I love people, learning from them, and of course, having lots of coffee with them. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Joanne Moretti, CEO of JCurve digital and Maverick Digital advisory board member. She is the former SVP & CMO of Jabil, Inc., a Fortune 200 manufacturing solutions company. Prior to Jabil, she held CMO and VP roles at Dell, HP, and CA Technologies.

Naturally, I wanted to learn from her success in managing growth for big companies, and how entrepreneurs can learn from her key leadership principles.

Here is what I learned from Joanne from our phone interview:

1.  Start with clarity, always.

"Too many leaders, including myself, have made the mistake of moving fast without a clear direction. And a lack of clear direction can create unnecessary frustration and hurt your brand," notes Joanne. 

I once watched a startup CEO move so fast that he neglected to clarify his vision or the company's mission. It left many wondering, "does he even have a vision?" or "what does our brand stand for, and what do we mean to our customers?"

The lack of clarity was counterproductive as people had conflicting opinions, made things up, and worked in silos, none of which contributed to building brand equity and ultimately, valuation. Worst of all, good people left, leaving the company with subpar talent to execute. Clarity of vision and mission, with equal amounts of passion, are at the core of leadership and building a strong brand.

Furthermore, she explains, "your brand is not a fancy icon or cool tagline; your brand is a promise. You build up your brand equity by clarifying who you are and what you do, sharing that message with everyone in your company, and then executing flawlessly. This is what builds a strong brand."

To achieve clarity internally and in-market, Joanne uses a method called "30-30-3".  Everyone, from the receptionists to the board members should be certified on a 30-second elevator pitch; every customer-facing employee should be certified on the 30-minute corporate pitch, and the domain experts must be able to deliver the 3-hour deep dive. That kind of disciplined approach and clarity across the company, and with customers, will continually reinforce your brand in the market.

2. Focus on high-leverage activities and nothing else.

"High-leverage activities are 3-4 focus areas that enable your mission. They are your investment areas. If you have too many areas, you will dilute your efforts and not create true differentiation. What you focus on and invest in will differentiate you," she explains.

Examples of high-leverage activities might include creating new business models, growing in a certain market or geography, investing in digital transformation, launching a new product, etc.

Once you identify your 3-4 focus areas, you want to openly discuss progress through weekly calls, emails, or meetings. Ruthlessly prioritizing new ideas by asking yourself, "does this help move the company's mission forward?"

My most memorable example from her was, "If you get an opportunity from Japan but you're not focused on Japan, don't go to Japan." I'll let you in on a little secret, but please don't tell Joanne, I don't focus on Japan, but I've been to Japan.

To ensure alignment on the focus areas and create a basis for measurement, Joanne has created a digital value-mapping method which helps companies align investors' expectations to executive KPIs, cascading right down into the functional-level objectives as well as individual goals. This keeps everyone on track and helps accomplish #3 below.

3. Manage people, not tasks.

Entrepreneurs fail on the execution, in part by either not executing, not executing effectively, or not measuring progress. Joanne explains that most leaders she has come across enjoy managing tasks and yet lack the leadership skills to manage (and grow) people.

On managing people, Joanne emphasizes, "as the leader, your role is to clear obstacles for your team, not tackle the obstacles yourself. Otherwise, you'll be viewed as a micromanager."

Her two-step approach includes using the value-mapping tool to assign clear goals to individuals and having regularly scheduled meetings to "inspect what you expect" in terms of execution. She notes that inspecting is different from micromanaging because it sheds light on weaknesses within a plan and helps the employee course correct. Thus, growing them.

I've been on both ends of micromanagement. It made both parties miserable. As an employee, I ended up quitting, but as an entrepreneur, I've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who felt brave enough to confront me. I'm also "inspecting what I expect" by setting clear goals and having regular meetings with my team members.

Without clarity, focus, and execution (including inspection and measurement), your company will struggle to stay relevant in the ever-changing digital world. With it, you will enjoy consistent strategic acceleration.