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 Andrea Martin.
She is an executive in the energy industry, where she leads a multi-million-dollar operation. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and holds her master’s in business. She started her career working in oil rigs, where she discovered her passion for leadership early on. She believes in fostering a positive team culture and empowering others to achieve a fulfilling career.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?
Absolutely! I am a first-generation Peruvian American immigrant and moved to the United States as a teenager. I was the first in my family to pursue a non-traditional path. I graduated college with a degree in Chemical Engineering and immediately embarked on working for one of the major oilfield companies in the world.
I worked crazy schedules and managed crews of men three times my age right out of college. I worked internationally for several years and decided to come back to the United States to pursue an MBA. I met my husband not too long after and now I am a mother to two toddlers.
I currently lead a multi-million-dollar operation with an incredible team of high performers. I love what I do, and it is a gift to have found a career path that pairs up engineering with the leadership perspective every day. Due to the size of my team, every day comes with new challenges but that keeps it fun.
I have always been very intentional about my career progression and I am deeply passionate about being an example that women can have it all. This passion led to becoming the Founder and CEO of Success Blueprint Vault, a career-focused membership tailored specifically for the ambitious woman that wants to achieve those powerful roles without sacrificing their personal life.
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?
I think looking back I am sure I had plenty of rookie mistakes. I was working at such a fast pace that I could not dwell on any mistake or I would have been behind my training schedule. I think this was my biggest takeaway from all those experiences. You will have times that you make a funny or embarrassing mistake, but odds are nobody will remember so do not let that be a roadblock in your career path.
None of us are able to 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?
I could not agree more. You should never underestimate the power of a good support system and never take it for granted. It takes effort and strategy being a full-time career-focused woman, and a present and loving mother and wife. I have two kids that I want to be a role model for, and I am endlessly grateful to have an incredible husband who supports me every step of the way.
Just over a year ago, we realized my career was evolving and we decided to focus efforts on mine without sacrificing our children’s needs. He took on the role of a stay at home dad and he is our foundation. When it comes to salary, bonuses, promotions, etc.; those are our wins because it truly is a team effort.
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?
During my career, I have realized many talented professionals are forgotten due to a lack of strategy. The hard truth is that intelligence and hard work will only get you so far. Therefore, I founded Success Blueprint Vault.
My mission is to help professional women elevate their performance and career fulfillment through my proven strategy. My vision for this membership is to create a vehicle for women to have their dream career and a bank account that matches. Success Blueprint Vault is designed to place you in the driver seat and shift your mindset from a 9–5er to that of a CEO.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
I have the experience of being part of an industry that has had several ups and downs. This has given me first-hand experience of what myself and my peers valued from previous leaders.
I take my role as a leader extremely seriously and I understand I cast a powerful shadow on my team. I always try to meet my team where they are at. It is important to differentiate when you need to be a sounding board, when to encourage and when to march ahead.
I tell my team members that my role in the team is the umbrella and that I want to remove as much rain as possible so they can remain effective. However, to be able to do that I need them to trust that I will stand by their side. In times of stress, if you want to keep that trust then you must follow through with action.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I do not think I have ever considered giving up, but I have experienced burnout in the past. This was back when I did not understand the power of harmony and I thought the hustle mindset was the only way to be successful. However, this is no longer the case. I manage the many aspects of my life by staying true to harmony and saying “no” a lot.
I think to remain motivated you must have a clear picture of your destination and why it is important to you. When I think about what sustains my drive, I can’t help but get emotional because my WHY is directly tied to the legacy I want to leave behind for my children, the life I want to live with my husband and my passion for paving the way for other women to follow. You must have a WHY so powerful that motivation and drive are fueled constantly.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader during challenging times is to remember we are all human beings. Everyone is dealing with different circumstances at home and to expect your team members to separate personal and work life is unrealistic.
It seems simple but with many business pressures, we must not forget that at our core we need to meet the basic needs of our team.
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?
One of the best ways to boost morale is to foster an environment for growth, regardless of outside factors. What I mean by that is if promotions and raises are on hold, nothing is stopping the leader from helping the team continue to develop professionally. I would ask, how can you support your team members to continue to develop new skills and feel challenged regardless of the company’s situation?
