Racism, Telstra & the truth

ABC News (AFP: William West)
ABC News (AFP: William West)

I read with interest the recent reporting and views expressed in response to Former Telstra CEO, Sol Trujillo’s claim that Australia is a backward nation of racists.  This follows very quickly with the news of his sacking of over 8,000 employees and his “pocketing” of $31m.   In response we shout “how dare he?!”

But what is the real truth here?

Sol Trujillo is reporting his experience and was remunerated as per his contract.  The Telstra Board set the recruitment brief, the selection criteria, the contract of remuneration and the metrics that the remuneration was tied to.  Sol Trujillo did not “pocket” anything that was not determined by others. 

In relation to racism, unfortunately I have personally read, heard and seen too much evidence in support of Sol Trujillo’s views.  It is often subtle and not concrete, but it still persists.  And certainly some of the journalist reporting and quoting of our politicians regarding Sol over the past four years has clearly played on his Mexican heritage.

If we are honest with ourselves, can we really say we have not seen in businesses across Australia, in your local associations, in general banter when socializing, no evidence of racism?  And for that matter evidence of prejudice and ignorance about anything outside of the “vanilla” safe mould of the white, male, heterosexual businessman?  Are we really happy to allow the countless justification in blogs and articles that you have to see these racial jibes as “real Aussie humour” to prove that you are really “one of us”? Or just dismiss Sol’s views as “sour grapes”.

Clearly not everyone is racist, sexist or prejudiced and I include myself in that category.  But as a nation we have far to go before we can prove our fairness and embracement of equality.

Now I am a Telstra shareholder (fortunately it represents only a small percentage of our overall investments) and I see the need for education of the general public and the “mum & dad” investors that bought into Telstra when it floated under claims of great hopes, about Telstra’s corporate values, overall direction, competitive landscape and responsibilities to each stakeholder group.

If we are unhappy about Sol Trujillo’s remuneration, we should not be directing it to Sol, but rather questioning the Telstra Board.  What is the board’s position on executive remuneration?  What constitutes fair remuneration and performance earning hurdles? How is this balanced between the employees, customers and shareholder stakes in delivering on and rewarding their investment? We should also be requesting transparency of the current CEO and executive as to their plans for Telstra’s future.

The truth is often simple.  The process of rationalizing the truth is where it gets complex.

So I ask in all the media beat-up, as individuals we should search for the truth. And to direct your energies to the right issues.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Teamwork Bridge: Helping remote employees feel connected

As the world increasingly becomes globalized and technology makes it easy for us to work remotely, you may increasingly find yourself in a situation where you need to manage a virtual team.

Having worked for an Australian listed company where 97% of its revenues were offshore, the workforce as a consequence was split to nearly two-thirds in remote offices resulting in many direct reports crossing multiple regions. Even within head office, in order to attract and retain the best talent, we needed to provide flexibility around balancing work hours with personal life. This meant a percentage of local employees also chose to work from home offices in various percentages of their working week.

So how do you manage your remote employees, particularly those that are working in multiple global regions and ensure that the vision for your company is well understood, that the objectives and timeframes are clear, that the culture is being lived, that they are motivated, energized, feeling part of a team?

This article is designed to share the best tips and practices learned over 5 years of leading a global organization, and addresses how you can achieve a unified work force where employees feel connected and as one team – no matter where they are located.

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1. Set strong foundations – hire world-class employees

This is a critical business success factor. You need to feel confident you have the right person to represent and lead your company, can evangelize the culture, live the values and be able to make decisions every day that is in harmony with, and will deliver on, your overall business objectives.

There is no doubt, the stronger the person you have, the greater the success you will see as they are able to make judgment on how best to localize the strategies to achieve the broader objectives within their specific market or region.

The more capable and competent the person, the more possibility you have for cross border promotion and the building of a greater organization. So don’t ever compromise on recruitment, with the stakes being higher for those representing you in overseas regions and outside of regular view and contact. You need to have full confidence you have someone you can trust in the job. Great business success depends upon top talent.

2. Importance of Induction

Again another critical business success foundation factor. Often in the speed to implement new plans, not enough time is spent on providing a comprehensive induction program for your new employees. It is important that an induction program extends beyond the immediate first weeks or handover of duties. Consideration and time must be given to discussion of values and of culture, plus discussion of previous successes and failures and why they went right or wrong (this is to encourage learning and comfort in discussing the good and challenging times of the business or the role).

Other induction strategies like shadowing in meetings to help share the company language, best stories and best practices can help provide confidence. Initially you or others may lead, however as soon as you feel confident, it is important to switch roles and shadow and coach with your employee leading until you are confident they are fine to stand alone. The main requirement to have confidence in managing this person remotely is for you to ensure you establish a solid relationship and equip your employee with enough information, enough experience, enough confidence very early on in the appointment to be able to confidently represent the company.

See the induction period as a minimum of 6 months and provide close contact and encouragement to ask questions. If this is an appointment in a different region, an example schedule may be:

  • Solid briefing them through the recruitment process already providing a strong foundation and qualifying tasks around understanding of the products, markets, competitors etc
  • A fortnight induction with you at HQ – allow them to see and hear first-hand how the company operates, allow them to meet their other stakeholders, key customers etc
  • Assign a work buddy that you trust can also help evangelize the values and culture
  • Once they are “live” ensure close contact with you & encourage them to really share first insights and ideas (this is a great way to discover objective new insights)
  • Ensure they are equipped with everything they need – resources, budgets, etc
  • Visit them regularly in the first 6 months but offer practical & philosophical help – e.g. visit their customers, partners, media, present jointly to their team or answer Q&As
  • Request after 3 months a revised high-level plan. This will ensure you get a good understanding of how deep their understanding is and any areas that you may still need to help them with. Look to have them present to others early in the engagement to help formalize the shared learnings. Encourage questions around feedback.
  • Get the team together within that period to ensure relationships are built at the team level even if they are all working remotely away from each other.

