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Season 3, Episode 6 – Barclay Bates: Lessons in Leadership

Barclay Bates '18

Barclay Bates ’18, Augsburg alumn and former intern (now employee) at Midco, has learned what separates leaders from managers. His years as captain of the Augsburg football team as well as intern and career positions at Midco have given him deep insight into what it takes to do great work with a happy, fulfilled, motivated team (be they athletic, academic, or corporate). His mentors in athletics, Augsburg economics, and Midco’s upper leadership have taught him many critical lessons that he pays forward every day.

Transcript

Barclay Bates: I think anytime you have the ability to positively influence a group of people, you have to take full advantage of that and you have to really understand the impact that you’re having and the amount of responsibility that comes with that. I certainly don’t take that responsibility lightly. It’s something that I try to really think through before I make any decisions that could possibly impact the team.

Paul Pribbenow: Augsburg University educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. I’m Paul Pribbenow, the President of Augsburg University. It’s my great privilege to present the Augsburg Podcast.

Catherine Day: I’m Catherine Reid Day, host of the Augsburg Podcast. Today, we speak with Barclay Bates, international business and management major and an Augsburg alum, class of 2018, now an associate in a leadership development program at Midco. We speak also with his family and several of his professional and academic mentors about his path of discovery at Augsburg and beyond.

Barclay Bates: I did pretty much all of my growing up in Sauk Rapids-Rice, Minnesota. I went to Sauk Rapids-Rice High School, was actually born in the Metro area, and I know when I was very young, lived with my folks here, but all of my young memories are in Sauk Rapids. I went to a private Lutheran school for elementary school up until sixth grade and then spent my middle school years at Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School.

Barclay Bates: I had a really great childhood, a fantastic family. I have one little brother and very supportive parents, so I think I had a really good childhood and growing up in Sauk Rapids was good and I had a lot of good friends, was very involved in sports.

Barclay Bates: I learned about Augsburg, actually, because there was a guy I played football with who was a few years older than me that I knew at the time went to Augsburg, didn’t know much about the school, had never really heard of it until I knew that he went here. It was a little bit on my radar as a potential place to come play football. If I was going to play D3 ball, I wanted to play in the MIAC, the Minnesota D3 conference here, one of two.

Barclay Bates: I took a tour my junior year. I loved the location. I wanted to be in a city. I wanted to be someplace different than the place I grew up. Minneapolis is very different than Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. That was a big piece of the draw for me. I knew I would have the ability to come play right away, which was important from an athletic perspective.

Barclay Bates: I had done some international travel right after high school and really had an interest in studying culture and studying something that was broader than just the US or wanted to study something that would have an international aspect. Augsburg had an international business major, so that was part of what drew me here as well. All of those things combined just seem to be a good fit for me.

Cheri Bates: We drove onto campus and we were in the parking lot behind one of the dorms and we literally opened the doors to the car, got out, shut the door. I looked at Barclay, he was about 10 feet in front of us and I looked at Dan and I said, “This is it.”

Catherine Day: This is Cheri Bates, Barclay’s mother, speaking to us from Sauk Rapids, Minnesota.

Cheri Bates: I don’t know how many schools we had looked at, but I knew immediately that he loved Augsburg before we even basically walked out of the parking lot. I do believe that he was drawn to the big city, the inner city being almost downtown Minneapolis with such a small, very diverse, wonderful campus that was to me, as a mom, seemed very warm and opening. He really, really liked the football program, to be honest. I mean, that really attracted him.

Dan Bates: I remember when we walked out of the Oren Gateway on the Riverside. We turned left and you could see the new US Bank Stadium being built when he started. I think it just hit him. I know it hit us. We were like, “Oh, yeah, this is it,” like Cheri said.

Catherine Day: This is Dan Bates, Barclay’s father, joining us long distance from a business trip in the Philippines.

Dan Bates: I think it was almost the antithesis of Sauk Rapids where he grew up. It was the diversity, every shape, size, color of human was wonderful to see. The urban setting, I think, is really what put them over the top.

