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3 Leadership Lessons from a CRN Woman of the Channel

Carolee Gearhart, Senior Vice President, International Sales, at Adaptive Live

Being named even once to CRN’s Women of the Channel is no small feat—executives must demonstrate outstanding leadership and vision and play a unique role in driving growth and innovation in the IT channel. But when someone is named four times? Let’s just say the tech world tends to take notice. Carolee Gearhart, our senior vice president of customer success and global channels—and, yes, four-time title holder—has flexed some serious leadership during her career, and most notably since joining Adaptive Insights in 2013. We distilled her wow into three, try-this-now takeaways:

Channel Team, Halloween 2015

1. Collaboration is crucial

Success rarely happens in a silo—but it’s all too easy to pay lip service to collaboration without really making it happen. Not so with Carolee, who has traveled tirelessly since joining Adaptive Insights, to meet new and existing partners, along with customers face-to-face. Her mission? Always to figure out better, stronger ways of working together. A handshake, a steady gaze, and a genuine curiosity about what the other party needs are the best kindling for true collaboration. Why? Because to Carolee the premise of authentic collaboration begins—and ends—with a desire to achieve a win-win outcome. And building a mutually-beneficial partner environment requires a focus on developing lasting relationships, cultivated over time by demonstrating real, tangible results.

Carolee made sure those ties were felt across the company, assigning members of the executive staff as sponsors for all of the larger partner accounts around the world. Her alliances and sales teams alike operate as an extension of her collaborative force, always focused on the win-win. She’s been a vocal champion for partners’ ongoing growth, speaking at events that span the globe—from the U.S. to Europe, Japan, Australia, Peru, and even Ecuador, to name a few. That commitment to partner and partnership has helped drive the company’s growth from 1,000 to more than 3,000 customers in 85 countries over the past three years, fueled in large part by partner contributions.


Channel Team offsite, Campo di Bocce-Los Gatos

2. Team engagement takes many dimensions

Less than one-third of employees are enthusiastic about and engaged in their work, according to Gallup. How can you buck the trend toward ho-hum engagement and really energize your team? Here’s one example in action: At our recent Adaptive Live user conference, the customer success team wore orange t-shirts and scarves so that customers would have no trouble spotting them in the crowd of 1,400 attendees. And Carolee gamely donned an orange scarf as well, leading by example. She knows that teams are often stitched closest by those stray moments of camaraderie: like when she’s found belting out tunes with her team at company events, engaging in an evening of bocce ball, or creating elaborate Halloween costumes for the company party each year, like 2015’s Day of the Dead. But the strength of Carolee’s team also shows that she knows when to encourage fun and when to double down on work. She’s a passionate mentor, as eager to hear about someone’s hopes for their professional future as she is to help them make it happen. And the team responds to that receptive leadership style by giving it their all at work.


Carolee layout, Trapeze Arts-Oakland, CA

3. Recharging makes you stronger

In the modern Misery Olympics, it’s easy to get caught up in complaining/competing about how little we’ve slept or how many hours we’ve logged. But recharging away from work is exactly what allows Carolee to be such an effective leader when she’s on the clock. That means not just prioritizing time with her husband and six-year-old son at home or while traveling the world, but indulging in passion projects, like taking flying trapeze lessons or sampling every food truck at the Oakland Museum of California, incidentally an Adaptive Insights customer. She also volunteers at the Gamble Institute, where she is a member of the board. She has taught computer basics, raised funds in support of peer mentoring, given talks about her own work experience—all in the service of a not-for-profit focused on formerly incarcerated individuals. Rather than deplete her, these passions and interests recharge her—and make her a stronger leader, as well. Carolee and her family reside in Oakland, so she is inclined to contribute to the community in which she lives.

When asked directly what she thought of being honored four times by CRN, Carolee summed it up like this, “You don’t survive in Silicon Valley without building for the long term. Whether it’s developing a new team, establishing partnerships, or growing business, cultivating trust and rapport takes time. You have to be accountable for delivering what you signed up for, getting folks invested in the win-win, and doing the right thing. That’s been a large part of how I’ve been successful. And it’s been worth it, every step of the way.”


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