It is important not to micromanage the person – this is just a period of foundation setting around the “what” and the “who”, and unless the “how” is important then allow that to be determined by your employee. As soon as you think they are ready you need to give them enough space to do what you first employed them to do!!

Although this point addresses induction, the need to stay engaged as part of developing the individual overall is required.

3. Importance of frequent & open Communication

Be frequent, regular, consistent and coherent in your communications. Help your remote employees feel part of what is going on in your organization through regular:

  • Phone calls
  • Chats (instant messaging, Skype and others)
  • Video hook ups
  • Wikis, forums, blogs and other web dashboard “single views” for all employees
  • Engage others in your team to inform/provide briefs to your remote employees – just as long as someone is sharing what is going on!
  • Share drafts of communications, plans, pending decisions and presentations for input
  • Localize communications if there are language barriers
  • Make regular face to face time – even if they are overseas, coordinate at least a quarterly face to face meeting (you to them or they to you)
  • Regular face to team meetings
  • Email helps provide background and can be used to help overcome the tyranny of different working time zones, but don’t rely on this as the only means of communication

If you have followed step one and you have smart people, they generally will be very good to pick up on what is or is not happening within your business. However it is important you do not leave them guessing and trying to fill in gaps that can lead to wrong conclusions. Instead include them in sharing the ups and downs, the challenges you or the organization are facing etc, in order for them to have the opportunity to input and help. Apart from the relationship building upon honesty and transparency, a benefit is that they can help either solve or at least understand what else is happening in the business which may be possibly impacting them or others they are dealing with.

4. Regular team meetings

Feels like it is stating the obvious right? But with remote employees you need to make sure that they not only have their time with you, but that they have time feeling part of the team, both to build their understanding of each others’ styles, challenges, and dependencies, but also to help provide a forum to share key learning, insights, projects, achievements that they are working on. It is a good way for the team to identify where and how to help each other successfully meet the business objectives. It is also essential to build and retain the values, character and culture of your organization. When you are in the position of managing your people over multiple time zones, you need to agree to the appropriate frequency and ensure these virtual meetings always occur.

If you are managing a global team, remember to change time zones for calls to suit the different employees (be fair and schedule this accordingly). There will always be someone who will be up in the middle of the night – just make sure it is not always the same person! And include yourself in the schedule of middle of the night calls. Make sure you give plenty of time and priority in team meetings to those not immediately in front of you and who do not have the benefit of the pre or post discussions that can follow a meeting.

5.  Identify the sub group working parties – and create cross-functional teams and ownership across borders

This is a practical tip to ensure you don’t focus too much on the doing yourself or within your headquarters team only. Spread and share your projects and create cross-function teams and ownership of certain objectives within a sub-set of virtual teams across borders. The creation of these virtual teams helps you utilize all your available talent but also ensures a strong culture of collaboration, teamwork and global awareness and understanding of the entire business.

6. Foster collaboration

Every point within this article is about fostering collaboration, but it is also a topic worthy of its own highlighted focus and attention. Ask yourself these questions: What example do you provide in collaborating with your team? How can you create an environment of collaboration and do this through remote employees? How do you encourage problem solving? Provide cross-regional resources? Virtual teams? Use this point more as a prompt to continually ask yourself how you can foster collaboration within your team. For remote employees this is critical to ensure high motivation, engagement, loyalty, commitment and for your culture to live and breathe in the way you would hope it could.

7. Discipline in practices

This is just good business practice and as a manager and leader of remote employees it is important you keep discipline in how you apply this to different time zones, regions and needs. From personal experience, it can be quite taxing: to be available first up in a morning for say the US, to be available for APAC in the day and then the EMEA during the evening. If you want to keep a work/life balance then you will need to have discipline around planning the how and when to do all the things you need to do.

It is important that you build in time for:

  • Acknowledgement of employees work, give feedback in the timeframes that you commit to, give them some structure so they have good expectations to rely and operate within.
  • Provide available times or implement a system where they can let you know when they need to touch base outside of scheduled times. This should help you instead of being “on-call” 24/7 to everyone
  • Share and acknowledge successes, their milestones and achievements of your direct reports and those of their team
  • Provide regular performance and development feedback, make time for personal and professional development discussions and formal acknowledgement of performance reviews

8. Provide a clear career path – circulate employees across offices.

If you want to hire world class/world’s best talent you need to be able to demonstrate a great career path. Working for a global or virtual organization provides many great benefits and interest to employees and you hopefully you have already made sure you have hired those with enough ambition to deliver great results as the path to the next step. Ensure you have an individual development and career plan in place and look at what would be involved in delivering this from an investment and career path perspective.

It is important to ensure the movement of your people is two-way. Don’t just handpick the best talent from external offices and bring them to head office. Plan for senior organization leaders or future leaders to spend time out of headquarters within the various regions. This helps cement culture and brings a deeper level of understanding of your business in all regions and areas of your business that can bring not only immediate benefits, but also long term ones.

9. Harnessing available technology

There is much technology available to help you work remotely and stay connected with each other. Using cloud-based technologies like Gmail & Google docs for real time collaboration no matter where you are located can help. As does SaaS programs such as SalesForce for your customer relationship and data management purposes, and Intaact for Financial systems, ensuring everyone has access to the same information and infrastructure in real time no matter where they operate. Other technologies such as VOIP e.g. Skype can help keep costs low but frequency of contact and virtual face to face visibility high. Whilst Skype is good for one on one meetings, if you can’t afford internal video conferencing facilities for group meetings, you can hire out venues that provide it for you.

