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Suite Talk: Filson Thomas, president of Archegos Consulting

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Filson Thomas is the head of the Brookfield-based Archegos Consulting, and he explained the pronunciation of his company’s name is “ar-khay-gos.” It’s a Greek word, he noted, which can be translated as “trailblazer” or “pioneer.”

“My wife came up with this name and I loved it,” he added. “I wanted a name that is unique. And once people come across, they remember it.”

Archegos Consulting President Filson Thomas. Photo by Phil Hall.

Thomas’ company focuses on leadership coaching strategies designed for both companies and business professionals. In this edition of Suite Talk, Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall learns about Thomas’ approach to consulting and his views on cultivating leadership abilities.

How did you get into this line of work?

“I’ve been in the IT space for 20 years. I started my career in India, and from there I was in the Middle East and Europe, and then I came to the U.S. Seven years ago, my employer was trying to define the objectives of the year, and I said, ‘How about doing a one-day team-building exercise?’ Long story short, he said, ‘What’s in your mind?’ And I said, ‘I’m not so sure.’ And he said, ‘Let me get this straight: You want me to lock me and my entire staff in a room with you for one full day, and you don’t know what you’re going to do?’ And I said, ‘Well, something like that.’ And he said, ‘Approved!’

I started to build a program and put together a team-building exercise, and then after my workshop was over, my manager came over and said, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever attended. I’d be willing to pay $3,000 to attend a workshop like this.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’

A part of me thought that he was just being nice to me, but three days later his manager called me and said, ‘Filson, I heard about your workshop.’ Then his manager was holding a meeting for his 375 employees and he asked me if I could speak in that meeting. Then, I knew they meant it.

I fell in love in the process of personal growth and development, and that’s when I got partnered with the world’s number one leadership guru, John C. Maxwell. For seven years, I was on his team and now there is no turning back. I launched this as a full-time business two years ago.”

Pardon me if you’ve heard this before, but are leaders born with that distinctive take-charge personality or is leadership something that can be learned?

“My mentor, John C. Maxwell, often said, ‘Of course, leaders are born because I’ve never seen an unborn leader.’ In one of the programs that we do, we understand the temperaments of people and there are certain temperaments where people are go-getters.

When I see a lot of definitions of leadership, and the definition I like the most is ‘influence.’ The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less. If you can influence someone, you lead them. If you do not influence, you do not lead them. As you can see, there is no one that does not lead anyone. There is a measure of leadership that we all have. But with a certain group of people, it comes very naturally. Certain people have to work on some areas, but then you build it up.

I would also say the foundation of leadership is relationship. In order to have a good influence, you have to build a good relationship. Certain people who got promoted and a title as a manager, and with that title influence comes. But that is the lowest level of leadership. The real leadership is at the relationship level – leading by influence and relationship.”

How does your coaching differ between corporate audiences and individuals?

“I focus on leadership, personal growth, communication. From what I have seen, corporations are not interested in personal growth. They are interested in leadership and communication. But when I am going to the entrepreneurs and the small-business owners, Realtors and insurance people, they don’t want leadership but they do want personal growth and influence training. I bring my leadership component into my training, but instead of calling it leadership I call it influence.”

What are some of the more interesting challenges that you’ve encountered as a leadership coach?

“The biggest challenge is mindset. What I see in the corporation is, sadly, the accounting systems look at office machines as assets and the people are put in as costs. So, when there is cost-cutting, they cut the costs and put warranties on the assets. But once you understand your real assets are people, that’s when your company will grow. If people don’t grow, the company doesn’t grow. Once you develop your people, their capacity increases and the company flourishes. No company ever grows that doesn’t have a good employee development program.”

Where do you focus your work?

“I have one client that I am helping in Dallas, but my focus is a 20-mile radius. With the service I have and the virtual world, I can go anywhere.”

What are your goals for your company?

“I want to grow. I love what I do – when you love what you do, it’s not work anymore. One of the things I am looking for as I grow my business is a training facility. When I do my workshop, I am renting hotel space. We are trying to get a place to set up my own boardroom and training room.”

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