The importance of diverse networks that challenge and push you forward
To understand the importance of having a diverse network, we first need to acknowledge and understand our own limitations. Whether we choose to accept it or not, we all harbour biases (conscious and unconscious) which impacts on our ability to appreciate and understand all the perspectives that are at play in any given situation. Our individual limited capacity means that utilising the help of those around us from different backgrounds, cultures, industries etc is crucial in challenging our own thought process and pushing us further, and at an accelerated pace.
Embrace alternative perspectives
Diverse networks that offer an alternative perspective and those that challenge you or your business are essential for long-term sustainable growth to be established. The more diverse your network, the more vigorously thought through the conclusions that you will be able to develop because your network will challenge you and put forward different viewpoints. This not only benefits you when solving a particular problem, but supports your personal growth on the whole as you appreciate more perspectives to consider in future situations.
Overcoming the fear of asking for help or advice and seeing it as a weakness is an important step in embracing a diverse network. The benefits of talking to those that think differently to you and see something from a different point of view can be a significant strength that helps validate your own assumptions and ideas as well as building confidence, which will support your own self development and growth. Putting the ego to the side for the benefit of the task at hand and not being afraid to use all the tools available to you will help you and ensure the solution is innovative and designed appropriately in accordance with your objectives and outcomes.
Use the experience of others
It is important to utilise the power of a diverse network when you work in a sector that straddles different industries. We live in a society where we are surrounded by experts, and the complexities of the multitude of different industries that exist make it extremely difficult for you to understand every single nuance. The diversity of your network can help you navigate the technical jargon so you can close the deal, or provide an opinion on a subject that may enhance your thinking or challenge your current thought process. Because of their extensive knowledge or experience in a certain field, they may offer a perspective you might have never considered.
From my own experience, talking to experts is crucial to test your assumptions and understanding. I’ve often found that it equally helps me to talk to my niece and nephews about some of my business challenges - children and teenagers have an excellent way of telling you whether something makes sense or if it’s too complicated and unconvincing! Distilling your unique offering into a simple and clear message will help you to attract more customers.
Always surround yourself with people that will grow you
The best managers and leaders know and appreciate that they need to surround themselves with people that are different to them. As a leader especially, it can be extremely scary to have people question and challenge you, but if you’re able to understand the benefits this open communication brings and how it can help you, you’ll quickly see progress in your development as well as those around you. The ability to harness the collective knowledge from a diverse group is hugely important, especially when the impact of those very decisions will have consequences that will impact people within the team and across the sphere.
A good example of this is when you’re recruiting people to work with you or within your team. It would be easy to recruit someone very similar to yourself, but depending on the role, identifying individuals that bring something from outside of the core competencies that are required is, and should be seen as an opportunity for growth of that individual and the team as a whole. Identifying individuals with complementary skills to yours or others in the team supports growth and development, as well as pushing any boundaries that may have manifested. Within most large metropolitan cities, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to work with diverse groups. This exposure helps us understand different cultures, share our different experiences and provides invaluable context, which supports the ongoing appreciation of differences that exist. Openness to diversity will not only expand your problem-solving abilities, but it makes you a much more attractive organisation to prospective employees.
Appreciating different views
As you learn to consider more diverse opinions and perspectives, naturally you’ll come to your own conclusions and determine which ones you agree with versus others that you do not. Regardless of whether you agree, it’s important to appreciate these different views respectfully, as at some point they could become relevant and provide the context that you need. If you’re unable to relate to certain points of view, it doesn’t mean they are not valid. It’s better to see it as an idea that you haven’t been sold on just yet and need more convincing.
If we’re able to deeply understand ourselves, our teams and appreciate the multitude of perspectives at play, in any given situation the better and more thought through our solutions will be whilst ensuring they are aligned to the needs of those that they impact or need to consider.
Vinit Shah has more than 20 years experience in sales, implementing complex change projects with a long-term vision in mind, whilst setting direction at pace, to provide clarity and focus with a fun, high energy leadership style. Vinit is the author of Slice which encourages aspiring sales professionals to harness the power of personal development.
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.