Colin Walker, an employment lawyer, has dedicated his life to building teams.
He finds his team’s strengths and differences and uses them to boost their work. His first advice is to gather people that don’t have the same skill sets. Leaders learn over time to organize their individuals to the tasks that suit their strengths.
Colin reflects that since he started at Fairfield and Woods in 1999, he has had to look at his strengths and weaknesses. Doing so has taken him to be appointed a position in the executive committee of the firm.
Tune in to this episode and listen to Colin’s strategies to stay fresh and always give his 110%!
Gather yourself a team that brings different skills and perspectives to the table.
Patience is a skill we all need to improve.
Physical activity and exercise can help some people have a clear mind.
If you have any questions or challenges about Leadership and HR and want our opinion, please send it to email@example.com with "Podcast Question" in the subject field.
PeopleStar Podcast Intro: Welcome to the PeopleStar podcast. We deliver leadership perspectives from industry experts on their people, architecture, routines, and culture as they solve HR's newest challenges. And now your host, Julie Rieken.
Julie Rieken: Hi, it's Julie Rieken, host of the PeopleStar podcast, and I am super pleased today to have Colin Walker with me. Colin is an accomplished employment lawyer at Fairfield and Woods, based here in Denver, and he and I have worked together for a number of years. He's also served on the Mile High Sherm Board of directors as the legislative director for years, we've worked together a little bit of colleague-ry, I would say, over the years. And Colin, I'm just so excited to have you offer some insights today on the podcast!
Colin Walker: I'm excited to be here and you're teaching me things already, colleague-ry. I didn't know this word, but I'm excited to know that it is, and I'm going to use that word.
Julie Rieken: Well, I mean, being a lawyer, I thought this was the right place to use a new word. Cool. Well, one of the things, Colin, that I've really admired about you over the years is your ability to value a team of people for their unique strengths and differences. And I actually know this personally because you're friends with me, first of all, and with the rest of us on the board, and I think it's a special superpower that you have to do that. And I'm wondering, how did you go? How have you developed this skill overtime to bring people together and to recognize their unique strengths? I think that's a great leadership quality and something that I'd like to hear a little more about.
Colin Walker: Well, thank you. That's a nice compliment, and that is something that I really try to pay attention to, and I'll tell you how I learned it. I chaired a non-profit event for many years and I started the event and it was a real struggle and a great learning experience in many ways. But one of the things that I learned is that you can't expect each person on your team to bring the same thing. Each individual has strengths and weaknesses, and they may be quite different from the others on the team. This particular event was a fundraising event, and I learned that you can't expect everybody to sell tables to the event. Some people can sell ice cubes to Eskimos, and some people couldn't sell anything to save their lives. But on the other hand, some of those people will show up and they'll work the financial aspects of the event, they'll be the worker bees at the event and the people that are selling the tables can't be trusted to do those kinds of things. So it took me a while. In the beginning, I was like, oh, every, everybody is going to do X, Y, and Z, it's all our responsibility to do that. That's just not realistic. You learn to recognize that some people are good at some things, let them do those things. Don't expect me to do the other things. Other people will do those other things, so let them do that. And hopefully, you have enough skills on the team that you can get everything done without asking somebody to do something they're not well suited to do it.
Colin Walker: That's a great perspective, and I bet it is a challenge to bring people together and to, and to see their unique skills, and ust a quick sidebar, do you consider yourself a patient person?
Colin Walker: Wow. I try to be patient! And I'd say I'm kind of medium, I'm kind of in the middle. You know, that's something that is very important skill, we all need to be getting better at it and I'm trying to get better at it. I'm kind of medium.
Julie Rieken: I would have put you impatient, but OK, that's, that's a nice response with humility. Ok, so Colin, I know you've been recently appointed to the executive committee at Fairfield and Woods, and that's something cool that's happened to you. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that? I'm interested to hear a little bit about your history with the firm and how you ended up in this position of leadership at Fairfield and Woods.
Colin Walker: Yeah, that's true. And I'm very excited to be on the executive committee, which, by the way, is the governing board of the firm. It's a, think of it as the board of directors of a company, and we are a company like many others, not as big as most. But we're still a company and we have to run things the way any company would. I've been at this firm since 1999, if you can believe that, I started my career as a criminal prosecutor in Baltimore, the four years preceding that, which was a much different ballgame. The prosecutor's office is not a business, it's a government agency. And so I had a lot of learning to do when I got here. But, you know, kind of in keeping with what we talked about before. Everybody have, you know, strengths and weaknesses and certain skills, and I'm not so good at other things. But it turns out that I think one of the things I am good at is I am good at the administrative aspects of the business. I'm not particularly a rainmaker, or if I'd like to think of myself as a good lawyer, but I do have a skill set I think that lends itself to the administration of the business. So I've been there long, but I'm excited to be on the executive committee, I think I've got a lot to bring to the table and I'm really committed and excited to be contributing to the leadership of the business.
Julie Rieken: Yeah, that's interesting that you talk about your strengths serving in some administrative aspects. I'm sure that also plays into other people on the executive committee bring their breadth of experience as well, and that's something that you are able to add to that committee. So that's cool that you're able to use that strength of yours in the capacity that you also help others.
Colin Walker: Yeah, I think that's right. And there are some on the committee that are really strong in finance. That's not my strength, but that's OK because they are. One of the things I really bring is the employment law and HR experience, which, of course, with any business with a lot of employees, that's really important. And I could go on and on, but that principle definitely applies with what I'm doing with the firm now.
Julie Rieken: Yeah. Well, you know, I've got one final question and you mentioned, of course, you're with the HR piece of the firm, and of course, your background is in employment law, and with our company being in the HR space, there's one thing I know, it's dealing with people is wonderful and sometimes complicated, and oftentimes we can go to sleep at night with things in our head, and I'm wondering, do you have strategies to get your head out of the game and refresh, especially when you're thinking about all of these complex people issues in the way that they intertwine?
Colin Walker: Yeah. So important. You know, you and I and everybody watching this blog, I'm sure, it has really challenging professional and personal lives. And the way I do it is I, it's very important to me to regularly work out and get exercise. That's important for the body, but it's even more important for the mind. It is important to unplug, wipe the mind clear to the extent you can and come back fresh the next day, or the next time you're in the office, or on your computer, or whatever. I just think that's something that everybody ought to at least try to make, you know, for the sake of your body and your mind, and it will help you enormously professionally. It does me.
Julie Rieken: That's awesome, good advice for our leaders today in HR, in employment law or sitting on boards, any of the capacities of leadership, we've got some great thoughts from you today and I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. So thank you for joining the podcast today!
Colin Walker: Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.
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