January 06, 2022

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Sometimes, great leadership means stepping back

A lot of good leaders know they won’t have all the answers. If anyone can attest to this, it’s Steve Murphy, CEO of Epicor Software. The differentiator lies in when, where and how to find those answers.

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Murphy says that to become a better leader of a business team, you need to become a proactive listener. Especially when a business is going through big changes. Listening to customers and the workforce will tell you a lot about where to guide the business next.

On Business X factors, a business podcast that takes you behind the curtain of some of the most successful companies in the world, Murphy talks about when to take a step back, finding the root cause of problems, and establishing a balance between being respected and being liked.

Looking Back to Move Forward

When businesses experience problems, many leaders start by addressing the symptoms, like missed deadlines, low morale, lack of materials or software problems. They are putting out the small fires. For Murphy, connecting the dots of past mistakes is the only way to find out what was broken and why it was broken. It takes a bigger effort to pause and dig deeper into the root causes of problems. Only then can leaders diagnose the underlying issues with the team.

Once it’s time to implement a solution, the focus has to be on the job and delivering the results, not the emotions behind the problems. A great leader will take responsibility if things go wrong and take the time to listen and get buy-in.

“If your objective is I want everybody to like me, you probably won’t be any good at your job,” said Murphy. “But if respect is enough and keeping your word is enough for you, then you can handle those leadership roles.”

Providing the Tools for Success

A big part of guiding successful change is knowing how to empower the people you expect to carry out that change.

Murphy recalls telling the functional experts at Epicor that a transition was going to happen, but they would be given the tools to succeed. He expected maybe 50 percent of the salespeople would be able to make the leap.

“We overachieved,” he said. “It was probably four out of five with the right support and training.”

Hear more about how Steve Murphy turned Epicor into a thriving business with more than $900 million in revenue and 20,000 customers in more than 150 countries. Listen at Mission.org: Looking Backward Before You Go Forward.

The Business X factors podcast features top executives and their X factors — the tools, technology and culture that give them a competitive advantage. It is produced by Mission.org and sponsored by Hyland. New episodes drop every Thursday.