As to your IT server requirements, there are plenty of hosting services that allow you to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, with highly scalable, reliable, fast and inexpensive hosting from providers such as Amazon S3.

There is a plethora of virtual on-demand solutions that can help you manage your business no matter where your employees are located. This enables you to focus on your core business, leaving the business of managing the IT to those who specialize in it as well as providing you with flexibility and scalability that is difficult to compete with if you choose to keep your entire infrastructure in-house.

Building a strong and collaborative team

As a business leader you must have set firmly an overall organization development strategy that includes the objective of building a strong and collaborative team.

These tips are all about creating a team bridge – a way to help your remote employees feel connected. Connected and engaged employees are more likely to be motivated and will deliver much more than if they are left alone.

As Jack Welch best summarizes it “The team with the best players wins”.

Lessons in Leadership

I have lost count of the number of books I have read on leadership since I began my first management role at 18 years of age.  Even if I didn’t exaggerate (which I can be prone to do when recounting numbers) it would have to be more than 30+ books read on leadership alone!

Being the eldest of four children and as school captain, you learn before you leave school at the very minimum how to communicate clearly and how to organize others. Yet once in the workforce and being quickly promoted into management, I did look to see if I could find a book that would  help me “how to lead people of the opposite sex who are so much older than you”(clearly I was much younger then), and “how to lead people who are likely to be so much smarter than you”(clearly I was much…er….simpler then) and then later looked for books as to “how to lead people through significant change even though they are really comfy where they are today”…(well I still read on this subject)!  

However, as I am sure many of you may have found from reading these types of books, most of the great leadership books provide great reinforcement of the things you either know intrinsically or are already practicing or that you see in other great leaders.  

Hopefully the reason you are in a leadership position is because you have already earned it through demonstrating your success, earned through the support and power of your team behind you.

I have found the greatest value in reading books about leadership, is the time that is spent reflecting on how well I really live the things that are being suggested. I read on with the hope to find those few “aha” moments that bring great clarity to how I might be feeling about my own style of leadership or that of others.  Reading can help reset your view of priorities by helping you step out of the day-to-day and getting back to doing the most important thing of all as a leader, and that is to develop the team around you to be their best, so you can collectively deliver on the goals.

Often in reading these leadership books, I have found the more complex the theory (and clever the title), the less practical it feels when it comes to professional development through daily practice.  And often it is just a clever re-spin on the same basic principles of leadership.

So given that often the best lessons are those you reflect on as part of your own analysis of your behaviour, and the fact that I have been asked numerous times to write on this subject, I have chosen to write first and foremost on what I see as the most basic Lessons in Leadership. 

It is pretty easy to follow – and yes it is intended to be as simple to practice and deliver the results, as it sounds:

Listen,  Look,  Learn,  Live,  Love  so  you  can  Lead !

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Listen

  • Listen to your team members – you will get more clues as to what is required from your own people then from anywhere else – new ideas, new technologies or developments, things that are competing for attention that may be distracting from priorities, needs, etc.  By engaging your team you are helping individuals feel valued and that they can influence the business.
  • Listen around you – talk on a regular basis to others, ask questions, look for common threads and themes in what is being said both internally and externally
  • Listen to your customers and partners (actively listen) – they will help you develop new ideas, technologies, developments, opportunities as well as provide greater clarification of their pain and priorities as well.  Even if you choose not to deliver what they are specifically asking for, see this as an opportunity for education, or a way to understand the problem so you can solve that not necessarily the symptom. And don’t forget to include listening to who you want your customer to be – what is it that they want?
  • Listen to your instinct (and learn to trust it)
  • Listen to yourself think so you can synthesize all of the above – focus not on exactly what is being said, but more what is all this information is telling you.  Listening is not enough if you don’t take the time to think it through! 

Look

  • Look for smart, talented people and build a great team – assume the job is finding people where it is all about what can you learn from them.  One measure on your people is if you can give them the goals or “the what” and let them focus on “the how” to deliver them, and they do!  If you can’t do that, then you may not have the right people in the job.
  • Look to understand and see the strengths of your team.  Help others to see the strengths of all the team players.  And ensure you play to these strengths on a day to day basis and in important game plays.
  • Look at your team members’ body language (look to see how they are feeling) and care enough to address anything you see – happiness, satisfaction, frustration, fear, stress etc. 
  • Look at competitors, your market, and other markets, anything that has achieved “breakthrough” or has broken through your defences and taken you by surprise. Spend time trying to analyse why it achieved breakthrough.
  • Look to geopolitical and global trends.  We often need a reminder to lift our head from the transactional and get into the macro to really find what is happening in the world and how that may impact positively or negatively your business.  Spend time thinking about how you can harness the global trends and differences in markets that you can see.  Build the discipline to look beyond the playground you are in on a regular basis. 

Learn

  • Be on a constant learning path, never ever fall into the trap you have all the information you need to know already, be prepared always to learn something new
  • Learn from others – what they do and what they do not do – not just what they say or choose to share
  • Learn from others – what can they teach you – not just from what you observe as per previous point, but what can be shared through active engagement.  If you want to learn something, then ASK!
  • Learn through reading, talking, listening, observing – as much from external as internal (have others learn and share about key areas they love – how can you encourage others to self-educate, learn and share?   If a topic is exposed to them in something that they already enjoy or an area they already show love and passion in – then allow them to go for it and encourage them to share or teach others including you!).
  • Actively research, look for and stay open to new ideas and thoughts, trends in other industries and across the globe.  Put aside what you are doing today to think about what you would do if you had a blank slate and could start from scratch.
  • Learn from mistakes (yours and others)
  • Learn from successes
  • Share your learning!

