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Name: Diana Saadeh-Jajeh
Title: EVP, Chief Financial Officer
Organisation: GameStop, Inc.
I am a Fortune 500 public company CFO with thirty years of strategic leadership experience helping public companies grow worldwide, developing new generations of leaders and championing both digital and organizational transformation. I bring experience with global public and private companies with revenues ranging from $100M to $20B and across a broad set of industries, including consumer, retail, and technology. I am a qualified financial expert with a strong background in board governance practices through her work with corporate boards and audit committees as well as her service on non-profit boards.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Engaging and inspiring talent working remotely. I still believe in face to face interactions are the best way to communicate, influence and align. Having to work with exceptional talent that you see only on video is not the same and very challenging for a leader to cultivate a lasting relationship with your employees.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Through soliciting feedback throughout my career to improve. I would ask every peer, business partner and leaders directly and indirectly working with me for one feedback that will help me improve and advance. Discipline in achieving my results as in getting the difficult things done first and leaving the easy stuff to the end.
Extreme organization skills. Clear goals of what experiences I wanted to gain. Always volunteering to take on more responsibilities regardless of the extra amount it took. Constant learning through executive education programs. Having mentors (I had at least 5) to help you navigate the difficult situations and put things into perspective and working hard.
I came from the Middle East after high school and started to set small goals for myself and every time I accomplished the goal, I would set a new one. For example, I wanted to have a double major in both Accounting and Finance, then I wanted to get my CPA license, then I wanted to get my MBA.
Similarly on the work side, I wanted to get to every aspect of operational and technical accounting as well as strategy and finance models. Once I felt comfortable with one, I would seek another experience to complete my tool set.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I believe in establishing consistent habits that become natural and on auto pilot. I start my meetings at 9am to give me a chance to get ready, go for an early morning walk, check the news, read emails and adjust my schedule for the day. I usually have back-to-back meetings in the mornings.
In order for me to accept a meeting, I demand each meeting requiring my attendance to have a meeting objective and an agenda to be sent ahead of time. All meetings are maximum 30 minutes. If we need to spend more than 30 minutes, then the team is either not prepared with facts and recommendations or have lost focus. For each meeting, I request next steps recapped and an email confirming what we agreed on and who is accountable for each step with a clear due date.
I take a break in the middle of the day and check the web for anything and everything which may not be business related but something to get my head in another space. The afternoon tends to be lighter from meetings perspective so I can reflect on the meetings from the morning and focus on the next day/week. I make it a point every day to recognize someone in the organization that caught my attention and will send an email to that individual to let them know how impressed I was.
I reach out to an outside party at least a few times a week. Those could be our bankers, vendors, investors, and other third parties. I hold leadership meetings biweekly and one on ones touch bases with my leadership team for 30 minutes weekly. All touch bases and staff meetings take place in the afternoon. After work, I go for another walk, and try to connect with family and finally I unwind by watching TV while checking emails and catching up with the team.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
While I might feel I have well communicated the vision for the future and the strategic roadmap to the team, it may not necessarily be clear or enough to get alignment and focus on the company goals. Over communicating and brining the vision/strategy back to each interaction, each meeting and enforcing it in staff meetings might improve getting the message understood....but that might not be enough.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are so many. A recent book that I found to be very relevant is the Atomic Habits by James Clear. It definitely impacted the way I lead. The book is engaging, a hands-on guide to break bad routines and make good ones. It enforced for me the importance of small habits, consistency, time keeping, self-discipline, good planning, and preparation are fundamentals of good habit management and leadership.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Don't underestimate the value others bring to the team. There is plenty to learn from each other and I believe the diversity in people's experiences, lessons learned, successes and failures is what makes teams excel and companies thrive.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Listening to the team. In a recent exit meeting, I discovered things I should have known about and addressed before losing a great employee. It really emphasized the need to connect and engage with all levels of teams all the time. Keep a pulse on the team and resolve issues quickly.