Leadership Lessons for Challenging Times: A Beginner’s Guide
As a seasoned tech CEO and entrepreneur, I have personally witnessed the immense value of effective leadership, particularly during times of adversity.
Recently, we had the privilege of hearing from Stacey Epstein, the CMO of Freshworks, during our Leadership Day at G2’s Midyear Meetup. Stacey, a member of our esteemed Executive Advisory Board and a renowned veteran in enterprise software, shared her invaluable insights on leading through change.
Why Maintaining a “Refusing to Lose” Mentality Matters
Stacey drew parallels between business and sports, using NBA star Steph Curry as an example. Despite his relatively small stature, Curry refused to adopt a losing mentality. Stacey, a former collegiate soccer player herself, embraced this mindset as a CEO.
In dire situations when everything seemed to go wrong, Stacey’s refusal to give up became the driving force behind finding a path forward. This unwavering determination, shared by her leadership team, eventually led to a successful acquisition.
The Temporary Nature of Economic and Business Cycles
Both Stacey and I have experienced the challenges of economic downturns. Stacey emphasizes the importance of remembering that these cycles are temporary and encourages leaders to communicate this perspective to their teams.
She shared an anecdote from her early career as a sales rep, where she went from landing an amazing deal to facing a shortage of opportunities in the following quarter. Rather than getting bogged down by temporary setbacks, Stacey focuses on the long view, assuring her teams that tough times will pass.
Empathy and Removing Obstacles for Your Team
In difficult times, understanding your team’s personal motivations becomes crucial. Stacey emphasizes a hands-on approach, where leaders actively work to comprehend and eliminate the barriers their teams face, rather than simply issuing orders.
By fostering a sense of unity and motivation, even in the direst circumstances, leaders can create a team that feels connected and driven towards a common mission.
Prioritizing Sustainable Growth over Short-Term Metrics
Amidst the chaos of daily operations, it is easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal: building a profitable and sustainably growing business. Stacey believes in elevating this principle as the North Star that aligns the entire team.
Achieving long-term goals requires clear and efficient goal setting through OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and well-defined roles and responsibilities.
Letting Negative Emotions Pass and Taking Action
Stacey practices the art of letting negative emotions pass and swiftly shifts into problem-solving mode. Whether it’s a rejuvenating hike or a strategic pivot in the business, she firmly believes that taking action is the antidote to the paralysis induced by negativity.
When faced with challenges, Stacey does not dwell on the problems but instead focuses on finding solutions. This lesson is something she actively imparts to her team. Personally, I resonate with her advice to embrace exercise as a means to overcome negative emotions and adopt a problem-solving mindset.
Focusing on the Long-Term Vision
Stacey’s leadership style can be characterized as a combination of hard-won wisdom, empathy, and an unwavering focus on the long-term vision. It is not just about surviving the challenges; it’s about leading a united and motivated team that thrives despite them.
Final Thoughts: Embrace the “Refusing to Lose” Mentality
Reflecting on Stacey’s invaluable lessons, it is crucial for our team at G2 and other business leaders navigating tough times to remember that while budgets may be tight and growth may be slower than desired, it is an opportunity to test our potential.
By embracing a “refusing to lose” mentality, staying focused on the long-term vision, and recognizing these difficulties as temporary phases, we can overcome challenges and emerge stronger than ever.