Ten Behaviors that Shape a Private Equity Champion

Recently, I was asked to pen an article focused on the Private Equity industry. The following is that article. I hope you will find some useful tips for YOUR industry.

Becoming, and remaining, successful in Private Equity presents many challenges. Champions figure out how to overcome them so that they can stay ahead of the always-changing trends and triumph over their competition. Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with many top-level PE executives and observed key behaviors that lead to their success. Here are ten that can help you achieve your goals while developing teams of champions:

#1 Listen Without Bias

From investors to management teams to lenders, having the ability to listen without bias or agenda is essential.
Listening to understand a person’s frame of reference, values and beliefs is key to communicating your position into the aperture your listener can appreciate.
Too often executives communicate in too declarative a fashion versus a relational one.

#2 Communicate Effectively

Being clear, concise and engaged are essential behaviors of a leader. Many times, we communicate to people as though they were us rather than the person they actually are. We forget they have a completely different frame of reference and ability to grasp what we are putting forth.
Tailoring how we deliver our recommendations is critical to being understood and accepted.

#3 Team Player

Stop the siloing. People have a tendency to hoard their information, believing they have an edge over their peers in a discussion. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. The more transparent you are, the more powerful you are.
Acting as a team and being in one-voice with your message is mission critical to an investor. Your team must be aligned and clear-of-communication or your idea/recommendation will be lost in translation.

#4 Trust Others

Always assume positive intent. It’s important to share your knowledge of an issue and your desire for people’s opinion. Everyone must drop their “righteous” behavior; it serves no one. The more a team trusts one another the more aligned and cohesive their message will be to a management team.

#5 Groundedness

The ability to remain focused during a reactivating situation is the mark of a professional. Manifesting a high degree of forbearance in these situations illustrates your maturity and balance. Remember, everyone on your team is watching you. Don’t obsess over this, just be responsible for your behavior.

#6 Debate Cleanly & Objectively

Discussions and debates are essential in PE. When done correctly, they lift everyone’s understanding of an issue.
What’s important is to facilitate the conversation in a relational, structured way. This means tying down issues and presenting other issues in a chronological fashion that makes sense to all participants. What it doesn’t mean is forcing your will on people.

#7 Investment Maturity

Great executives maintain a level of maturity and patience. At times these two behaviors are tested by portfolio companies. Management teams often do what they want versus the strategic plan you’ve created with them. Remaining mature and resolute with your plan illustrates your confidence in the plan and consistency as a leader. Management teams and direct reports need to observe and emulate this comportment.

#8 Delegate Work

What is the highest and best use of YOUR time? Be maniacal about this. When you do others’ work you do not affirm them, rather you stunt them. Direct reports need to experiment and discover their abilities through the work streams you create for them. This is essential for their growth and you as a leader.

#9 Develop Others

Followership is important along with retention. The more you develop your direct reports the more they will follow you and think like you going forward. You need this.
Being involved in a direct’s development says “I care about you and I’m formalizing your development.” Way too often executives manage on an ad hoc basis versus a formalized one.

#10 Have Alacrity

Definition: a cheerful willingness to engage with people. You either have this quality or you don’t. Do your best to be enthusiastic when you meet, greet, engage and lead others. They will emulate you going forward from this behavior. You will set a tone of confidence and positive engagement throughout your organization.

Review these ten behaviors and determine which you are currently excelling in and those which need more attention. Come back to this list often as you check in to see how you are doing. If you are constantly looking for ways to develop your skills that align with this list, you will be, and stay, a PE champion!