A New Year Resolution for Business Success
Written by: Dr. Ray Bendetto and Tom Walter
What are you going to do to make your company better in 2013? Shooting for financial targets is hardly enough. Chasing financial goals is futile if the company lacks the human talent necessary to achieve such goals. In brief, making any company better depends on how leaders retain and leverage their human assets as a distinctive competitive advantage.
Our research has shown how entangled companies sustain distinctive competitive advantages in various industries by building unique and enviable cultures that stimulate creative thinking, constantly generate new ideas, motivate high performance, and consistently delight customers. Leaders of high-performing companies view their business as a system that requires the synchronizing of key subsystems. Great leaders know that the future success of any enterprise rests on the strength of their leadership subsystem, which includes the current and future direction of the enterprise and their leadership pipeline—how tomorrow’s leaders are being developed today.
The leadership pipeline is a lot more than merely planning for leadership succession. The pipeline is a set of integrated steps that begins with having the right people on board, extends to daily reinforcement of right behaviors, and manifests itself in discretionary thinking and exceptional performance. If you want to do better in 2013 and beyond, assessing your leadership subsystem is a good place to start. The following questions spanning eight key areas can help you begin:
- Core values. Does the company have a set of explicit core values? Were staff from all levels of the company involved in creating these values? Are the values easy to understand? Does the set of core values, taken together, convey the spirit of the company? Are the values conspicuously displayed throughout work areas to remind employees about the values the company holds most dear?
- Code of conduct. Have employees created a code of conduct that exemplifies how core values appear in daily behaviors? Do employees hold themselves and others mutually accountable for right behaviors? Does the performance evaluation and management system recognize and reward employees for exemplifying core values?
- Organizational Purpose. Does the vision for the company’s future inspire suppliers and key partners as well as employees? Does the company mission clearly state daily commitments in serving the stakeholders? When employees meet formally to conduct company business, do they review and reinforce the organizational purpose (values, vision, and mission)?
- Leadership Philosophy. Does each employee understand the difference between leadership and management? Is every employee viewed as a leader who has influence upon others? Does each employee have a defined circle of influence through which he or she can affect change?
- Trust and Caring. Is each employee trusted to act as a responsible adult? Have the company shed a 20th century command-and-control management approach for a 21st century trust-and-track leadership approach? Does each and every leader work on building relationships based on trusting and caring for others? Does the performance evaluation and management system recognize and reward leaders for relationship building? Are leaders who fail to meet this standard assessed, counseled, and coached to develop these skills? Are leaders who fail to respond to positive development efforts relieved from duties and encouraged to find employment elsewhere?
- Learning and Growth. Are employees at all levels taught how to read company financial reports and to assess functional performance related to cost and expense management and revenue generation? Does each employee understand how his or her daily performance contributes to company goals and objectives? Does each employee have an individual development plan that identifies three strengths to be leveraged as well as three improvement areas for the next performance year?
- Transparency. Are employees receiving all the necessary daily and weekly information from which to make decisions? Do employees receive routine, comprehensive reports of company operations they can use to improve service to their internal customers? Are employees engaged in decision-making at the lowest levels related to cost and expense management as well as revenue generation, if appropriate?
- Accountability. Is each employee held accountable for meeting objectives? Does each employee provide a formal accounting of performance, such as weekly huddles (ala The Great Game of Business (1992) by Jack Stack and Bo Burlingham, New York: Currency-Doubleday)? Responsibility without accountability results in less than optimal performance!
Although answers to some of the above questions may not be easy, they provide a starting point for improving the leadership system within any company. The eight areas above serve as a framework through which leaders can work during the course of a year. Some areas are sequential, such as the code of conduct following establishment of core values, while others can run concurrently, such as learning and growth along with transparency. The keys to success are doing honest assessments, confronting the brutal facts, and pursuing solutions for each response that lacks a definitive “Yes!”.
Dr. Ray Benedetto, DM, is a retired USAF Colonel. He founded a consulting firm that helps leaders build high-performing, character-based cultures in addition to his teaching leadership and strategic planning for the University of Phoenix Chicago Campus MBA program. Tom Walter is a serial entrepreneur and nationally recognized speaker on entrepreneurship, leadership and business culture. They are the co-authors of It’s My Company Too! How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Employee Engagement For Remarkable Results. For more information, please visit, www. ItsMyCompanyToo.com.
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.