 Live

  • Live your vision – talk, share, act, demonstrate, live, breathe what the company is working towards.
  • The message you “live” should include defining the game you are in, explain how you the company needs to play the game, what you are working to achieve, how will it help make things better (for the world, the company, for customers, for employees, for shareholders).  Why it matters!  Any why it matters to you and why it should matter to them!
  • Live for now (don’t avoid anything)!
  • Live your values – never, ever, compromise your values. Talk about them and regularly assess (and have others assess) how well you are really living them
  • Live your life (keep it in balance – no one else will do this for you)
  • Live your passion – what it is that gives you energy, how is this aligned or is what you do every day
  • Share your loves, your lessons, your aspirations (not just share yours – encourage and provide the forums for the sharing of others) 

Love

  • Love the people you work with, help them be the best they can be
  • Love what you do today
  • Love what you can do tomorrow – energize yourself and others by revisiting your vision, aspirations and goals
  • Love your life!
  • And if at any time you don’t love what you are doing then change the aspects you don’t like and do more of the things you do like! 

If you can adopt these simple leadership rules, you will achieve amazing things, and you will be able to Lead.  Not just manage.  Not have others follow just because of a title.  Not because you demand it.  But because people will choose to follow you.  People will follow because they will see they can be better people, because they can see a path for success, because they can see how they can impact on the world, because they have confidence they will be recognized and loved for who they are and what they offer.

If you can Listen, Look, Learn, Live, and Love, then you will automatically be Leading.  You will find yourself subconsciously:

  • Leading by example
  • Leading by sharing, growing and engaging
  • Leading through strong communication
  • Leading through empowerment and acknowledging others
  • Leading because you will have a great record of team achievement!

There is no permission or need to have a defined management role to be able to practice these simple leadership rules.  And leadership is simple; you just have to want to do it. 

As Mahatma Gandhi said in one of my favourite quotes:

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

 

 

 

Testimonials & Recommendations

Professional:

“I worked with and reported to Emma for over 5 years while I was CFO at Altium. As a business leader, Emma delivered a significant amount of organisational growth and development due in most part to her extraordinary levels of focus, drive, energy and determination. Emma’s ability to execute operational plans and to manage and motivate her teams to go above and beyond also set her apart. I learnt a great deal from Emma and very much enjoyed our professional relationship. She is a leader who earns respect and admiration for her skills and abilities and I would recommend her for any senior role without reservation.” Darren Charles, CFO Seeker Wireless and formerly CFO at Altium Limited

“During the 4 years I worked with Emma at Altium I saw her add incredible value across the breadth of the organization. She is a natural and dynamic leader who can build a meaningful vision and very effectively inspire others to pursue it. She sets high standards and leads by example in meeting such standards. Her energy, ability to operate strategically whilst still keeping sight of finer details, and her interpersonal skills are second to none. These attributes combined with her sharp intellect and extraordinary tenacity make her a very powerful leader who would be an asset in any senior leadership position.”Kerri-Ann Wilson, former Chief People Officer at Altium Limited

“I highly recommend Emma as a corporate leader, one who is capable of moving an organization and its employees through change to achieve its goals. Within a company that embraces change, it was with tremendous energy and dedication that Emma consistently translated Altium’s goals into workable strategies and motivated the organization into action. She has an eloquence that provided clarity of purpose, and the smarts to back it all up. With her strong presence, Emma soon became the voice of the organization. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Emma and found her to be approachable, level-headed, results-oriented, and confident – all characteristics of a respected leader. She is a true super-star!”  Nancy Eastman, President Altium Inc, Director, Altium Designer Applied Technologies, Altium

“I worked with Emma Lo Russo for over 4 years at Altium both as a director-level colleague and as a direct report. At all times of our working relationship I would have to say that Emma’s most powerful and unique attributes are her extreme high levels of energy, focus and drive. Emma’s strong determination, tenacity and never-ending motivation results in an unstoppable ability to move mountains and execute (strategy and tactical initiatives) for success. Emma is strongly passionate about all that she works for and this excitement and passion is contagious to all those around her. This results in engaged teams that achieve to target. Emma is also a compelling spokesperson across a wide variety of subject matters and audiences. Anyone seeking a business leader/partner who will give their heart and soul and in doing bring a renewed sense of purpose to their organisation then Emma Lo Russo comes uniquely qualified.” Elisa Davies, Director & Corporate Communications Specialist, Altium

“I worked with Emma both as a direct report and as a peer for many years. She is a most inspirational leader, with a sharp intellect and a deep understanding of what makes people tick. She is fearless and strong and constantly pushes everyone to be the best they can be.” Ben Wells, Director, Embedded Intelligence, Sydney Technology Center, Altium

“Emma is an extremely strong leader who takes a strategic approach to business. Emma can lead and develop any part of a business she is asked to, while still helping grow and develop her direct reports, and therefore the organization at large. I would highly recommend Emma as a manager and business leader at any organization.”Leila DeJesus, Director, E-Learning & Education, Altium

