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7 Questions with Rick Gawdat
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7 Questions with Rick Gawdat
Name: Rick Gawdat
Current title: Global Head of Sales & Marketing
Current organisation: Grok Learning
After spending my early career as a Humanities secondary school teacher in Australia, I made the leap into technology sales and then marketing and leadership roles with some of the world’s leading tech companies. These days I am combining my educational DNA with my technology commercial skills and enjoying the challenges of growing a dynamic start-up.
Outside of my family, I am a passionate sports nut and have taken an interest as a shareholder in a number of small start-up sports companies that provide coaching services to kids of all ages and abilities in Australia across soccer, rugby league and cricket. As a former player, coach, trainer and supporter, this is my way of giving back to a part of the Australian lifestyle that has played a huge role in shaping who I am today.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Needing to be across every aspect of your enterprise even when it's not your area of expertise.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Like most people in a senior position, from humble beginnings. I worked really hard, showed respect for others along the way, wasn't afraid to take risks (and sometimes fail) and stayed focused. Patience is also important as is resilience as life seldom follows a linear path. Stuff always goes south and we need to accept this is part of life. As Rocky said in one of his movies ``it's not about how hard you can hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!"
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Early rise, quick coffee hit then off to a workout. Exercise keeps me fit, relaxed and focused. I balance the operational daily needs with the strategic problem solving activities as best I can and make sure I leave enough time to plan the next day's activities. Planning and preparation are keys. I eat lightly through the day and drink lots of fluids, mostly water. I always make time to chat with colleagues and peers, it's important to stay connected and be present. I try not to work late so I can spend time with my family and then if I need to do more, clock back in after 9pm. I don't need much sleep, so I make use of later hours when needed.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
You can have the world's best laid plans but then life gets in the way. Apropos COVID 19. Pivoting and remaining open to change is extremely important
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?
The Power of One by Australian author Bryce Courtney. The central character PK comes from a very disadvantaged and discriminated against background during a tumultuous time in South Africa. Despite this hardship, the bullying he experiences as a child, the death and torture of people he grew to love and the loneliness he felt as an orphan, he manages to rise above it all. He used his adversity to his advantage rather than allowing it to destroy him. The character goes on to become a top flight lawyer fighting for the rights of black South Africans. This taught me to not let adversity define you, rather use it to learn and grow stronger from it.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Simply put, show empathy to others. Everyone in an enterprise thinks, and rightly so, that what they are doing, is extremely important to the success of the enterprise. As a leader, I need to accept this, understand why it's important to my colleagues, never belittle it, and try to be a part of their world, helping to solve their challenges rather than ignoring them. People will trust you, like you and follow if you can show empathy.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Recently, at another company I was at, one of our global execs suddenly passed away. This left a very large operational and emotional hole in our company. And this was right in the middle of a major acquisition play. I and 2 of the other senior execs, had to take on the workload of our late colleague and rally to learn about their remit and get to know their staff. On top of this, we had to find a way to plug the hole left in our acquisition work which was well underway. It took a lot of teamwork, collaboration and sensitive management of our teams but we got through it using empathy, understanding and putting people first. Without taking this approach, we could have derailed a great deal of work and opportunity.