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“The only way that we keep people engaged is to actually open ourselves up even more” With Candice Georgiadis & Katie Stein

The only way that we keep people engaged is to actually open ourselves up even more. People see my house is messy, I have my son’s headset on, my home office isn’t perfect. But that is what they are going through as well. I think it’s actually more of this shift from a closed mindset […]

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The only way that we keep people engaged is to actually open ourselves up even more. People see my house is messy, I have my son’s headset on, my home office isn’t perfect. But that is what they are going through as well. I think it’s actually more of this shift from a closed mindset to having to open ourselves up so that we may maintain the mental and physical health of our own teams.

So much of what we do as leaders is to drive change. It’s not actually about the perfect answer. There will never be a perfect answer. It’s about going where you want it to go and then figuring out how you get a bunch of smart people on the right teams. Sometimes they are organizationally aligned, sometimes they are not. But you need to actually go in that direction and build towards what you are trying to do.


Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Katie Stein.

As Chief Strategy Officer, Katie Stein leads the development and execution of Genpact’s corporate strategy, including the company’s focus on priority service lines and the realignment of its product and solution portfolio. As Global Business Leader of Genpact’s Enterprise Services, she leads the company’s core services portfolio encompassing all industries, including finance and accounting, order management, source to pay, supply chain, and enterprise risk.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Coming out of college, I worked in management consulting with the Boston Consulting Group for several years, before working at Mercer as its Global COO for the retirement and health benefits unit. Ultimately, what I realized is that you bet on your boss and the culture and the team that you are joining and will be a part of, even as the role evolves from where it began. That was a big factor to why I joined Genpact and the experience I’ve had thus far. We’re a very curious culture that prides itself on enabling everyone, including myself, to take a problem and turn it over and over until we’re satisfied with the solution.

Please share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting, and what lesson you learned?

Early on, maybe about six months after starting at Genpact, I was in this massive town hall meeting with a couple of hundred colleagues. There were lots of names to remember, and after a couple of weeks I had mastered most of them. But we had some exec leaders that called me ‘Stacy’ (probably thinking of our CMO, Stacy Simpson). I then decided to make a joke of it by calling one of them by an incorrect name, and then going on to brand Stacy and me as “Katcy.”

Everyone started laughing. It was one of those moments of completely diffusing the situation through candor. But it also was symbolic of “If you get my name wrong, I will get your name wrong, too.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are today?

Usually when people answer that question, they answer it in terms of people who had their back and pushed them. My experience was a bit opposite. During my tenure at Marsh & McLennan, I experienced a pivotal moment in my career. I was involved in a leadership team meeting. It was my first time on the “big stage.” I was pretty nervous in part because I had a very tough boss.

Ahead of this leadership meeting, I worked very hard to prepare and get everything perfect. Then the meeting began and within an hour everything went south quickly. The next day I was in her office, and she said to me: “How does it feel to come down from your ivory tower?” I’ve never forgotten that.

You would have thought that I would have taken that moment to say, “what a horrible person.” But I took that moment — and it was such a jolting thing that I needed — in that it’s okay to not have the textbook answer and to not be perfect. Companies and organizations exist because there are stakeholder dynamics, and you have to think through what they are trying to get out of it. Sometimes I even feel that way with my own kids. It really changed how I approached things; it changed my career path, honestly.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or the need to make a decision?

All my teams at Genpact know I’m an avid runner, and they know that I’m fiercely competitive. I always say, “You’ll never outrun me.” I love to take a problem and turn it over and over in my mind.

And running is one of those times you’re not latched to a computer, and you can’t be looking at your iPhone or laptop. No one can be talking to you. And you can just be trying to consider a problem’s every angle. You know what you think the answer is.

But in that moment you can step away, you can breathe, you can test it against five other assumptions, or against something they’re seeing that you’re not seeing. Certainly during COVID, my teams know I am going to be running more so they’ll take that opportunity to throw their problems at me.

As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Please articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team.

Diversity can of course be defined in terms of racial background. But it can also refer to diversity in experience. And experience comes down to fundamentally understanding what has happened in a person’s past, how they’ve grown up, what challenges they faced, what resources they lacked, and so on.

I think if we’re really honest and we want to think about how as companies we continue to be agile in terms of how we grow and evolve, you have to embrace that experiential diversity. Because the moment the team becomes settled and you’re just sort of repeating each other’s thoughts, you’re stuck, you’re in a quagmire.

Diversity is fundamental if we want to continue growing. It’s essential for each of us to step back and listen to others, to actually try to experience and understand what they are thinking and feeling.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I have been reading a lot about how in many countries, and in many generations, women are bearing more of the brunt when it comes to family duties during this pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, during the work week, there was a clear separation between church and state. I’m all in on work during the week, and on the weekends it’s all my family.

During this pandemic, however, it’s been a 24/7 demand cycle and those lines between work and home life are increasingly blurred. Those lines are blurred because our kids are sitting next to us homeschooling, while we have to juggle the demands of work from home. On top of this, I think it’s mostly women who will come out of this having felt the stress of those pieces. Not because their partners, spouses or others haven’t helped out, but because intuitively women feel that burden more strongly.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their teams to thrive?

I would say especially as we continue to work in a virtual environment and with many other demands, particularly when it comes to family, it’s very easy for us to become disconnected. I think that our ability to embrace more radical transparency with our teams and have more candid conversations will be critical.

There has been this feeling of trying to have a little bit of separation of work and home, because the fear is that someone knows too much about your kids and maybe they’ll make an assumption about how much you’re willing to work. Or someone knows something about your home life and maybe they’ll assume you now want to work on this or that project.

The only way that we keep people engaged is to actually open ourselves up even more. People see my house is messy, I have my son’s headset on, my home office isn’t perfect. But that is what they are going through as well. I think it’s actually more of this shift from a closed mindset to having to open ourselves up so that we may maintain the mental and physical health of our own teams.

So much of what we do as leaders is to drive change. It’s not actually about the perfect answer. There will never be a perfect answer. It’s about going where you want it to go and then figuring out how you get a bunch of smart people on the right teams. Sometimes they are organizationally aligned, sometimes they are not. But you need to actually go in that direction and build towards what you are trying to do.

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