Finding Better Ways: A Guide To Becoming An Indispensable Leader With Darby Vannier

BYW S4 16 | Indispensable Leader


There are always better ways to do things. As a leader, you are the ultimate innovator, the indispensable leader. You have the desire to share your thoughts with everyone in the workplace, despite generational differences. And most importantly, you follow your core values because those values create a better culture. In this episode, Darby Vannier joins Dr. Gary Sanchez to talk about his WHY of Better Way through his book, The Indispensable Leader. Darby has over 20 years of experience in leadership development and strategic consulting. He is also the Director of Operations & Technology at Leadership Resources. Learn more about his book and how to properly run an organization. Go beyond your ways and become an indispensable leader!

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Finding Better Ways: A Guide To Becoming An Indispensable Leader With Darby Vannier

We are going to be talking about the why of a better way. If this is your why then you are the ultimate innovator. You are constantly seeking better ways to do everything. You find yourself wanting to improve virtually anything by finding a way to make it better. You also desire to share your improvement with the world. You constantly ask yourself questions like, “What if we tried this differently? What if we did this another way? How can we make this better?”

You contribute to the world with better processes and systems while operating under the motto, “I’m often pleased, but never satisfied.” You are excellent at associating, which means that you are adept at taking ideas or systems from one industry or discipline and applying them to another, always with the ultimate goal of improving something.

In this episode, I’ve got a great guest for you. His name is Darby Vannier. He has many years of experience in leadership development and strategic consulting. He has led effective teams of more than 100 employees, coached others into their own leadership positions, and created stability during challenging organizational transitions. Darby built his career on the philosophy that developing the right people is the key to success. Darby, welcome to the show.

Thanks a lot, Gary. It’s great to be here. I appreciate you having me on.

Leadership sounds like it’s your thing. That’s where you’ve spent your time.

I wrote the book on it.

Let’s go back to your life. Take us back through where you were born, where you grew up, what you were like in high school, and how you got on this leadership path.

It’s an interesting story. From young age, I was born in a small town in Nebraska. When I say small, it’s so small. I read several of your episodes, and you had JB Owen on. She said, “Small town of 70,000.” I was like, “That’s not very small.” I was born in a small town in Nebraska and had a great childhood. At about 1st or 2nd grade, it was the mid-80’s and the economy was bad. My father and grandfather owned a Ford dealership, and people stopped paying their bills because they didn’t have any income. It affected the dealership.

I can tell you exactly where we were, what we were eating, and what we were driving when my parents said, “We’re going to have to move. The Ford dealership is going to close. We’re going to get in the car and drive West until your dad finds a job. That’s where we’re going to end up.” We ended up in Longmont, Colorado. We were not there very long, and we made our way back to Nebraska. That set off a series of moves 5 times in 6 years at one point.

Leadership is the ability to influence others towards an overarching vision. Click To Tweet

I got to the point as a kid where I was like, “This is not worth trying to make friends.” I shut down. I remember starting in school, standing outside the classroom with the teacher and my parents trying to convince me to go in. I’m like, “I’m not doing it again.” I tell you that because whether this would have happened or not, it caused me to be an introverted person. I continue to be to this day, although there’s a broad spectrum of introverted people. I love standing in front of people and speaking, and a lot of introverts don’t.

What that meant is I got good at being self-reliant, planning things, and understanding how I was going to make things happen. When I came into college, I was the one that wanted to be in charge of every group project because I wanted it to be organized, who was doing what, that everything got done, and I could check all the boxes and everything. At a certain point, somebody asked me to participate in our residence hall council. They needed some assistance in getting funding from the student senate from our university.

I agreed to do that, and that’s where I took off from a leadership standpoint. That was a turning point because, from that time in college, they helped start 3 or 4 new campus organizations and served as president of those. From that time on all the way into my career since then, leadership has been a thing and that feeling. Going through your process in understanding the better way made total sense with that part of my life, career, and everything.

You are always in search of a better way. Where did you go to college?

I went to a small college here in Lincoln, Nebraska, called Nebraska Wesleyan University. I’ve got my Master’s online from the University of Phoenix. I was working in retail, so I was like, “I’ve got to have a creative way to do this because I don’t have set hours with what I’m doing.” The online thing worked great for me.

What was your career path initially? What did you do right out of school?

