Subscribe to the Leadership with Heart Podcast:

In this episode, Heather speaks with Joe O’ Neill, CEO of G & D Integrated about his unique approach to providing psychological safety in the workplace, and how he engages with his front line and uses orientation to do it. He talks about a time when he became a detached leader by stepping away from being CEO and what he discovered in the process.

Key takeaways:

  • Have a “I work for them” attitude and not the other way around.
  • Ask your people to judge you and hold you accountable.
  • Have honest and truthful conversations with your employees.
  • When you don’t speak the truth to someone, you manipulate them and show disrespect.
  • Your people need you for your presence and guidance, even if it seems like they have it all handled.
  • Detached leadership does not work.
  • Nothing replaces human interaction in relationships.
  • It’s okay to fail as a leader. Don’t become complacent about it though.

This episode is fully-packed with helpful insights. Listen and learn!

Joe O’Neill joined G&D Integrated in 1989 and is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer. He is responsible for managing the overall operations and resources of the company. Prior to joining G&D, Joe practiced bankruptcy law in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. He has led and managed the organization through economic expansion and contraction through the years. More recently, Joe’s focus has been on expanding the geographic reach of the company and the diversification of G&D’s customer base.

Joe graduated from the Creighton University School of Business with a BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance and accounting and a JD degree from Creighton’s School of Law. He is active in the Peoria community and has served on various nonprofit boards through the years. Joe and his wife are currently active supporters of The Crittenton Center and The Community of St. John.


Working for my People

Leadership is a journey that never ends. I’m in one for 31 years. I’ve been through many cycles and experiences. At my age, I have finally come to realize that I work for everybody affiliated with my company. It doesn’t matter what you do or how long you’ve been there. I remind myself everyday that I work for my people.

I don’t stand in front of them, because it sends the wrong nonverbal message. So I just sit, every time during orientation, and I would sincerely ask everybody in the room to judge me. Why? It’s because we’re all human beings possessed with unique personalities and dignities, which must be respected. If they understand their right to judge me as their leader, it sets the longevity of their career with us.

Truthful Conversations

I can never be a person who wants everyone’s approval. I truly want to be evaluated by my people. I want them to sit down with me, to join me over a cup of coffee, to chat with me, or to call me on a phone, and let me know what they think. 

I make it very clear to them that I am 100% wide open to the conversation. Actually, these are very fun and interesting conversations because most of these people have never been informed that they have every right to look at someone and say, “This is what I feel about you.” 

On the other hand, I also tell them during orientations that I cannot judge them. I wouldn’t know how to drive a truck, or do welding. I wouldn’t know how to dispatch trucks and perform safety measures. So, I make it clear that I cannot assess the merits of their performance, because I quite simply do not know how to do their jobs. But, the only time that I would ever get involved with my people and their work is when they’ll be severed from the company. 

Truth has to be the currency of our realm. If we cannot always speak the truth to one another, then we are being disrespectful of each other. Being untruthful is a form of emotional manipulation. Everybody in the conversation must only speak their truth.

It doesn’t mean every conversation is going to be easy, fun, or pleasant. But we’re all going to speak our truth, and only by doing that can we express our respect for each one.

I make my people understand that we’re all in this together. – Joe O'Neill #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Even the smartest, most ambitious, and the most driven people in the world who are in an organization still want to know that there is guidance. – Joe O'Neill #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Empowering People

My people understand that I am an extremely person-centered leader. 

I believe that everybody should be respected. It doesn’t mean we cannot hold them to performance standards or we’re not going to get things done efficiently. But it is a fact that in spite of innovation and technology, we are still human beings. An organization is made up of human beings. I believe in empowering people and giving them the freedom to make their own decisions.

At the end of the day, people do want to be lead. Even the smartest, most ambitious, and the most driven people in the world who are in an organization still want to know that there is guidance.

When leadership takes place, human interactions also take place. The true essence of being a human being can only take place face to face. It can’t hide behind the computer screen. It cannot engage through an email or a text. True human life occurs only when people are talking to each other face to face.

Being untruthful is a form of emotional manipulation. You cannot manipulate people. – Joe O'Neill #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

I believe in empowering people and giving them the freedom to make their own decisions. People respond extremely well to the freedom they receive. – Joe O'Neill #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet

Conversations are not always easy, fun, or pleasant. But only by speaking our truth can we express our respect for each other. – Joe O'Neill #leadershipwithheart Click To Tweet


Connect with G & D Integrated on LinkedIn

Subscribe, rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcast

Listen to the podcast on Spotif