Q&A with Ken Spirito, National Account Manager, BYD

Tell us a bit about your career?

I work for the largest electric vehicle manufacturer in the world – BYD (Build Your Dream). BYD is a leader in many areas of green technology and innovation. The core of its technology is the safest battery in the world – Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4). BYD is the only company in the in the world that manufacturers the battery, the vehicle and the charger.  We are vertically integrated and provide many solutions to businesses, communities and consumers all around the world.  I am the National Sales Manager for BYD in North America and focus on the aviation and material handling sectors.  Our product line of material handling equipment and aviation ground support equipment is unlike any other in the world providing key solutions to problems that exist today in older, less efficient equipment. 

Equipment that continues to contribute to the degradation of our environment.  One of the many interesting and enjoyable aspects of my career with BYD is solving problems and helping people and their applications become safer and more efficient.  Overall, working in an environment for a company that is contributing to the overall health and well-being of people and taking social responsibility throughout its entire operation is gratifying and impressive.  As we look forward, the next decade is going to be an incredible decade of innovation and transformation.  The age of acceleration is here and BYD makes it very clear that they have the vision to ensure resources are provided to facilitate that transformation and foster innovation in every aspect of its business.

 

What are your keys to making yourself productive?

I have always made it a point to make time for myself to pre-create my day ahead of me. However, you must always account for unavoidable delays that are out of your control.  Productivity is relative to what you are trying to produce.  A lot of people equate productivity to volume. 

However, productivity can also be measured in other ways that ultimately lead to the resolution of a problem or the completion of a project.  Sometimes the smallest execution of a tactic that occurred sometime in the past will lead to success in the future.  I like to think in an individual’s overall strategy, productivity is not always measured in what you do during a specific day.  But, measured in the overall outcome if you are doing something each day to accomplish what you set out for.

 

How do you maintain a balance between management and leadership? Is there a difference?

I think this is one of the most misunderstood comparisons. Management is nonetheless a process of developing a plan, organizing it, directing and controlling it. This can be done individually or with a team that you are responsible for.  However, leadership is a completely different thing.  Even though someone may be able to manage a project, it does not necessarily mean that a person can lead people successfully through the project despite its successful execution. 

I have found that leadership, in many ways, comes from the heart.  People can see through someone who is not genuine about his or her interactions with others.  Leadership is the ability and process of getting others to follow your lead.  Leadership can also be defined/described as a journey.  A leadership journey begins with a starting point – that is really you.  Before you can lead others, you must be able to lead yourself.

 

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

No matter what situation you face, always stay true to what you believe in and never compromise that.  My father gave me a piece of advice that I will never forget.  He said “when we leave this life, anything that you physically had will be left behind and it will too someday be gone.  However, the affects you had on people by helping them or just being there for them will never die.”  People will always be people.  You will meet good ones and bad ones.  However, I know that is an attribute of society and it will never be avoidable.  All we can do is acquire the experience to accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can and truly know the difference between what you can change and what you cannot.

 

How do you set goals?

Goal setting is a very powerful process. The process itself lets you decide where you want to go in your life (personal & professional).  Goal setting requires clarity and motivation.  When most people talk about goal setting, they describe it (writing it down on paper).  I do this routinely and it is a fluid document that changes periodically.  The primary factor in setting goals is motivation.  What is motivating a person to set goals?  Having clarity gives you direction for setting your goals.  When setting goals, you need to be clear about what goals you are setting for yourself or your organization. When you set your goals with clarity, not only do you need to know what to do, but why you want to do it. What do these goals mean to you or your organization? How will they effect change?  These questions are essential everytime the goal setting process is executed.  I routinely ask myself these questions when doing it.

 

Why do you place emphasis on the journey when describing leadership?

The journey begins with the Self/You!  How to ensure you know you.  Without self-learning and self-awareness, you will not be able to achieve the personal growth you are looking for.

Spend some time each day in the morning to pre-make/determine your day – (what are you going to do? what are you going to say? how are you going to say it? Then, spend some time at night to reflect on how you were able to accomplish the tasks you set out to accomplish that day.  Remember, its ok to course correct.  Be mindful of feedback.  It’s ok to get constructive suggestions for improvement.  Be professional and thankful for those who took the time to care about you.

 

Do you think critically?

Yes, oh yes. Critical thinking is essential.  Evaluating options, weighing alternatives and making decisions will set you apart.  What questions do you ask when you are presented with a problem? Perspective will always give you more depth in any decision.  There is much diversity in our workplace.  Take advantage of the perspectives others will bring to the table.

 

Leadership seems to be something you really embrace. What else can you add to that?

Sometimes the brand is better than the product.  How many times do you want something just because you know it’s good or people talk about it. No matter what the product is, if it’s a well-publicized brand, it sells. Lead by example- How many times has this been said? Well, that’s because it’s true.  What you say may be important, but what you do is even more important.

Anyone can lead/manage when things are good.  However, what will you do when things are bad – really bad?  Stand up for what you believe in.  Some may not agree with you, but you will be respected for what you believe in and where you stand.  If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything.  Effective leaders radiate hope in an organization. 

Here are a few things I created to remind me how to stay focused to achieve what I have set out to achieve:

Foundations For Life (FFL) – 6 Points

Healthy Mind

Healthy Body

Healthy Soul

Family

Friends

Community

I try to do something in each of these categories as much as I can.  Sometimes it is just a little something, but it’s something (remember what was said about productivity). The other is Take Flight:

Truth

Accountability

Kindness

Empathy

 

 Focus

 Leadership

 Inspiration

 Global Awareness (Diversity)

 Honor

 Tolerance (Diplomacy/Civility)

 

 

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