I had a pretty diverse set of circumstances throughout my career. Right out of college, I started managing at a 22-screen AMC movie theater. I was one of 6 or 7 managers at this huge movie theater. That’s how I started my career. I took over. Everybody does operations manager in a theater that size, but then you also have a specialty area. I became the HR manager and training manager, so I did all the hiring and training of all of our people.

From there, I moved further into the retail setting. I took over as a store manager of Kinko’s, which is now the FedEx office. It was quite an experience because, at that time, all the Kinkos were still 24 hours. Managing a 24-hour retail store was interesting because you work hours, go home, have dinner, and then you would get a phone call. Your overnight person was calling in sick. You have to go back and work all night then too.

I did that for years and got to the point where I’m like, “These hours are wearing on me. I’m tired of the retail setting.” I went into the nonprofit world and took over managing National Livestock Association. I did that for about eleven years and took that organization through a variety of challenges. It had a lot of challenges from the very start. It worked well for my personality because I’m good at solving problems. I took that organization, grew it, merged with another national organization.

BYW S4 16 | Indispensable Leader
Indispensable Leader: Don’t try to exist on one end or the other between manager and leader. View it more like a Venn diagram where you’re picking the best characteristics from both to become an indispensable leader.


It went through that whole merger process. I got to a point where I was like, “I’m ready to be done reporting to boards.” I got new bosses every single year as new board members came in. Eleven years of that was a long time. I moved into my role, which is with a leadership development company. We do leadership coaching, leadership training, and strategic planning for companies. That fits well for me, especially being on the operation side and being able to help the organization from that standpoint.

Why did you decide to go into leadership development?

I don’t know that I ever made a decision early on in my career to do that, but leadership has always been a big part of everywhere that I was. Even when I was at Kinko’s, while I was a store manager, I did leadership-based training for our district and our region. I participated in a lot of CEO groups within that organization. It has always been an important part of me.

On the people side, I tend to build strong relationships with my team members. I spend a lot of time on the hiring process to get those individuals in, and then I try to coach them along because that is important. When this opportunity came up to go to a company specializing in that, it seemed a perfect fit. That’s how I ended up doing that.

You wrote a book on leadership. What’s the title of your book?

It’s called the Indispensable Leader.

Why did you title it that way?

The whole premise of the book is this idea. You’ve heard people say, “Are you a manager? Are you a leader?” I start out the book by saying, “I think that’s the wrong question.” I know a lot of great managers who are also good leaders. By asking the question, “Are you one or the other?” It means you can’t be both. I don’t think that’s right.

I said, “Look at it like you have both manager and visionary characteristics.” You have those manager characteristics that are highly organized and process-oriented. They are the people who are asking about what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it, and then you have the visionary side where you have those folks who are high visionary, lots of ideas. Those are the folks who are explaining why we’re going to do it. They’re highly passionate.

Leaders are made, not born. Click To Tweet

The premise of the book is you should try to become an indispensable leader. What that means is rather than trying to exist on one end or the other of that spectrum between manager and visionary, which you don’t want to be on the far end of either side. View it more a Venn diagram where you are taking the manager and leader characteristics, overlaying them, and picking the best traits of both to create yourself into this indispensable leader position. That serves you well. The book takes you through that. I use a lot of personal stories from throughout my life that illustrate various things and characteristics that are important, both from a positive and a negative side. I talked through those things as well.

How do you define leadership?

That’s difficult because everybody views it a little bit differently. In one form or another, it’s the ability to be able to influence others towards a vision. You have to be able to convey what the vision is. That might be some overarching vision, or that might be some, “We have this project to complete. This is what it’s going to look in the end.” You have to rally people behind some vision in order to accomplish some task or overarching vision.

That’s the whole essence of leadership. There’s a lot that goes into it because you have to build a lot of relationships, deal with interpersonal things between team members, and coach people along. Depending on what the task is or what you are trying to accomplish, those can be easy things or very complex things that take a long period of time to accomplish.

What is it that makes a great leader?

There are a lot of things, but a few of the specific things that I talk about in my book, one of them is great leaders are people who are curious. They want to constantly be learning. They know they don’t have all the right answers. That’s one thing when I hire people, I always say, “I’m not trying to hire a cookie cutter of Darby because we already have a Darby, and that’s plenty. I need people who can fill the areas that I know I have less skill in.” I’m looking for people to fill those gaps. How you know that is by constantly learning and thinking about what you know and trying to stay curious about things.

