May 20

Greg Derwart on Achievement


Greg Derwart is a Senior Operations and Administration Executive focused on mission and growth through strategic planning and outcome-based metrics. Organizational development leader utilizing proven strategies and 25+ years' experience gained in both public and private sectors. Accomplished administrator with budgeting and P/L experience with an emphasis on cost reduction and optimum efficiency. Proactive change agent focused on innovation and process improvement, and a motivating, engaging and empowering team culture. Successful brand developer by prioritizing client experience and partner relationships.

A native Marylander, Greg is active in the greater Baltimore business and nonprofit communities, serving on the boards of the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Al Cesky Scholarship Fund as its Vice President. Greg co-founded a local chapter of the Customer Experience Professionals Association with a colleague in the summer of 2018. He also is a member of the Chesapeake Human Resources Association, the Baltimore Estate Planning Council, and the Hunt Valley Business Forum.

Greg is a graduate of the 2006 Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) Leadership program, was a 2011 recipient of the Maryland Daily Record’s VIP List Successful by 40 Award, was named by the Chesapeake Human Resources Foundation as a 2011 Fellow, and was awarded the SmartCEO Executive Management Award in 2013. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, a master’s degree from the University of Baltimore, and the Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ designation from the College for Financial Planning.

Podcast Highlights:

  • You must know your purpose
  • You must have a clear vision
  • Execute, execute, execute!

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[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:06
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello, everyone, this is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to The No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster. Get ready for another episode.

Umar Hameed 0:36
Today, I'm privileged to have Greg Derwart, the managing director of the Maryland Department of Commerce and you guys just had a name change just to be commerce, right?

Greg Derwart 0:43
That's right. Great.

Umar Hameed 0:44
All about efficiency. I love that.

Greg Derwart 0:45
That's right. Absolutely.

Umar Hameed 0:46
So Greg, tell us in 90 seconds, who you are and what you do?

Greg Derwart 0:49
Sure. I like to tell folks that I am a leader of cogs. So, throughout the past 20 years, my thread of experiences has been around administration and operations of organizations. So I head up our administration team here at commerce, which includes human resources, IT, budgeting and accounts payable, facilities management, fleet services, contracts and procurement.

Umar Hameed 1:18
Seems to have the machine running.

Greg Derwart 1:20
So basically, you know, I'm a visual person. So, you know, I have pictures of clocks around the office, because I like just that symbolism of the cogs behind the scenes that are all crucial to the operation of the organization. And it's even a part of the mission statement that we created for my team, you know, where we're, we're providing essential functions for the folks on the front line.

Umar Hameed 1:43
Greg, so we get a better idea of who you are, who is your favorite superhero and what's the attribute that speaks to you?

Greg Derwart 1:50
Not just Superman, but Christopher Reeves interpretation of Superman,

Umar Hameed 1:55
Oh, how so?

Greg Derwart 1:55
you know,

Umar Hameed 1:56
How come?

Greg Derwart 1:57
I guess maybe that was the, the first you know, I was probably eight years old when that movie came out in 1978. And I liked the, the, the humaneness of him.

Umar Hameed 2:09

Greg Derwart 2:09
So, so even though he was a superhero, and had all these powers, you know, he was also Clark Kent at the same time, and he had emotions and feelings and acted human in a lot of ways as well.

Umar Hameed 2:24
Because someone in your job could be a very analytical numbers person. And for you, that human connection is important.

Greg Derwart 2:31
Absolutely. Yeah, I think you know, what I look at the core roles that that are most important to me in my career is connecting with people and serving people.

Umar Hameed 2:42
So you've got an organization of about 200 people.

Greg Derwart 2:45

Umar Hameed 2:47
So one thing that a lot of people struggle with a lot of leaders is, A, how do we define our culture? And then once you've defined it, how do we get it into the hearts and minds of people because way too many companies have their values written on the wall, but nobody follows us.

Greg Derwart 3:03

Umar Hameed 3:03
So tell me about when you guys came in, Secretary Gill and you.

Greg Derwart 3:06

Umar Hameed 3:07
What was the old culture and what culture did you want? And how did you go about making it happen?

Greg Derwart 3:13
Sure, sure. Well, as you might expect, state government just like any other government can be quite bureaucratic. There's a lot of functions within government that can be regulatory in nature. So it's natural for government agencies to just grow in that bureaucracy. So when Mike Gill came in, in January of 2015, and I came in a few months after that, he talked about trying to change the culture so that we would be as anti-bureaucratic as possible. He talks about creating a culture of yes. So in other words, if you're a business, if you're a constituent, if you're a customer, if you're a stakeholder, if you have something that you're looking to accomplish, our initial response should be yes, okay. Mike talks about how 80% of the time we can accomplish that yes. Ninth issue, may take some work and eventually get there, and maybe that 10th issue, we'll never be able to figure it out. But at least you know, nine out of ten times if you start with the attitude and the expectation that yes, we're going to solve your problem, we're going to help you we're going to make life easier for you, that's the right mindset to start with.

