Key takeaways for hiring business leaders and managers
Spotting, hiring and keeping good talent is a crucial, but difficult task under ordinary circumstances. When you're hiring someone who will be charged with managing employees, the stakes are raised even higher. Keep an eye out for special traits harbored by special potential managers.
Value references from the bottom, not just the top
It is common for anyone seeking a job - specifically if they're seeking a position as a manager - to proudly present references from the CEO, the owner, their regional manager. It is natural to try to get a documented nod from the biggest boss with the heaviest title. But a manager's job is to lead.
He or she can’t do it by themselves, and the very best managers find a way to bring out the best in their subordinates. Keep a special eye on the candidate who is just as proud of references that come from those who worked under him or her in their last position.
Alpha dogs aren't always good leaders
As discussed in the article "Five Real-World traits of the best managers today," the authoritative approach is yesterday's news. Every moment a manager spends asserting his or her dominance is a lost opportunity to display genuine empathy and develop loyalty in the arena of ideas.
Look for managers who build morale by delegating responsibility and then trusting those who accept it with responsibility.
Weigh personality as heavily as experience
Many candidates look great on paper. They may have impressive educational bona fides and stellar work experience. But in real life, sometimes the best "qualified" candidates come off as wooden or un-relateable to the people they are charged with managing.
Although not every manager is going to possess contagious charisma, they must relate to their subordinates on some level to garner respect and loyalty.
Disqualify - then hire!
This tip is one of the ground rules for hiring at Microsoft. Optimism is nice, as long as it has been tempered with healthy skepticism. Look for every possible flaw with your candidate. Seek out every chink in the armor of their job-interview facade.
Once you diligently and meticulously seek out the potential negatives and find them to be acceptable, you can bask in all that is good about your new manager.
When hiring managers; place a greater premium on empathy than on assertive authority. Look closely for flaws to avoid making decisions based solely on optimism. Most importantly, remember that you're hiring a leader - his or her ability to connect with subordinates is as important as on-paper qualifications.
Andrew Lisa is a freelance business writer. He covers staffing and business management.
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.