Rob Amezcua of Forescout On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain &…

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Rob Amezcua of Forescout On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times

Focus on Value and Values. What you do best and why you do it are extremely important during difficult times. Naturally, it’s a time to think about doing all things different, but don’t stray far from the above statement. Revisit what has and does make your organization and your team great. Start there and look for creative ways to expand upon that with your best people, partners and customers.

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 interviewingRob Amezcua of Forescout.

Rob is currently serving as General Manager & Vice President Americas and has been in the security space for more than 25 years. Robert is responsible for all go to market operations in the Americas geography. Prior to Forescout, he held leadership roles as VP Sales West at Broadcom, Sr. Director Strategic Account Sales at Symantec, Sr. Director Central Sales at Cylance and Sr. Director Service Provider Sales at McAfee.

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?

Absolutely and thanks so much for the opportunity! I was born and raised in Austin, TX so I’m a total Texan at heart. I also lived in New York, Lexington, KY and have now settled in the Dallas, TX area for the last 25 years ever since graduating from Baylor University in Waco, TX. I attended college strictly for their pre-med program to one day become a doctor and here I am having spent the last 25 years in cybersecurity. Not necessarily what I had planned, but wouldn’t change a thing.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As a kid, my mom used to tell me to look with my eyes and not with my hands, which essentially meant don’t touch anything! I was once in a data center of a prospective customer and as I was leaving, I hit the red exit button, only it wasn’t the exit button. It was the data center fire suppression system. Needless to say, it caused quite the scene and a moment of pure panic for all involved. I probably should have remembered my mom’s words of wisdom, but thankfully the system was inoperable at the time or had a double trigger which is probably why it was uncovered. We all had a good laugh and we ended up winning the business.

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?

What a great question! I’m blessed to have had so many people pour into me throughout my journey. Early on, it was my dad. He spent his whole career at IBM, where he worked his way up from an electrical engineer to the executive ranks. He worked so hard and was so proud of what he was able to accomplish. His jobs were demanding, but it never felt as if we were deprived of him or his time at home. We had some amazing moments together. He was a great example and mentor for me, and I wish he was still here to provide me counsel.

Beyond that, Tom Jud and Vince Kearns who gave me my initial shot in the security software space. Not sure if they saw anything in me at the time or just needed another warm body to man the phones, but I appreciate them still to this day for giving me that chance. Keith Weatherford and Tom Knight for mentoring and guiding me early on in my sales journey and Steve Tchejeyan and Eric Appel for helping me become a better leader. Extremely grateful to have shared so many years with these amazing professionals and friends.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

One thing I love the most about being in cybersecurity is that we are there to enable the mission and purpose of our customer’s business while serving our own purpose. For our financial customers we help them to transact and enable them to serve their customers securely. For our healthcare customers, we enable them to provide patient care safely. For our government customers, we allow them to protect themselves while they protect and serve our country. This heightens our mission and purpose and is very fulfilling. It’s nice to always feel like you are part of a much bigger purpose than your own.

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?

Happy to do that. For me, there are a couple things I do when leading through challenging times. First, I try to be direct and honest about the situation and what’s at stake. If you aren’t willing to acknowledge the challenge, people see right through that. Second, I think you need to communicate frequently and openly. Controlling the narrative and allowing for questions and feedback eliminates the opportunity for people to sit and wonder. When minds are left to wonder in uncertain times, they will wander to dangerous places for morale. Lastly, I think you need to be willing to be vulnerable. It’s ok to share true feelings with your team. I think they relate better during challenging times if they view you as a human and not a corporate robot.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I certainly have my fair share of tough days, but I try to keep everything in proper perspective. After 25 years I can do what I do just about anywhere. What keeps me going is the people I do my job with and the people I do it for. I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many talented people and I’m driven to enable them to pursue the amazing opportunity that we work so hard to provide for them. If any of them fail, I feel that failure too. I’m also blessed to have a wife of 25 years and four amazing children who are all now young adults and I am driven to be a provider and an example for them as well. Those two things get me through any tough days or moments and energize me to get off the mat and give it another go.

I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?

Great question! I love to read and also believe that books have the power to change lives. I’ll share three books that I would recommend to anyone (and often do). These three books have helped to change my life and I feel have shaped me as a leader, father, husband and friend. First, Atomic Habits by James Clear. I recommend this to everyone! Very quick read and one of those books where you could highlight every word on every page. Easy to follow and easy to implement. No matter what you are striving for in your personal or professional life, this book can help set you up to achieve it. Second, Dream Big by Bob Goff. Bob is a fascinating human, love his writing and his speaking. All his books are great but Dream Big is a good one for setting your vision and working it into reality. Last one (or two) is Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. It’s hard for some of us to be willing to be vulnerable as a leader and Brene Brown has made me a better leader through her writing for sure. Must reads!

