An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Lead with a clear vision that is purpose driven.
Develop systems to ensure you’re connecting to all levels of the organization.
Share transparent and regular communication (with customers and employees).
Remain customer driven. What are your customers saying? What do they need? Be responsive.
Start disrupting yourself before others start.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steve White.
How does a poor kid from the housing projects make it to the corporate boardroom? For Steve White, it’s the result of an uncompromising attitude and work ethic. President of Comcast’s West Division for eleven years, Steve launched his career in 1996 as Regional Vice President. A commitment to his why and the influence of mentors enabled him to demonstrate consistent growth for his teams and divisions, which led to increasing leadership responsibilities. Driven by continuous learning, radical responsibility, and an unwavering commitment to excellence, Comcast’s West Division became a pacesetter by delivering industry-leading results. Steve White was responsible for all Comcast Cable operations in the Western U.S., leading nearly thirty thousand employees, serving almost eleven million customers, and driving annual revenue of nearly $18 billion. If the West Division was a stand-alone company, it would be one of the top 150 companies in America. Today, Steve serves the role of special counsel to the CEO of Comcast — one of the top 20 companies in the U.S.
Giving back and paying it forward are two of Steve White’s life values. He has lived in Denver for more than ten years and champions causes related to family and education, such as the Denver Scholarship Fund. He partners with the University of Denver as an Executive in Residence, providing academic enrichment for the Daniels College of Business. Additionally, Steve serves on the board of directors for New Leaders, which focuses on the development of public school principals. Steve also speaks to various professional groups helping others along their journey to professional and personal success.
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?
How does a poor kid from the housing projects make it to the corporate boardroom? For me, it’s the result of an uncompromising attitude and work ethic. President of Comcast’s West Division for eleven years, I launched my career in 1996 as Regional Vice President. A commitment to my why and the influence of mentors enabled me to demonstrate consistent growth for my teams and divisions, which led to increasing leadership responsibilities. Driven by continuous learning, radical responsibility, and an unwavering commitment to excellence, Comcast’s West Division became a pacesetter by delivering industry-leading results. I was responsible for all Comcast Cable operations in the Western U.S., leading nearly thirty thousand employees, serving almost eleven million customers, and driving annual revenue of nearly $18 billion. If the West Division was a stand-alone company, it would be on of the top 150 companies in America. Today, I serve the role of special counsel to the CEO of Comcast — one of the top 20 companies in the U.S.
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?
I was 21 years old, and I was attending my first national sales meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a new teammate, I was trying to fit in. A large group of leaders hit the casinos for a little gambling. I joined and wanted to fit in and “be cool,” so I started gambling with the group. We started at the blackjack table, and quickly realized that I was in over my head. I lost $100 within 20 minutes. I quickly stepped away from the blackjack table. I learned that you need to be you, and you shouldn’t try to be someone else. Ultimately, people will respect you for being authentic.
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?
The two most important women in my life: my mother and my wife. My mother was a motel maid, and we would often assist her on the weekends. While my mother’s talent was greater than what her position required, she did what she had to do to support my brothers and me. I learned the importance of sacrifice, commitment, and living your why during those long weekend days helping her clean motel rooms.
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?
Our founder Ralph Roberts bought his first cable system in Tupelo, Mississippi( the home of Elvis Presley). He was looking for a business as his current business selling suspenders in the early 60’s was being disrupted by belts. In essence, the business was launched as a result of disruption. Ralph quickly realized that this was a local business, led by local teams and empowered to do what was right.
The original vision of allowing consumers to have access to entertainment and information is still as relevant today as it was in 1963 when the company was birthed. Our purpose is to connect customers to information, entertainment and what’s important to them.
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?
At the beginning of the pandemic, we moved over 15,000 employees from an on-site environment to working from home.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Yes. We all have difficult days of doubt, feeling overwhelmed and not sure we’re on the right track. I start counting my blessings, and after listing three to four, I realize whatever I’m facing is not that critical. Reflecting on my gratitude allows me to re-focus on the matter at hand.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Clearly communicating a compelling vision in the simplest way that is purpose driven.
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?
Keep the team focused on the purpose of the organization. Paint a picture of what customers and/or employees would experience if the company wasn’t able to fulfill its mission.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
In person if possible. Too often, leaders take the easy way out because they’re not comfortable with delivering bad news. The reality is that employees will have greater respect for you if you convey as much as possible about the rationale behind your leadership decisions.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
There are only two things that you can truly impact and influence: 1) the quality and development of your people and 2) the culture of the organization.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Do what’s right while honoring the company values.
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?
- Taking shortcuts — especially as it relates to expense reductions.
- Reducing your investment in employees.
- Not readily sharing information. Employees can handle more than you think.
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?
- Stay committed to being a customer-focused organization.
- Start disrupting yourself. Don’t wait for others to do it.
- Focus on a long-term view and approach.
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.
- Lead with a clear vision that is purpose driven.
- Develop systems to ensure you’re connecting to all levels of the organization.
- Share transparent and regular communication (with customers and employees).
- Remain customer driven. What are your customers saying? What do they need? Be responsive.
- Start disrupting yourself before others start.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.”
How can our readers further follow your work?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Comcast’s Steve White: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.