Dan Bates: Like Cheri said, there were a lot of schools that were talking to him about football and some of them larger, some of them with bigger programs. Literally, I think he just walked on the campus and felt it.

Cheri Bates: The beauty and the uniqueness of Augsburg, especially for our family, was the diversity, not just multi-cultural, but all of the different wonderful, amazing people that you can encounter that are just from such different realms of life all across the board is so accepting, also with the Christian base, having the chapel and that aspect of it, too.

Cheri Bates: I know that when Barclay was going to football, I know for sure his freshmen, sophomore year they would go over to the assistant coaches’ church and go to church on Sundays. I just thought that was really cool that there was that opportunity there and then to have that home base of a small community right in the heart of Minneapolis. I mean, how can you go wrong? Such an amazing education. I mean, small classes, caring professors, the professors that worked with him. I honestly can’t say enough good things about Augsburg.

Barclay Bates: I grew up in a predominantly white community. Being a black person in an entirely white family was… it’s an interesting position to be in. I think you grow up with the same identity as the people you’re surrounded by, so growing up, I didn’t have so much of a sense of not fitting in because I think culturally, everything was the same.

Barclay Bates: What I did find was just an interesting sense of confusion maybe as to why occasionally there may be a joke thrown my way that was offensive and my friends didn’t understand why it was offensive or… There were minor things like that, but it felt, I think, more confusing than exclusive, maybe.

Barclay Bates: That was what that was like growing up. Then moving to Minneapolis for school was, I think, pretty eyeopening. I hadn’t spent a ton of time here. I hadn’t spent a ton of time in urban, more diverse environments. Augsburg being a very diverse environment, all of those things went away and that confusion went away and those little jokes and things went away.

Barclay Bates: It was interesting to now be in an environment where there wasn’t that piece there. I think it was a really attractive part about moving to the city and going to school at Augsburg was the fact that there would be this melting pot of people that I’m surrounded with all the time.

Dan Bates: Both our boys, whether you’re African American or whether you’re Caucasian, our expectation as parents was always to hold yourself to a higher expectation than everybody else. I think it drove them and it certainly, I think, drove Barclay because he knew that he had that viewpoint.

Dan Bates: I remember there were times in high school where he could tell if a teacher wasn’t treating him fairly or if someone in the community was treating him differently. He equated that to a fairness thing. Sometimes we talked about, “Hey, that could be fairness or it could be something else. It could be a bias that someone else has.”

Dan Bates: Even now, we see it as a young adult. His drive and his passion to succeed, whether it’s football, basketball, whether it’s academically, whether it’s in college, whether it’s as a captain or now, whether it’s a young adult starting his first career, that drive is something that a lot of people didn’t understand. I think because he had that viewpoint or he had that experience, it almost drove him more.

Jeanne Boeh: Students sometimes have a little extra to them. Barclay was always one who had something a little extra. Now, you have to remember that I teach principles of economics classes, which many students find to be incredibly boring. Barclay probably did, too, but he always did his best. There was just something about him that caught my eye. He has a very sunny effect, he’s very personable, and he’s quite smart. I just always noticed Barclay.

Catherine Day: This is Jeanne Boeh, Sundquist Endowed Chair of Business Administration and professor of economics.

Jeanne Boeh: Some students have a quiet confidence about them and I think that he does. Barclay was a student you wanted to help you because he was such a good person and such a great person, a great student in class. You just wanted to work with him. I just knew that I could put Barclay in a group and it would go well. If I had students who were particularly struggling, somehow they ended up in his group.

Jeanne Boeh: The Business Department likes to say that we prepare people for practice. We’re actually a very large part of Augsburg at both the undergraduate and the graduate level. We’re providing over 40% of all the credit hours. Of course, we don’t want to prepare students for practice in a bad way. We want our students to be ethical, responsible leaders, so we spend time on that in every class.

Jeanne Boeh: We also want them prepared to step into the global market, so one of our core courses that we’ve added the last couple of years is Global Business. We want students to think about not just the city of Minneapolis, not just the state of Minnesota, but how do they take their place in the world. We want to prepare our students to work with diverse populations in a variety of ways so that wherever they go, they’re able to take their place.

