• Chris Barbin

The Lieutenants - Fog Sculpting & Storytelling

The latest installment of our “Lieutenants - Lessons, Learning and Leadership” blog series is with Dan Darcy, SVP of Global Enablement at Salesforce. A collaborative change leader, controller of chaos and self proclaimed, “fog-sculptor”, Dan has served for more than a decade to one of the most legendary CEOs of all time, Salesforce's Marc Benioff, where he is responsible for developing and delivering market-defining product visions that thousands have come to recognize and utilize. In this Q&A, Dan reveals his secrets to staying focused amidst the chaos, being prepared for constant change and what leadership qualities he values most.

How would you describe your role in a nutshell?

I’m responsible for enablement at Salesforce - both internally for sales and the partner organization. My job is to equip our customer facing roles with the right knowledge, capabilities, content, and tools so they can have meaningful conversations and accomplish as much as possible. I help people achieve outcomes that align to our company goals. Effective enablement is part communication, part deep-learning, and part corralling various teams. At Salesforce we utilize a hub and spoke model - our global center of excellence of a few hundred folks empowers 10,000 plus customer-facing employees. Everything converges at the enablement layer because if we aren’t clear about what outcomes we’re trying to drive, it’s impossible to know how to enable the journey to achieve successful results. It’s about ruthless prioritization to define and drive success in chaos.

What is the one word that comes to mind when you think of your leadership style?

Strategy and execution, but if I had to pick one, execution.

And if I were to randomly poll people on your team, would they use the same word to describe your leadership style?

They would probably say “collaborative” or “empathetic”. My leadership style varies depending on what we’re trying to achieve. When I manage up and out, my style tends to be execution-oriented and focused. But when I'm managing down or at the peer level, I’m more collaborative and focused on the people. The most important thing to me about executing is taking care of the people who are helping you execute.

What are two or three traits or characteristics that you would say describes great lieutenants?

The number one trait of a great lieutenant, for me, is trust. A great lieutenant is empathetic, thoughtful, authentic, and they want to get things done. There is no hidden agenda...they exude trust. Another is operational excellence. Being data-driven, but also taking into consideration the anecdotal side of things. Because sometimes being too data-driven is not the right thing. Great leaders have gut instincts, and that really is where the anecdotal side of things come into play.

Great lieutenants are also great storytellers - they are able to take complex chaos and simplify it down into a consumable fashion for people to understand and act on. I like to describe it as ‘fog sculpting’ - organizing chaos.

The last characteristic is really around storytelling or "fog-sculpting." Fog-sculpting is living in the ambiguity of things. The ability to take the chaos and really simplify it down into a consumable fashion for people to understand. Fog-sculpting is the ability to take a lot of different directions and messages, distill it and translate it into something people can successfully act on. That's what I do on a daily basis. There are a lot of fog sculptors out there, and I learned from the best of them, just growing up in the Salesforce arena.

When dealing with the level of chaos you have in your role, what are tips and tricks that you could give to other aspiring lieutenants to manage stress?

I try to think two to three steps ahead and scenario plan. I write down different scenarios of what may come. Whether it's a project, or a leadership response, or anything I do, I ask myself, how would I plan for this scenario? Growing up I was one of those risk averse people who read worst case scenario books. I'm a pattern thinker. I love defining and seeing patterns. So when a situation does arise, I take the use case of scenarios that I have and apply it to the patterns that I'm seeing to execute.

I'm a pattern thinker. I love defining and seeing patterns.

The last thing I will say in terms of stress management is that I get help. Looking for guidance from my mentors and just finding someone to talk through it all helps me recognize, okay, this is not that big of a deal. I can handle this.

I describe leaders as generally having one core belief. They're either customer-centric, team-centric or financially-centric. How would you describe yourself?

I'm more of a heart person, a people person, and that includes both my team and our customers. If you take care of your team, they will take care of your customer. I love empowering people and watching them develop into leaders. At the end of the day, good relationships are critical to success, and what makes the world go around.

If you take care of your team, they will take care of your customer.

There are some people in this lieutenant role that love it, and relish being a bit behind scenes. Then there are others that are using it as a stepping stone to become a CEO. Where do you fall?

I enjoy being a lieutenant at Salesforce because our leadership sets the bar high. I'm constantly learning, and am challenged and inspired. But ultimately, yes, I would love to run my own company someday - it has always been an aspiration of mine.

You work for one of the most legendary CEOs of all time, Marc Benioff. What do you love about the CEO that you work for? Give us something unique.

Marc is genuine and embodies the leader that you read about online. I would say the thing I love most about Marc is just how generous he is, in terms of taking care of the people that surround him and our community. He really works to give a voice to those who don't have one. There are a million fights to fight, but Marc prioritizes what he’ll get involved in because he wants to fight the most meaningful battles really well.

You're still early in your career, but what would you like your professional legacy to be?

I’m very inspired by a message I learned from author/speaker Stephen Covey: "In life, your goal is to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy." That is something that I take to heart. I constantly think...How am I living? How am I loving? How am I learning? How am I building my life to leave a legacy for others?

I constantly think...How am I living? How am I loving? How am I learning? How am I building my life to leave a legacy for others?

I grew up in a foster home so I think a lot about leaving a legacy for other disadvantaged kids. It's something that I'm deeply passionate about and I really hope to be able to fulfill. I haven't gotten to a place where I'm tackling that effectively yet, because I feel like I'm still trying to manage my own life, but those four key points - live, love, learn and leave a legacy - that's what drives me.

© 2019 by Chris Barbin. All right reserved.