A great leader understands that not everything’s going to be easy. I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my career, and I talk about some of them in my book. You don’t let them sink you. You hear that a lot when you talk about people who are entrepreneurs, but that applies to just general leadership. It happens. You are dealing with people and situations. There are going to be setbacks. You have to view those as challenges and opportunities, things that only add to your experience.

When I look back at some of the challenges I’ve had, I can see how they helped me in my career. It didn’t feel great at the time, but it was beneficial in the long run. A couple of other things is that great leaders listen. They listen to understand. They don’t just listen to respond. What I mean by that is you have sometimes had people where you are talking to them, and you can tell they are trying to think in their head and know what they want to say. That’s all they’re thinking about is how they’re going to respond to you. They don’t hear what you say. You have to listen so you can understand. One of my mentors told me this at one point, and it made total sense. Spend your time listening, and when it comes time to act, you have to be able to act. You have to make the decision. That’s why you are in your role, so make the decision and move forward.

The last thing is great leaders are kind. I tell people, “Be kind.” Everybody has their own stuff going on. If you think about the team members on your team and everything they have going on, you are not going to know everything going on in their lives. They’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to have days when they get upset and say something stupid to you that they probably should not say to their boss or manager. You have to understand that everybody has stuff. You have stuff in your life that will help you as a leader. There are certainly a lot more than that, but those are some of the main things that I talk about when I coach individuals.

Do you think that being a great leader is something in you, or is it something you can learn?

BYW S4 16 | Indispensable Leader
Indispensable Leader: Great leaders listen to understand, not just to respond. Some leaders just think about how they will respond to you, so they don’t hear what you’re saying.


I talk about this in the book. I am a firm believer that leaders are made and not born because I’m a perfect example. I gave you that story of being an introvert. I would never have imagined that I would ever lead people until that point in college, where it shifted. That was all because of my experiences in college and the opportunities I was given.

It had nothing to do with how I was born. There are people who are born who may be more charismatic. Those things help, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be a great leader. You can have a highly charismatic person who is not a great leader. I’m a firm believer that leaders are made and not born.

Has leadership style or teaching changed over the last years?

It has changed over some years, but it’s changed over many years if you go back further. It’s because the economy in the United States itself changes. That means that things are going to shift. We certainly have a much different workforce now than a few years ago, with challenges with hiring and folks moving on more quickly. Those create different leadership challenges that force you to adapt as time goes on.

Now, things are less dictatorial than in my father’s age, where you had a boss, and the boss said, “Do this,” and you did it. That doesn’t work as well nowadays. In some industries, that still happens, and it’s necessary. Within the military, you follow orders. That is much different. Out in the world and industry, it’s become a much softer approach where you have much more open communication and dialogue.

There is a need to have much more explanation to your team members as to why something is important. Not just, “Do this. You don’t need to know why.” They need to know why because you want them behind your product and business. You want to have that culture built because otherwise, you are not going to be successful, especially nowadays when you want to retain good employees. You’ve got to have a great culture. That means they have to understand what the company is trying to achieve and represent.

I’m going to throw a scenario at you. You’ve got a business where the team is made up of five generations now. You’ve got the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Z, and Millennials. It’s challenging to lead different generations because they think differently. How do you do that? As a leader is in their 50s, trying to connect, not be dictatorial, and have a softer approach, how do you do that with so many different generations and now particularly more women than ever?

I got asked a couple of years ago to come and speak on the topic of generational differences. One of the points I made is this is not something new. They said, “Come talk to us about managing Millennials.” I said, “I don’t want to do that. Millennials get a bad rap, but I will come and talk to you about managing multiple generations.” One of the things that I said, and the whole point of my whole talk was, “This is not any different than it has ever been. There have always been new generations coming into the workforce and other generations slowly exiting.”

There has always been this mix of people. It’s different now based on the technology, products we do, and the service-based economy we live in. What it comes down to is you have to understand, in particular, learning and communication styles. This isn’t based on generational. This can be the same generation. If you think about even within one generation, individuals on your team, some people learn better by reading, hearing something, some people need to be shown. You have to take all those things into account.

