Workplace Conflict Resolution: Anne Gotay Of Sotero On How Team Leaders Can Create The Right Environment To Resolve Conflicts
An Interview With Eric Pines
Facilitate teamwork and support: Team members should know their leader is available to help them when challenges come up. By fostering collaboration and demonstrating that you are supportive and there to help, they know you have their best interests at heart. When I was tasked with analyzing all deals to date for key insights, my team voluntarily divided the analysis among themselves. This collaboration not only expedited the delivery of key insights, but also further strengthened our team cohesion.
An important component of leadership is conflict resolution. Why is conflict resolution so important? How can leaders effectively incorporate conflict resolution into their work culture? In this interview series called “Workplace Conflict Resolution: How Team Leaders Can Create The Right Environment To Resolve Conflicts,” we are talking to business leaders who can share insights and anecdotes from their experience about how to implement Conflict Resolution at work. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Gotay.
Anne Gotay is Vice President of Marketing with Sotero. With a unique blend of visionary and data-driven approaches, she crafts and scales foundational marketing strategies, ensuring they not only generate robust market demand but also adapt fluidly to the ever-evolving startup landscape. Anne’s expertise lies in translating the essence of technological innovation into human-centric narratives, fueling exponential growth and fostering genuine trust within target audiences.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Of course, I’m delighted to share. During my graduate studies at NYU, I immersed myself in Counterterrorism and Cybersecurity Policy. While it might seem like an unusual pairing, my objective was to grasp the intricacies of formulating policies that minimize the risk of cyberterrorism attacks on our nation’s infrastructure. Upon receiving my Master’s Degree, it dawned on me that my policy expertise was notably ahead of contemporary policy development needs. This realization paved the way for my first role in a cybersecurity startup as a Business Development Representative.
The initial phase was far from rosy: I left countless voicemails and often faced the onslaught of disgruntled clients on those rare occasions when they did answer. However, this challenge sparked my curiosity. I started fine-tuning my approach, aiming to keep my prospects engaged in the fleeting moments they gave me, and dove deep into analyzing my outreach data. It wasn’t long before I recognized my passion for data and its insights. When the company initiated its hunt for a head of marketing, I seized the opportunity to pivot. I reinterviewed and transitioned to work under the new marketing head, to leverage my analytical skills. The ever-evolving dynamic world of B2B marketing captivated me, and I’ve been deeply entrenched ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Certainly! A pivotal point in my career occurred early on during my tenure in marketing operations at a cybersecurity company specializing in data loss prevention. I had just taken on my new role and was in the nascent stages of familiarizing myself with Marketo, a renowned marketing automation platform acquired by Adobe. But just as I was finding my footing, we faced a significant setback: we were blacklisted.
For those not in marketing, being blacklisted is like a forceful brake on all automated marketing campaigns. It implies that a notable portion of our contacts labeled our communications as spam. Consequently, Marketo stopped all our marketing operations until we underwent an exhaustive audit and demonstrated compliance with email marketing and contact database health standards.
With our campaigns at a standstill, I found myself under an intense spotlight. Colleagues and superiors alike sought explanations, questioning my every move. Fortunately, the missteps leading to the blacklisting predated my tenure. But this experience wasn’t simply about proving this. It presented me with a daunting challenge early on: devising a robust conflict resolution strategy on the fly. I had to not only navigate the intricacies of the issue but also assure and collaborate with team members I’d barely gotten to know.
In retrospect, this was an invaluable lesson in navigating unexpected crises, assuming accountability (even when the mistakes aren’t yours), and cultivating trust and collaboration in high-pressure scenarios.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
I love quotes! One quote that resonates deeply with me is by Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. This became the guiding principle as I started my job hunt. With student loans inching closer, I took a proactive approach to securing my first job, just in time to coincide with my loan’s first due date.
I registered to attend a cybersecurity conference in Maryland. Dressed in my business attire, clutching my resume, I determinedly navigated from one cybersecurity vendor booth to the next. My mission? Introduce myself and inquire about job vacancies. The very thought was daunting, but the essence of Gretzky’s words propelled me. If I didn’t seize this opportunity, I’d forever wonder about its potential.