“Emma is a force of nature. Every engagement with her is rooted in passion, a strategic grasp of the real objectives and opportunities, a clarity of the vision behind these, rigorous analysis of the tasks at hand, and an interest in the tactics needed to turn these engagements into something real and valuable.  You leave every engagement with her, be it a conversation or a strategy session, much, much further ahead than when you entered! Her success as President and COO at Altium is a matter of public record, and she was a direct influence on a period of sales growth, profit, and expansion around the world. She certainly made my task of taking the company’s story to market much easier, and was a willing and effective advocate at the highest level, worldwide. Her successes since then have continued, being in demand as a speaker on strategy and management, and, typically, tapping what I regard as a missing link on social media management and analysis with Digivizer. Emma saw what was missing, understood what it meant to those of us seeking this sort of analysis, and has rapidly created the solution with her partners at Digivizer. It’s easy to bits of this, much harder to actually make it all work. Behind her success burns a fierce ethical fire that leaves nothing to compromise. This translates to leadership, empathy and a vigour for truth in business that I think sets her apart. Those of us who have had the opportunity to work with or alongside Emma understand that this results in a collaboration that is worth having. She supports the positive in those working with her and around her, exhorting them to focus on their strengths. And she combines all of this with business management skills that deliver financial and corporate results.” Alan Smith, Associate Director, Altium Corporate Communications

“Emma is extremely passionate person who gives 150% to any task that she undertakes. She is a woman of high intelligence and integrity and would be an enormous asset to any prospective company. Emma has great strategic vision while still controlling the finer details of the day to day running of the business. In her role as President and COO at Altium she was directly responsible for all aspects of the business including global marketing, global sales, finance, organisational development and new software and hardware product releases. She was also instumental in the company’s rebranding and was responsible for the broader elements of customer support, training and education. Her commitment to Altium’s success cannot be understated. She is extremely capable and very results focussed and drives her team to achieve their best. Emma worked particularly hard on significantly growing Altium’s Chinese Entity and Operations including the development of Altium’s IP protection strategy and was often called upon to host media and trade forums in the region. She is a voracious reader and a very fast learner, and has a great understanding of B2B and B2C sales and marketing and the IT industry in general.” Leanne Willing, Associate Director Relationship Marketing, Altium

“Emma employed me for a year as Associate Director of IT at Altium. Emma has a razor sharp mind, is very intelligent, quick to make good decisions and is excellent at demolishing barriers. She is the most fearless person I have ever encountered, she supports and pushes others to overcome their reservations and succeed where success did not look possible. She is challenging to work with, constantly questioning ‘Can we do better than this ?’- but I would work for her again in a heartbeat: she is loyal to her team and is rewarded with loyalty in return. She is an impressive and confident public speaker.” Dawn Gargett Belton, Associate Director, Business Information Systems, Altium

“Emma, in the short couple of years that I worked with you, you have defined yourself forever as a significant influence in my life. You have an iron fist but a heart of gold. You have shown absolute integrity in your personal and professional dealings and you have lead from the front in all that you do. Your ability to see the path ahead, set the agenda, and communicate it clearly throughout the organisation are characteristics that I can only hope to emulate one day. Your drive and passion are breathtaking and your strength of leadership and ability to inspire has an immediate effect on the team and brings the best out of us all. Your command of marketing and communications are consistently on the mark and I believe you will be a key asset to whatever organization you are given the reigns to.  While I think you have already accomplished tremendous success, I have a deep sense that the best is yet to come and I would thoroughly recommend you to any organization bold enough to want to make a difference.” Marty Hauff, Global Customer Success Manager

“Throughout the 5 years I worked with Emma, I observed a talented and courageous individual demonstrate outstanding leadership skills. Like the conductor of a world-class orchestra, time and again Emma showed her deep understanding that an organisation’s greatest asset is its people, and her job was to enable and direct those people, from the front. Recruiting and developing her people with care and commitment, leading them with gusto and flair, Emma showed she has that rare combination of qualities of being a focused and determined leader who strives for and achieves their goals, all the while showing compassion, respect and humanity towards all in her team. Altium is an unusual organisation – unusual in that it has a very close, family-business type culture, where employees are relaxed and personal with one-another, while having some 300 employees spread across many countries and languages. Operating comfortably within this unusual organisation, Emma contributed to the global restructuring and growth of the business, guiding it through a number of strategic operational and organisational changes. Any organisation that is fortunate enough to have Emma as part of their team will be well rewarded by the presence of this warm, passionate, intelligent and talented individual.” Phil Loughead, Altium Designer Technical Specialist

“For the majority of the five years I have been employed at Altium I have reported directly to Emma in her role as Marketing Director, COO and President. I have found Emma to be a very inspiring and energetic leader with a unique mix of being highly intelligent and extremely personable. Her creativity introduced significant innovation into the organisation while always maintaining a strong sense of the corporate vision. Emma had the ability to bring together teams from various disciplines across the organisation (both locally and globally) and cause them to work as a cohesive, focused and highly successful group. I thoroughly enjoyed working for Emma and found her constantly encouraging, supportive and enthusiastic. I would highly recommend Emma as a leader who has a contagious passion and drive to see an organisation achieve their best”.Karen Beard, Manager, Product Release, Altium Ltd

“There is no doubt that throughout Emma’s time as a senior leader at Altium she significantly drove the organisation forward. Her unique and strategic ideas coupled with her incredible talent, infectious personality and fearless commitment to the overall success of the business and its customers, makes Emma a brilliant leader. I myself, went from strength to strength under Emma’s direction. She’s inspiring and motivating and in turn always gets world-class results out of employees and projects. A tremendous quality of Emma’s is that no matter what she has to achieve, how great the challenges are that she is facing – she always has time for you. She invests alot in those that she believes in and in return sees longevity and dedication that pushes all boundries from those who work for her. Emma is an invaluable assest for an organisation and I highly recommend her as a strong, passionate and very effective business leader.” Clare Jolly, Manager Business Projects, Altium