True core values come from what your culture really supports. Click To Tweet

I spend a lot of time with people I coach, talking through some of those things and saying, “You need to understand and adapt to all of these. You may have a preference, but you have to understand that you are working with other individuals who have a different method of learning or communicating.” What that means is if you are dealing with a situation where you have a Boomer and a Millennial or Gen Z, those are two different types of personalities, but that doesn’t mean they can’t coexist.

That Gen Z or Millennial has to understand that when they want to talk with the Boomer, they need to either pick up a phone and talk to them or they had to walk to their office, make an appointment, sit down and talk to them. At the same time, the Boomer needs to understand that sometimes that Gen Z or Millennial doesn’t have time or want to have a face-to-face conversation all the time. They may need to send them an email or a text message nowadays.

It means that everybody has to be adaptable no matter what their generation is. Generation X is the most adaptable, and I’m in the X Generation. We are a bridge between multiple generations because of the timeframe we grew up in. That has happened throughout history. Even if you go back before the Boomers or back to the greatest generation during the World Wars, you have the transition taking place back then as well.

When I did the research for this talk, I went back and looked at different research and different articles written at the time. Every generation says the same things about the next generation. You had the greatest generation saying about the Boomers that they’re hippies and don’t care. Nowadays, you see the same thing. People say those things about Millennials. They don’t care about anything. They’re not loyal. In reality, it has been the same all throughout history.

Here’s a challenge in that same scenario that I was telling you about. This leader, the CEO, tried to be adaptable. He tried to handle all the different ages, scenarios, drama, and all the stuff that comes with each one. It ended up being a mess because nobody was happy. Everybody was trying to do everything their own way, and it didn’t work well. He started losing people, and morale was down. I keep hearing that that’s the way to go, but I don’t necessarily ever see it work. I’m curious if you see an example out there that you can think of that has worked. In theory, I get what you are saying, but in actuality, I’ve never seen it work well. Maybe you have some examples of that.

The places that I’ve seen it be successful is when people don’t focus so much on the generational differences but look at the similarities. They also focus on the company culture itself. What does the company believe, and how do people of all ages and genders affect them and get engaged in that culture? That is a challenge. It takes a lot to build a culture, and it takes a lot to change it if you have a culture that you are not happy with.

Here is the thing about culture. A lot of companies have core values and think that’s what they build their culture around. We have these core values and put them on the wall. We’re trustworthy and have a high amount of respect. The problem is that those are not true core values. True core values are what is it that your culture supports. What is it your people believe? How do they act on a day-to-day basis? If you look at that and determine what those things are, and they’re not what you imagine or want them to be, then you have to slowly start making a shift. It takes a concerted effort.

In the company I’m in, we altered our core values a number of years ago. We were not having a major issue, but we decided it was time to go back and reevaluate them. We spent a lot of time talking with all of the team members and understanding where people were. We adjusted them. You could do that, and then you could hang them on the wall and say, “These are our core values.” It doesn’t work, and it doesn’t help the culture.

It took our leadership team constantly talking about them. When an issue came up, when something good happened, we would say, “How does this relate to the core values?” We would constantly ask those questions. In team meetings, we would ask individuals, “How did you see your team members over the last week? Use our core values.” We’ve done that now consistently for the last couple of years. It took a long time, but eventually, that became so ingrained in our culture that we used those core values. Everybody believes them and onboard with them. We use them to hire and use them to make decisions on firing, and as we do coaching, we use them with our clients. Focusing on it from that aspect instead of the generational differences is where I’ve seen the most success happen with companies.

BYW S4 16 | Indispensable Leader
Indispensable Leader: As a leader, keep learning because change is going to happen. You have to be highly adaptable. So make sure that you’re constantly curious about trying new things.


What are the core values of your company? Give us an example of what you were talking about how something connects to those core values so we can put this into practice.

They are, “Better together, continuous development, authenticity, get things done, and love what we do.” All of those five things are what we focus on. When we come into a team meeting, you hear a lot of times where team members will reference other team members for better together. They’ll say, “I talked to so-and-so and needed help on this with this client. We were having this issue. They stepped up and helped me out.” Those are great examples.

The authenticity piece is a great core value because we use that with team members. Are you truly being authentic? That doesn’t mean being trust trustworthy. It doesn’t mean being honest because you can be honest with somebody and not be authentic. What authentic means is that you don’t hold something back even by saying the unsaid thing. I can tell you something that is true, but if I hold something back, you don’t get the whole story.

