Meet Craig Lemasters
Craig Lemasters is an advisor, entrepreneur, investor, and board member with more than two decades of success in executive leadership positions, now dedicated to helping leaders get unstuck on major growth challenges.
Craig works with global enterprises, focused on identifying knowledge gaps, aligning organizations around core initiatives, and enabling critical decision making. He was previously the CEO of Assurant Solutions, where he led the firm's digital transformation and global expansion.
Help me understand this stuck concept to what is it and why is it so important to networking effectively?
Yeah, so I've used the word stuck for probably the last decade or so when I ran a big company and that's that's sort of my background. Now the last three years with GX GE and building this business model was this idea that, again, in very simple terms, we as leaders get stuck on really hard stuff. And let's just be super candid about it and have the humility to admit it. But we always have to be transforming and moving these enterprises forward. And the further away we get from our core, and in my opinion, the harder it gets, and that's where we tend to get stuck and it's what happened to me at Assurant. So where does the networking come in or my version of networking really, is what I would call this wisdom based learning that would that I bumped into, quite candidly six years ago.
You caught my attention with the phrase wisdom based learning, can you kind of go a little bit deeper on that?
This whole business model really that we build was around the idea that when we get stuck on hard stops, what it really means is, and my definition of wisdom, again is very simple. It's this unique intersection of knowledge and experience. But it has to be both. And so what I've found over the years that if we get stuck on hard stuff, if somehow we can very intentionally interject that definition of wisdom, so other people that happen to have the knowledge and experience that have just simply gone before us, and done the things that I'm trying to do, and we put that into a highly facilitated format, we can get unstuck very quickly. We were meant to learn, or at least I believe we were meant to learn very quickly if it was in the right format. And so that's what I mean by wisdom based learning is how do we put people around us that have gone before us and have the knowledge and experience on very specific things. And the specificity is super important.
When it comes to asking for an hour of someone's time, that can be very intimidating. From your experience, why would someone want to participate in a one on one conversation?
We work on two formats. One of our formats is sort of our version of executive coaching, which is, we build a learning ecosystem around a leader, which really are individuals that we think have the right wisdom to transfer. That's the one-hour conversation that we facilitate with people. And then we also do advisory board work where we're actually asking individuals to join the advisory board which is a day and a half commitment, three meetings over eight months. And we actually have a waiting list of people that want to do this. People want to help other people. And if we ask them in the right way, at the right time, and then we do the work for them. We don't then ask people to do a bunch of work and we don't ask them to be uncomfortable with their schedule. Then I find people love pouring their wisdom into others.
What inspired you to ultimately embark on this 2.0 career after leaving your public company CEO life?
A lot of my friends and family thought it was kind of nutty, quite frankly, because it was. A few years ago, actually, before I turned 65, that it just really struck me that I've been blessed with good health and same with my wife and we both just kind of wanted to do some other things and just try to help people in different ways. And a big part of it was learning this wisdom based learning methodology. And I just got to the point where I just really wanted to go share it with other leaders. And then quite frankly, I wish somebody had shared it with me when I was in my 30s, 40s or even early 50s. And so that's what I decided to go do is just to go out and tell the story and build a team.
Can you share with our listeners your most successful or favorite networking experience that you've had?
My networking story is that I was actually also one of the guinea pigs early on for our version of executive coaching. So basically, it was, again a network of people where we had these one hour facilitated conversations. So probably my favorite story is I've been struggling trying to take our company into China, and we've actually expanded into Asia, but China had been found very challenging as most do. So the very first connection calls were with people who had wisdom about doing business in China. I talked with a guy named Jim Firestone and I had no idea how this call would go but I had this one hour facilitated call, which was 100%, about him sharing his wisdom on how to do business in China. And the three or four things I was struggling with. And it just changed my thinking probably forever around how we should be learning. So that's probably one of my highlights on my networking.
What advice would you offer that business professionals are really looking to grow their network?
So where I would start is, what is the output we're looking for? So why build your own network? I think it hopefully comes down to two, three, no more than four buckets of things or as I would call wisdom, that you'd really like to have. And whether it's to do your current role better or for the role you aspire to. And then a second thing is be super intentional about how you go find those people. Because again, it's a little bit of a slippery slope, because people will tend to think they have a lot of wisdom across every topic. But the reality is we don't. Third thing I would say is, again, back to reciprocity. This only works if people actually believe that you want to help them learn and grow as well. And again, I'd be super intentional about that. And the last piece is is to really prepare. And again, if you reach out on your own and you find people or create your own networking group or start participating in one, show up prepared and know who the people are and exactly what you're trying to learn from them. And, and then the last thing is have fun with it. I mean, there's nothing more enjoyable than building your own network of people that you can go to and go to repeatedly.
So if you could go back to your 20 year old self, what would you tell yourself to do more of less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I wish when I was 28, somebody taught me how to go find, intentionally find, the wisdom I needed to do my job better and to get the next job that I aspire to. I think the second thing and I had some good mentors that actually were pretty insistent with me on this, but there's just never too much and that's this thing called humility.
So do you have any final words or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would do it very process wise. Be super intentional about it and start with your own learning gaps. Be very honest with yourself, draw a picture, put yourself in the middle and just draw an ecosystem. What are the three or four things that you really need to learn to do your job better, and to get the next job you want? Start with and really understand what you're trying to learn and and be super specific and intentional about the outreach and then have a blast with it.
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