it minutes after shots were fired.

Pierce told me, around noon on November 22, he decided at the last minute to walk with a WFAA colleague the four blocks to see Kennedy’s motorcade – with President Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy inside. (“The closest thing to royalty was coming to town,” he said.)

Together, Pierce and his colleague walked along Houston Street in the early afternoon. Here’s the story he told me: “I remember a couple of blocks over, I kept looking at the buildings and rooftops and the open windows and I kept wondering, ‘How can they secure all that?’ And I don’t know why, but we got about a block away and I turned to my colleague and said, ‘You know, if there were to be anything like an assassination attempt, it would probably be here.’”

They kept walking, finally arriving on the corner opposite the front door of the Texas School Book Depository, a seven-floor building facing Dealey Plaza that housed a school textbook distribution firm.

The First Lady was closest to Pierce as he watched their motorcade drive by; JFK sitting on her other side. He saw the President brush hair out of his face, saw the “marvelous” Jackie O and got so carried away in the awe of the moment, he hollered, “Welcome to Dallas, Mr. President.”

The motorcade turned a corner.

Pierce told me when the first shot happened, no one around him even recognized it as a shot (he asked his colleague if it was firecrackers), but then there was a second and a third shot … Pierce said he looked up to where the sound was coming from, to the Texas School Book Depository building. The motorcade car sped off and Pierce thought, ‘I’ve got to get to a phone.’ (All this happened in the span of 18 or 19 seconds.)

He crossed the street and went up the steps of the Texas School Book Depository, passing a man on his way and asked him where a phone was.

“In there,” the man said.

Inside the lobby of the Texas School Book Depository, Pierce found a phone and called in to the radio station, all the while wondering exactly what to say and unsure of what he just witnessed. Was the President dead? Was it a solid hit? What condition was JFK in now? Pierce had no idea, but with the Russian Cold War still raging, he told me he wasn’t about to go on air from the lobby of this building and say the President had been shot, only to inadvertently initiate WWIII.

“There was an unreal quality to the entire thing,” he told me.

But Pierce would forever go down in history as one of the first media representatives on the scene during the Kennedy assassination.

And the story gets even more intense.

Pierce said less than two weeks after the assassination, he received a call from the Secret Service, asking for an interview. He went down to the police station and started detailing the afternoon to them. He went through the entire ordeal several times, and finally the Secret Service said, “In the testimony of Lee Harvey Oswald, he states that as he was leaving the Depository building, a young man with a crew cut identified himself as a newsman and asked for a phone. Based on what he’s said and what you’ve said, this is you.”

Yes, Pierce not only reported live from the scene of JFK’s assassination but also came face to face with JFK’s assassin moments after the shots were fired. He didn’t just witness history; he was part of it. Over the past 59 years, countless news organizations have used his eyewitness report. And because he was live on the scene, Pierce started what would become the 24/7 news cycle we know today.

To keep JFK’s legacy alive, Pierce was a key player in the founding of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, and his voice is the one you’ll hear if you take an audio tour.

After his work at WFAA and later at SMU, Pierce started a public relations division for Tracy Locke, winning the prestigious Clio Award (among others) for his work. When Pierce and Allie Beth founded Allie Beth Allman Real Estate (known now as Allie Beth Allman and Associates) in 1985, he served as the company’s Director of Marketing and instituted brilliant and visionary initiatives – the use of color in newspaper advertising, catchy taglines like “Some firms follow the Market, We Make the Market,” The Allmanac and more.

In addition to his marketing and communications genius, he was dedicated to giving back, becoming heavily involved in several local foundations and non-profit organizations that positively impacted the lives of thousands within his community, a patriarchal figure to the city that gave so much to him. In 2017, he was named Dallas Father of the Year.

So, what’s the message? I feel incredibly fortunate to have met Pierce and wish I had met him sooner in my life so we could have spent more time together. He was insightful, smart, kind and humble – everything a great leader should aspire to be.

Pierce, we all miss you. Though you are no longer with us, the tremendous legacy you leave behind is a testament to the extraordinary life you lived.

No more posts.