We use authenticity within our team. It’s also a great core value with our clients because sometimes we have to use them, especially coaching somebody. Sometimes we have to say, “One of our core values is authenticity. I’m going to be upfront with you here on this.” You give them some honest feedback. Sometimes you’ll be authentic because you screwed up. For example, we billed somebody wrong. You call them up and say, “One of our core values is authenticity. We want to be upfront. We messed up, and we billed you wrong. Here’s the situation. We want to make it right and work through it with you.” That’s what I mean. You have to ingrain those things in everything you do every single day.

Let’s talk for a minute about culture. Everybody talks about culture. You’ve got to have a great culture. What the heck is culture?

I’m not sure I have a great definition for it. It is a buzzword. You hear it a lot. When we focus on culture, we tend to focus on identifying your true core values and what your beliefs are. That’s truly what the underlying piece of your culture is on how you live. When you do the work and get into it, you may find that you have a negative culture or a culture that you don’t want. That takes quite a bit to shift. It may mean a total shift in how you lead, or it may mean that what will happen is you are going to realize certain team members are not the right people in the right seats, or they don’t belong in your organization at all, or they may realize that.

As you start to shift the culture, if they were adept at the old culture and were happy with having the negative culture, they will eventually figure out that they will not fit in the new organization. Those core values will lend themselves to help you build that base which is the basic underlying piece of what culture is in every organization. It gets a lot harder in large organizations because you have so many levels as you get bigger. Sometimes you have to take that down to a department and what that looks like within a department or location.

I was at an event, and the gentleman that was speaking had built a very large plumbing company from nothing. He talked about the origin of his business with his wife. Now they’ve got a few hundred employees. He has done well. He built it all on culture and invested quite a bit into his people, which you don’t see in that industry that people do.

He said it took him 30 years to build an amazing culture and 3 months to destroy it by stepping away and bringing in a new leader, and then it took him another 2 years to get back what he had before. I asked him, “What was the difference between the great and bad cultures?” He said, “It was leadership. It’s the leader that brings the culture, which then makes things better.” Culture has always been that hard thing. Everybody says culture eats strategy for breakfast, but how do you build a culture? You are saying, identify your core values and beliefs. What do you do with them from there to build that culture?

There's no silver bullet to building a good culture. It takes a lot of time and effort. Click To Tweet

You have to use them. We took our new core values when we did those years ago and designed our entire hiring process around them. We don’t do the old-style employee reviews, but we do quarterly one-on-ones with our team members. We built that process around the core values. In each of those meetings, we talk through the core values and say, “How do you think you are doing on this one?” I would say to them, “I agree with you,” or I would say, “I disagree. I don’t think you are doing as well on this one. Here’s what I mean.”

It’s not meant to be a punishment. It’s meant to help both of us. Maybe you’ve heard of the author, Gino Wickman, and the traction process. That’s what they do. They have a thing called the People Analyzer meeting. They do a plus-minus on core values. That’s what I’m getting at. You use those core values in everything you do, and it takes a long time.

The gentleman you talked about took 30 years to get it right. You are constantly trying to evolve that. That is true. It does not take very long to ruin it. We’ve seen it with our clients a number of times. We were working with a CEO that was highly engaged in developing their people, and they were working with us to help them do that. They exited, or in a lot of cases, they retire, and another person comes in, and that person doesn’t care as much. They’re a little bit more dictatorial. They want the stuff to get done. The culture takes a nosedive.

We have seen the same scenario where the original person was brought back in and had to fix everything again. There’s not a silver bullet to building a good culture. It takes a lot of work and time. When I approach leaders, they always want to have, “What’s the easy button for that?” There is not an easy button for that one. It takes a lot of effort.

Leadership is not easy, that is for sure. I spent a year in this leadership course, knowing that being a dentist for 32 years does not qualify me to lead a global company. I wish it did. I don’t know what qualifies somebody to be a good leader. What do you think?

It comes with a certain number of traits and some of those things that I talked about in making sure that it’s somebody who wants to constantly learn, evolve, and adapt to change easily so that they can be successful over time. Somebody who is s understanding and understands they don’t have the answers to everything and are not always right. I stated that I try to hire the right people. I’ve coached employees throughout my career where I’ve had folks who were hesitant to give you their opinion.

