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 Lynne Doherty, executive vice president of global sales and marketing at McAfee. Lynne is responsible for the team that ensures that McAfee delivers a premium experience and strong security outcomes for our customers. Her customer-first team includes all sales, pre-sales, channel and marketing groups that support our Enterprise business.
Lynne has been leading sales organizations and driving positive business outcomes for customers for more than 20 years. Lynne joined McAfee from Cisco, where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of U.S. Commercial Sales — Cisco’s largest, single-market sales organization. In this role, she oversaw a team of more than 2,000 employees, drove $8B in revenue annually, serving 400,000+ accounts. Prior to this position, Lynne led Cisco’s Security Sales for the Americas, overseeing a $2B portfolio of products across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. With her extensive security and industry expertise, Lynne played a key role in the integration and go-to-market strategy efforts following Cisco’s acquisitions of Duo Security, Umbrella and Cloudlock.
Throughout her more than 15 years in various sales and leadership roles at Cisco, Lynne built a reputation for leading high-performing, international organizations that capitalized on competitive opportunities and cultivated innovative initiatives that disrupted markets and drove technology adoption.
Lynne holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and started her career as a programmer at Bell Atlantic before joining Sun Microsystems as a Regional Executive in Sales and Engineering.
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?
I graduated college from Temple University with a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. My first job out of school was as a programmer, then I became an engineer, then engineering leader and after a few years decided I would give sales a shot. From there my career in sales has grown, and I’ve spent the last 20 years leading many different sales teams across the world, which has all brought me to now leading the Global Sales and Marketing team at McAfee.
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?
Very early on in my career I learned a lesson about making assumptions that people will understand a story or joke out of context when you aren’t telling it face to face or on a call. I sent an email to my organization that was meant to show some humor, and unfortunately many people didn’t understand the humor in the context of my email. They took it as a serious matter and required me to do some backtracking to make it right.
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 owe a lot to one of my managers who first urged me to take the jump into becoming a leader. At the time, I was an individual contributor and getting into leadership was not on my radar. He pushed me to take it on, that I was ready even if I didn’t feel like it and that I had what it took to be successful in the role. I’ve learned that when you see potential in someone, it’s always a great thing to encourage them and give them that push if they need it.
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?
McAfee has been the trusted brand for consumers, enterprises and governments for the last 30 years. From the beginning, our purpose has remained the same; we are committed to keeping the world safe from cyber threats. This is our commitment because people are at the center of why we care about keeping the world secure, and we remain focused on protecting them and all that matters in a digital world.
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?
When September 11th, 2001 occurred, my entire team worked in World Trade Center 2. Through the many difficult times that followed that tragic day, I learned you need to show up and lead your team starting with the human side of things, to make sure they are both mentally and physically okay. Next, you can focus on the business side of things to support one another as a team and take care of your customers. Having a team to rally around during uncertain times can give people a purpose that they may need despite the potential chaos around them.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Giving up isn’t in my blood, and I naturally am a very competitive person. This gives me motivation to always give my A game effort, but that doesn’t mean every day it’s easy. A quote that I keep as the wallpaper of my phone says: “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” I find that this holds true to both professional and personal life and is a good reminder to look at as I start my day.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Many qualities go into what makes a good leader during challenging times, but one of the most important is to inspire our teams and to make sure they understand the ‘why’. To do that, you need to stay close to your people and remind them that change is a constant in the world we live in. We all must be flexible, patient, willing to help and work hard at being adaptable.
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?
Team culture and morale is so important in good times and in bad. Even more so, with many companies being more virtual, if not fully virtual, having a good team morale is critical to success! Allow yourself and your team to have some fun every now and then because laughter truly is the best medicine.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
One of the best ways to do this is through being an effective and authentic storyteller. The ability to explain context and the “why” behind certain decisions your company may have made allows your team to understand why you’re asking them to execute or behave in a certain way — and that’s meaningful. I’ve found that if they can understand the why, they will be much more willing to jump on board and execute on what you are asking.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
As leaders we must recognize that there will always be certain things in our control, and other things out of our control. Focus on what is in your realm of impact, and make sure that you are doing your best in those areas! It could be something as small as having your teams back by showing up to support them in challenging customer conversations, helping push through an order or putting in a phone call. We all have something in our scope of control that provides a sense of comfort for our team to know that we are going to go all in to help them. Another example is how you motivate and hold your team accountable. You may not be in charge of what your goal is for the year, but you can build a plan with what you have to get you there and then track against that plan to make sure you achieve it.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Don’t forget to take time to celebrate the small wins. As humans, we have a tendency to always be our own toughest critic. Constructive criticism is positive, like debriefing to decide on what worked, what didn’t work and what could be improved is a critical step, but make sure to celebrate your achievements along the way. It sometimes takes many small steps over months times to see a final result!
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?
- Not sharing the “why” behind a certain decision that was made. This is the first step in the process of storytelling, inspiring your team and staying transparent to enable them to believe.
- Not sharing progress made against a decision to evaluate how it’s going. If we aren’t tracking against goals and holding ourselves accountable, then we can never say if it was the right one.
- Not “making it right” if a wrong decision was made in an attempt to move fast vs. get it 100% perfect. Tied to the above point, if something isn’t going as planned it’s okay to work to fix it after the fact!
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?
I say this to my team all the time, but in challenging times there are a few things we can do to stay at our best and it comes down to our foundation. I call it “being brilliant in the basics”. Have you taken your training? Have you invested in your development? Have you kept your tools and CRM data up to date? The list goes on, but these are all things that keep us successful in good and bad times. Another one is how we show up. We are always in control of how we show up to customers, partners and teams, and being reliable and with a positive attitude will stick with people.
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.
- Build your network: Be a mentor. Get a mentor. This is often the one that falls to the bottom of people’s “to-do” lists, but it is the most critical piece of building a successful career.
- It’s not a ladder, it’s a jungle gym. There is no “right” way to build your career. Do what is right for you based on what you’ve learned, where you’re at in life and the connections you’ve made.
- Attitude matters: Limit the negative place. It’s okay to be frustrated with certain decisions made by your company or your customer but be sure to limit the time you spend in that headspace. Give yourself 5 minutes and then move forward with your best foot!
- Focus on what you can control. There are so many things we can’t impact, so focusing on what you can impact creates purpose and progress.
- What difference did you make? EVERYONE can make a difference no matter your role or level in your company. If you show up every day giving it your all, then you will impact those around you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is from Maya Angelou and it’s something I’ve kept with me throughout many stages of my career: ”I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” As a leader, one of my greatest goals is always to impact my team in the best way. They won’t always remember what I said or decisions I made, but I hope that I’ve made them feel supported, inspired and energized.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Follow me on Twitter @Lynne_Doherty or on LinkedIn!