This guest post comes from Tami Cannizzaro who worked for me many years ago and today is an executive in IBM. It is a pleasure to watch young talent develop and have career success and it is even more rewarding when I see work-life balance ingrained so deeply into all she did. Although written from an IBM perspectives, I'm sure you'll agree that this message is universal.
While at the office I find myself maniacally focused on getting the job done to get home for dinner with my kindergarden-age daughter. Work/Life balance is always for me a matter of driving the highest productivity for myself and my team in order to insure I can spend sufficient quality time at home. I set the standard for leaving at 5PM back when I was a staff person & have kept to it. Granted, I'm often on until midnight picking up the pieces but I am able to keep my precious 5-8PM every night with my daughter. I'm sure I'm the talk of the Somers [editor's note: we work in Somers, NY] water-cooler many a day for leaving the office at 5.... but I walk out proudly and without apology knowing the work will get done. I was recently asked to write an article on the skills you need to make it to the executive ranks. I believe this list will also help you to be more productive and at the end of the day spend more time with your family.
So here is my top 10 list of the skills that will help you be a more productive employee and help to make sure you are headed for the executive ranks.
- Be Concise. I cannot underscore the importance of strong communications skills at IBM. Almost without exception, they are a critical differentiator. The ability to write an email on a complex topic using simple concise language is critical. For email, stick to three to four short, tight sentences and never go beyond a few short paragraphs. Given the volume of email IBMers receive, poorly written emails are a productivity drain and make a poor impression on the reader. A good writer makes a good impression on a daily basis to management and peers.
- Have an Opinion. Have you ever been on a call with several people and no one seems to be in the position to make a clear decision? Be ready to choose A over B. Provide a concise reason and move toward consensus. I've seen many a project fail or languish due to the lack of a decisive leader. You will be recognized for taking a position and moving the project forward. I thank you; your team thanks you!
- Be an Innovator. Innovation stands out. It helps to lift us above the monotony of our everyday plans to something that is better, that is worthy of notice. Too many times, we are guilty of rolling out a plan that is good, but status quo. It's a bit harder, but reach just a little bit further for something that's worth it. The IBM brand is associated with innovation - make sure you are helping to drive this innovative spirit at IBM when delivering new products, new campaigns or new approaches to how the work gets done.
- Collaborate. Don't be afraid to collaborate. Sharing the work may mean sharing the credit, but the end product is usually worth it. The talent and expertise at IBM is arguably limitless. When we can tap into the right people, the right information, for the right project - there is no limit to what we as a diversely talented team can accomplish. Build a team, grab a whiteboard or set up a Lotus-live session, and collaborate on something that will make a difference for our customers, for our company.
- Be a Leader. Whether you're a band 8 [mid-level staff] or a new Director, be a leader. Offer to run the project, offer to build the plan, offer to solve the problem. There are many followers and hard workers, but the leaders will stand out and get a reputation as leaders. Leaders get noticed. Leaders get promotions. Leaders, well . . . lead. You get the idea.
- Develop a Brand. What are you known for? Are people aware that you will deliver, that you are a problem solver? Build your reputation through consistent good performance. If you want to be known for your collaborative influence, you need to build that reputation and stick to it. If you're having a bad day, or if you're not feeling collaborative, don't let it show. Stay true to your brand. Be known for something and drive it home every day at the office.
- Don't Get Derailed. Is someone raising their voice in a meeting? Has a colleague just dumped their work on you and gone on a six-week vacation. Excellent! This is your chance to rise above it, take the high road and stay true to your brand. Tami is here, she'll deliver for us. She would never lose her cool in a meeting or drop a project mid-stream. You get the idea. In the long run, you will be rewarded for your hard work, talent, dedication and consistency. Don't get derailed by a bad meeting, a bad day or a bad project. It's simply not worth it.
- Look the Part. Have you paid close attention to the executive presence exhibited by our GMs and VPs? Have you walked the hallways at Armonk? These execs simply look the part. The IBM Brand is a classic brand, and IBM is known for quality - quality products, quality people, and quality services. Make sure you pass muster. Ask yourself: "Do I look like an executive from IBM"? If you don't, it's not too late. Consider a wardrobe upgrade, keep an eye on your communications style and most importantly, develop the confidence that goes along with it. Stand in front of the mirror and say three times: I am an IBM Executive. Believable?
- Seek Diverse Experience. One thing every senior executive has at IBM — lots of experience. Experience working in different parts of the world, in different parts of the business. In order to run an $100 billion company, one might imagine you need to know a thing or two about business, even for those in technical roles. Are you seeing customers? Do you understand the P&L? Do you know how to market your way out of a paper bag? Can you articulate the product portfolio? Do you know the channel? Take a hard look at your IBM resume. Does it show diversity of experience and know-how? It matters. If yours doesn't, the guy next to you has a resume that does.
- Be Passionate. If there is one common denominator that defines the IBM executive (and this is my humble opinion only), it's a passion for the business. A passion for delivering high quality. A passion for making the right strategic moves. A passion for making the tough calls. A passion for knowing that if we get it right, our people will be taken care of and the legacy of IBM will grow under our stewardship. Don't be afraid to show your passion for the IBM business. If you love the company, it will love you. Sounds sappy, I know. But I believe it.
So there you have it, my top 10 list for getting ahead and for getting noticed at IBM. I'm working on my own list for further advancement. Do I represent the IBM brand well? Is my team getting the leadership they need from me? Are my communications consistently crisp and comprehensive? Do I demonstrate leadership and always model good behavior? I'm looking in the mirror. And who knows, someday I may build up enough skills, enough experience, and enough executive presence to walk with the big guys!
Tami Cannizzaro is an IBM Director. She leads an organization responsible for the rollout of Smart Work in support of IBM's broader Smarter Planet initiative. Previously at IBM, Tami was involved in establishing the IBM IMPACT event, an annual conference which hosts 6,000 attendees and is focused on technical education around SOA and the supporting product lines. Tami joined IBM in 2001 after receiving her MBA from New York University while working on Wall Street as a Research Analyst. Today, Tami lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband and young daughter. She enjoys hiking, swimming and cycling in her free time.
Top 10 Photo Credit: Sam Churchill
This post represent the views of Tami and not of IBM.