“Emma is a positive, strong, professional individual and I personally find Emma inspirational and motivating. I first met Emma while working at Altium – Emma made an immediate impact on me when I was first privy to one of her media interviews. Her passion and energy was contagious and I held an enormous respect for her as a leader of Altium. While I did not report to Emma directly, I always found Emma to be a highly skilled professional and a person of the highest integrity whom I looked up to. Emma’s dedication and skills are inspirational and a motivation for others to follow. One cannot be anything but inspired. I am so grateful for having met Emma and look to her as a successful role model and leader with a strong commitment that inspires people to do their best.” Karen Trafford, Associate Director, Taxation, Altium

“Emma and I worked together for 3 1/2 years while I was at Altium. Emma has a unique ability to have a great understanding and to have strategic insight into most aspects of a business. She was one of the people who I could always turn to for advice and we were always able to engage in discussions to collaboratively solve the most difficult problems. I have never seen Emma not give 110% to everything she engaged in, and the results always spoke for themselves. As a manager, Emma was fair and motivational; she had an uncanny ability of driving exceptional performance from her staff and this contributed to the great track record Emma maintained. Emma was not only the brains behind the operations at Altium but she also oversaw the implementation of her strategies. I would not hesitate to recommend Emma for any senior level role.” Dante DellAgnese, Sales Manager Australia & New Zealand, Altium

“During the past three years I have had the pleasure of working with Emma. She is a multi talented leader and highly regarded within the Altium organization. Emma has a great understanding of the electronics industry and the process and tools that encompass this market. She is never rash and maintains a calm professional demeanor in all situations. I have a great deal of respect for Emma both personally and professionally. She has my highest recommendation and Altium will miss her talents.”Daniel Fernsebner, Field Applications Engineering Manager, Altium Inc (US)

“At Cobe Design, Emma did an absolutely sterling job of simultaneously protecting and inspiring the entire studio. While her razor-sharp appraisals helped our clients meet their strategic goals quickly and effectively, her true strength was her committed leadership, which pushed Cobe Design into new and successful professional territory year after year.” Anthony Bullen, Creative Director, Cobe Design

“Thank you Emma for assisting with our team planning day. You did a wonderful job facilitating the day –  you really energised the team, kept us on track with time and gave us a great framework for discussing the ideas and future directions for our programs. With your help we acheved our planned outcomes and are now moving forward to implementing our annual plans.” Sophie Ford, Youth and Family Team Manager, Red Cross NSW

“I would like to say a big thank you to Emma for her outstanding contribution in advising my business. I was really at a loss as to which direction to turn to around finding a low-cost marketing solution for my business as well as building an ongoing go-to-market strategy. Emma’s invaluable advice and discussion points have helped me no end. I wasn’t aware that there were so many vaulable tools at my fingertips. I also appreciate the honesty with which Emma provided feedback and the amount of time she spent reviewing my business before and after our engagement – it showed that she was genuinely interested in seeing my business move forward. Thank you Emma for all of your help and I would have no hesitation in recommending you to anyone who is looking to move their business to the next level.” Michelle Painter, Founder & CEO, ilovereading www.ilovereading.com

“I had the pleasure to work with Emma for a small business start-up.  Emma’s experience, knowledge and creativity has made an unparalleled impression on me, especially around business positioning and commercialization.  Emma’s energy and passion is very inspiring, her professionalism, helpfulness and kindness admirable.  Grateful for having met Emma, I would be happy to remain associated with her as a friend, role model and business partner.” Uta Beyer, Uta Beyer Business Consulting

Speaking:

“It was an absolute pleasure to work with Emma at my recent conference, the inaugural “International HR Shared Services 2010” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Emma was one of the biggest reasons for the event to be successful with her excellent chairing of the event.   Emma happily agreed to my request for taking up the role of chairperson for both the days of the conference, a role which she totally excelled at. Her experience from the business side, was vital to bring a totally different perspective to the HR conference. Each and every participant at the conference came up to me to congratulate me for being able to get Emma at the event as a key speaker and as a chairperson. The theme of the event was about being proactive and strategic, something which Emma was even while chairing the event. She was proactive, in experimenting, which led to better audience engagement, and was also strategic in her thought process. It was really a delight to work with her, and I will make sure that both mine and Emma’ paths cross again for a future event. I recommend her wholeheartedly to everyone.”  Sidharth Mehta,  Senior Project Manager – Business Conferences , Fleming Gulf

“This is just a quick note to thank you for your participation as Chair at the recently held International HR Shared Services Conference 2010 in Malaysia. As you know, I was not just a participant at this event but also a key note speaker. I have been to numerous conferences over the years and may I congratulate you on the way that you fulfilled the crucial role of Chair. You single handedly ensured that the conference timing was adhered too, that the participants were challenged and that interesting discussion, debate and sharing of information became the ‘glue’ of the conference.  I received a number of comments from the participants over the obvious level of professionalism and experience that you brought to this conference and I wholeheartedly agree. A big congratulations and well done.  I would be more than happy to attend a top level conference in the future and see you as the Chair, as I will be re-assured that it will be in good, professionals and capable hands.” Richard Ganter, Regional HR Director – Asia Pacific, CH2M

