Professional Development

The art of enrollment

How to bring people along on your idea journeys

By Nate Garvis & Tom Wiese
Monday, February 22, 2016

If you don’t know him personally, we are willing to bet someone in your network knows Lars Leafblad. He is co-founder and principal at Ballinger | Leafblad Inc., an executive search firm here in the Twin Cities, and he is a master enroller. He is also one the very first members of Studio/E.

Enrollment is interrelated with selling, but is distinct from it. Selling is persuading and convincing people to focus on your self-interest, whereas enrollment is inviting others to combine their desire with yours. When you enroll, you’re asking people to add their own individuality to your idea, breathing life into it. Enrollment is a catalyst to make things bigger, better and more sustainable.

We are firm believers that greatness is accomplished by the power of two or more people, making enrollment a key competency to master. This union is where magic happens, but it takes effective enrollment skills to get here.

Becoming a Master Enroller

Lars started his professional career working for a leadership development program at GE Capital Fleet Services. In typical Lars fashion, he had various coffee meetings to connect with folks in the community. One meeting turned out to be just the catalyst he was looking for. The executive recruiter he met with said, “I do executive search because we get paid to be connectors for our clients.” The light bulb went on and in October 2007 he joined KeyStone Search as principal and co-chair of the nonprofit practice.

Lars later spent 18 months as leader of the Bush Fellowship Program. It was this very work that inspired him to build the successful business he runs today. Recognizing that he and his former KeyStone co-worker, Marcia Ballinger, had an immense desire overlap, the two of them launched Ballinger | Leafblad Inc. in 2014. This executive search firm serves civic clients that include nonprofit, foundation, higher education and association organizations — a result of their communal desire to help organizations in the civic sector find executive leaders.

Connection by connection, Lars strengthens our community. The good news is that anybody can be an enroller like him. Whether you’re early in your career or a seasoned veteran, an artist or an executive, you can learn how to be an enroller.

Here’s what works for Lars:

Trust: Being trustworthy is one of the most important attributes a human being can possess, and it’s something Lars has got down pat. “Trust comes when you’ve shown reciprocity or giving without any return,” he says, and this is precisely how he has positioned himself as one of the most trusted connectors in the metro area.

Show Your Scars: If you plan to enroll someone — whether you want help turning your business idea into a reality or you’re looking to fill an executive position at a nonprofit — Lars says vulnerability is a requirement, and an easy way to show your vulnerability is to admit your failures. When you publicly open up about judgment error, you create an opportunity to show folks — your potential enrollees — how you handle mistakes.

Build bridges before you need them: In college, Lars read Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, soaking up the premise of becoming a resource so that when the time comes to ask for something in return, you’ve dug yourself a well. “It’s a practice I’ve sought to be conscious of,” Lars says. “Put yourself out there to connect for good, and good things happen.”

Recognize Others: Celebrate, honor and lift up the good work and intentions of others without prompts. This counter-cultural action gives people the excitement and support needed to keep doing good. Any time Lars sees someone give a memorable speech or be profiled in a magazine, he shares it on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The action on your part is nothing grandiose, he says, but the impact it makes is. Recognize, share and repeat.

Lars’ contribution to our community is invaluable, and it is largely because of the work he does as a connector and master enroller. If you adopt these enrollment practices in your business and life, you will evolve into someone who is a catalyst for effective action, has improved relationships and makes our community an even better place.



Nate Garvis and Tom Wiese are founding partners of Studio/E. They are both Senior Fellows at the Lewis Institute’s Social Innovation Lab at Babson College, as well as co-owners of Earn Influence, a consulting firm that helps its cool clients profitably travel into the unknown with clarity and confidence.