Umar Hameed 4:33
So this is a hypothesis of my part, because I don't know. But I would suspect if you went from the old regime how things were to the new, and you've got this new vision of yes, first. Some people are going to be difficult to get on board. And some people will get onboard but the very next word from yes is going to be but.

Greg Derwart 4:52

Umar Hameed 4:53
So how did you overcome that? How did you actually get it, you know, in the hearts and minds, they actually people that are the citizens and business owners deal that change?

Greg Derwart 5:01
Sure. Well, a couple things, both looking internally and externally. We went through a strategic planning process early on during that first year, and crystallized through a multi year strategic plan what we were looking to accomplish. So that becomes our blueprint 19 forward. It sets the expectations of our customers. But it also sets the expectations internally as a team. And then I think one of the things that we've tried to accomplish is taking everyone's handcuffs off, you know...

Umar Hameed 5:37
What does that mean?

Greg Derwart 5:38
Well, we talked about how so many entities within government operate in isolation, or in silos, if you will. And we're trying to create a culture in a situation where we encourage collaboration and interaction with team members internally and with other agencies. There's a lot of interaction and and cross pollination between agencies that are business facing when you look at Department of Labor licensing regulation, Department of assessments and taxation, several other agencies like that, you know, so we've created a commerce, subcabinet where there's seven cabinet level agencies that are all business facing, they get together, those secretaries get together every other month, and talk about big projects. And we talk about customer service, we talk about workforce issues, so that we're synergizing and interacting with each other.

Umar Hameed 6:31
Can you give me an example of like one of those synergies that came about where that just made the customer experience better? Sure.

Greg Derwart 6:39
Here's an example. There's a lot of development going on over at the old Bethlehem Steel plant, in barrows point area, and Baltimore County, now owned by a company called tradepoint. Atlantic and they're redeveloping the land, the space for businesses to utilize. So whether it's Under Armour, or FedEx, or Amazon, there's been opportunities for commerce, as well as the Department of Transportation for from an infrastructure standpoint, the Department of the Environment from a land use and stormwater management standpoint, where we're working collaboratively to make sure that that business entity is succeeding.

Umar Hameed 7:24
Brilliant. And for some agencies, that's a difficult thing to comprehend.

Greg Derwart 7:29
Yeah, I would when you asked about, you know, a new group coming in and how veterans were receptive or not to that. And I wouldn't say that what's been interesting is that there's a lot of good people, on the front lines of these organizations that have been around for a long time. They've wanted to do good work, they've had ideas. And I think the biggest challenge, or the biggest opportunity for improvement for us, is that mid level manager, where there has never been, they've never provided any support, guidance, resources, empowerment of the good folks on the front line. And I think, as we look at customer service, standards, and training requirements, that's where our, our biggest opportunity for improvements gonna be.

Umar Hameed 8:26
I think so in middle management can make or break. Yeah, Greg, who is a mentor for you?

Greg Derwart 8:31
Hmm. There's been many mentors in my life. Over the years, you could look at a teacher that taught me about presentation skills. I've had friends that have been mentors, from a motivational standpoint, from a spiritual standpoint. And of course, an overarching mentor throughout my life has been my father, basically, the voice of reason in my life and my best friend as well.

Umar Hameed 8:57
What's the best advice you've ever gotten?

Greg Derwart 8:59
Hmm, I think I could tie that into some of my favorite books, on motivation, and just how setting a mindset about a positive attitude can change the world change, you know, your whole aspect on life and how you approach it.

Umar Hameed 9:20
If you could have lunch with anybody, historical figure, somebody living somebody fictional? Who's that person you'd love to have lunch with? And what's the question that you need to ask?

Greg Derwart 9:31
I'd have a lot of questions for him. But the one person that comes to mind is Ben Franklin. I'm a history buff, particularly American history, American Revolution. And I see Ben Franklin is probably the the first American entrepreneur, you know, he led so many lives, you know, starting as a business person with his printing business, that he franchised up and down the East Coast. To his scientific inventions, and then his Renaissance political, you know, and international political influence. So...

Umar Hameed 10:08
The one thing I can't understand, I'm not sure if you got $100 bill in your pocket or not. But, but this was not the the study of sky ever, but apparently he was one hell of a lady Smith.

