In Today's Workforce, A High IQ Isn't Enough
Written By: Curtis L. Odom, Ed.D.
In a recent study by Price Water House Coopers, 53% of CEO’s said that they see a lack of skills as a major challenge facing their organization. So, what’s being done about this? Has your organization made any significant changes to help up –skill your employees? Are you investing dollars in the learning and development functions? Or are you hoping that benign neglect will eventually work for you and that the university system will start pumping out more highly qualified employees than ever?
It’s not just CEO’s who are worried about the skills shortages. Employees themselves feel the pressure to upgrade their own skill set. According to an Accenture report, The Learning Enterprise, nearly 55% of workers feel pressure to acquire new skills. But here’s the catch, only 25% of them actually feel like they are getting the support that they need.
It’s simply not working. We’re not preparing for the future if we don’t invest in the present. I recognize that this is a shared responsibility that needs to be tackled from the earliest levels of education all the way through corporate learning initiatives. The fact is we need to start acting differently if we’re serious about taking on this challenge. Doing what we’ve always done, isn’t working. It’s time for a new approach. One that balances public and private partnerships to help develop a flexible and agile workforce. There are a few ways to accomplish this. If we’re serious about changing the way we operate we need to value and reward the right skills and behaviors.
We know for certain that behaviors are what drive results. We also know that behaviors are driven by emotions. Emotions are contagious. We have an open loop system. Emotions spread quickly. Keep this in the mind the next time you see a group of kids giggling in a park, watch how quickly the laughter spreads. Or conversely watch how quickly kids gang up on one another. When groups of people are working together, they create a micro climate. This climate is impacted greatly by the emotions and behaviors of the ‘leader.’ Leaders have significant influence on our ability to perform and our capacity to adapt to new challenges and new stressors. The point is, IQ isn’t enough anymore. We need to start embracing emotional intelligence. And we need our leaders to do it now.
We also need to embrace learning agility. We need to start teaching our kids and our employees how to become intellectually curious. We need to adopt a new standard for how we view intelligence. And we need to reward individuals who are curious about not only the ‘what’ but the ‘how’ and the ‘why.’
From a skill perspective we need engineers, scientists and mathematicians. This is nothing new, not earth-shattering news. We need human resource professionals that can develop talent and create cultures that support, recognize and reward the right behaviors. We need right brain thinkers and we need left brain thinkers. We need teachers who can instill the right behaviors early on and who open people up to learning and development. We need people that are highly detailed, but we need people that are highly creative.
In a world where talent is growing scarcer by the day, we need everyone on board. We can’t keep focusing on one skill set. We’re selling ourselves short if all we keep focusing on is math and science. Yes, there’s a skill gap there, but we’re about to come into an age where there are skill gaps everywhere. The Boomers are leaving. We can’t afford as a society or as organizations to solely focus on one area. We need to focus across the board. We need engineers who are politically adept. We need human resource professionals that are financially savvy. We need people to be agile. We can’t afford to grow people in silos anymore.
A high IQ isn’t enough anymore. It’s table stakes, get smart or get out. We want people that can lead. People that have the emotional intelligence to flex when needed. People who understand how to forge forward in the face of uncertainty while continuing to motivate their people to follow. We need leaders who care and employees who are willing to try new things.
We can do this. A public and private partnership can help make this happen. We need to get into the schools early and work closely with the teachers, administrators and curriculum planners. We should be building curriculum that not only focuses on the hard sciences, but one that also focuses on the behavioral science. We should be teaching our people and our kids how to develop a curious mindset. One that questions and pursues knowledge. A mindset that isn’t scared of uncertainty, but can embrace it. One that sees the possibilities of the future. One that knows if we put our minds together we can achieve great things. A mindset that values intellect, sees potential in the face of failure and one that embraces empathy as a key leadership trait.
Our CEO’s have a right to be worried, but in that concern, should be an endless optimism that we can conquer this challenge and that we can rise together and embrace a new future and a new paradigm.
Dr. Curtis L. Odom is Principal and Managing Partner of Prescient Training Strategists, LLC, a consulting firm focusing on integrated talent management. Author of Stuck in the Middle: A Generation X View of Talent Management, Dr. Odom has recently been a featured expert in/on CNNMoney.com’s “Ask Annie” column, Wall Street Journal’s FINS blog, Ebony.com, Huffington Post and a number of other regional and national outlets. He has over 15 years of experience in talent development, performance consulting, training, and instructional design as a practitioner, researcher, author and speaker. Dr. Odom earned his doctorate of education from Pepperdine University and has been industry certified as both a Human Capital Strategist and Strategic Workforce Planner from the Human Capital Institute. Formerly serving in the United States Navy, he is currently a member of the International Society for Performance Improvement, the American Society for Training and Development and American Mensa. For more information, please visit www.stuckinthemiddle.me.
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.