the ceo magazine, leadership skills,
Jeffrey McIntosh, CEO, Teabook

CEOs can be compared to tea leaves; you never know their strength until they’re dunked in hot water.

Not only that, CEO’s leadership skills must drive revenues, company growth, employee development and impact their communities and industry eco-systems. 

Which is why I’d like to give you a front row seat while I share my personal hot tea story:  how gaining understanding of the nuances of fine Chinese tea ended up teaching me the skills I need to lead my enterprise, while driving personal growth, commitment to social impact, and understanding of the importance of micro-enterprise and agriculture.  Plus, of course, an outsized and lifelong love of perfectly-brewed tea.

It was tea that turned my life around and away from a path of borderline juvenile delinquency to business leadership.  I was only 17 when I stumbled onto my first cup of freshly-brewed Oolong tea, and from that first sip a passion was born.  I went on to apprentice myself in the business here in the US and then China, and then used that knowledge to launch an enterprise importing quality teas from Asia’s best micro-farmers.

Those early lessons I learned about mindfulness from the tea apprenticeship stood me in good stead as CEO; and those lessons learned as a CEO further transformed both business practice and interactions with others.  Let me share my transformation take-aways with you; I sincerely hope it helps you in your mission as CEO and leader of your enterprise.

Transformation Take-aways:  Executive Insight

  • Workplaces require mindfulness:

I incorporate mindfulness and meditation into the workplace; it’s not enough to simply espouse your brand culture, you have to integrate it into the company’s culture.

  • Transformation Take-aways:  The Formidable Four
    • Never be unreasonably harsh with your coworkers, partners, or employees.
    • Equip everyone with the tools they need for success, and be patient.
    • Meticulously observe your employees, but reach out only when you see they absolutely need it.
    • A CEO’s job is not to always have the right or best answer. Your job is to make the company successful, and you do that by hiring the right people.
  • Surround smartly:

Surround yourself with people who you believe are smarter than yourself.

"It is more important who is on the bus than where the bus is going," Jim Collins, Good to Great.

  • Resisting immediate response:

Sometimes the longer you wait, the better the result. Tea and mediation are an important part of the day and help us rethink decisions before taking action. There is a solution to every problem, so take a moment. Have a cup of tea.

  • Give credit where it’s due:

Always give credit for success to others. Empower your employees and create a symbiotic culture that thrives on being successful together. Be sure your employees succeed before you do. Be the first to admit and take on faults. Have a plan at the ready to remedy then.

  • Regular Refueling:

Not referring to traditional energy, be it petrol for your car or a big lunch.  Rather, make time to meditate.  I completed studies in meditation through Namu Amitabul Mediation practice, and made it regular part of my day; the pay-off in better concentration, near elimination of my ADHD, and decision-making was extraordinary.  So make time for regular refueling of your mind and body by setting aside time for daily contemplation.

When we first started, I didn’t start out with a comprehensive vision. I thought tea was simple; but the issue wasn’t the product; it was cultural compatibility.  So, instead of explaining, we simply incorporated the mindset into our business practices – leading to a transformation of not only my leadership style, but the performance of our entire network of co-workers, partners, suppliers, colleagues and more.

You don't always have to be the genius of the company, but you must be genuine and care for the people you work with. Respect them and be humble, and you will have a team that is loyal and wants the company to succeed without the need for micromanagement or stressful timetables. You want to build a culture of respect and harmony, which will open your mind to more ways to succeed than you could ever imagine previously.


About the Author

A tea industry specialist with eight years of experience in the international tea industry, Jeffrey McIntosh has served with the world’s leading Tea Masters, is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and knowledgeable about all aspects of the Chinese tea market.  Jeffrey launched, McIntosh Tea, a high-end tea retail company, and Teabook.co, an ecommerce platform committed to making quality tea available across the marketplace.

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