People often think of effective leaders as “talkers.” While the ability to communicate is certainly important and leaders need to be able to share their vision with others, I believe it is equally important for leaders to be great “listeners.” I have heard it said, “We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.” Great listeners are fully present and engaged when people are talking. They probe for clarity and seek understanding. Author Richard Moss aptly noted, “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” The bigger an organization gets the harder it is for a leader to make sure that he or she is connected to the real rhythm of the organization. It takes intentionality and getting out from behind the desk to really keep your finger on the pulse of the organization.
David Reynolds, vice president of operations at Blossman Gas, recently shared with me his thoughts on leadership and that one of his key tenets was the value of listening. Reynolds said, “I want employees to realize that they can come to me directly with anything. I am open-minded towards suggestions from employees; I will listen to anything whether it is a complaint or advice.” This principle has served him well in his 28 years with Blossman Gas. Reynolds grew up in Ocean Springs and graduated with a degree in economics from Tulane University. He started off his career with Blossman as assistant branch manager in their Biloxi store. In that position, he learned the propane business from the ground up.
Reynolds shared Blossman Gas’s philosophy that “everybody in the company is someone special and has a unique contribution to make to the company’s mission.” He explained further, “It is not about being big, it’s about being compassionate. We strive to be a world class service provider to our customers. The only way to do that is through our people. They have to believe in us.” Reynolds’ leadership style was influenced by John Blossman, who taught him that, “you can run a successful company all while having and sharing enjoyment with employees.” Reynolds also shared that Bob Mayer, former president of Blossman Gas, was his personal mentor in the company and taught him how to value customers, how the industry functions, and how to create a culture of compassion towards both employees and customers. Based on its strong culture and leadership, Blossman Gas has grown from one office and one truck in Mississippi beginning in 1951 to over 65 branches today, which ranks them as one of the 10 largest propane retailers in the country and the largest independent retailer.
Reynolds shared with me some words of wisdom for future leaders. He noted, “At the end of your career, can you reflect back and honestly say that you made a difference in every person’s life that you work with or work for? Did you elevate them to become a better and more positive person because you were in their life?” He recommends taking time to understand the personalities of individual employees, not personalities viewed as a group of individuals. He said, “If you know and relate to them personally, you will build a successful team.”
Reynolds is a great example of a humble and effective leader who has a sound perspective on leadership. He knows the value of people and treating them as individuals. His ability to listen and care for his team members has allowed him and Blossman Gas to grow and make a big impact.
Martin Willoughby, a business consultant in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. Willoughby can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.
Up Close With David Reynolds
Title: Vice president of operations, board of directors — Blossman Gas
Favorite Books: Current: The Disney Way (Bill Capodagli & Lynn Jackson) – A story of Walt Disney’s commitment to his guests. Favorite: Lesson’s from the Mouse by Dennis Snow
First Job: “Bus Boy and dish washer at McElroy’s Harbor House Seafood Restaurant in Biloxi”
Hobbies/Interests: “Faith, family, golf and flying ”
Favorite airplane to fly: V-tail Bonanza