Greg Derwart 10:21

Umar Hameed 10:21
I can....

Greg Derwart 10:21

Umar Hameed 10:22
That's [garbled] in Paris.

Umar Hameed 10:23
Yeah. Yeah, that's been pretty interesting to read in the different biographies. Yeah.

Umar Hameed 10:29
So I'm also an avid reader. Okay. I was reading Andy groves, biography. And he was talking about Intel, where they were trying to decide whether to invest in microprocessors, or where they were dominant in memory chips. Hmm. Internal debates for a long time. One day they do this thought experiment. He goes to Gordon Moore of the Moore's Law of fame, right? If we were the new people coming in, and the old crew got fired, what would we do? And this is something I've been struggling with for eight months to figure out instantly, both of them say microprocessors, like it's a no brainer, right? Well, yeah. new people coming in? That's what we would do. Yeah. There's this legacy holding us hostage. Yeah. So if you were the new Secretary of Commerce, what would be the one thing you would change?

Greg Derwart 11:17
If I had the power to change anything?

Umar Hameed 11:19
Yeah. Like, what would be the meaningful thing that you do for the state of Maryland?

Greg Derwart 11:22
Well, it's funny. I mean, I think we're doing a good job. From a cultural standpoint, you know, we were doing survey data, looking at how our customers are reacting to the things that we're trying to accomplish. And the data talks about how we're doing a good job. From a cultural standpoint, we're being more customer focused, we're being more proactive. That culture of Yes, I talked about, one of the biggest challenges is, is this bureaucratic machine that we don't necessarily have complete control over within the parameters of the executive branch, right. And what I mean by that is, procurement regulations, you know, that require legislative action. There's so many things that we're still doing as a state that have 20th century processes, that are totally unnecessary anti business and just scare businesses away. So it's not a sexy thing to talk about. But if I could change one thing, it would be the procurement process.

Umar Hameed 12:24
Brilliant. Greg, one of the books I know that you like, is good to great. And what's one of the big takeaways? And how did you apply it to the Department of Commerce?

Greg Derwart 12:35
Well, we're talking about the concept of first who then what, and getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus. So when you look at hiring, and you're looking at talent to hire, I've always felt that hire, you know, for character and cultural fit, you can always train someone on, you know, soon as the task is tasks. So if I have the ability to hire based on on character, and cultural fit, is...

Umar Hameed 13:09
[Garbled] that you guys have gotten where you hired someone with those parameters. And they've just turned out to be a great employee?

Greg Derwart 13:16
Well, there's there's a lot of folks on the team that have come in over the past three years, Mike has used this model. So he's hiring people based on character, and cultural fit. And yeah, so when you look at his leadership, his leadership team, there's a lot, a lot of great people that he surrounded himself with.

Umar Hameed 13:33
So leadership skills are really important, right, and sometimes a leaders higher up in an organization get the very best education around that or come with it. Mm hmm. We had talked about middle management. So how are you providing them the leadership education, they need to be great leaders?

Greg Derwart 13:51
Sure, sure. One thing that we needed to do when we came in because it was wasn't in existence was we created a management team, you know, we have about 25, or more folks that are in management, supervisory roles, Director level roles, and we would never get them together. So we created a management team not just to have meetings, but to have them synergize with each other, so they can learn what they're doing in their respective units. We bring them together to talk about best practices and how we can improve the organization. We've also created creativity spaces. So over the years as an agency, we've downsized in right size. So in this beautiful building that we have here, we had some vacant offices, right? So what we did was we got rid of the desks, put some chairs, in painted the walls with the writing label. And we encourage folks to go if you're having a hallway or water cooler conversation, and you just start bringing storming an idea we just have, we encourage folks to go into the, into the creativity spaces, and write on the wall and just collaborate with each other.

Umar Hameed 15:09
And how's that transform the organization?

Greg Derwart 15:12
I think it's been a great way of getting crazy ideas just out in the open, and just seeing what sticks. You know, we we have I told you about a strategic plan. And and, and that gives us our anchor our focus. And there's six overarching goals within the strategic plan. So as long as if you come up with the crazy idea, as long as....

Umar Hameed 15:37
[Garbled] lane, those six lanes, you're good.

Greg Derwart 15:39
Then go for it. And then the other thing that I've learned, whether it's from Mike Gill, or some of the other great leaders in my life, is to encourage failure, and not all heads of an organization get that and and even personally, you know, I'm a type a person, I always want to succeed and do well. And I think the older I get, the more I realized that the value in having failures.

