I recently sat down with Scott Baradell, CEO of technology PR and marketing agency Idea Grove. During our conversation, he shared the key takeaways from his new book, Trust Signals: Brand Building in a Post-Truth World.

Here are excerpts from the full video interview:

What’s your biggest leadership lesson from 2022 that will affect how you lead in 2023?

For me, it’s “Don’t make excuses.” It’s very easy to adopt an excuse mentality, saying things like, “This is why my business isn’t doing well,” or “This is why my employees are unhappy.” However, when you do that as a leader, it will trickle down to your teams. 2022 really highlighted that for me with navigating a new phase of COVID as well as inflation, quiet quitting, and high employee turnover. It’s not that these things aren’t factors for issues leaders are facing, but you must focus on things you can control. It’s important for leaders to absorb this themselves, but they must also make sure everyone on their team is aligned on this thinking too.

In the past few years, you’ve modified your agency leadership, adding a President/COO and elevating other agency executives, all who are clearly leaders in their own right. What are your three top principles about leading leaders?

Hire people smarter than you and with complementary skills to you. Hire those who are good at what you’re not good at, and get out of the way. The amount of time that you spend managing someone is overlapping time, which makes your company less profitable. Find someone’s true passion and where they can contribute best, so you can just delegate and go. They'll be happier too. You’ve got to hire the right people and put them in the right seat.

You recently published “Trust Signals,” about how PR, communications pros and marketers can build trust with their audiences. Why is trust such an essential skill for leaders?

No one will listen to you if they don’t trust you. As a leader, you must communicate to employees, in an authentic way, that you have a larger purpose and that you want them to be a part of it. Rapport-building establishes trust, which is necessary to get them to Step B: Listening to you about anything else.

What if there’s a leader who suspects or knows through feedback their employees don’t trust them to the degree they’d like them to?

You’ve got to be able to make people feel psychologically safe to share with you. If people feel like they’re going to be reprimanded for giving negative feedback, you’ve got to get to the root of skepticism. Once you get to the root, then you can hopefully take it head on. Maybe it requires an apology. Maybe it requires acknowledgment that you’ll do things differently. Maybe it’s something you have to work on within yourself. But it’s hard to figure any of that out if you can’t get first someone to talk to you about the problems they're experiencing.

You’ve got five children in your family, ages 2 to 15. What has that taught you about effective leadership?

You learn more about leadership through parenting because kids have so much to learn. They make mistakes, and they do things that can be frustrating. Compare that to someone in the workplace, learning how to handle those situations with empathy and patience. Embrace the fact that it’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding work.


Ken Jacobs, PCC, CPC, is the principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching, which empowers PR and communications leaders and executives to breakthrough results via executive coaching, and helps communications agencies achieve their business development, profitability, and client service goals, via consulting and training. Please find him at www.jacobscomm.com, [email protected], @KensViews, or on LinkedIn.