As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Haas.
EVP of Sales and Marketing, Jennifer Haas, is known for building and scaling high-performance teams focused on continuous improvement and transformative growth. For two decades, she has had the honor of holding progressive global leadership positions in Fortune 100 companies and start-ups in the technology and healthcare sectors. Throughout her career, Haas has a proven track record of achieving notable outcomes in her roles. She brings with her a deep understanding of the sales process, a willingness to roll up her sleeves and a calculated approach to leadership, marketing, deal sourcing, channel development and goal-oriented go-to-market strategy through to execution.
Most recently, Haas went from leading a national Business Development team in a $1.6B segment of the $40B tech company Oracle to having P+L responsibility as the EVP of Sales and Marketing for Noteworth, a SaaS company focusing on digital medicine in the Healthcare market.
Haas serves on the board of Mama Hill’s Help and was the Chairman of the Oracle Rep Advisory Board. She is a regular panel participant and speaker in the tech space and the partner community. Haas has a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Washington and has completed executive education at UW Foster Business School for Corporate Governance and MIT for Financial Leadership.
Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have always been very driven and had to grow up fast, so I learned about responsibility early. Being in multiple sports taught me about teamwork, and both internal and external competition. Starting a business as a youth paved the way for me to learn about time management, sales, organization and customer success. Early on, I realized that I had a knack for leadership and commanding an audience, which drew me to sales right out of college. Mastering these skills, developing new ones and taking calculated risks as I progressed in my career have opened many opportunities.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
In challenging times, leading with empathy and clarity become huge priorities. A leader keeps the company stable and headed in the right direction. This can be done in many ways, like making data-driven decisions and looking for micro and macro changes in the market/industry to ensure stability and deliver predictable results. Keeping your team’s morale strong and ensuring you communicate regularly with your employees eases stress, shows trust and allows them to be a proactive part of the solution. Even in difficult times, there is always something to celebrate and lessons to be learned that will make your company stronger when times improve. Challenges drive innovation and opportunity and you will need to rely on your experience as well as “gut feel” to make the hard decisions that ensure long-term success.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?
Motivation must come from within; however, leaders must understand what uniquely motivates each employee and leverage it. I try to remember that I do not manage employees, I lead human beings. Each employee wants to feel appreciated and have a role that matters. They want to make an impact and it is my job to help guide them towards the best way to do that. I like to cultivate a healthy culture where people feel challenged and rewarded. It is critical to ensure that milestones are met and key performance indicators are achieved, but it is also salient to ensure that your employees know that you see and value their contributions. Celebrating wins, consistent hard work, or extraordinary achievements is well worth your time. Things like a handwritten note or gift card are kind gestures that go a long way.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The key is to maintain flexibility in turbulent times. The more agile you are, the more quickly you can pivot as needed. Unpredictability can shed light on new opportunities or show you that a current strategy is not working. My favorite tactic is to brainstorm with a small team and set up a few market tests of new ideas to see if they are effective before a large-scale rollout. This way you mitigate your risks and can move more quickly. It is critical to stay close to the pulse of everything: your team, your customers, prospects, the market, the competitive landscape, as well as the company at large.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
● “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” — Tony Robbins
● “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” — J.A. Shedd
● Sometimes we all get stuck or stagnant, but we are all meant to learn and grow. That means taking risks and getting outside of your comfort zone. I have always been drawn to the challenges and the high stakes projects because that is what will help me grow and sharpen my skills. When the game is on the line, I want the ball.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Twenty years ago, I worked a B2B sales role and was knocking on doors when I went into a large building that looked promising. I had a ton of success and was excited to secure a few meetings. I was sitting with a prospect and suddenly two security guards ran in. Apparently it was a non-solicitation building and they were looking for the evil sales rep that had been knocking on doors. They asked me to vacate the premises, but my prospect stood up for me and ushered security out. I walked out of that building with a few of my first deals and tough skin.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My boss at General Electric, Bob Harner, was an incredible leader and support for me. It was the first time I felt that someone believed in me and invested in me. Under his guidance, I built an enterprise-level skill set and rose to the top of a nationwide sales team.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Noteworth has always been myopically focused on the relationship between the care team and the patient. We aim to transform healthcare to better serve patients and clinicians by offering an opportunity for proactive care focused on wellness, better patient outcomes and more engaged patients.
Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
We are going through challenging and uncertain times right now with the pandemic. We have had to pivot drastically, move more quickly at times and slow down at others. During this time of rapid change and uncertainty, it is imperative to keep the end goal in mind. It is important to be flexible enough to adjust quickly to an ever-changing environment and keep morale high while doing it.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Giving up is always an enticing option in a difficult moment. It is important to adopt a growth mindset. When things are not going well, I like to focus on the skills that I am building while working through a new challenge. This always gives me the motivation to continue to grow.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Clarity is kindness. Be direct. Communicate the challenge and let your team know the plan to work through it.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
When in doubt, focus on your customers and lean into the strength of those relationships. Everything that I do focuses on my customers and keeping their customers (in my case, their patients) happy. When times are turbulent, the one thing that matters the most is listening to your clients. Make sure you know how the hard times are affecting them, how their goals are changing and determine how you can be a part of a solution to ease their burden. We are all in this together. What is important to my customers is important to me as well.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
● Choosing to hide or run from tricky situations — Make confident decisions and adjust your sails as you need to, but continue to move forward.
● All business all the time — You must remember that we are all human. Make time to get to know your team.
● Avoid Micromanagement — If you hire the right people, trust them to do their jobs and make it your goal to remove roadblocks to success.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
So many obstacles and distractions can derail your attention. When in doubt, spend time with a customer. Keep their needs at the center of everything you do by focusing on solving their problems and making their lives easier.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
● Self-reflection — Foster a culture of continuous improvement and growth
● Clear communication — Clarity is Kindness. Set clear expectations. Be as transparent as possible. Establish clear lines of communication.
● Setting a vision and direction for the company — Ensure everyone knows the value they bring and the part they play. Start with the end goal in mind. I like to set a five-year vision, a three-year strategy and yearly tactics to keep us on track.
● Know your Customer — What is driving them — How are you evolving to help?
● Build the next generation of leaders — mentorship and sponsorship matters.
How can our readers further follow your work?