Umar Hameed 16:05
Yeah, and the meaning people make out of it. Yeah. Because some people think it's the end of the world and other people think, oh, my god, that was amazing. Well [garbled]

Greg Derwart 16:12
So, so and so as managers and leaders, not having as long as you don't hurt anybody or do anything immoral or illegal, you know, not calling someone out when there's a failure. Say thank you for trying something.

Umar Hameed 16:27
The governor's Chief of Staff Sam Malhotra.

Greg Derwart 16:30
He's a former chief of staff. Yep.

Umar Hameed 16:32
And he had a he was in charge of Human Services.

Greg Derwart 16:36

Umar Hameed 16:36
One of the things that he told me was that with his leadership team, that he had brought business practices to a government space. And rather than backlash or resentment, there was like a hunger for it. It's like, Oh, my God, this is where have you been all our lives? So how do you bring in new ideas and into making better business decisions?

Greg Derwart 16:59
Sure, sure. Well, it doesn't hurt having a CEO at the, at the top of the organization that believes in in that mentality and sets those expectations from the beginning. Governor Hogan, when when he created a customer service initiative in the summer of 2016, I talked about how he didn't set that up as a hope or a wish. It was a new expectation. This is the way we're going to conduct business, your whether it's implementing customer service improvement plans at each agency, coordinating that with Lean management and other process improvement philosophies, and providing resources through consultants and vendors and just exposing agencies to these private sector best practices. That's the best way to to see that come to fruition.

Umar Hameed 17:51
How is the business community in Maryland grading Department of Commerce? Have those numbers changed?

Greg Derwart 17:58
Yes. We use survey data at commerce and across all state agencies. From a customer satisfaction standpoint, we actually just went through a process over the past couple months and did a like a check in with our business customers, you know, how are we doing over the past few years, and we're getting great marks on how we're changing the culture and from a service delivery standpoint. Also, across all state agencies, we created a very simple three question customer satisfaction survey. That's on all agency websites. And during calendar 2017, over 80% of all respondents said that they were satisfied somewhat or very satisfied with the service being provided to them.

Umar Hameed 18:47

Greg Derwart 18:47
Yeah, yeah. And that was over 20,000 responses during calendar 2017.

Umar Hameed 18:54
One of the hardest things to do is to go from worker B to frontline manager. Hmm. Yeah. What would be three pieces of advice you'd give a new frontline manager to help them be effective?

Greg Derwart 19:06
Be consistent and equitable in how you treat your team members. No special favors No, teachers, pets, right? treat everyone in an in a fair and equitable way. be transparent and provide clear communication and expectations. Use the performance management process and help your team members set clear and realistic goals. Use the review process, whether it's on a quarterly or biannual basis, and, you know, use that documented process to track goals and expectations and have an open door policy. You know, if someone needs something from you, they need to feel comfortable coming to you.

Umar Hameed 19:51

Greg Derwart 19:53
And not feel intimidated by him. And then the last thing I would say is, especially if you're being promoted up Within the same organization, it's, you can't be everyone's friend. It's almost like parenting. Yeah, you can't be your child's friend that comes later on in life. Like, I feel like I've mentioned, you know, my dad is my best friend now, but he not when I was seven. So it's similar in terms of, you know, providing support for your team members. You can't just be their friend you need to make supplied that structural leadership.

Umar Hameed 20:30
What's something you know, now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?

Greg Derwart 20:34
Hmm, I think one thing that comes to mine is sticking with what you love. I have been blessed with many great opportunities in my career over the years. At one point in time, I probably went down a path that I thought was going to be beneficial to me, I got into a situation and in a role, where it didn't work with my skill set. And I tried to just plow through it, and it didn't work out. So I think at the end of the day, I should have reminded myself and I wish I could go back and remind myself to stick with the stuff that you love. Great advice. Are there any books you'd recommend? Hmm, there's there's lots of favorites on on my bookshelf. Whether it's the power of positive thinking, Franklin's audio biography, Stephen Covey's seven habits. Heck, the Bible is a great resource, you know, from from a leadership standpoint. But if I had to pick one to recommend to folks and one that I buy for, for young people, often is Napoleon Hills thinking grow rich.

Umar Hameed 21:41

Greg Derwart 21:41
It just, he went on a 20 year journey he was he was utilizing Andrew Carnegie's offer to be introduced to all of his friends back during the turn of the century, to go interview them and figure out what made good leaders tick.

Umar Hameed 22:04

Greg Derwart 22:04
And he took all this information and compiled them into this book. And it's been a core tenant of how I've tried to leave my life as well.

Umar Hameed 22:13
Brilliant. Thanks so much for sitting down with me.

Greg Derwart 22:16
Yeah, my pleasure. It's been fun.

Umar Hameed 22:17
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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