In this series, I chat with various industry experts on the intricacies of business and discover what advice they can offer to both seasoned and emerging leaders.
I spoke with Jean Patrick, CEO of ScaleUP Edge, an exclusive community for C-suite leaders which provides a vital network, resources and support for executives scaling up their companies.
A strategic C-level executive herself, Jean brings a breadth of knowledge from a variety of industries to build, scale and transform organizations from small to large public companies. As the leader of ScaleUp Edge, she convenes a wide community of executive leaders, enabling them to overcome shared challenges and thrive together in ways that are often difficult for isolated leaders to accomplish. During our conversation, she shared how her leadership experience informs how she embraces change, harnesses diversity and builds teams that can succeed in complex environments.
How would you define leadership?
Leadership is really about bringing a group of people with you to a common goal. It’s creating a team and bringing them forward from a leadership perspective. You have to pay attention to people’s skill set, people’s motivation and people’s strengths and create a team around you to help drive toward that goal. You also have to be a strong communicator.
What I hear you say, in terms of leadership and some core principles, is that communication is key in order to be an effective leader. What other core principles do you think are important?
I think understanding your people is key. Understanding, listening, accepting differing points of view doesn’t mean that one’s right and one’s wrong. A leader must be clear on what the goal is and celebrate success, not necessarily just the final success, but to celebrate and acknowledge those successes along the way.
What are your thoughts on the recent mandates regarding inclusive leadership?
A mandate is unfortunate. I would say that for business leaders to have an inclusive mandate tells you that there is an issue, that there’s a challenge because you have to basically tell people you mustn’t or you must look at that. But we can’t sell that overnight. I work with a number of peers of mine and we talk about this issue. And the focus is really on bringing in different points of view, different experiences, differing opinions, and being able to recognize and understand them and listen to them, and that’s because you’re gonna be that much stronger of a team if you have that.
If you have people that look like you, that think like you, that work like you… For instance, if I brought someone that looks like me — doing the same things along the way, I’m not as strong of a team.
I don’t understand why there has to be a mandate to do this. I think all of us need to just accept differences, and understand the importance of that, and what it can do for you as a team and what it can do for you as a business.
What is the biggest challenge for a leader like yourself to successfully deal with different perspectives?
There’s probably two things. One is communication. My way of communicating can be heard differently by different people, so I have to really pay attention to how people are reacting and responding, and be open to questions. Another challenge I have is speed. If you take time upfront with those different opinions, your product or your solution is gonna be so much better. I’m this, “Hurry up, hurry up, let’s get moving, let’s get moving. I don’t have a lot of patience,” kind of person, but it’s taking the time up front to say “Let’s work through this,” especially in a start-up. It’s taking the time to listen.
What are some of the actions you, as well as your clients, instituted during this time in order to survive?
What we’re doing right now, like interaction on Zoom or other Google Meets. I think the other thing that I’ve had to experience and understand with my team is that I have a team that would work 24 hours a day. So now we’re working from home, and it’s easy just to pop in, so it’s really putting up some parameters around taking the necessary time off. I think that’s a big part of it. I’ve seen some of my clients host happy hours online. They will have topics on what’s their pet, what’s their favorite food, those kinds of things.
So you would say the lack of informal interaction is something that really hasn’t worked in this virtual world?
Yes, yes, absolutely.
What else would you add to the list?
Probably building relationships with clients as I would like to. In order to build relationships sometimes it’s good to go have dinner, just get to know people that way. I think we’re all so busy that it seems odd for me to say “Let’s just get on a Zoom meeting to get to know each other.” As we build our clientele base, it’s that relationship building that has been a challenge.
Looking forward to a post-pandemic world, what do you see as some key opportunities that lie ahead for businesses?
There’s a lot of technologies that are coming up in the cloud and there’s ways for us to run our business online. So I think we’re gonna see more and more of those business technologies aim to better integrate so that they aren’t all separate systems, so it’s a very technology and systematic approach. I also think we’re gonna have people with different skill sets down the road. We’re gonna need people who understand the data, understand the analytics, and understand what happens with all of that.
What are some concerns that you have observed that we need to pay attention to as we venture into a post-pandemic arena?
One of them is for companies that are going back into offices to think about the people that are uncomfortable in going back. Think about that transition. Going back to the office, I don’t think it’s gonna be as easy as it was when we had to shut it down. I worked for another company when we shut down with COVID. We were a global company, a larger company, and we did it within a day and a half. It was easy. We were a technology company so it was easy and we had some remote workers at the time. As a leader within an organization, I think we all need to consider people’s reaction and response to this transition.
I also think we’re gonna be in a different place from where we started. I think we’re gonna see more people working remotely and more people using the technologies that are available to us. I think we as leaders have to be comfortable with people working from home, when and if we choose and have that as an option. We’re gonna be able to pull from a different people hiring set, because if we can reach out to global remote workforces, we should be able to do that a lot easier now that we’ve lived through this pandemic.
What would be the best advice you would give your younger self?
Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t ever get satisfied.
This interview has been edited for space and clarity.