I’m like, “You need to tell me. I hired you for this reason. Argue with me, tell me why I’m wrong. I want you to tell me why I’m wrong. We are going to get to a point where I will have to make a decision, and we’ll move on, but tell me why I’m wrong right now.” That’s a great characteristic for a leader because that means that they’re open to learning and trying new things. That means that they’re going to be good listeners. They have to be understanding. I come back to those core things as things that are good for leaders.

I’m curious if we’re going to find in the future that the soft style leadership, listening to everybody’s needs, trying to be there for everyone and understand everybody, and emotional intelligence. I wonder if we’re going to find out that that’s dead wrong and that dictatorial is where we need to be. It seems like there’s a swing back and forth. Now we’re saying, “Dictatorial work. You need to be there and present and listen,” and all the stuff that we talked about. I wonder if that’s going to end up being a better leader than someone who goes in and says, “This is what we’ve got to get done. Let’s go do it, suck it up, quit crying, and let’s go.”

The most successful situations are going to be the ones that have a combination of the two. It was what I was saying where you have to listen, but you have to make a decision and move forward at a certain point. With my better way of personality, I want to get stuff done. We are going to find a better way to do it, and then we’re going to do it.

“I don’t feel like it right now. I’m sorry, Darby. I’m not emotionally here for that.”

BYW S4 16 | Indispensable Leader
The Indispensable Leader: How to Use Your Inner Manager and Visionary to Achieve Leadership Success

I am a very open leader, but I don’t have the patience for that level of attitude. We would have to have conversations about that. You are right. There will be shifts back and forth. It also depends a lot on the labor market because the company has struggled to find people nowadays. Eventually, it will shift again, and there will be high unemployment. There will be people that are looking for jobs.

If you got companies who are like, “I can go out and hire five people today.” It makes it a lot easier for them to say, “Do your job. I don’t want to talk about it.” There are shifts, but ultimately, I believe that having the combination of the two things. You’ve got to have it at a certain point, and then you’ve got to act and get stuff done because that’s how we make our money as a company. That is where you are going to see the most success. That has been the case throughout time.

The situation I gave you with the gentleman who went down the path of trying to be soft, understands everybody, listens to everybody’s needs, tries to meet everybody’s needs, and creates his organization based on that has become quite disillusioned. He’s like, “Screw this. I’m only hiring people here who want to work and contribute. Leave your stuff at home, come here, and let’s go accomplish something and we’ll see how that goes.” I’m watching it to see he’s swinging the pendulum in the other direction in a matter of months. We’ll see if that ends up being a more successful path for him.

That is the same situation. I don’t have time for what you described at the beginning of that either. It’s all about making sure you have that hiring process. I want my people and leaders to be open and understanding and have those things, but we have to get the stuff done. That is the priority. If you can’t do both, then it’s not going to work out. We are going to have to find somebody else, and you’ll move on to where you want to move on to. If you want to come and do a certain activity all time, there are jobs out there for you. Doing what I do in my company is not where you need to be now.

The last question I have for you is, what is the best piece of advice that you have ever been given or you’ve ever given?

It’s the same for both because it’s things that I’ve heard from mentors over time, but it comes back to some of those things that I already said. One of the biggest things is to keep learning because change is going to happen, and we have to be adaptable, especially as leaders. Make sure that you are constantly curious about trying new things. The other thing is something that comes up all the time when I coach people. It gets back to the easy button thing. Understand there are going to be setbacks. This is not easy. Leading people and organizations is difficult. If you are an entrepreneur, starting a company is difficult. It’s hard. There are going to be challenges.

Use those as opportunities, step up to the plate, accomplish what you need to accomplish, and then look back at everything you learned. I was part of a group in early 2020. The group that we were meeting was local business leaders. I say local because we had people in multiple states that were getting together to talk about how we could support each other through the challenges that had arisen. A lot of people had business challenges very early on in the process.

I remember one of the things that I said to the group, I’m like, “Imagine what we will learn this year. Imagine a year from now, when we look back, what we will have learned.” It was interesting because we had some restaurants that were in that group. The restaurant industry is perfect. Look at that entire shift that they made. They had takeout before, but suddenly you saw curbside, more takeout, bigger takeout windows, and places that were popping up that were takeout only. Imagine adapting to that.