Barclay Bates: Augsburg does take a more cultural approach to teaching business, especially when studying international business. You spend a lot of time learning about the importance of culture and business and how that changes when you leave the country and specifically the examples or case studies you run through have to do with people in the US going somewhere else and having a deal or some sort of partnership fall apart due to a lack of understanding culture.

Barclay Bates: Culture was a big part of me wanting to study business here. I think I was more interested in learning about how culture can make or break an international business deal or how culture plays into international business.

Barclay Bates: The culture of the Business Department here, I think is, it’s great. We have a ton of really impressive professors here that are really fantastic and do a really great job. They really do embody the traditions of a liberal arts education, so it’s not a B school. It’s a bit less tactical than that, but you’re still getting the skills you need to be able to succeed in the business world as well as a good, well-rounded approach to the knowledge you need to succeed in the business world.

Catherine Day: A significant opportunity for Barclay to put his study of business into real-world practice was right around the corner.

Barclay Bates: Midco is a telecommunications company, so internet, video, phone services for business and residential customers. Midco sponsors a scholarship program at Augsburg. My junior year would have been the first year they did this program. I saw emails coming through my inbox about this new Midco’s scholar program and was interested.

Barclay Bates: Knowing that it was new and that it was specifically for business students and even more specifically for underrepresented business students, I was interested and thought I had a good shot to get the scholarship, so I applied and got an interview.

Barclay Bates: It actually turned out I interviewed with who is now my current boss, Ben Dold at Midco and Patti Hawkey, the Director of Talent Acquisition at Midco, two people who would have a pretty substantial impact on my future career path post-internship. Had a really great interview and was able to start what became a good relationship with those two.

Barclay Bates: Through that process, ended up with the scholarship, was told about some interesting internship opportunities at Midco, did a little more research on my own, applied for the one I thought was potentially the best fit as well as some other internships at other companies.

Barclay Bates: Ended up settling on the internship opportunity at Midco. I thought it would be interesting. The internship was located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, so I thought it would be interesting to take an internship in a different city and in a place I hadn’t spent much time at all.

Barclay Bates: I ended up taking the internship in supply chain and worked the summer in South Dakota and really had a great time, was able to have some impact, and worked with a really great team there in supply chain and procurement. That led to some further career opportunities down the road.

Ben Dold: Quickly in the interview process, Patti and I quick realized, “Okay, not only is this someone that’s a great candidate for the scholarship, but this would sure be a great person to bring onto the Midco team,” first in that capacity as intern, but we could see that there could be a bright future there ahead.

Catherine Day: This is Ben Dold, Vice President of Central Operations at Midco, Barclay’s current supervisor.

Ben Dold: Quickly we could tell that he was a really sharp guy, really understood where he wanted to go in his career, was really thoughtful in his application for the scholarship and his response to our questions.

Ben Dold: In his current rotation, he’s leading a frontline team of folks that are really operational in nature, very process and task-driven. He’s working with a manager that had been leading that team and will continue to do as he rotates out. They’ve really worked well as co-managers.

Ben Dold: He’s just talked about how you can have team members that are very proficient in the tasks that they do, but how do you motivate them to continue to want to grow and change and develop. That’s something where he really articulated where he’s trying to understand personally what does motivate each of the team members and acknowledging the fact that yes, they are very proficient in the task that they’re currently doing, but how do we continue to grow in their skills and their development so that when change comes that they’re best prepared to handle that.

Ben Dold: That can be a difficult conversation with a team member when you’re saying, “You know what? Yes, you’re doing a great job, but I need you to do something different or something more because change will come and as we grow.” I think that’s a great way that he’s really applied that, to care for what is, while also motivating for what may be and what will come.

Barclay Bates: I’ve always had a passion for leadership and have been in leadership positions mostly in sports throughout my entire life. Now, having the ability to be in leadership positions at work and being in a leadership development program and learn about leadership, leadership is incredibly important to any organization, right? Strong leaders will make or break everything else. You can have a strong strategy, you can have great implementation teams, you can have really great technically focus individual contributors, but if you don’t have leaders with buy-in, they can dismantle the entire strategy or everything you’re trying to build, right?

