Home Career Advice Seek to Understand Before Wanting to Be Understood

If we meet the needs of clients in a competitive manner, we can make a profit and give back.


Seek to understand before wanting to be understood.

Peter Layton
Tallgrass Group LLC


“That concept resonated strongly with me early in my managerial career,” says Peter, who leads the Tallgrass Group, LLC in Arlington Heights, Illinois. “As a leader and manager, it’s critical to understand and appreciate the variety of ways people communicate. To achieve effective communication, it’s important to be aware of your own preferences as well as how others listen, understand and respond. Only then can you truly share a vision and respond to their needs.

“Becoming aware of that concept was a game changer for me. I’m comfortable communicating with numbers and equations, but that doesn’t resonate with everyone. Being aware of whom I’m speaking with and what we need to accomplish makes a big difference in my approach.”

In 2005, after retiring from a career as partner with Goldman, Sachs & Co., Peter made the transition to the environmental restoration business. He serves as CEO of the Tallgrass Group, the parent company of a number of corporations specializing in different aspects of ecological restoration, where he applies his deep knowledge of financial rules and trends. A key member of the Tallgrass Group is Tallgrass Restoration, LLC, which focuses on environmental projects concerned with the preservation and restoration of natural resources. Project teams provide ecological restoration services including stewardship, native plant installation, wetland delineations, erosion control, invasive species control and more.

In addition to his responsibilities with the Tallgrass Group, Peter continues to manage investment funds financial futures as a partner in both Blackthorne Capital Management and Efficient Capital Management.  He is also Chairman of the Boston Options Exchange Group, LLC, a joint effort by the Boston Stock Exchange, Inc., the Montreal Exchange and Interactive Brokers Group LLC.

Peter shares the success philosophy and leadership advice that have helped him navigate his career path and manage a wide range of businesses and people.

“What I do in the world of finance didn’t exist when I went to school. That came about with the advent of computer technology, financial theory and evolution of the markets. It’s unlikely that what you study in college will be the same as what you end up doing in your career, and chances are you won’t learn the skills from a textbook. You will be given tools and have to figure out how to apply them. It’s challenging and rewarding. It pays to hone and identify your skill sets, explore the variety of ways you can use them, and take advantage of the opportunities.

I recommend getting the best education possible. My parents and high school teachers emphasized that point and I viewed it as an option to do more with my life. I knew if I was going to succeed, it was going to be based on the effort I made. Going to the University of Chicago made a positive difference, especially because of the doors it opened and exposure it gave me to the financial community.

As you enter leadership roles, always hire people stronger than you. Find the absolute best talent you can and pursue them aggressively.

By building strong organizations you can make a real difference. At Tallgrass, many of our people are biologists and botanists who came from the nonprofit arena, and some were not comfortable with a for-profit model. Some didn’t think we could make a profit and still do good works. I tell them we will do more environmental good with a for-profit because we work with organizations that have resources and can invest in making a real difference in our environment. That’s the beauty of the free market system. If we meet the needs of clients in a competitive manner, we can make a profit and give back. That’s a cornerstone of the Enactus philosophy. In fact, being involved with Enactus is some of the best advice I can offer to any college student!”

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