How do top CEOs lead during this exponential age? How do you manage the explosion of information and onslaught of increasing competition? How do you sort through the abundance of opportunity and avoid getting burned out? How do you maintain agility during today’s tsunami of change?
Today’s post is the second of three parts deriving insights and advice from three incredible, forward-thinking leaders: Beth Comstock, Sue Siegel, and Arianna Huffington. Today, we will focus on Sue Siegel’s advice. Sue, Beth and Arianna addressed my 2017 Abundance 360 CEO Summit in a module called “Exponential Leadership.” (Be sure to read part one for eight excellent insights from Beth Comstock.)
Sue Siegel is the CEO of GE Ventures. She heads GE's growth and innovation business comprised of GE Ventures, GE Licensing and New Business Creation (NBC).
GE Ventures is the venture capital arm of General Electric that invests hundreds of millions of dollars in and partners with the entrepreneurial ecosystem across healthcare, energy, software, advanced manufacturing and lighting, and starts and grows companies via its New Business Creation unit.
Previously, Sue was the president of Affymetrix, and she’s had 30 years of combined commercial experience. She's also on my board at Human Longevity Inc., which I'm very proud of, and GE is an investor in HLI.
Sue Siegel on Exponential Leadership
1. Always be an ambassador for your team, innovation happens everywhere: As a leader, you must always be an ambassador for your team. Not only is it important for you to always reflect your company’s values, but it’s also important that you constantly search for opportunities, tools, people, and ideas that would be valuable to your team. In other words, if you go to an event or conference, always be on the lookout for great opportunities for your team.
2. Issues within the team should be resolved within the team: Given the pace of change and complexity of leading a high-performance team, there is often a lot of stress and confusion with implementing team decisions. This can lead to gossiping or complaining outside of the group. Sue notes that your colleagues outside the team don’t want to sit there and actually help you; instead, they just want to hear the gossip and spread it. This can be detrimental to productivity and team morale. Instead, don't start rumors, don’t spread them, and if you have an issue, take it up immediately within the team and solve it there.
3. Once a decision is made, it is supported. Period. This is really important. Once a decision is made in a meeting, there must be no second-guessing of that decision after the fact. Sue explains, “When we walk out of that room, and you've had all the chance to actually defend your position to make the decision, it’s time to start executing. That's it.” If you need to change a strategy, use data from implementation to support your argument and bring it up in the next decision-making meeting.
4. Proactive problem management – go directly to the source: As complexity increases, so too does the potential for conflict or confusion. As an exponential leader, you must be proactive in managing this. Sue’s strategy is simple and clear: “Go to the source, directly to the source. Don’t complain to managers or others before you’ve gone to the person first to resolve the conflict.”
5. Assume noble intent: I love this one. It’s important as a leader to trust your team and assume that they have the team’s best interests in mind. It’s remarkable what you are able to achieve when you assume noble intent. Ultimately, this goes back to hiring as well. You must ensure that you are hiring team players who are inspired by the company’s mission and purpose.
6. Ambidextrous leadership (investor + operator thinking): Sue believes there is enormous value in pairing venture capital investor-type thinking with operator-type thinking. Being able to step back and analyze opportunities from an investor’s perspective can be a valuable tool in helping entrepreneurs and managers alike make better decisions. And for investors, thinking like an operator is so important to understand the businesses they are investing in and, more than that, to best leverage your resources to help the companies.
7. You can’t delegate culture: This is absolutely critical for exponential leaders. Culture can make or break a company, and therefore it a) must be very high on a leader’s list of priorities and b) must come from the top. Leaders can’t delegate culture. Sue goes on, “Leaders are the culture bearers, the torchkeepers of culture in our companies. They might have change agents, or those that actually help them amplify their culture, but the leader cannot delegate culture. This is a truth that a lot of us forget because we're so busy. Employees and teams really want to see it from their leaders. They want to hear the talk, they want to watch them walk the talk, all the time.” Interestingly, while leaders cannot delegate culture creation, they can delegate culture keeping.
8. Purpose and passion: Purpose and passion drive people to do what they do. Sue explains, “Our people are very motivated by a purpose. And you have to go recruit for that kind of person. Purpose fuels passion. Passion creates energy to deliver. It empowers people to believe they can. Purpose and passion actually help people unlock the potential they never knew they had. It is up to leaders to define the purpose and build a team around it.”
Change is coming. Exponential leaders must prepare for it and embrace it.
You’ve got to resolve conflict proactively, expect the best from your team, and fuel their energy to solve problems and create extraordinary results.
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