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To Build Trust, Have ‘No-Agenda’ Meetings, Says CEO Ron Simmons

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In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Maxwell Leadership Thought Leader Don Yaeger sits down with longtime Retirement Advisors of America leader Ron Simmons to discuss his trust-building skills as both a business leader and member of his state legislature.

When Ron Simmons co-founded the Retirement Advisors of America, a wealth management company for retired commercial airline pilots, he developed the practice of holding a 20-minute meeting with each of his team members with “no agenda other than getting to know each other.” Managing other people’s money had taught Simmons that trust was the foundation of any strong and lasting relationship, and he applied that lesson as a leader of others as well as himself.

“I learned early on that if I wanted to be able to accomplish things, I needed to have my colleagues trust me,” Simmons explained recently on the Corporate Competitor Podcast. “If you can develop a personal bond with someone, then when some conflict arises, you can melt it away a lot better by drawing on your understanding of the person.”

The credo served Simmons well at Retirement Advisors of America, which at the time of its sale to another investment firm in 2019 had more than three billion dollars in assets under management, and it continued to serve him when he turned to public service. During his first term as a state representative in the Texas House of Representatives, he did something nobody had ever seen in that august body: he made it his mission to have in-person meetings with every other state representative and senator, Democrat or Republican.

That’s 179 meetings in 70 days, all agenda-free and designed to start a productive and personal relationship. “Sure I wanted to pass legislation I thought was important,” noted Simmons, who co-wrote a book titled Life Lessons from the Little Red Wagon with yours truly. “But if I walked in there and said, ‘Representative Smith, I’m here because I need you to sign on to my legislation,’ I’m not going to get very far. It’s the same way in life. If you’re going to develop a long-term relationship, whether in business, politics or otherwise, you’ve got to start out by simply not asking for anything.”

Now, there’s a radical notion! Leave it to a small town kid from Arkansas to reintroduce the art of person-to-person bonding as an effective leadership tool, but that’s exactly what Simmons does in the podcast as he traces his leadership development from the football and baseball fields of Junction City, Arkansas, to the C-Suite of business and halls of policy making. Today, Simmons is chairman of Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

In the podcast, listeners will learn:

• How even a casual conversation builds bridges while teaching you about a person.

• What playing small town football teaches you about perseverance.

• The advantages of being a jack-of-all-trades rather than a specialist

“You can be only slightly above average on everything, but if you couple that with excellent work habits, you are going to find victory,” offered Simmons, who managed to play middle linebacker at a modest 160 pounds. “You don’t have to be extraordinary as long as you work hard.”


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