My church is a great example. We have a pretty big church, so we had a video recording that went on the local cable station already, but we didn’t stream. We have the capability to, but we never did. We switched to streaming overnight. We learned how to do it well and put the words up to the songs on the bottom. All the stuff that we learned is a great example for leaders because you have to be able to adapt and learn throughout time. That gets to that other piece where not everything is going to go how you think it’s going to go. Stuff comes up.

How did it feel for you when your why came up as a better way?

I didn’t know what it meant until I read everything. As I read it, the vast majority of everything made total sense. I’m constantly looking for a better way to do things. You’ll hear a lot of the word efficiency. You hear me say a lot, “How can we make this more efficient?” You hear the word scalable like, “Is this process going to be scalable? That’s great for us as a $4 million company. Is it going to work for us as a $7 million or a $10 million company?” I use those words a lot. Also, looking through the stuff with building processes and everything, I’m very big on that. If we can create a process to make it more efficient and scalable, let’s do that. It pretty much made total sense.

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My why is a better way as well. I resonate with everything you are saying because that’s the same process I’m going through in my head. Our wheels are clicking together.

We have to be careful because those wheels start as soon as I hear an idea. I work with a very high visionary person, and I’m right in the middle, if you’d look at it as a spectrum, maybe a little bit on the visionary side. I have a lot of manager characteristics. I work with a very high visionary. He comes up with a lot of ideas, and I have to be careful because if he starts telling me ideas, I immediately start thinking of all the problems associated with them. That could be a challenge as well, so you have to balance that.

Darby, if there are readers who want to reach out to you, follow what you are doing, or hire you to come work with their leadership team or speak at their event. What’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

I’m pretty much on all social media. I’m most active on LinkedIn at Darby Vannier. My website is You can go there and the social media links are there. There’s a contact form and it has information about me and my book. If they visit, that will get them everything they need.

Darby, thank you so much for being here. I enjoyed talking with you.

Thanks a lot, Gary. I appreciate it.

It’s time for our new segment, Guess The Why. For this segment, I want to use somebody that’s current. If you are watching the TV series Yellowstone with Kevin Costner, you know his daughter named Beth. Beth is an attorney. She does not follow the rules, beats to her own drums, and is willing to throw a tantrum, fight, kick, and scratch to do whatever she needs to do to win. If you have watched it, you’d know who I am talking about. I would love to know what you think her why is because, for me, it’s obvious.

I believe Beth’s why is to challenge the status quo and think differently. She does not do law the way everybody else does. She says whatever she wants to say. She drives and creates for people in ways they never thought of. I’m sure she solves legal problems in an outside-the-box solution. I believe Beth’s why is to challenge the status quo. What do you think? If there is an area for you to write below, go ahead and do that because I love your perspective. If you have not yet discovered your why, you can do so at with the code PODCAST50. You’ll be able to get it at half price. Thank you so much for reading, and I will see you next time.

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About Darby Vannier

BYW S4 16 | Indispensable LeaderA respected operations executive whose diverse background includes leading multimillion-dollar, multilocation organizations and turning around underperforming operations into profitable, viable companies. His career spans 20+ years in corporate and nonprofit areas, where he’s leveraged broad, cross-functional experience to provide a holistic approach to operations management. He also specialize in revamping operational processes to strengthen efficiencies, enact long-term change, and improve overall performance.

A true servant leader, he is committed to hiring and developing talent who remain loyal and grow with the organization. A large part of his success comes from forging strong partnerships with colleagues and stakeholders alike, as well as respectfully challenging ideas, gaining consensus among groups, and establishing cohesive, positive cultures.


➺ Drove high growth at a professional services organization by developing new processes and best practices.

➺ Executed a major restructure for Alpaca Owners Association and guided the organization through several strategic planning initiatives; formulated and carried out strategies, hired and built teams, created new policies/procedures, headed rebranding and PR efforts, implemented the IT infrastructure, established HR functions, and developed training protocols.

➺ Facilitated a smooth merger of 2 competing national associations (Alpaca Registry Association and Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association); navigated several aspects of the merger, including operational and legal functions, board communication, and negotiations.


Operations Management, Restructuring, Change Management, Strategic Planning & Execution, Budgeting, Business Partnering, Process Improvement, Relationship Development, Organizational Development, Trend Analysis, Policy Development, Financial Management, Negotiations, Team Leadership, Mergers, Training & Development, Public Relations, Expense Control

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