“I had a chance to briefly work & interact with Emma in recent HR Shared Services conference in Malaysia (Aug 2010) organized by Fleming Gulf. Emma was Chairing the above confernece, besides presenting & participating in panel discussions & other team events. As a Chairperson, Emma did extremely well to add a great value to the event by engaging the delegates & ensuring the maximum participation from all. I can confidently say that Emma’s being the Chairperson, the event was well balanced & surely helped the organizers, delegates & speakers in a great way.  Apart from that, Emma is a great Leader & excellent speaker. Her presentation, concepts & other insights were also very creative & shall definitely be helpful in some or the other way in our HR journey going forward. I wish Emma “All the best” in all her endeavors & assignments.” Deepak Mendiratta, HR Shared Services Director, Aricent (previously Hughes/Flextronics Software Systems)

“Emma’s impact on the Fox team was immediate, profound, powerful and lasting. Her own career and family set the scene and provided the personable perspectives that allowed everybody to identify with the challenges and opportunities before them. Emma presented these together with self taught and self styled solutions in an insightful and humorous manner. Emma presented the notion of ‘personal branding’ that the audience intently identified with.  Most chose to address the disconnect between their desired state or ‘personal brand’ and that by which they behave and or are perceived by others. Her demonstration and own application of the 4 key pillars of Work, Family, Health and Spiritual well being was very pragmatic and her own trials and anecdotes provided key insights on how to practically juggle the demands  of each of the key pillars at different times, whilst moving forwards towards each individual’s collective definition of success. By nature of her personal reflections, Emma made the audience feel OK about their own journey, successes or otherwise,  and how the challenge of juggling work life balance isn’t so insurmountable in the pursuit of a higher state of being and sense of achievement. I could safely say on behalf of my team that Emma inspired us to make a serious commitment to learning from and developing along the lines of renewing our goals and priorities, finding work life balance and committing to thinking about and managing our ‘personal brand’ in the pursuit of further success.” Craig L White, VP of Sales, 20th Century Fox

“Emma is an exceptional thinker, coach and guide.  Given her experiences as a business leader, a mother and highly conscious contributor to society, it is not surprising.  She enhanced TiE Conferences with Keynote & Workshop Panel leadership, sharing her immense wisdom and knowledge and inspiring others to take action.  It is great to be associated with Emma.” Murali Dharan, President TiE Sydney

Emma Lo Russo was the special guest speaker for the February session of the Sydney Professional Development Forum, a forum set up by ambitious young professionals in Sydney to discuss and learn about the secrets to career success.  The topic of her presentation was “Engaging with the Dragon: China’s Unique Cultural & Business Environment”.  Emma’s presentation captivated the audience throughout the entire presentation, her easy-going style and authenticity allowed her to engage well with the participants of the forum.  Her unique point-of-view on the approach to deal with the challenging environment in China was backed up by her real-life experiences in dealing with the cultural disparaties between east and west.  The presentation was timely for many of the young professionals in attendance as we grapple with the challenges and opportunities posed by the rise of the dragon. Most memorable in her presentation was during the Q&A session following, giving further insights based on her vast experiences throughout her career including challenges in maintaining a work/life balance. The session was a truly worthwhile investment for the participants involved with subsequent overwhelmingly positive feedback. We would without doubt like to have her back in the future.” Jeffery Wang – Founder of the Sydney Professional Development Forum

“We would like to sincerely thank you for your time and for such an excellent presentation (one of our best yet).  Judging by the number of people ambushing you with questions at the end of the session and the number of very positive emails flowing around this morning, I think it’s a testament to how much the audience connected with your message. Thanks again for your time and for such an excellent presentation”.  Andrew Chou, Co-organizer Sydney Professional Development Forum

“Emma was highly recommended as a speaker for the Licensing Executives Society (LESANZ) Annual Conference in Canberra in April 2009. In the session “Working with the Dragon – engagement with China”. Emma’s talk on “Doing Business in China: the Altium experience” was fantastic! She was engaging in her presentation style and most importantly the content of her talk was insightful, interesting, relevant and useful. This was reflected in the feedback from conference attendees who indicated that her session was one of the highlights of the conference. The LESANZ conference was themed “Creating and Driving Impact” and Emma’s contribution to the conference certainly achieved this both as an individual and evident from the approaches her company Altium are taking.” Stephanie von Gavel, Chair – LESANZ 09 Organising Committee, ACT Regional Chair LESANZ

“Emma gave an inspirational, insightful, informative talk as a key note speaker on “Growth In a Connected World” at the breakfast seminar organised by us and well attended by senior managers and owners from SME. Thanks to Emma for her innovative approach to business and ideas which was appreciated by the attendees. I would recommend Emma any time as a key note speaker.”Ganesh Natarajan, CEO, Ontrack Systems (Aus) Pty Ltd

“TiE Sydney selected Emma from a list of candidates to speak at TiE Sydney’s women’s forum. Emma was selected because she had the characteristics of an inspiring and smart professional business woman who could give great insight into developing and leading a global company through significant growth into a multimillion dollar plus success. Not only this, Emma is a mother to three children. The event was sold out and the feedback from TiE members and guests was overwhelming. If anyone wants to hear a great business success story combined with juggling three children and a wonderful marriage, Emma is inspiring that life and work balance can be managed successfully.”Therese Minehan, Account Director/Business Development Director at Buchan Consulting & Events & PR Manager for TiE Sydney.

