Michelle Rios, President of Blue Tiger Leadership, LLC, Top 10 Admired Leaders of 2023

Michael Fiacco
Chief Revenue Officer
Windstream Enterprise

Michelle Rios, President of Blue Tiger Leadership, LLC

Adapt quickly to the market change

As a leading managed service provider, Windstream Enterprise has one ulterior motive, according to the company’s CRO, Michael Fiacco. The company with a backbone of a great culture, great leadership and the right strategy in place wants to drive enterprise transformation and improve business outcomes for their customers. By offering a range of cloud-enabled connectivity, communications, and security solutions, along with managed services supported by technology experts, Windstream Enterprise helps clients streamline operations, boost productivity, and protect their data and reputation, with their goal being to help them maximize revenue and profitability. “Through this goal, it’s our mission to unlock of clients’ revenue and profitability potential,” said Mike.

Right before joining Windstream Enterprise, Mike discovered that the company had a unique opportunity to transform itself unlike other players in the market. With new strategic and forward-thinking approaches set in place over the last year, both internally and externally, Windstream Enterprise did not need to completely change their brand, but rather evolveand expand it. Mike found this prospect exciting because the company is highly flexible and rapidly growing, which enables them to adapt in the ever-changing market place.

But before we dive further into Mike’s current leadership at Windstream Enterprise and the responsibilities he is leading across the organization, it’s helpful to take a look back at lessons and role models that inspired his career in the first place.

From humble and historic beginnings

To learn about the influences that have left a mark on Mike’s life, he takes us back to his time studying at Stony Brook University. There, Mike had entered his studies with the intent of being a history professor. It was one of his educators, Michael Barnhart who was skilled at connecting history to current foreign policy issues that would provide lessons more effective than any textbook or lecture for Mike to apply to his professional and personal life.

Barnhart lectures taught Mike critical thinking, communication, and crisp inquiry. “He stressed the necessity of pausing before replying and thoroughly examining messages,” said Mike. Mike praises Barnhart's lectures for his ability to conduct significant discussions with colleagues and industry stakeholders in fast-paced business contexts. Current day, he finds inspiration in his coworkers and believes that a strong team can help overcome challenges. These lectures sparked Mike’s emphasis on collaboration and always seeks input from his colleagues to find the best solutions together.

Another lesson that Mike learned from this time was the importance of data in his decision-making and the necessity of gathering sufficient information before acting. This helps guarantee that strategic business decisions remainin line with the company's goals, objectives, and initiatives. He has personally witnessed the benefits of utilizing real-time data and analytics in an organization, including increased adaptability, the capacity to respond to changes, and improved decision-making. This access to real-time data also promotes objectivity and accountability, which are vital for Windstream Enterprise's ongoing transformation.

Qualities that make a good leader

According to Mike, “Being transparent is the most effective way to communicate with employees and customers.” He values face-to-face communication but also recognizes the importance of digital channels. To facilitate communication, he relies onadvanced tools and technology which mirrors many of the strategic solutions sold by Windstream Enterprise. Mike believes that effective communication requires honesty, transparency, and humility, and that leaders like himself should actively listen and acknowledge their own limitations. “It also doesn’t hurt to find ways to bring a little humor into the workplace,” he added.

Mike also emphasizes the significance of the people they surround themselves with. “It is important to determine whether being liked or respected is more important to you,” he said. While both are desirable, being a successful leader means prioritizing earning respect from colleagues to establish a productive work environment that emphasizes accountability and dedication. But generally, when respect forms, likability closely follows.

Referencing a quote from Margaret Thatcher, if our main goal is to be liked, we will be willing to compromise on anything and ultimately achieve nothing. “As leaders, we often have to make difficult decisions, but it is important for us to clearly explain our reasoning and choices. Developing relationships based on respect is crucial for effective leadership, trust, and long-term success in our careers. In doing so, we can take on more significant responsibilities and show our team that our intentions are sincere, Mike said.

As a result of investing his resources into being the best leader he can be, Mike expects his employees and peers to be accountable and productive in return. He level sets these expectations at the beginning of each year through a strategic top-down plan. Getting everyone on the same page, marching to the same drum, has helped him to promote unity among the employees he works with.

To stay on track with these goals, he ensures that his leadership team provides frequent and open communication, reviews goals and always looks for ways to keep moral high with a positive work environment. Mike does this by highlighting the need for methods like performance reviews, peer feedback, mentoring, and celebrating successes. At Windstream Enterprise, they have many reward programs in place that offer public recognition, incentives, promotions, and public recognition at Windstream Enterprise.

The key is Orchestration

The concept of ‘Orchestration’ has been critical to the way Mike leads his team at Windstream Enterprise and has contributed to the organization's successful transformation, both in terms of talent and structure. This approach builds trust and empowers the team to take calculated risks. Collaboration is crucial for success, and the organization is committed to working together and adapting to industry changes. Mike has experienced multiple instances where his team cooperated efficiently to achieve a specific objective. These moments have always resulted in the creation of something new within their business and agency, which they refer to as "creating a symphony out of silence." Each of these cases were sparked by keeping a pulse of the market place and asking questions like, what is driving change, and what are their customers saying?

To supplement his Orchestration approach, Windstream Enterprise has been busy thus far this year, most recently with the launch of IT Managed Services. “These tailored services allows usto partner with industry leaders to offer various services and help their customers succeed in their business goals,” said Mike.

This initiative is important as it helps enterprises overcome technology management challenges. It also addresses the shortage of tech talent, which is a major hindrance for businesses. According to Gartner, 86% of CIOs reported facing more competition for qualified candidates, and 73% were worried about IT talent attrition. As a result, businesses face barriers to transformation that slow their growth and development and impact their bottom line.

What’s next for Mike and Windstream Enterprise?

Mike informs that Windstream Enterprise will continue to leverage our core SD WAN, UCaaS and Security portfolio, while expanding expand on these critical managed services that help relieve the strain on IT staff and allow businesses to focus on improving their outcomes and customer experiences. They expect to make significant changes in their business and the industry in the next five years to continue to meet the changing needs of customers.

Therewithal, Windstream Enterprise plans to invest in expanding their advanced technology stack and strategic alliances program in order to become the perfect consulting partner for their clients. For Mike and his team, it’s not about selling customers solutions additional technology to try to solve their problem it’s about becoming the partner they need to decipher the complications that come with the technology and stich a personalized IT infrastructure together for them. They believe this will give them a competitive advantage in the market and are excited about the growth potential in the coming years.


Windstream Enterprise


Michael Fiacco
Chief Revenue Officer
Windstream Enterprise


Windstream Enterprise provides cloud-enabled connectivity, communications and security solutions, along with IT Managed Services, that allow enterprise customers to drive the business outcomes and experiences they desire and require.

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