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Navy veteran addresses Chamber diners

Perry County Times - 4/21/2018

By Jim T. Ryan

Staff Writer

FOOD FOR THOUGHT -- "Treat people like they matter. People are not assets. People are people," J. Todd Ross, CEO and cofounder of Belle Haven Solutions, told diners at the Perry County Chamber of Commerce's dinner on April 6. Jim T. Ryan photo  J. Todd Ross had a simple message about leadership for community, business and political leaders gathered for the Perry County Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner on April 6.

"It's not about you. It's about the impact and influence you bring to others," he said.

Ross, of Loysville, is a former captain in Navy intelligence who was working in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. He also was a former instructor at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, commonly referred to as TOPGUN.

Today, Ross is CEO and cofounder of Belle Haven Solutions with his wife and fellow Naval officer, Traci Ross. She had a 23-year career as a Navy instructor and with its human resources department.

Bell Haven Solutions works with individuals, companies and the military on leadership training, career coaching, education consulting, and institutional and managerial improvement initiatives. 

The Rosses and their children also have been active with humanitarian work in Haiti, the Caribbean nation ravaged by earthquakes, poverty and disease.

Leadership is not embodied in titles, nor necessarily what one says and does, Ross pointed out. It's more about how people in positions of influence, authority and power use those things to lift others up, to help them reach their full potential.

"Real leadership can change lives," Ross said.

Becoming that kind of a leader takes work and coaching; it doesn't come without effort, and even great leaders can always improve, he said.

But there are several key areas that leaders can continually improve on to reach their potential and improve the potential of those around them.

First, he said, don't treat people like they're things, or just assets. Assets are only a means to an end and people are more than that.

"Treat people like they matter," Ross said.

It's OK to expect performance, and certainly profitability keeps a company going, but people want to be valued and they deserve that.

Second, make every interaction meaningful.

Ross told a story about when he was commanding a department at the Navy. He wanted to find people who had been overlooked for recognition, to let them know that their work was central to the Navy's mission and national security. It was a simple gesture of giving that sailor a challenge coin, or collectible medallion.

After that small presentation, Ross' command master sergeant said he never saw anything like it in 29 years. Ross couldn't believe such a small token of appreciation could be that important.

Attendees at the chamber's dinner applaud during Ross's address about how community, political and business leaders need to strengthen their focus on others. Jim T. Ryan photo  Because you changed his life through that small token, the sergeant told Ross. That sailor is going to tell everyone he knows about that little ceremony, and he's going to do even better because he's appreciated.

"I got wrapped up in the show," Ross said, "and I forgot how I could bring meaning to someone else's life."

Third, build a better day. Write down the really important things in life and do them every day, like spending time with family.

Don't just get through the meaningless tasks.

"Take the time to reflect on what truly matters," Ross said.

Fourth, everyone needs a coach.

Ross was listening to Microsoft founder Bill Gates give a TED Talk about what drives people to change and do better. Even the best athletes in the world are constantly being drilled and challenged by coaches. Tiger Woods, Stephen Curry and Serena Williams are relentlessly trying to improve under the direction of someone else analyzing them.

"They want to be the best them, not just the best in the world," Ross said.

The same goes for business and other types of leaders. Even they need coaches.

"The obligation to improve is one we all share," Ross said. "Let's not settle for in between." 

Jim T. Ryan can be reached via e-mail at jtryan@perrycountytimes.com


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