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An Interview with Geoff Greenlaw: Building High Performing Teams with Humility, Respect and Trust

Level 3

Hello VOX Readers! Last week I published an interview with Jose Petisco, General Manager for Spain and Portugal. Did you see it? In this latest #LifeAtVeritas interview, I talk with Geoff Greenlaw about how he changed direction in his career from working in the food and catering industry to developing a rewarding IT sales career. During his tenure at Veritas, he has turned around a declining business and most recently moved to Dubai leading a successful Channel Team. Core to his leadership style is humility, respect and trust and this can be seen in how close-knit his team is. He describes Veritas as “game-changing” read on to find out more about Geoff and why people should work for Veritas. Enjoy the interview!

Meet Geoff GreenlawMeet Geoff GreenlawZoe: Hi Geoff, can you share with our blog readers what made you choose a career in IT?
Geoff: Well I actually graduated with a degree in Food Product Development, as I have a passion for food and cooking, however, I very quickly realised after graduation that the anti-social hours and lack of financial reward in the food and catering industry were not for me. So, having picked up the local newspaper one evening, I noticed a sales job being advertised by a photocopier and fax supplier. I applied for the job and have never looked back since. This was at a time when digital photocopiers were being introduced to the market, which meant that customers could now use their photocopier as a network-attached printer and fax machine – which totally changed the industry. It was an incredibly hard learning experience in the photocopier game, being dropped off in very bleak industrial estates on cold winter mornings, just to try to find leads. But I look back on that sales education and grounding as the best experiences of my sales career and move into IT.

Zoe: Geoff, that’s an interesting move you made into the tech world. So, what has been your career highlight to date?
Geoff: When I was asked to lead the UK Enterprise Sales team, to help drive a turnaround of a business which had been in decline for 18 months, to drive 22% year on year growth in a very mature Tier 1 market. The sales team had become disenfranchised as one team, and that was the first task I had to complete – building a team that could get behind the vision and purpose. Collectively, we set ourselves a goal of delivering 15% year on year growth when we started the year, and as months went by it was very clear that as a result of setting very clear standards and expectations for everyone in the team, we could really drive change and deliver an outcome for the business, which we actually surpassed. That was one rollercoaster of a year, but the hard work, commitment and dedication of everyone in that team made it a remarkable year to remember.

Zoe: You’ve been at Veritas for over a decade what do you enjoy most about your role at Veritas?
Geoff: I have been at Veritas/Symantec/Veritas now for 15 years, and I can honestly say that every single day is different, and whilst I run the channel organisation for Emerging Markets today, my career path at Veritas has allowed me to lead many different facets of the business, including Enterprise Sales, Commercial Sales, Sales Enablement and Specialist teams across EMEA. So, I have a very rounded view of the whole business – and how different functions need to interact to drive mutual success. Having that deep knowledge and insight allows me to take on tasks or responsibilities that are not necessarily part of my “job description”, but I love that opportunity to help people when they just do not know where to turn – either internally or externally.

Geoff (front rown centre) with his Channel TeamGeoff (front rown centre) with his Channel TeamZoe: Geoff, what would you say your management style is? How has it changed over the years?
Geoff: I am maniacal about setting a very clear Vision and Strategy for my team, and how that then cascades into each employees’ working day. But in order for that to work and for people to buy into that vision and strategy, firstly you need to be very inclusive in how you engage your team. I love to get my team involved in how we build our vision for the year, and then getting them to come up with their own ideas on how we execute upon that vision – enabling them to write their own plans and tactics on delivering success together. In that way, everyone is on the bus from day one, and they feel far more accountable to the plans and metrics that they have written, rather than simply being told to do something that they have had no part in deciding.

Zoe: What would you suggest makes a good leader?
Geoff: I am a great believer in the values of humility, respect and trust. You need to be able to trust the team that you employed and empower them to carry out their daily jobs, whilst at the same time treating them with the respect they deserve to conduct those activities. But humility is the number one for me – conducting yourself in a way that encourages and inspires others to want to engage with you as a leader, which in turn drives trust and respect from your employees, partners and your customers.