This gutsy, yet intimidating move landed me an interview for a Business Development Representative position with a Boston-based cybersecurity startup specializing in pentesting. Not only did I secure the job promptly, but I also negotiated a favorable salary that factored in the city’s living expenses — all without having other job offers as leverage. And as fate would have it, this role also led me to meet my future husband.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At the heart of every organization, irrespective of its size or niche, are its people. What truly differentiates a company is its human ethos. While revolutionary technologies or superior products can provide a competitive edge, the bedrock of any company lies in its culture, teamwork, and dedicated employees. Without these foundational human elements, even the most promising of products will fail. As heads of marketing we often struggle with balancing strategy and execution. By empowering them as my close advisors, I’m not just delegating tasks, but truly enabling growth. Every day, I’m assured that they’re giving their all, supporting one another, and driving our company forward. It’s an honor to lead such an incredible group of marketing professionals.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Delegation allows a leader to focus on high-priority tasks and strategic decision-making. By entrusting responsibilities, leaders empower team members, fostering growth and building trust.
Communication is key, much like a symphony requires a conductor. Clear and effective communication ensures that a leader’s vision and objectives are understood, fostering alignment and collaboration within the team. It builds trust and transparency, vital for team cohesion and morale.
Being goal-oriented provides clear direction, ensuring that the team is aligned and moving towards a unified objective. Such a focus drives efficiency and purpose, eliminating aimless efforts. By setting, communicating, and pursuing specific goals, leaders inspire motivation and a sense of accomplishment within their teams.
Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader?
True leadership frequently requires decision-making in the absence of complete information, relying instead on timely insights and the collective expertise of your team. As a leader I had to make a hard decision to reduce overhead costs, which meant parting ways with a member of our team. Choosing between two equally valuable employees was agonizing. But as leaders, we are stewards of the broader organization’s well-being. By making this choice, I helped ensure the rest of the employees’ livelihood.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s start with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. What does Conflict Resolution mean?
Conflict resolution is the art of navigating disagreements or tensions within a team or organization to find common ground. It requires active listening, understanding diverse viewpoints, and fostering a collaborative environment. Leaders guide the involved parties towards mutually beneficial solutions, ensuring the overall goals and harmony of the organization are maintained. Effective conflict resolution strengthens team alignment and builds trust among members.
What are some common misunderstandings about Conflict Resolution that are important to clear up?
There are several, starting with the idea of avoiding conflict will make it disappear. This avoidance only delays the issue and it can exacerbate the problem. Next, conflict is often seen as inherently negative. Though it is often stressful or uncomfortable, it often drives positive change or leads to better solutions. Another one is that conflict at best ends in compromise. While compromising does work, methods like collaborating to find a win-win or accommodating where one side willingly yields the ground is equally as effective.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be helpful to clearly express this. Can you please explain why it is so important for leaders to learn and deploy conflict resolution techniques?
Business environments are filled with diverse perspectives, leading to inevitable conflicts. Ignoring them doesn’t make them vanish, but rather escalates them. Effective conflict resolution allows leaders to proactively address these challenges head-on, to transform potential roadblocks into opportunities for growth. Without this skill, leaders risk being perpetually reactive, hindering progress and stifling innovation.
On the flip side, what happens to a work culture when there is not an effective way of resolving conflict? How does it impact employees?
When conflicts go unsolved, such as limited departmental budgets, it can lead to infighting rather than collaboration towards a shared goal. A clear direction and unified mission are critical for teamwork and motivation. Without effective conflict resolution, the organizational waters get muddied, leading to confusion, low morale and a lack of a clear purpose for the team to rally behind.
Can you provide examples of how effective conflict resolution has led to increased team performance, collaboration, or innovation within your organization?
Effective conflict resolution turns potential infighting into collaborative synergy, directing everyone towards a shared company objective. This not only aligns team members but also instills in them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It’s akin to ensuring all tires of a car move in the same direction; otherwise, you’d remain stagnant. With everyone on board and in harmony, we’ve been able to build a marketing framework, drive demand generation, and get the support of industry analysts.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Ways Every Team Leader Can Create The Right Environment To Resolve Conflicts”? If you can, please share specific examples of a workplace conflict you’ve encountered, and how you applied conflict resolution techniques to address it.
- Inclusivity: Embrace culture and gender diversity. Leaders should cultivate an environment where team members are recognized and valued based on their skills and contributions, rather than their backgrounds. This helps you place individuals in roles that amplify their strengths while allowing them to reach their full potential. For a project that required multicultural insights, I ensured the team reflected different cultural backgrounds. By valuing their unique perspectives, we developed a campaign that resonated across various demographics and increased our global reach by 20%.
- Clear communication and autonomy: By communicating clearly, you equip your team with the information they need. Delegating tasks is essential, this gives team members the freedom to work independently in their area of expertise. However, it is equally important to align their goals with the resources at their disposal. Celebrating their success recognizes their efforts and achievements. In a fast-paced startup setting, our team was assigned to launch a new product. I clearly communicated the objectives and trusted my team with the responsibility. Despite tight deadlines, the team not only met the objectives, but also innovated along the way. This resulted in an additional feature that became a unique selling point.
