Think like a CEO and deliver like an artist
Solving problems is in the DNA of engineers. So why do technology leaders and organizations struggle to bring their innovative ideas to life? I’ve met and coached several technical leaders who get caught up in office politics and organizational turf wars. In an ideal environment, the best ideas and data win. In reality, having a great idea is not enough to go from ideation to finished product. As a result, innovation, team performance and job satisfaction are impacted. The real losers are those lives that never changed because those ideas didn’t come to life.
With growing complexity of business challenges, changing consumer needs, geopolitical tensions, social unrest, and globally accessible talent, technology leaders need to rethink their influencing strategy with stakeholders to get things going. Today’s innovation requires technology leaders to think beyond their organizational charts and work across diverse boundaries, disciplines and perspectives to deliver integrated products, services and solutions that delight the customer. . To successfully bring your vision to life – securing resources, energizing talent, aligning stakeholders and improving execution, you need to think like a CEO and deliver like an artist. Thinking like a CEO focuses on the purpose, direction, customer value proposition, strategic decisions, goals and objectives, and key results of your business. Delivering Like an Artist focuses on your relationship with your stakeholders. Both are equally important to becoming an influential technology leader.
Think like a CEO:
To become an influential technology leader, especially in large organizations, you must learn to think like a CEO, it goes beyond making money. CEOs systematically reflect and create value for all of their stakeholders: board of directors, shareholders, employees, customers, local communities, and respond to societal expectations (supporting environmental, social and governance issues). To manage the expectations of these diverse stakeholders, top CEOs assume the role of orchestra conductor: they seek unity, not uniformity, to turn noise into music. Likewise, technology leaders must acquire skills in managing and creating value for all their stakeholders. This requires shifting your focus from a siled perspective to creating value for the whole system. Adopting this mindset will broaden your vision and knowledge of the business. And it will demonstrate that you are thinking about the business of today and tomorrow.
In Mandela’s words, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, it goes to his heart.” Influential CEOs understand and speak the language of their stakeholders. To speak the language of your stakeholders, heed the wise words of Ram Charan, world-renowned business consultant, speaker and author of What the CEO Wants You to Know. “Invest time in developing your business acumen – understand how your business operates and makes money. Increasing your business acumen will allow you to have meaningful discussions with your stakeholders.
According to Charan, it’s critical for technology leaders to understand the financial aspects of their ideas and not leave them to the finance department. So, when communicating with your stakeholders, have you taken the time to understand how your idea fits into your organization’s strategy? Is there a big market for it? Do you have the talent and culture to realize your vision? Does your idea have an advantage over competitors? Will it support existing product lines and save money, or will it consume money? How will society improve with this idea? Doing your due diligence before talking to stakeholders will build trust and increase your chances of success.
Deliver like an artist:
Artists have one goal: to share their talents in ways that create memorable experiences for their fans. For that to happen, artists need to believe they have something to offer, be authentic, and care about their audience. Great artists measure their success by connecting with the crowd, not just by performing. According to Gerald Klictstein, author of The Musician’s Way, “Performers who connect from the stage establish emotional connections with their audience.” During coaching or consulting sessions, I often hear why networking is so important when the data should speak for itself?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that persuasion and influence occur when a speaker connects with the whole person – reason, emotion and character. Great artists use this technique to identify themselves and win over their audience. Likewise, what would happen to the quality and delivery of your presentations if you didn’t measure success by going through all the slides or showing your brilliance? What if you chose to measure success by seeing the world through their eyes and then taking them with you.
So how can technology leaders establish this emotional connection with their stakeholders? For starters, it’s not about you. People will only play the game if they know you care about them first and understand what they get out of it. Consider additional tips as you embark on your journey:
To inform: Practice active listening. Seek to understand the pain points and the work your stakeholders are trying to do before advocating for your interests. Second, highlight what they and their teams will benefit from supporting your idea.
be human: All other things being equal, people prefer to work with people they like. Eliminate technical jargon and meet people where they are – be authentic, inviting and approachable.
Reveal your agenda: Be honest about your true intentions, your vision, your hopes and what you hope to get out of it. Remember that people will understand if you have a hidden agenda, and this will foster resistance.
Ask for feedback: David Novak, the author of Take People With You, said, “To be a successful leader, one who does great things, you have to have the same kind of insight in the minds of those you lead.” How are you doing that? According to Marshall Goldsmith, leadership thinker, executive coach and New York Times bestselling author, ask. For example, “How can I be a better partner for you?”
Building trust: If you come out of a train station and a co-worker and a stranger ask you for $50. Who is likely to get your money? I guess, your colleague. Why? With familiarity comes responsibility. People don’t make big bets on strangers. If your job requires you to work with and through people to get results, then being seen as an outsider is not an option – interactions build trust. So be intentional in knowing your stakeholders personally and look for small wins that demonstrate you are a person of integrity. Think about your stakeholders. What is the quality of your relationship with them? What steps will you take to take it to the next level?
To become an influential tech leader, don’t rely on your title or position to get things done. Joseph Wong says, “Release your influence, not your authority. Data can grab your stakeholders’ attention, but you move them to action by touching their hearts. According to Carla Harris, author of Strategize To Win, you need both performance and relationship currency to get ahead and win with people. The good news is that you are already 50% there with your expertise (performance currency). To establish your relationship motto, consider your car insurance policy. You had it before you needed it. Likewise, be intentional and use every interaction with your stakeholders as an opportunity to build trust.
In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment, your expertise alone is not enough to close the deal. Technology leaders need to think about the whole system: business, people, and culture. Understanding the business will help you make the right decisions to win in the market. Knowing your collaborators will allow you to energize them by creating a common objective. Creating a winning culture will foster interpersonal risk-taking, innovation, strengthen relationships and accelerate results.