In the realm of effective leadership, J.R. Fortin offers a unique perspective. He advocates for leaders whose actions define them, fostering an environment that leads not just in business metrics but in innovation. This article explores Fortin’s insights into how ethical practices are maintained and collaboration is promoted, emphasizing the creation of a family-like bond among team members and more.
J.R. Fortin’s leadership journey is a testament to the transformative power of integrity, empathy, and a commitment to the well-being and success of the team. Join us as we delve deeper into the principles that guide Six Figures Of Integrity.
How do you define effective leadership in a business context?
J.R. Fortin: Effective leadership is when your team is a starting line up. I say this because in business you’re ineffective if you have people that can’t come off the bench. People over invest in one or two people frequently then they leave for a personal reason or job opportunities and the walls come crashing down. A good leader would not let that happen; they build a foundation that’s equally balanced so everyone can hold equal weight. This increases morale and retention. I had a store they sent me to shortly after leaving a facility in Augusta that had serious staffing issues. To no surprise the retention was bad because everyone would leave because they were understaffed, overworked, and frustrated. When I got there their roster had nine people. When I left they had 28 in that job code. This didn’t just increase the morale of that team but the store because everything became easier for everyone because of the domino effect.
I got them to stay by bringing on a new person every week to two weeks. The way I viewed it was if I couldn’t convince one or two people to work for me I had no business in leadership. A good leader does not judge by age, race, or religion, just by effort. Work ethic can be taught despite today’s beliefs. Today’s youth comes with a bad stigma. I say give me five people of any age and watch how quickly we outperform your team in work ethic attendance and in all business metrics. Set the expectation to be number one. If you set that expectation you can get your team addicted to winning and they become more invested.
In your opinion, what role does integrity play in business and why is it important?
J.R. Fortin: I come from a background of honest Abe’s, as they used to say. The most important thing is your word. People remember what you say and how you made them feel. If you live with integrity it’s non negotiable. You shake hands on something, it’s the law. Your words have to match your actions or you lose all face value. Integrity is doing the right thing even if everyone around you is doing wrong. Anyone can get paid more and have authority but you can’t buy the people they have to genuinely believe you’re the guy. The key to success isn’t through metrics or dollar signs, it’s through keeping people invested that’s the real KPI. You lead with integrity then you and your team will lead innovation. A title does not define a leader, their actions do.
Tell us about a time when you had to make a difficult decision that tested your integrity. How did you handle it?
J.R. Fortin: I had to report someone for threatening to kill associates. I knew this would destroy my career with one place but I had my own brand to protect which is far more important than a company brand, especially considering I own one. The sad thing is all they would have had to do to eliminate him is make him take a drug test. My people have always looked up to me and despite the lack of integrity of this person’s direct supervisor I was unwilling to compromise mine. I reported the guy, almost a month went by with nothing being done so I knew nothing would be. There was a severe lack of effort to get to the bottom of it. Weeks later a shooting happened at a different facility with 14 people ending up dead and I knew I made the right choice despite this person not acting. After they promoted him (I wish I was joking), they sent his replacement whose only store was the square footage of the smallest store you can imagine. He came in and made my life horrible for reporting the other guy to a point where I had to realize our values would never align.
The decision I made in the moment I decided to look back cost me the six figure lifestyle I worked forever to obtain. I would rather die a poor past leader than die a rich leader who led by fear. In my time in leadership there I brought 28 people to higher pay grades and if you ask these types of bosses they can’t even give you a number of people they helped rise because they just focus on their own career. This is why people love to work for my we obtain success together and I will do everything to get my people to the next level because as I’ve said before a leader does not count the achievements of himself but the achievements of those he taught and trained that’s the real leader and that’s how you boost morale and retention.
What are your thoughts on workplace violence and what are some solutions to eliminate it?
J.R. Fortin: Hold people accountable, this sounds simple because it is. Oftentimes people get pushed to their limits and or have issues to begin with. The key to eliminating workplace violence is to start charging companies for criminal negligence. Too often we find out after the fact that associates went to managers or bosses before anything happened and they swept it under the rug. I’m not saying there are not random occasions but more often than not they were told.
Outsource investigators, no more in house ethics where friends who wine and dine cover for each other. A company should never be allowed to have their own ethics hierarchy especially if it’s just the next manager up. It should be a third party to completely eliminate bias and get to the truth by prioritizing the safety of their associates.
How do you handle conflicts or disagreements within your team while maintaining professionalism and respect?
J.R. Fortin: A good team needs conflict, if you don’t have conflict you’re doing something wrong as a leader. I don’t want a team that agrees on everything. We’d go out of business by the end of the day. I want minds that challenge each other. That’s how we drive innovation. The key is to be open minded, hear everyone’s suggestions and then collaborate on what is actually the most efficient. However, a common mistake is people just choosing the one they know already is. As a leader you have to let them try their ideas for innovation because by letting them fail you empower them to make more decisions and eventually they will hit a home run because you did a good job as their coach.
As a leader, how do you ensure ethical practices are upheld within your team or organization? What strategies do you employ to promote collaboration and teamwork among team members?
J.R. Fortin: You have to have moral codes you are unwilling to compromise. Mine is the safety of my people. I will never work for a place that does not take workplace threats seriously in this day and age. You need to create an environment where work feels like a home to your team. I want them to know they can come to me for anything. The most critical ability in being a leader is empathy if you don’t have it go home, you’re unfit. Make it known that your employees are your brothers and your sisters.
One thing my teams never struggled with under my leadership is retention because we created a family bond. If you create a family environment very few ethical issues will arise however if one does do the right thing even if it will cost you everything money can be replaced lives can not. You have to be able to look in the mirror everyday and like what you see.
Can you share an example of how you have successfully influenced positive change within a company or organization through your leadership approach?
J.R. Fortin: A company I worked for started a new inventory system. I mastered it, learned everything about it and was asked to teach and train my store. That led to later on doing a meeting that got recorded and sent to the market. I was then sent to different stores in the market to look for opportunities and help them fix it. I was put up in hotels for two weekends to teach classes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. That was honestly my favorite time in my retail career.
How do you stay current with industry trends and developments to ensure the success of your business initiatives?
J.R. Fortin: Being the first person in the room and the last one out of it. Another key component that people don’t focus enough on for successful individuals is how often they observe. If you watch someone’s body posture and how they talk to people you can learn more sometimes in two minutes about them then you could in eight to sixteen hours. I don’t have a mindset of catching up to anyone if you set the standard for Initiatives they’re chasing you not the other way around. I set standards. I don’t chase them, successful people don’t have time for cat and mouse games. You have to have a growth mindset. Whatever you don’t know will haunt you so you have to know that in order to be successful you have to learn every single day and that’s not always going to be easy because your going to have days that seem liked your learned nothing and that’s when you pick up a book or take a course, any sort of self development.
Someone who wants to be successful isn’t going to bed at night getting eight hours of sleep, they’re tossing and turning wondering what they could’ve done differently today to have a more productive day tomorrow . You hit a different level of success when you’re never satisfied with results because you know you can do better. I had no experience when I started in film and the series I wrote has won 128 awards because I had the people. Build a brand and a reputation so strong that people will support you no matter what you do.
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Photographer John Paul Rondeau