Episode TwoHundredFortyOne

Pandemic Leadership Skills: Optimism & Positivity

Guest: Hugh Ghods, Sr. Sales Leader at Hootsuite

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About This Episode

It’s been really tough to keep positive, especially in, yes, a pandemic.

But positivity pays dividends.

In this episode of Sales Engagement, I interview Hugh Ghods, Sr. Sales Leader at Hootsuite, about the best of the COVID-19 workplace changes and how we can all practice optimism about the future.

About 3 years ago, Hugh got fed up with doors shutting during acquisitions.

“I put down the top two or three things that are important to me, and then I went to work with my network to try to find a company and an opportunity that fits,” he said. Hootsuite was that opportunity for him, and he’s never been happier.

Let’s dive into our chat about happiness.

The first 2-4 weeks

Remember those first panicked weeks in March 2020? It’s bizarre to think that we can now look back on that as 7 months ago.

“As a leader, you typically don’t blink,” Hugh said. “People who are working for you, as soon as you blink, they panic, right?”


He had to remember that the equilibrium of his team was pretty much resting exclusively on his shoulders. He decided to take an encouraging approach (while admittedly scrambling in the background).

Hugh had to ask himself what just happened and how he could try to solve it. The answer was, frankly, that none of us can solve the pandemic.

Even while wondering how business would still be conducted, he had to try to conduct business. (Most of us had this experience.)

Hugh took an employee focus.

  • Empathy. When people are working at home uncertain about whether they can even go to the grocery store safely, making sure your people are okay is paramount.
  • Mental health. Check that nobody is panicking or calling it quits.
  • Lots of video. There was a video morning leadership conference call, a video morning team conference call, and an end of the day happy hour conference call. (If that sounds like too much, remember that some people were sheltering in place completely alone.)


Then Hugh took that attitude of nurturing employees… and mapped it onto customers.

The first weeks of the pandemic was a time to provide value to clients, not sales. “We started providing services and insights into their business and some of the quality data that they would get if they were to buy our product,” he added.

This nurturing is not rocket science. It’s making sure that you’re serving others with the skills, goods, and solutions that you bring to the world.

(And you know what? This approach really paid off. When people were ready to buy, they came to Hugh.)

In other words, the first 2 weeks were a lot of staff time on video — and a lot of customer nurturing.

The months since then

Hugh attributes his optimism to the encouragement and the culture among the leadership.

Hootsuite was also fortunate enough to be in a digital industry that was less hard hit than, say, hospitality. Hugh was able to see the positive impact of his company’s solution on others as another source of encouragement.

Here are some other ways he’s adapted:

  • Monthly updates (including tactical support for people at home)
  • Beginning to shift from nurturing to selling with clients
  • Mindset shift to remain at home until June 2021
  • Resuming a proper quarterly plan with new data

All of these business tactics, especially the company’s decision to pay for home offices so that employees could settle in to remote work life, helped leadership and staff come to a state of acceptance about the different way of working.

“We shifted our mindset from short term gains to more long term,” Hugh said.

Getting outside

The object towards employees was to calm down from the frenzy. All those video calls shifted to actual phone calls. “Let’s get off video, let’s go for a walk,” he said.

Enforcing time blocking

No more emailing at 10:00 PM, please. Employees were encouraged to block off the time when their work day began and ended. 

Everyone needed the reminder that it was okay not to work during dinner or at night.

Data analysis

Now that there has been 2 quarters’ worth of data about how the pandemic has affected our industries, it’s been easier to forecast.

Hugh said something so impactful that I want you to hear the entire thing:

Whatever that post-2021 norm is, I would love not just me, not just my organization, not just our province, not just our country — I just hope everyone in the world takes all the good from the pre-COVID, blends it with all the great stuff that’s come out during COVID, and creates a new norm that is taking the good from the past and then now.

He’s right.

We’ve cut out a lot of the corporate and personal redundancies — and that’s a good thing. We’re learning from what we’ve endured. We’re okay. Things are starting to work again.

“Something that’s helped me throughout my life is always lead with a positive mindset,” Hugh said.

Connect with Hugh on LinkedIn.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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