We live in a complex, interconnected world where diversity –– shaped by globalization and rapidly advancing technology –– is the makeup of modern society.
This rise in complexity of size and organizational management will continue to create challenges for leaders as operating models evolve.
It’s more important than ever to understand how to leverage this interconnectedness –– both in the physical and digital worlds.
Business and its leaders have the transformative power to change and contribute to a more open, diverse, and inclusive society. Studies show the key is to prioritize inclusive frameworks that, in turn, advance innovation, productivity, and proﬁtability.
How you lead, transform, and innovate as a leader and company depends on it.
At Celosphere 2021, Sangita Ray, Director and Team Lead, Customer Success at Celonis, sat down with women leaders from Microsoft, IBM, and Chevron to discuss the path to the future enterprise and their approach to leading and driving sustainable change. Here’s what we learned.
When it comes to bringing your team and stakeholders along on a transformation journey, it’s critical for leaders to connect with their people. The core aspects of leadership, such as setting direction and influencing others, are timeless, but, according to Deloitte, we see a new capability that is vital to the way leadership is executed. We call this inclusive leadership.
Inclusive leaders embody a leadership approach that appreciates diversity, invites and welcomes everyone's individual contribution, and encourages full engagement with the processes of decision-making.
“We suffer from not being able to meet and experience human interaction in our current remote work landscape. As leaders, we need to fill that gap,” says Heike Figge, IBM Partner, Service Line Leader Cognitive Process Re-engineering DACH.
Taking an empathetic approach and tuning into your team is key.
“One thing this past year has really taught us to tune into that aspect of connecting with people more than anything else,” says Shaloo Garg, Managing Director of Growth Stage Startups and Unicorns at Microsoft.
A recent study from Harvard Business Review found that what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference whether an individual feels included. This matters because it encourages others to engage, go the extra mile, and, ultimately, contribute to higher organizational performance.
This can be as simple as checking in with your colleagues. “Now I don't ask, ‘How are you?’ I say, ‘How do you feel today?’ And it goes a long way,” says Garg.
We can all agree change is hard. We see most forces of corporate culture are typically set against change. Even when the rewards can be substantial. How can leaders manage that evolution? It’s important to bring your team into the decision-making process early. In addition to early engagement, research finds that diverse groups result in smarter ideation and more transparency. An added benefit? Your business is more likely to be profitable. In McKinsey’s recent report, it conveyed that the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. It turns out homogenous companies that are more resistant to change can actually slow you down. “The general rule is to make everybody really part of the change and incorporate everybody's view in defining the change,” says Figge. “Include them early and listen to their concerns and ideas.” At IBM there’s a constant flux of change –– it’s part of the survivability of any enterprise, according to Figge. “There is no way we could be successful as an organization –– shifting from a hardware business to a software and service business –– if our teams weren’t active participants in that level of change,” says Figge. Encouraging others to actively engage in change is critical to success. “The key is how you empower your teams to adapt and adjust as we go instead of taking a traditional top-down command approach,” says Michelle LaPoint, Enterprise Digital Core Manager at Chevron. “Empowering others not only transfers that authority, it acknowledges these individuals and sets them up as change agents,” says Ray. Those empowered to make decisions are able to thrive in the rapid pace of digital, so when the team needs to pivot and meet a new challenge, they’re ready.
When you drive innovation with an inclusive lens, you benefit from collecting a variety of viewpoints. Leaders with a gamut of experience –– different perspectives, backgrounds, and roles –– can leverage this. When LaPoint started at Chevron 20 years ago as a petroleum engineer, she came in with a unique perspective on how to add value to the business. Holding a variety of roles, she has a diverse point of view that includes the technical skills of an engineer and the strategic lens of a business leader. Today, LaPoint takes a holistic and inclusive approach to leading a digital core enterprise program.
“I have the ability to see things from our customer’s perspective, which really helps me lead an ERP transformation. It gives me the ability to challenge paradigms and be that digital translator between IT and our business,” says LaPoint.
Like LaPoint, Ray also started her career as an engineer. Now, with her MBA, she leads digital transformation initiatives for customers in a range of industries and leverages her diverse background to bring a unique perspective and skillset to her work.
Companies are seeing a trend when it comes to agility. The more responsive the organization, the better equipped they are to design roles and structures around outcomes to increase agility and flexibility.
“It’s important to take a varied approach when engaging your stakeholders. Whether this is bottom up, top down, or hybrid. This is where we can really see the value we are creating,” says Ray.
According to Gartner, providing employees with varied, adaptive and flexible roles and approaches to work will give them the cross-functional knowledge and training they need to succeed.
“At Chevron, we prioritize building best practices and standards to free up time and resources so we can adopt new functionality quickly,'' says LaPoint.
As leaders and companies continue to navigate the complex landscape of today, the skills individuals need to succeed starts and stops with education. Education for all is instrumental - but we must continue to lower the barriers to access. According to Garg, technology and innovation helps us get there. During the panel, Garg shared her personal story that led to her own career in elevating women entrepreneurs. “I grew up in a war zone,” says Garg. “I had an early introduction to gender stigma during my school years –– where I attended 12 different schools in the Middle East.” She recalls how a young girl in her neighborhood stayed home while her older brothers went to school. “School is all about connection. It no longer is just a building with teachers and desks and students. School can be on your cell phone or laptop. What matters most is having a connection to learning,” says Garg. As a champion of innovation and change at the United Nations, Garg is always looking for ways to combine the two. Her passion led her to Microsoft where she spearheads social entrepreneurship –– particularly focused on women.
Figge, LaPoint, Garg, and Ray all agree –– the key to successfully leading change must be built on an inclusive framework. Enable your team to participate in change, encourage diverse thought, prioritize innovation and agility, and, above all else, encourage continuous learning.
“A leader needs to be empathic, inclusive, collaborative, assertive, and resilient. There will be challenges, failures and rejections, but you need to pick yourself up, embrace others and keep moving!” says Ray. Watch the full discussion from Celosphere 2021 on demand here.