CEO teaches how to build self, teams and organizations

On March 30, the college’s Advancement Council for Engineering and Technology (ACET) led a leadership training meeting for clubs. The training meeting was conducted by members of ACET who taught the students how to better manage time, build great teams and gain leadership skills.

Ryan Woodley, BYU alumnus, CEO of Progressive Leasing and member of ACET, was the keynote speaker. His topic was titled, “Building Yourself, Your Peers, and Your Organization.”

First, Woodley explained how to build yourself. As a teenager, he grew up on a farm in Oregon. Woodley loved to ride motorcycles, and owned a small one that would go up to 15 miles per hour. However, when he ducked his head down and pulled his arms in, he could get in another mile or two per hour. One day, this resulted in a small crash while riding down a hill, and after asking what happened, Woodley’s mother said to him, “It’s okay to have your head down, but you’ve got to have your eyes up.”

Woodley’s mother’s advice has stuck with him throughout his career. Woodley knew that he could still keep his head down and keep doing his job, while keeping his eyes up and being aware of his surroundings

This advice first helped Woodley as a summer intern with the Monitor Group. He really wanted an offer to come back in the fall full time. Woodley put forth a lot of effort on his own, but what made a difference was that he noticed the hard work of another person working on their project. Woodley reached out this person, who was able to teach him some valuable skills. Because of this, Woodley became a better consultant and was offered a full-time job in the fall.

Woodley noted that another factor in building yourself is having confidence in yourself. “There’s this propensity we have at times to not be as confident as we should in who we are today and what we have to offer.”

This lesson came to light when Woodley landed a job at Venture Capital prior to earning his MBA from Harvard Business School. His mentor at Venture Capital, Alan Spoon, asked Woodley why he believed he was hired. Woodley thought it was a rhetorical question, but Spoon responded and said, “I hired you because I knew that an electrical engineer from BYU who served a Mormon mission could do anything I could ever want him to do.”

Woodley realized then that he was qualified for the position the moment he left BYU. “What I realized as time passed at school is that my education at BYU, my involvement in clubs, prepared me better than I ever thought to succeed in business school and later on in my career,” he said.

Next, Woodley discussed building your team. He said that building your team is about being a life coach and presented a framework for teaching teams about work/life balance. The framework was a graph which showed success on the y-axis, and time on the x-axis. Success in this case can mean many things, such as roles and titles, lives touched or earned income. The trajectory for this graph is the success that a person wants to achieve at a certain point in their career. Woodley explained that your teams will look to you for guidance, and where their trajectory should be, and that you should work with them to find their suitable trajectory.

Last, Woodley spoke about building your organization. He expressed the need to rely on others within your organization in order to succeed. “The larger an organization, the more complex an organization,” Woodley said. “The less likely the leader of that organization is to have the answers he or she needs to succeed, and therefore the more dependent they are on those with whom they work.”

Woodley also shared a quote from Boyd K. Packer, who said, “To teach others you must be willing to learn from others.”

To teach this point further, Woodley told a story about his time with one company where he worked closely with the CEO. He would often look over to the CEO’s desk, who never seemed to be there. Woodley felt as if he was doing more work than CEO, until one day the CEO came into his office and began talking to him about the employees of their organization. While Woodley remained in his office, the CEO was out talking to employees, getting to know them, and listening to their ideas. The CEO was looking to the whole team for answers, not just depending on his own knowledge.

“It was probably one of the most humbling professional experiences that I’ve had, because I realized while I was self-righteously sitting at my desk and making judgements about him and his work, he was out doing what I’ve now learned to call management by walking around (MWA), and this has been a good life lesson for me,” Woodley said.

Woodley gave a final piece of advice to students, saying “No matter how smart you are, you should always be willing to ask for help and with the toughest issues you should always be thoughtful and even prayerful.”

Woodley’s keynote address was followed by lectures from fellow ACET members. Sydne Jacques, owner and Project Principal of Jacques and Associates, spoke about how to inspire. Alan Layton, former chairman of Layton companies, taught how to build effective teams.  Jonathan Oliver, CEO and Founder of SmartyStreets, discussed self-deception. And finally, Ron White, CEO of Heavystone Laboratory taught students about time management and prioritization. 

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