Saying Yes to High Visibility Projects – Five Steps to Visible Success

Saying Yes to High Visibility Projects – Five Steps to Visible Success

No matter whether you are just starting out in your career or about to retire, saying “yes” to high visibility projects should be at the top of your list of priorities. For those starting out, it indicates willingness and motivation. It helps mark you out as a future leader. For mid-career leaders, taking on high visibility projects can accelerate your progression, open up additional responsibilities and opportunities and signal your interest for executive leadership roles. And for those considering retirement, and thinking about a different kind of future, high visibility projects can provide a lasting career legacy while also acting as a beacon for younger leaders. High visibility projects are important – particularly for women – as a HBR article by Shelley Correll and Lori Mackenzie points out, for those wanting to succeed in a corporate environment, visibility is the single most important factor: More than technical competence, business results, or team leadership ability — these leaders agreed — visibility is the most important factor for advancement But before you can say “yes” to a high visibility project, there is some work that needs to be done. Let’s take a look at the five steps to visible success: Start with a small success: We all like to make a “splash”, but taking on a large challenge also comes with risk and additional pressure. Volunteering to present at the national sales kickoff, for example, will put you squarely in the line of sight of your organization’s leadership. They will know your name, voice and the way you move on stage. They will scrutinize your presentation and speech – and this...
Innovating Across Three Horizons

Innovating Across Three Horizons

I will be the first to admit that numbers matter. It matters that you set them, pursue them and achieve them. As leaders, we need to be across the numbers – from revenue targets to cost centers, investments to acquisitions, and everything in between. But not all numbers matter in the same way. I was reminded of this recently, reading startup entrepreneur, Steve Blank’s article on the challenges facing chip manufacturer, Intel. Like most large enterprises, Intel is building and optimizing its business based on its past successes. As one of the most successful technology companies of the past century, Intel has been at the forefront of tech-driven innovation. How many of us remember the “Intel inside” stickers emblazoned across our computers, servers and laptops? But there has been a shift recently. Intel’s last two CEOs delivered outstanding numbers – both in terms of profit and R&D investment. They optimized and executed at scale, with assured expertise. Yet, at the same time, Intel also missed two significant technology trends. As Blank points out, the first was the shift away from desktop computing and the second, was the opportunities presented by collaboration and licensing of technologies. While Intel has recently announced layoffs to the tune of about 11% of its workforce, it’s not yet the end of the road. It’s chip architectures still dominate data centers the world over, it has deep expertise, capability, intellectual property and leadership. But can it look to a different type of number to drive its future performance? The Three Horizons model of innovation provides leaders with a framework for managing current and future growth...
Innovation – It’s Like Juggling Chainsaws

Innovation – It’s Like Juggling Chainsaws

Hands up who has an ideas platform. Hands up who has an innovation team or a lab. What about email? How many new business ideas would your receive in your email each week? Or month? What about informal and formal chats, hackathons or pitching competitions? There’s an abundance of ideas, right? Almost every leader I know has an “innovation backlog” – a collection of great ideas, opportunities and plans that never get implemented. Time is too short. Implementation takes too long. Or our focus on quarterly goals narrows our ability to accelerate and incubate new projects. There is always a reason – or excuse – to file an innovative idea away for later. But I firmly believe that leadership is about decision making and action. Applying lean startup principles to the business of being a leader will help us to a certain extent, but how do we go about exercising judgement? When we are inundated with information and ideas, judgement can be clouded. What we need is a way to find clarity. Prioritizing the Aha Moment One way of prioritizing your innovation backlog is to assess each idea  in terms of the “Aha moment”. By quickly scanning each of the ideas, you are looking for a moment of “realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension”. Those that don’t make that first cut can be ignored. Yes, ignored. Or better yet, deleted. As leaders we must actively trust our experience and capability. We can’t second guess our decisions each and every time. We need to back ourselves. In doing so, remember, you are not making this decision in isolation. You are...
Come Drive with Me

Come Drive with Me

Today I walked out of the office and into the fresh air. I stopped, looked across the parking lot, looked to the sky and began to walk. I took my time. I took long, deep breaths and felt the clear, unfiltered air filling my body. My head cleared and I scanned the horizon. What was in front of me? Opportunity as far as I can see. Sometimes I drive alone, and sometimes I travel with colleagues. I am always interested to observe the way that people change once they step outside of the office. Do they loosen their ties? Run their fingers through their hair? Do they take a moment to pause and take in the world around them? I particularly like it when there is more than two of us. Three or four is great. We get to my car and I wait and watch, Who will take the passenger seat? Who offers to sit in back? Is this a transaction or an experience? It is a small thing, but it is important. It reveals plenty. This episode reminded me of Seth Godin’s recent article on the “front row culture”. It is a style of culture that I very much strive to foster: The group files into the theater, buzzing. People hustle to get to the front row, sitting side by side, no empty seats. The event starts on time, the excitement is palpable. The other group wanders in. The front row is empty and stays that way. There are two or even three empty seats between each individual. The room is sort of dead. In both cases,...
Three Degrees of Separation and the Compassionate Leader

Three Degrees of Separation and the Compassionate Leader

In leadership as in life, it’s the people that matter. We build careers and companies on the relationships that we have with the most important people in our lives – family, friends, colleagues and partners. Sure there are other pressures and dynamics, but the human-to-human dynamic continues to create value for us all – and dominates our thinking and ways of doing business. And it is this that makes me speculate – that perhaps the power to change our organizations, societies and cultures is less to do with the structures of power that we have come to accept, and more to do with an authentic willingness to focus on people. Recently, Facebook announced that the world had become smaller – that the six degrees of separation that has been popularized through books, movies and hundreds of articles, had been halved. A team of data scientists working for Facebook crunched through the 1.6 billion strong membership of the social networking platform to reveal: Each person in the world (at least among the 1.59 billion people active on Facebook) is connected to every other person by an average of three and a half other people. So that means, according to network theory, that we are no more than four people away from anyone else. That includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg (who unsurprisingly both outperform the general population). It also includes the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the amazing artist, Marina Abramovic and entrepreneur without peer, Richard Branson. It means from my mom through me, there is someone that is connected to Mark Zuckerberg. Or Richard Branson. Or...