May 19, 2020

Ignium Consulting: Leadership through change

change management
Strategy
Ignium Consulting
Kerry Jarred
Kerry Jarred
5 min
Ignium Consulting: Leadership through change

Kerry Jarred, co-founder and partner at Ignium, leadership development and change experts, shares her thoughts on how businesses can evolve their leadership strategies. 

One thing is for certain, change is everywhere. Today’s volatile economic, political, and technological environment makes workplaces especially challenging and unpredictable. This means that today’s leaders, whether individually or collectively within organisations, are under greater pressure to adapt to these challenges and continually consider how best to operate to stay ahead in their particular market. 

Having the right leadership skills within any business, no matter the size, is absolutely critical to take the business to the next level to manage change and grow the business. What will align leaders is their joint belief in what they stand for, where they want to take the business, and on what terms.

The most successful organisations are led by people who bring out the best in their people during times of extreme uncertainty, and ensuring that they have the right HR processes, systems and frameworks to support them in their future state.

Plan, plan and plan

It is important to think about what might lie ahead. This may sound simple, but it is a step which is never given enough time and commitment by leaders as they’re understandably working at an intense pace and therefore end up simply reacting to what is in-front of them. By stepping back and considering what potential challenges and opportunities may arise, business leaders will be better placed to identify what kind of skills, capabilities and mind-sets will be required to manage and cope with any changes ahead – planned or not.

Having a clearer line of sight around where the gaps may be, in terms of resource, systems, processes, frameworks and capabilities will enable the business to quickly address any problems and fill in the gaps for maximum success. 

Clarity is critical

When business leaders are clear about their purpose, they can build their strategy. Once that’s done, it’s much easier to create a culture where the best people want to work for the company. In this way the culture is then doing the recruiting and retention.

It is important to keep purpose front, and centre so that employees stay on track. There may be distractions along the way, criticisms even, but by focussing on their purpose and the kind of culture they want to build, great business leaders stand the best chance to galvanise their people’s hearts and minds, and they will in turn deliver the business strategy and drive value and greater business performance.

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Aligning capabilities to the business strategy

This is true not only for business leaders and the company’s leadership team but also for their employees too. 

Being clear about what skills, capabilities and behaviours are needed to deliver the business strategy will inform the leadership team on how best to structure the business over the next five years or more, helping to ensure that long-term plans aren’t left on the shelf. Successful leaders want their strategy to become a daily reality, with the right numbers of people in the right roles doing the right things, to the best of their ability. 

There will be tough decisions along the way. Perhaps some people will leave the organisation, but that’s ok, because if there is a well-defined plan and it has been clearly communicated, they will leave for the right reasons.  

Importantly, the leadership team must be honest with one another around what it is they really want, and what that requires of each and every one of them. This can be a sensitive time, and leadership teams often benefit from working with independent facilitators, coaches and organisational development professionals to help them navigate the complexities and dynamics they face.

Trust and engage people

Bringing people together to plan and execute change is critical. Including employees in decision-making early on, strengthens their commitment to change. This should be a holistic and inclusive approach, working across boundaries (geographically, functionally and culturally), to encourage people to break out of their silos and collaborate with one another. In turn this helps to develop a better understanding of differing circumstances and perspectives, and fuses them together as a team, bought into the overall purpose of the business. 

Businesses also need to remember to communicate. Unsuccessful leaders often focus only on the “what” behind the change. Successful leaders communicate both the “what” and the “why.” Leaders who explain the purpose of the change and connect it to their organisation’s values, or explain the benefits create much stronger buy-in.

Invest in people

As a leader, the most important people are those that are expected to carry out the agreed vision and head into the trenches to make sure that the transition, through whatever change the organisation is going through, is a success.

Depending on the size of the company, leaders should look to invest in their people as much as possible. The organisations that are passionate about developing and building capability in their people are the same organisations that come out on top.

Whether it’s incorporating team-building exercises, bringing in experts in a certain field or enhancing skill sets in different ways, the opportunities are endless for business leaders to invest in their people (and indeed in themselves as a leader). This will not only help the business through change but will also demonstrate to employees how much the company’s leaders care about developing them to become better.

Commitment

Today’s most successful business leaders ensure their own beliefs and behaviours support change. Change is difficult, but leaders who negotiate it successfully are resilient and persistent, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. They also devote more of their own time to the change effort and keep the big picture at the front of their mind, and that of others.

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

CMO
Kyndryl
IBM
Leadership
Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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