Top 10 leadership lessons learnt
Erik Nielsen a business leader and entrepreneur, discusses the top 10 leasons he has learnt of the years.
10. Put your People first. As a Leader, you don’t sell a product, you don’t sell a service, you coach, you nurture, and you reward your People. If you get that right, good things will happen in your business.
9. Losing stinks. Create a culture of winning. Embed what it means to win, but most importantly embed what is feels like to win in your organization. Winning is contagious and will spread like wildfire if you stoke the flames correctly.
8. Muskrat! The movie, “Meet the Fockers” has a great scene in which Robert De Niro is told “Muskrat!” by his wife when he goes overboard, ranting at his new son-in-law, Ben Stiller. However, direct, open, candid, dialog is what creates great teams. Be able to speak openly with your direct reports and if things get too heated, make sure anyone is free to say “Muskrat!” to bring some comedic relief and diffuse the tension. Just never stop the candid, direct, open dialog. Never let your communication get soft as a Leader.
7. Model the behavior you want to see in your Teams. As the Leader, you set the tone - so walk the walk. There’s a great story about Larry Bird being a coaching player. Someone got to practice early to prove that they could beat Larry to the gym in the morning and upon seeing an empty court they looked up and saw Larry running laps, up around the stadium seats above the court.. Larry knew how to model the right behavior of a Leader.
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6. Teach your leadership Team how to inspire. Inspiration takes courage. As a Leader it’s assumed that you’ll have the courage. But when your leadership Team leaves the meeting, will they be courageous enough with the Teams that they lead? Break down inspiration for them, be direct in what it means, and demand it from your reports.
5. Be humble. No one likes an egotist.
4. Be kind. Your job goes beyond your job. As a Leader, you’re a role model for much more than work. Your impact on your organization goes way beyond what you sell. Your People are buying or not buying their first home, moving their families or staying put... because of how you lead. So be kind.
3. Seek counsel. Yes you’re a Leader, but you need mentors. Always stay curious about leadership and always stay “green” in your pursuit of knowledge about leadership. Your Teams and your organization will be the beneficiaries of your curiosity.
2. Set the bar at world class. No one wants to just “get by.” People spend the majority of their day with you at work, and if they’re not changing the world... they’ll leave you and find another Leader to work for who will change the world.
1. Call your mom. Always put family first and your Teams will find the work / life balance they need to be sustainably happy in their career.
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.