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A Q&A with Kelly Gay

Arketi Group CEO Mike Neumeier, APR, recently chatted with Kelly Gay, former SVP & GM of IoT Vertical Markets at Sierra Wireless, former Co-CEO and COO at Numerex and former CEO and President at Omnilink Systems and KnowledgeStorm.

During their conversation, Kelly provided some interesting insights to share with you. Here they are …

Mike: What are the five stages of organizational change?

Kelly: According to the book Beyond Performance 2.0 by Scott Keller and Bill Schaninger of McKinsey & Company, the five stages of organization change are:

  1. Aspire
  2. Assess
  3. Architect
  4. Act
  5. Advance

Mike: I’ve read this before. Do you agree?

Kelly: Hmmm … Based on some learnings from a leadership group I was a part of once, my five stages of organization change are:

  1. Defiance 1: No thank you. I appreciate the suggestion, but no thank you.
  2. Defiance 2: Are you talking to me? I can’t hear what you’re saying.
  3. Defiance 3: What you’re suggesting can’t be done. We have processes/people/structures that can’t possibly succeed with this.
  4. Defiance 4: Well, I mean, OK, we’ll give it a try, but when it fails, it’s on your head. Just remember that I told you this wouldn’t work.
  5. Acceptance: Well, yeah, now that you have explained it to me four times, I understand the importance of doing this and the impact of not doing it. I’ll help.

Mike: Defiance times four! Yes, I’ve had to deal with nay-sayers, too. Change obviously comes with traveling a different, innovative path. Good for you for finally getting acceptance after several blocks.

What are some of your guiding principles?

Kelly: Attitude is a critically important differentiator

At the start of my career, I could tell immediately I had a more positive and optimistic attitude about my ability to contribute to sales than others did. I remember my first manager saying to me, “I love watching you come back from a customer call because you always have good news.”

It wasn’t always good news, and usually it was no news. But my attitude was always positive, upbeat and one of pulling people up with me.

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My manager didn’t have to spend her limited time trying to convince me to do my job. And she didn’t have to talk me into taking on difficult customers or tasks. Because of that, I took on disproportionate responsibility. It was easier to give it to me than cajole or convince someone else to take it, and then convince them they could succeed. My differentiation early in my career was simply an optimistic, positive, get-the-job-done-no-matter-what attitude.

So, my advice is this: Figure out what you are good at, something that capitalizes on your personality and strengths, and then focus on contributing in a disproportionately positive way. In most jobs, the last thing a manager wants to deal with is someone who doesn’t believe in themselves or their company and drags others down. I consider it weak, taking the easy road, to be a pessimist.

Mike: I love that! You know, Charlie Chaplin once said, “You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”

And then there’s Oscar Wilde, who said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” It’s such a great saying that the Pretenders used it, with a slight tweak, in the 1981 hit song, “Message of Love.”

I can add to both quotes by saying, Look up – there are rainbows, birds, clouds, stars and potential in the unknown! Our clients want creativity, optimism and a can-do attitude.

What’s another principle that guides you forward?

Kelly: Believe in success

How hard is it to think you are going to fail? How hard is it to fail? Both thinking you are going to fail and failing take no effort whatsoever.

Inherent in a pessimistic attitude is the assumption that all those other people in an organization are the ones that can be counted on to get the job done, because the pessimist doesn’t intend to. You can’t advance a company or a career with that as a foundation.

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Mike: Great advice. So, what else drives you? Do you have any other guiding principles?

Kelly: It’s all about the end result

Take purposeful, well-thought-out actions, played out over a period of time, step by step. Yes, it’s time-consuming. But if it is worth doing, then it is worth doing with the intention of winning.

Play to win all the way to the moment that you either win or lose. If you win, great, you got the outcome you expected all along, and your image as a go-to person with a magical ability to succeed is substantiated yet again.

If you lose, it can be crushing – debilitating. But it is a moment in time to learn from, instead of a long period of mediocrity brought about by not believing and not planning.

Control the outcome you seek. Do it through preparation and thought. Don’t leave an outcome to chance.

Mike: I like your outlook on life – on work – on succeeding in business. I agree that attitude is everything.

Thanks, Kelly! And congratulations for the well-deserved recognition of being awarded the 2021 John Imlay Leadership Award from the Technology Executives Roundtable (TER), an organization of more than 120 Georgia technology leaders.

Read more about the award here: https://www.ter-atlanta.com/assets/pdf/ter_imlay_press_release2021_final_10-26-21.pdf.

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