Barclay Bates: I’ve always found that very curious and interesting and I think the impact that leaders have is important. It’s something that I’ve thought a lot about for myself. As for my own personal leadership philosophy, I really try to lead by example, primarily. I think that has the highest level of impact. It makes leadership a bit more of a democracy, right?

Barclay Bates: I think if you’re trying to lead by example as opposed to managing a situation or trying to control a group of people, I think typically, you wind up with better results because it feels like you’re, you’re in it with the team, right? You’re doing the thing alongside the team and I think that’s, I’ve found, to be the most effective way to try to lead.

Barclay Bates: Now, there are also, obviously, times and scenarios in which you have to be a manager, right, or you have to manage a situation or make difficult decisions that aren’t as, maybe, democratic, but I think if you continue to lead by example, those decisions get easier.

Catherine Day: Barclay has also derived leadership insight from other notable figures in the world of business and finance.

Barclay Bates: Hank Paulson was the treasury secretary in 2008. He pushed the Troubled Asset Relief Program to Congress when the markets crashed in 2008. I think his ability to stay cool and calm and focused under what I can only imagine is the most intense pressure a person can feel in their job, the fate of the biggest economy in the world was effectively in his hands.

Barclay Bates: I know that there’s a lot of controversy and debate over whether or not some of the decisions made were right or wrong or good for the country or bad for the country and I’ll certainly leave my opinions out on that front, but he’s been a bit of an inspiration, I think. You see many businesspeople I think moving from the private sector to more of a public service role over time, so that may be something I’d be interested in further down the road.

Pat McAderagh: Barclay, besides having a very agreeable personality, has been able to come in and have that agility to do different things we’ve asked.

Catherine Day: This is Pat McAderagh, CEO of Midco.

Pat McAderagh: In the summer program, he focused on supply chain and got really high marks from a supervisor. On the strength of that performance, we offered Barclay a full-time job upon graduation. He became our first-ever management rotational person, that undergrad that we brought into the company and spent two years putting him through different departments, rotating him through, which is just coming upon conclusion of that. So far, he’s done well in everything he’s done, so we’re really impressed.

Pat McAderagh: Yeah, I find that students coming out of the liberal arts typically have really good critical thinking skills. Another skillset that we really look for is the ability to articulate your ideas and thoughts well on paper in writing and orally also. Our experience is not 100% hit rate, but that the students coming up through a liberal arts education really are good at critical thinking, logic, use of logic, and their ability to communicate.

Barclay Bates: Being ready to work in a culture that’s maybe different than the one you went to school in, or just being ready to have to adapt to a new culture is an important skill that you learned at a liberal arts college, right? You develop this skill of being good with people and communicating differently to different groups of people. Those are all really valuable skills when working in an organization as well as collaboration, right? Going to school at a liberal arts college, you end up, there’s a lot of group work there. That’s what working in the in business is like, right? There’s a lot of group projects going on and you have to be a good collaborator in order to be successful.

Barclay Bates: I think those things really did prepare me pretty well for the business world and through my internships and in the work I’m doing now, I think I was pretty well-prepared. Those are the things that you’ll hear time and time again are the hardest to teach, the intangibles, the EQ skills, people skills. If you know you want to go into business and if you can put yourself in an environment where you’ll be able test those skills and build those muscles, you’ll be just that much better off when you go to make the leap.

Catherine Day: We’ve been hearing today from Barclay Bates, 2018 Augsburg alum and current associate at Midco. We’ve also been joined by Cheri and Dan Bates, Barclay’s parents, Jeanne Boeh, Sundquist Endowed Chair of Business Administration and professor of economics at Augsburg, Ben Dold, Vice President of Central Operations at Medco, and Pat McAderagh, CEO of Midco. I’m Catherine Reid Day and this is the Augsburg Podcast.

Paul Pribbenow: Thanks for listening to the Augsburg Podcast. I’m President Paul Pribbenow. For more information, please visit augsburg.edu.