Q&A with Division Vice President Herb Dierking

Herb Dierking’s management career has taken him across most of the United States. He joined Extra Space Storage as a PACE Manager (DMIT) in Dallas-Fort Worth 14 years ago, but his journey of hard work and steady progression in the self-storage industry started even before that. After graduating from high school, Herb served in the United States Navy, which gave him a strong foundation in discipline, strategy, and teamwork. Although he initially considered a career in law enforcement upon returning to civilian life, he found his niche in the storage industry, first in 1999 with Shurgard Storage Centers in southern California, and later with Assured Self Storage in Dallas before his long tenure with Extra Space.

Over the years, He has taken on various leadership roles and responsibilities, managing markets in Dallas, Kansas City, Wichita, Colorado Springs, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, as well as overseeing operations in areas like Austin, San Antonio, Tulsa, New Orleans, Jackson, MS, and many more. His promotion to Senior District Manager in 2018 and recently to Division Vice President highlights his growth and the trust placed in him by the company, his leaders, and his teammates.

In this Q&A, Mr. Dierking shares insights into the experiences that have shaped his approach to leadership and success in the industry.

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

It’s truly remarkable how mentorship and the wisdom shared can profoundly shape our professional journey. Early on in my career, a mentor imparted invaluable advice that has since served as a guiding principle for me. He stressed the significance of operations manuals as indispensable tools, but also highlighted their limitations in fully comprehending and managing the intricacies of the human experience.

At the core of this advice lies an acknowledgment of the unpredictable nature of people. It instilled in me the necessity to go beyond the confines of written procedures and embrace adaptability. This approach encourages viewing each situation through a lens that combines knowledge, instinct, and resourcefulness. This mindset of flexibility and continuous learning has proven to be indispensable in navigating the dynamic landscape of professional relationships and work environments. It fosters an environment where challenges are met with agility, and opportunities for growth are seized with enthusiasm.

Moreover, this advice underscores the importance of aligning our choices with the values of our organization. By doing so, we not only ensure our actions are congruent with the overarching mission but also cultivate a culture of informed decision-making and collective success. In essence, it’s about fostering an environment where both individual and organizational growth are mutually reinforcing, propelling us toward shared objectives with clarity and purpose.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?

Balancing work commitments with personal life has been a significant hurdle for me, particularly during periods of frequent travel, once averaging 2-3 days per week to remote markets. Initially, I perceived this demanding schedule as a form of professional exile, grappling with prolonged separations from home while managing the logistical complexities of flights, accommodations, and transportation. However, a pivotal shift occurred when I encountered the wisdom of Dr. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

Inspired by Covey’s teachings, I underwent a profound transformation in perspective. I came to realize that my role in overseeing remote markets wasn’t a punishment but rather a testament to the trust and respect bestowed upon me by the company. This revelation prompted a reframing of my perception of professional demands, unveiling the inherent value I could contribute during these challenging circumstances.

With this newfound mindset, I embarked on a journey of embracing the trials as opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Instead of viewing travel as a burden, I embraced it as a chance to deepen relationships, broaden my knowledge, and make a meaningful impact across diverse settings. By recognizing the trust placed in me and leveraging it to navigate challenges, I discovered a more fulfilling balance between my career and personal life, turning what once seemed like obstacles into pathways for growth and fulfillment.

How has Extra Space helped in your professional development?

Over the past 25 years, my journey in management has been a dynamic mix of personal and professional development, largely influenced by the exceptional support and guidance from a myriad of individuals. From my humble beginnings at Shurgard Storage in May 1999, where I entered the industry with limited knowledge, I was fortunate to encounter remarkable mentors who continued to shape my path as I transitioned to Extra Space. Names like Gary White, Rashede Peoples, Beau Agnello, Megan Hammer, Matt Herrington, Craig Foley, Kenny Speegle, and others stand out for their invaluable advice and unwavering support. Moreover, initiatives such as Extra Space’s Leadership Development Program and engaging experiences like division meetings and networking with top executives have played a pivotal role in sculpting my career trajectory.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic presented unprecedented challenges, disrupting our operations in unforeseen ways. Yet, amidst the chaos, there was an opportunity for profound growth. It was during this period that my leadership skills were put to the test, and I emerged from the ordeal more resilient and adaptable. Throughout the turbulence, Extra Space remained a steadfast source of support, offering mentorship and opportunities that enabled me to navigate through uncertainty and emerge stronger.

As I reflect on the mentorship and opportunities that have shaped my professional journey thus far, I am filled with gratitude. Looking ahead, I am energized by the prospect of further learning and growth within the company. My commitment remains steadfast—to continually push myself, absorb knowledge, and make a meaningful impact on those around me. With a renewed focus on continuous growth and purposeful contributions, I am ready to embrace whatever challenges lie ahead, emerging from each experience more empowered than before.

How do you approach challenges and problem-solving in your role?

When accepting the role of Division Vice President, I understood the need for a more proactive and strategic mindset, given the expanded responsibility over more stores and team members. Interestingly, I found some inspiration in an unexpected place which, as a rock music fan, resonated deeply with me.

In the 1980s, Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth devised a unique tactic to uncover potential issues before their concerts. The band famously specified in their touring contract that a bowl of M&Ms be provided backstage, but with the condition that all brown M&Ms must be removed. While this may seem like typical rockstar diva behavior, it actually served quite a clever purpose. Buried in their contract was Article 126, which acted as a subtle litmus test for the venue staff. The presence of a brown M&M signaled whether the technical requirements had been meticulously reviewed and understood. It served as an early warning sign of potential oversights or lack of attention to detail.

I see the metaphorical brown M&Ms concept as a reminder for us as leaders to stay vigilant in identifying early warning signs or indicators within the operation. Ask yourself the question: Where are the brown M&Ms in your operation, and how can you strategically identify and navigate potential challenges before they escalate?

What advice would you give to future leaders?

Shifting from musicians to martial artists, I truly appreciate this wisdom from Bruce Lee: “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is essentially your own.” Just as martial artists must adapt techniques to suit their individual strengths and styles, so too must business leaders navigate the complexities of their industry with curiosity and adaptability.

As you embark on your journey in the business world, remember to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to explore diverse strategies and methodologies. While conventional wisdom can offer valuable insights, don’t hesitate to question its applicability to your unique circumstances. Trust in your intuition and leverage your personal experiences to determine the most effective approaches for achieving your business objectives.

True leadership and innovation emerge from authenticity and individuality. Embrace the diversity of perspectives within your team, empowering each member to contribute their own insights and ideas. By fostering an environment of openness and experimentation, you not only drive business growth but also inspire those you mentor to embark on their own paths to success, rooted in their authenticity and fueled by their unique contributions.

Looking to grow and advance your career? Learn more about leadership opportunities and other jobs on our careers page.


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