Elisa Steele helps customers maximize technology without losing the personal touch

Never stop learning

If you’re the founder of a business, you likely know what your company does inside and out and are the best person to answer just about any question an employee or a customer might have.

But even if you have all that knowledge, or if you’re a CEO who is joining an established company, you can’t carry yourself with an attitude that you know everything there is to know.

“I’m a CEO who knows the product really well from a customer advocacy perspective,” Steele says. “I can talk to all of our customers about our product and not be in a sales pitch. I’ve used the product as a paying customer and now I’m using it every day to run my company. I can talk about it from the heart and from the truth of how I experience it myself. But on the deep technical parts of the product, I rely on my engineering team.”

Steele makes an effort to spend more time with her engineers hearing about what their issues are and what they are working on.

“I’m not an engineer,” she says. “I have to be more of an active listener than in a customer or a sales and marketing situation where I have strong experience in those areas.

“CEOs need to look at where are their strengths and experiences and how do they help their team grow in those areas and then what are the areas where you need to make sure your team is really empowered to do the things you need them to do. And you need to be a good listener on those things.”

Jive took in $195.8 million in revenue in 2015 and is on its way to topping that figure in 2016. Steele says her ability to use her own company’s experiences with adapting to technology to help Jive’s customers has been a great asset.

“One of the amazing things we can do with our customers is we can share with them how we do things inside our company,” Steele says.

“It’s very often and very typical that I talk to other CEOs and I show them how I’m running Jive with our product. Our product gives me the ability as the CEO to reach and engage with any employee and any person who is connected with my company because they are in connection with my product.”

It’s all part of the process to help companies adapt to a changing world.

There are many companies that are still trying to figure out and don’t have a common leadership approach to how to use digital to change the culture of their company,” Steele says.

“Our consulting services and our professional services team are in great demand because it’s not as simple as let’s just buy this product, put it in and start using it. It’s something that leaders want to have a vision for in how they want their employees to connect and communicate.

“That’s part of the mission of why we’re so motivated to help companies see that. We’re about 1,000 companies strong in customers, but we want many thousands of customers and we have to go through our process to help other companies.”

How to reach: Jive Software Inc., (877) 495-3700 or www.jivesoftware.com

Takeaways

  • Be strategic about how you adapt to technology.
  • You don’t understand your customers as well as your employees.
  • Learn how to be a better active listener.

The Steele File

NAME: Elisa Steele
TITLE: president and CEO
COMPANY: Jive Software Inc.

Born: Providence, Rhode Island

Education: Bachelor’s degree, business administration, University of New Hampshire; MBA, San Francisco State University.

Who has been a big influence on your life? My whole life, my dad has always encouraged me to do the right thing and to not shy away from hard things. I’ve always been encouraged and motivated and he’s always been a source of support and strength for me.

Along the way, I learned to form what I call my personal board of directors. I coach and mentor people to form their own personal board of directors. Who are the people in your life who serve as your board of directors? Who do you go to for advice or bounce ideas off of? I would say my dad is the chairman of my board of directors.

Who is one person you would like to meet? It would be my grandfather who came over to this country from Lebanon. I never got to know him because he died when I was born. All of our family legends and stories of our family stem from his decision to find his way to America and then what happened to our family and how it grew from there.

So I would like to meet him. The first question I would ask him is what did he see in the future where he wanted to come to this country and put his roots here for his family? It was a family he didn’t know yet, but obviously knew that putting his roots here would change the dynamics of how the family tree would be born.