In addition, this is an opportunity for the leader to communicate early and often with their team. While everyone is grateful to have a job, we must acknowledge that things are different and stressful. You must lead by example and inspire others through action. People are looking at the leader for signals, even subtle ones, so we must remain engaged and focused on what is ahead.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
In uncertain times, what people crave the most is authenticity. Do not let the idea of the perfect message, note or e-mail hold you back from simply sharing the message. I’m a firm believer that “messy action is better than no action”.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
I think it is important to remember that the future has never been predictable. We can always infer what we think will happen but when creating plans, we must be able to use what we know today. By instilling a culture of adaptability, it allows changes in plans without a loss of momentum. As a leader, we must be present and right alongside our team when the plans are changing to ensure resilience is not lost.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
I think the #1 principle is “Focus on what you can control”. It is about knowing that no matter what there is valuable work to do. As a leader, is it our responsibility to ensure we don’t lose sight of that and allow noise to take control of the business.
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?
There are several common mistakes you see during difficult times, but I think there are three key ones to be aware.
The first mistake to avoid is losing top talent. It is important to remember that while you might not be able to provide a financial gain, your top performers want to stay challenged. You must identify those key players and keep them engaged.
The second is that everyone is adjusting to a smaller workforce and most likely pulling double duty. I see many companies treat this as their new “normal” without missing a beat. You must acknowledge what you are asking of your workforce or you will lose engagement and productivity. If it is all hands-on deck right now, you must vocally acknowledge and show gratitude for your team’s efforts.
Lastly, I see leaders get wrapped up in what their supervisor is asking of them. This is an opportunity to stand your ground and prioritize according to what is best for the team and business deliverables. We cannot forget that if we are asking our teams to pull double duty, it is our responsibility to ensure everything they are being tasked with makes absolute sense.
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?
Measure the right key performance metrics and focus on money-generating activities. It is so easy to forget that at the end of the day, there are only a handful of actions that truly generate revenue. It is important to remove the “nice to haves” and deliver on what is needed today.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. 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.
Create a save environment for meaningful feedback
The right environment for feedback from your team and vice versa is by far the most important thing to lead effectively. Your team must be able to come to your office, close the door and tell you what they really think. These conversations are what instills trust and accountability. In my experience, there is nothing more refreshing than when my team feels comfortable providing candid feedback. We are all humans; we will not always get it right and meaningful feedback is having each other’s backs, so we are ultimately more successful.
Understand what your team needs to succeed
What each team member needs to succeed will look different. You might have team members that need to be reassured of the plans and near-term goals. You might also have team members that thrive in uncertainty and a little bit of chaos. Understanding every person’s intrinsic motivators is key to being able to lead the whole team effectively, during difficult times.
Know your weaknesses but play to your strengths
During turbulent times it is important to leverage the collective strength of the team. This could be minimal disruption to key roles and responsibilities. If your team has a great cadence and is delivering effectively, allow them to do that. The key here is that everyone continues to feel challenged in their role. If you need to get creative, this is the time to do it.
Give your team the recognition they deserve
This one is simple but acknowledge that your team is going above and beyond right now to deliver. They are doing this even with a million things to balance at home.
This can be a simple gesture that goes a long way. I got this idea from my boss, but I have “gifted” a Friday off after an individual has gone above and beyond. The reaction from my team members when this happens is priceless and the gratitude is endless.
I added listening to the list because it is powerful but easy to forget. This is simply listening to the tone of voice of someone over a virtual meeting or listening to what they have going on. It is about seeking to understand the emotional thermostat of your team, so you know where you are needed most.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Early in my career, I decided I would always push past my comfort zone, even when I was scared. I wrote this quote to always remember what I wanted to accomplish: Remain humble and hungry for knowledge but know you already have everything it takes to make an impact in the world.
This has been my reminder that I created my seat at the table and that I do not need to constantly prove to anyone why I am deserving of it. However, I do constantly drive to become 1% every day because my growth potential is up to me.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can connect further with me on:
- Instagram @mrs.andrea.martin
- LinkedIn (linkedin.com/mrs-andrea-martin)