Implementing sustainable business practices
Business owners are told time and time again that they need to implement sustainability initiatives in order to remain current, competitive and profitable. There are hundreds of articles online that discuss how large corporations have successfully implemented sustainable practices, and what’s more we hear about the rewards they are reaping on a daily basis.
Among the long list of benefits, business leaders are told that going green will give their business a competitive advantage. They are told that they could save money; that they will attract consumers, clients and talented employees; that they could improve their bottom line and increase productivity all while doing better by the environment and the community. The positives are extremely attractive, but despite the enthusiasm to start, many companies are paralyzed by the basic question of: “How?”
It’s all good and well to be told that you need to implement sustainability practices at your business, but knowing the best ways to go about it can leave even seasoned leaders floundering.
INITIATING & IMPLEMENTING SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES AT YOUR BUSINESS
When it comes to implementing changes in business, clear communication is critical if you want your policy to be adhered to. Make sure every single employee understands what it is they need to change and let them know what will be expected of them moving forward. It is also recommended to put any procedural changes in writing and have everyone sign them to indicate they have understood the new standard.
Don’t just tell your staff what you need them to change, but educate them as to why. What benefits will the change bring to the business? Why is sustainability important and how will it impact upon them in the short and long term? Not only will this help get employees on board, but it will also help them pick up the new process quickly. When people understand the reasoning behind a change they are far more likely to implement it correctly and effectively.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
The ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach is no longer effective in business. People expect a leader to lead, not just dictate. If your employees see you following the new procedure to the letter they are more likely to do the same. You will earn the respect of your employees and set the standard at the same time. Furthermore, proof of your own dedication will boost employee morale, making changes easier to implement in the future.
It’s all good and well implementing a new way of doing things, but if you don’t follow up you might as well have not bothered in the first place. Monitoring progress overall and on an individual basis is extremely important when implementing change at your business. Not only will this keep everyone on their toes and focused on the new strategy, but it will also become a source of encouragement when everyone see positive results and improvements.
Last but not least, reviewing your processes after a trial period and then at three monthly increments is critical for optimum efficiency. Ask yourself and your employees what went well, what could have been improved, what changes led to the greatest developments and conversely, what changes failed to have an impact and why. Analyze these results and modify your approach moving forward. By including employees in this analysis period, you are engaging them in the process and thus encouraging them to fully embrace the new way of working. You are also more likely to get continual feedback from them, which could dramatically help boost your bottom line, while cultivating a positive and collaborative culture.
Marketing matters: from IBM to 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.