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...
2016 – The Year of Conscious Innovation

2016 – The Year of Conscious Innovation

Often when we think of innovation, we call to mind those projects that fly below the radar within the enterprise, only to surface at some point to loud applause, fully formed and functioning. These are the make or break innovations that change companies or industries. In the 20th Century, these innovations were kept well away from the core business as they could not be easily accommodated within the functions, structures and business models of the enterprise – and would only be brought into full view of the world when the conditions were right. The pioneer of this model was aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed. Under the leadership of chief engineer, Kelly Johnson, the Lockheed Skunk Works produced many of the industry’s advanced projects including the first US fighter plane – the XP-80. But the Skunk Works had very humble beginnings – in a rented circus tent alongside one of Lockheed’s manufacturing plants. Its first project commenced four months before an official contract was in place and there was no official submittal process. Even the name of this mysterious innovation division was secret until: One day, [team engineer] Culver’s phone rang and he answered it by saying “Skonk Works, inside man Culver speaking.” Fellow employees quickly adopted the name for their mysterious division of Lockheed. “Skonk Works” became “Skunk Works.” The once informal nickname is now the registered trademark of the company: Skunk Works®. The Skunk Works model has been so successful that it is routinely followed by the most innovative of 21st Century companies. Google has Google X where self-driving cars, wearable computers and indoor mapping technologies have been hatched. Amazon...
Leveraging Female Talent to Drive Innovation

Leveraging Female Talent to Drive Innovation

One of the most significant factors limiting the growth potential of countries around the world is the fundamental participation and engagement of women in their workforce. The second annual research study by Mercer on gender diversity in the workplace suggests that eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost countries’ GDP by up to 34%.  How do we get there? We need to leverage the talent of women to drive innovation in our businesses – and this goes beyond lip service. It needs to become a strategic imperative. How Investing in Female Talent Produces Dividends To capitalize on innovative thought, businesses need to invest in a diverse workforce which includes funding, supporting, and mentoring female talent. These investments pay rich dividends for companies as a recent Babson College report shows that “businesses with a woman on the executive team are more likely to have higher valuations at both first and last funding (64 percent higher and 49 percent higher, respectively).” The Harvard Business Review report agrees that women are essential to growth and innovation: … employees who work for companies [that acquire and support female employees] are 45% more to likely report that their company improved market share in the last 12 months. And they’re 70% more likely to report that their company captured a new market in that time frame. Hiring a diverse workplace is the first step to harnessing female innovation, but businesses also need to foster women’s ideas. The Harvard Business Review further reveals that the “full innovative potential of women” remains largely untapped within corporations largely because the leadership doesn’t know how...
Is the Digital Age Over and, If So, What “Age” are We in Now?

Is the Digital Age Over and, If So, What “Age” are We in Now?

View image | gettyimages.com In speaking with colleagues recently, the question came up as to whether or not we are now post the Digital Age and, if we are, what would we call this next wave? Some robust discussion and debate followed. One perspective is that we haven’t even scratched the surface of the Digital Age. With the Internet of Things (IOT), advancements in mobile still unrealized, eye-sensor technology that merchants now can place on shelves to assess how long a consumer is looking at product, the virtual dressing room, wearable and gesture-based technologies that are coming of age, it could appear that we still have a long way to go before calling an end to the Digital Age and the dawn of the next age. To me, the personal computer followed by the internet ushered in the “Information Age.” For the past 2 decades or so, we’ve seen amazing advancements based upon these technologies. But, today, we see that computers and the internet are more or less making improvements on the fringe within these two areas (i.e. faster computers, more memory, etc. and faster, more broadly accessible internet). The real exciting stuff, in my opinion, is the interpretation of all of the data and information being generated by computers, mobile devices, wearable technology, beacons/sensors, etc. If we are moving beyond the Digital Age, and I am not suggesting that we definitively are, then perhaps what we are moving into is the era of the Age of Insights. And, in short, it is all about the data! One can argue, for example, that companies like Nike, divesting themselves out...
Are You CEO Ready? Start with a Principle not an Idea

Are You CEO Ready? Start with a Principle not an Idea

Each year Inc. carries out research with some of the nation’s top private company CEOs focusing on the areas of business launch, growth and innovation. It provides a fascinating snapshot into the lives of the people behind these fast-growth companies. And for aspiring leaders, it reveals just how hard, and how much hard work, being a CEO can be. Be sure to take some time to read through all areas of the report. The sections on social media use, focus in innovation and leadership potential provide plenty of food for thought. But I’d like to focus on the first section – what does that first year as a CEO look like? What works and what doesn’t. And importantly, what can we learn to help make our own businesses better. Based on this research, 33% of CEOs felt that entrepreneurship suited their skills and capabilities. Another 11% wanted to be their own boss and 10% wanted financial success. Think about this for a moment. Only 18% of CEOs were motivated by an idea. This flies in the face of what we hear about entrepreneurial culture or the cult of the startup and has some salient lessons for leaders. In fact, I am pleased to see that the vast majority of CEOs in the survey are motivated by other factors – especially internal, motivating forces. For when we are faced with the hard choices that leadership requires, ideas seem less important, while solid, internal principles and goals can help see us through. What do some of the other statistics reveal? Leadership is collaborative: Forty-seven percent launched or run their business as...
You Can’t Lead by Consensus

You Can’t Lead by Consensus

I was recently speaking with a friend about some professional challenges he was facing. To the outside world everything seemed fine – he was achieving his KPIs, his team were working well and his customers were happy. But my friend could see trouble ahead with this well oiled machine. He just couldn’t identify the cause. After some time I shifted the conversation to culture. I wanted to understand the way that the team operated and why. I wanted to know what worked and what didn’t – and also what happened when things go wrong (as they inevitably do with even the most harmonious teams). And suddenly the lights went on. This team had spent a considerable amount of time “as a team”. They worked well with each other and often could second guess decisions that each could make. And while this had provided them cohesiveness over the years, it seemed to me, that they had fallen into the consensus trap – confusing alignment with consensus. There seemed to be no clarity around responsibility, accountability or even role. During team meetings, the point of view of each person was canvassed and debated. Decision making unofficially required a consensual team view. This meant that a large proportion of collaborative time was spent reaching an agreed view and discussing the fine points of disagreement. Not only that … untolled hours before these meetings were devoted to lobbying particular view points and gaining support. The end result was a roaring sense of group think that had turned this high performing team inside out. I turned to my friend and suggested that it’s time...