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

I look at this in two ways, depending on where the challenge stems from. If the challenge is internal to the organization with respect to direction, strategy or execution, the most critical role is for the leader to take accountability and ownership of the situation. This shows belief in the teams and the people and presents them an opportunity to rally through the pain and to be a part of the path to resolution. If the challenge is external and is impacting the organization, the most critical role is to acknowledge the situation, paint the picture of the impact and clearly articulate how the organization plans to adjust to protect the people and their opportunity for themselves and their customers.

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?

I think during difficult and uncertain times, the focus needs to turn to the people. It’s no longer about the business, the KPIs, the metrics, the growth, profitability, product, etc. It’s just about the people. It’s about how they feel, it’s about how much they’re appreciated and how important they are to the mission and the purpose of the organization. Without them, we’ve got nothing and inspired people are capable of amazing things.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Openly, honestly and with urgency. Bad news never ages well. Dragging it out or taking time to try and justify or provide rationale for the situation only creates more angst and prolongs the pain. Time heals everything if you earn the right for forgiveness. I remember a moment in my career at a previous company where we had a huge software bug that impacted nearly our entire customer base. We acknowledged the issue, made no excuses, engaged with every one of our customers in an urgent manner and everyone in the organization rallied to remedy the situation. Making those calls was awful at the time and it felt like we would never be forgiven. Then something amazing happened. As the industry attacked us for our error, our customers started coming to our defense as a result of our response. We ended up having a record quarter as a result.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Plan for success and don’t avoid failure and do so with a long lens. I think a lot of leaders fall into the trap of planning too near term and expecting to invest when things get better. Plan to win the whole game, not just one quarter. That’ll provide the opportunity to scale the peaks and survive the valleys. I’m a big sports guy and I’m always amazed by the team far ahead in the game that stops playing to win and starts to play not to lose. It always gives the other team a chance for a comeback. Focus on the people and create amazing opportunities for them. Make sure the people see the opportunity and not the obstacles that might stand in the path.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Having been a part of organizations that have navigated turbulent times successfully, I think the most important thing is to stay true to what you do best. Some organizations view troubled times as a reason or an excuse to diversify or change what they are doing. They stray far from the core of who they are, what they do and the value they provide to catch an opportunity they might be missing or something that might save them. I’m a big fan of narrowing the focus and getting closer to the core when things get tough. Get close to your people, your customers and partners and bring the emphasis and focus back to the few things that make your organization great.

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?

Sure, I’ve seen plenty. First mistake is to blame others. Second mistake is not being willing to accept the reality of the situation. Change is hard, but the longer the organization decides to be resistant to it, the longer the challenges remain. Acknowledge the situation and make the changes necessary to move forward fast. Third mistake is not communicating. Like I’ve said before, if people are left to wonder their minds will wander. Being open, honest and transparent and doing so with frequency is the key to getting back on track quickly.

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.

Communicate openly, honestly and frequently. If you don’t provide and control the narrative, then everyone else will create one of their own and it will be much more difficult to reign in. Whether the challenge is internal or external, don’t let the employees or customers draw their own conclusions. They will typically conjure something far worse than reality.

Take accountability for the challenge. I used an example of this above when the company I was working at years ago created a large external issue for our customers. Taking immediate accountability and enacting a remedy allowed us to recover much more quickly. I think the same applies to internal challenges as well. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin write in their book “Extreme Ownership,” there are no bad teams, only bad leaders. Leaders needs to step up and hold themselves accountable in turbulent times. This will send a solid message to the team and often serves as a rallying point for recovery.

Motivate and Inspire the people, partners and customers. I think I alluded to this before. At some point it no longer becomes about the business, it’s just about people. No matter the situation you need them in your court and the more excited they are about the opportunity, the less they will focus on any of the obstacles that may be in the path. Only shareholders and investors get excited about numbers and metrics. Align the people to a higher purpose and give the people more to be excited about.

Invest in the future. Leaders often associate difficult times to difficult measures, but don’t lose sight of the long game. It’s difficult to grow and develop the business and the people with a short term view. Not to mention, if you draw back on those hard times given the uncertainty it’s hard to get going again when the circumstances change in your favor. Expect things to get better, the people you lead will appreciate that.

Focus on Value and Values. What you do best and why you do it are extremely important during difficult times. Naturally, it’s a time to think about doing all things different, but don’t stray far from the above statement. Revisit what has and does make your organization and your team great. Start there and look for creative ways to expand upon that with your best people, partners and customers.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In one of the books, I referenced above, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes, “People don’t rise to the level of their goals they fall to the level of their systems.” As a perennial goal setter, I would often fall a bit short whether they were personal or professional. Thankfully, my goals were lofty and even falling a bit short was an accomplishment. After reading Clear’s book, I examined the environment surrounding the goal that would enable me to achieve it and identified more closely with the intended outcome. This has allowed me to achieve more and inspire others to do the same.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn @

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Rob Amezcua of Forescout On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.