Zoe: To some extent, we have all been influenced or been guided in some way in our careers and day to day lives. Who are your role models and influencers? And why?
Geoff: I was fortunate enough to be highlighted as “high-potential” early on in my career at Veritas, which enabled me to be enrolled in a leadership development programme called “Braveheart”. This programme was intended to provide individual contributors with an insight into what becoming a first-line sales manager is actually like and enable you to make a decision around whether that was the correct career path you indeed wanted to take. You see, all too often, it is the over-achieving sales guys who continually get promoted into sales management, as it is thought that if those individuals are great at sales, then they will be great at leading sales teams. The reality is very different. What makes great salespeople good at their jobs, does not automatically mean they can lead, inspire and motivate sales teams by default. So, Braveheart really helped sieve out those that were truly ready for taking on a first-line sales manager role, which to this day for me is still the hardest sales management job in any company.

That programme was created and led by Jay Tyler, a former sales rep, manager and VP at Rank Xerox for many years in the US. It left an indelible mark on me in terms of how you manage, lead and inspire high-performing sales teams – in a repeatable and predictable way. And I still take time out of my own day to review that content, as it is never more relevant today as companies compete to retain and recruit the best talent into their sales teams.

Zoe: What motivates you?
Geoff: Well, being in sales, clearly, I am very financially motivated to succeed and ensure that all my team members are maximising their potential to overachieve on their annual targets. However, in addition to that, I am also very motivated by partner and customer success. All too often, as a sales team, we celebrate the minute we receive the purchase order from the customer or the partner. And whilst we as a sales team might be ecstatic about that at that point in time, it is only then that the customer and partner actually start to feel the real pressure. Someone at the customer has put their job on the line to commit to a purchase for a project that will ultimately be a success or a failure. It is therefore that as a sales team we understand that, and that we don’t celebrate when we get the PO, but actually take the time to celebrate when the customer is successful too – surpassing all their KPI’s and metrics that they set out to achieve within their project.

Zoe: Geoff, thanks for sharing what motivates you. So, how do you motivate your team?
Geoff: I always believe that you treat people the way you want to be treated yourself so in other words your role model the behaviours that I would want to see my leader replicate. I also love to empower my team, which I believe can really help motivate people to bigger and greater achievements. By empowering people, you give them the freedom and flexibility to drive change and put their own spin and ideas on certain tasks or projects. And of course, people will make mistakes along the way, that is human nature. And that’s OK, as I always say that experience is the hardest teacher in life – it gives you the test first and the lesson thereafter. But in addition, I do always say please don’t make the same mistake twice!

Zoe: How do you define success?
Geoff: Job satisfaction is a critical component of any success that you define in life. Ensuring that not only you are satisfied, but that all your team members are satisfied too has an incredible bearing on the success of you as a leader. But to complement that, I would also add that employee retention is a great measure of how engaged and satisfied your team are – with you as a leader, and with the company. People don’t leave bad companies, they leave poor management and leadership. So, ensuring I have a highly engaged workforce is a great measure of success for me personally.

Geoff enjoying one of his hobbies; photographyGeoff enjoying one of his hobbies; photographyZoe: Why should people choose to work at Veritas?
Geoff: The opportunity within the Information Management industry just now has never been greater. Veritas is effectively writing the blueprint of how our industry will shape itself over the next 10 years. Exponential data growth, fragmentation of data across on-prem and cloud environments, providing and meeting availability SLA’s around mission-critical applications, and ensuring compliance to specific data protection regulations are massive talking points at every boardroom table today. Over-arching that is the number one question that very few companies can answer today which is “how can I gain visibility into my infrastructure and my data to enable my company to make informed business decisions about how we manage that data?’. And only Veritas has the answer – providing customers with world-class data protection capabilities, ensuring always-on availability of their data irrespective of their company’s SLA’s, and providing insight into what data sits where, irrespective of the application, the workload, the infrastructure or which cloud that data sits within.

Zoe: When you’ve not travelling with work what do you like to do in your free time?
Geoff: Cooking, fine wines and photography.

Zoe: Finally, describe Veritas in one word?
Geoff: Game-changing

So, that concludes my interview with Geoff Greenlaw, it was great catching up and thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts on Veritas. If you enjoyed this Life at Veritas blog post with Geoff, then do stay tuned as there will be more interview-style posts from other people at Veritas sharing their experiences and knowledge. And if this has inspired you to join our team, then check out our job vacancies on LinkedIn and apply here.