- Set goals and listen actively: A successful leader doesn’t just talk, she listens. Your team must feel and know that their input matters and is being taken into account. Some of our most creative campaigns that moved the needle for our organization have come from my team. Our annual planning session was a blend of structured agenda points and open brainstorming. In one of these sessions, a team member from the marketing operations team suggested a content angle we hadn’t considered. By actively listening and implementing her idea, we saw an organic traffic boost by 200% over the next six months.
- Facilitate teamwork and support: Team members should know their leader is available to help them when challenges come up. By fostering collaboration and demonstrating that you are supportive and there to help, they know you have their best interests at heart. When I was tasked with analyzing all deals to date for key insights, my team voluntarily divided the analysis among themselves. This collaboration not only expedited the delivery of key insights, but also further strengthened our team cohesion.
- Cultivate trust and reward equitability: Building and maintaining a trust-filled environment is paramount. Implementing a fair reward system not only motivates employees, but also reinforces their value within the organization. The workplace should be characterized by mutual respect and camaraderie. After a particularly successful quarter, instead of offering generic bonuses, I ensured rewards reflected individual contributions and team feedback. This fostered a sense of fairness and trust, and subsequent projects showcased an even higher degree of collaboration and mutual respect among team members.
In your experience, what are the most common sources of conflict within a team, and how do you proactively address these potential issues before they escalate?
The heart of many conflicts often revolves around perceptions of fairness. A well-compensated employee might still be unhappy if they feel their pay doesn’t reflect fairness with the team. It’s crucial to foster a mindset of unity and collaboration. Every team member must understand that they are part of a collective unit, working towards shared goals. For instance, when sales gets commission, it’s essential that rewards — as well as setbacks — are shared with other departments, such as marketing.
Being transparent about objectives, expectations, and the overarching vision is pivotal. Instead of simply pointing out when goals are not met, it is more productive to guide the team on how to continually improve and grow together. I believe in the power of constructive feedback so long as it is provided in a constructive and respectful manner. Offering resources for improvement, like training, can be invaluable. Conversely, if a team member consistently underperforms or isn’t contributing equitably, recognizing these limitations and making difficult decisions becomes necessary for the overall team’s well-being. Even in a leadership position, there is always room to learn and adapt — it is vital to be receptive to feedback from your team.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to be able to build holistic communities designed to uplift and support low-income families, immigrants, the elderly, and those who are disabled. These communities would be enriched with gardens, trees, community vegetable gardens for sustainable living, and welcoming spaces for gatherings. Integral to this vision is the inclusion of social workers to facilitate self-help groups, spaces that cater to children and pets, and workshops in urban farming, gardening, and sustainability. My dream is for these spaces to not just be shelters, but thriving ecosystems where residents feel a profound sense of belonging, love and protection. If you are ready to help me implement or fund this goal, send me a message and let’s get started!
How can our readers further follow you online?
You can follow and connect with me via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anne-gotay/
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
About the Interviewer: Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative. A formal federal employee himself, Mr. Pines began his federal employment law career as in-house counsel for AFGE Local 1923 which is in Social Security Administration’s headquarters and is the largest federal union local in the world. He presently serves as AFGE 1923’s Chief Counsel as well as in-house counsel for all FEMA bargaining unit employees and numerous Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs unions.
While he and his firm specialize in representing federal employees from all federal agencies and in reference to virtually all federal employee matters, his firm has placed special attention on representing Veteran Affairs doctors and nurses hired under the authority of Title. He and his firm have a particular passion in representing disabled federal employees with their requests for medical and religious reasonable accommodations when those accommodations are warranted under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (ADA). He also represents them with their requests for Federal Employee Disability Retirement (OPM) when an accommodation would not be possible.
Mr. Pines has also served as a mediator for numerous federal agencies including serving a year as the Library of Congress’ in-house EEO Mediator. He has also served as an expert witness in federal court for federal employee matters. He has also worked as an EEO technical writer drafting hundreds of Final Agency Decisions for the federal sector.
Mr. Pines’ firm is headquartered in Houston, Texas and has offices in Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. His first passion is his wife and five children. He plays classical and rock guitar and enjoys playing ice hockey, running, and biking. Please visit his websites at www.pinesfederal.com and www.toughinjurylawyers.com. He can also be reached at [email protected].
Workplace Conflict Resolution: Anne Gotay Of Sotero On How Team Leaders Can Create The Right… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.