“I want to tell you how much we enjoyed both your presentations to our group. Your talks gave a great boost to the motivation and efforts women need to continue to run their own businesses. Your topics were personal and you presented the material in a way that everyone could understand and feel connected with you. By any measure you are a very effective speaker and educator. On behalf of the Australian Businesswomen’s Network, thank you for a memorable presentation and we hope you will continue to inspire fellow businesswomen in the future and we thank you for your involvement.” Suzi Dafnis, Community Director, Australian Businesswomen’s Network

“I highly recommend Emma as a speaker. She presented on “Turning your Product into a Business” at BootUpCamp 2009. Not only did she deliver an excellent presentation written specifically for the audience, she also stayed afterwards for several hours to help the teams individually and give invaluable advice. We had over 15 expert speakers at BootUpCamp and in the debrief the participants flagged Emma’s talk as one of the two they learned from most. If you can get Emma to speak/present at your event, you’re in luck.  Her top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity.” Bart Jellema, Director of all things Cool and Wonderful, Tjoos Pty Ltd and one of the Founders and organizers of BootUpCamp Australia

“As Project Coordinator of the Australia-China Young Leaders Program, on behalf of the members of our project, I give great thanks to Emma Lo Russo’s contribution to the success of our “Asia-Pacific Business Forum” event as a main speaker and panellist.When one organises an event, he hopes to provide audiences with the most relevant, informative and engaging presentations. Emma Lo Russo’s presentation on the topic of “Altium’s success in China” was an example of a truly outstanding presentation. Her presentation was perfectly tailored to the business audience and Emma kept them engaged from start to finish, with cases and facts on the challenges, successes and opportunities for a business’s such as Altium’s in China.  Emma produced a truly successful presentation that was both amazingly passionate and extremely informative and the Australia China Young Leaders Program strongly recommends Emma to anyone seeking outstanding public speakers or to run an outstandingly successful event. ” Rupert Tien Chiz Cheung, Project Coordinator 2008, Australia China Young Leaders Program, AIESEC Sydney

Acknowledging the past greats and encouraging the next generation of inventors

Another great article by Kevin Morris.  For those not familiar with Kevin, he is editor of FPGA Journal (amongst a range of other technical publications) and he writes of the US 2009 Inventors Hall of Fame.  Read his latest article at http://www.fpgajournal.com/articles_2009/20090505_giants.htm

Inspires thought on what the world would be without those that push us forward.

We do have a responsibility to acknowledge greatness. The heros that selflessly push us into new territory, creating something new that did not exist before. Interesting that we then spend so much time in the incremental improvements after such significant milestone breakthroughs.

I do concur with Carver Mead. We need to do more to encourage the next generation of inventors, and to help ignite R&D investment and creativity. We need to fill the heads of children with the wonder of what can be, to see their study today as the means to impact positively on the world tomorrow.

Reminds me of a favorite quote of mine: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” by George Bernard Shaw.

As a footnote to teaching the next generation, we also need to teach bloody mindedness and resilience as a requirement in delivering breakthrough!

The Shaughnessy Report: Emma Lo Russo on Altium’s New China Strategy

The Shaughnessy Report: Emma Lo Russo on Altium’s New China Strategy    

Altium President Emma Lo Russo explains the company’s recent announcement of amnesty for illegal users of its EDA software in China. That offer is just one part of the Australian company’s strategy for gaining market share in China.

This is an audio interview.  Click to listen

Published: Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interview with Emma Lo Russo, President of Altium Ltd

Chris Shaw of New Electronics, interviews Emma and asks about how Altium is tracking and to explain the recent changes at Altium.

Read the full interview at: http://www.newelectronics.co.uk/article/18140/Interview-with-Emma-Lo-Russo.aspx

Snippets of the transcript below:

Emma Lo Russo, president, Altium Ltd, talks with Chris Shaw

Emma Lo Russo

CS: Firstly, how has the market changed since the beginning of the recession and how has Altium addressed the challenges?

ELR: What we’ve done at Altium is aggressively regard the recession as an opportunity! To do otherwise almost inevitably leads to despair, and that’s not Altium’s style at all! Taking this stance means not shying away from a healthy dose of quick reflection and self analysis, and some quick action.

So while Altium completed our first half year (which ended 31st December 2008) back in profit, with sales and revenue growth, and paying an interim dividend to our shareholders, it was also clear that our customers would be affected by the recession. So we decided to change our business model. And we have set out a new manifesto, as it were, for electronics designers around the world, based on helping them remove barriers to innovation, helping them create next generation electronic designs, and helping them not fall into the traps that recessions can sometimes conceal.

We’ve essentially served notice on the electronics design sector by asking every designer, worldwide, one simple, searching question: what makes you so special? Because in a world in which innovation leadership is shifting, in which new economies are setting the new economic benchmarks, the traditional product differentiators of price, position and product are no longer real differentiators.

To help every electronics designer at least consider this question, and then answer it in a meaningful way, we’ve announced a way forward for those seeking to harness the greater opportunities in this new world.

We’ve permanently reduced the price of our solutions, removing a key barrier that may have stopped electronics designers accessing everything they need to take their design concepts to market ahead of the new competitors that continue to emerge. We’re helping them plug into a continuous stream of new devices, technologies and developments that keep them at the forefront of their industry.

We believe this holistic approach to electronics design, with the user’s experience firmly at the centre of the design process, is the breakthrough organisations need. And we believe this will serve as a low risk path to Altium’s unified design solution, allowing more electronics designers to pioneer the new wave of connected, intelligent, next generation electronic products.

CS: What traditional design limitations can Altium Designer resolve?

ELR: Traditionally, electronics design is a sequential process where electronics designers use a series of disconnected point tools. This approach, which we acknowledge once worked reasonably well (albeit somewhat expensively), dramatically restricts the designer in his task of creating something that breaks through the competitive clutter.

This sequential process sees electronics designers encumbered with various interfaces, a myriad of design files and numerous design methodologies. Without a single view of the electronics design process, electronics designers are not able to break free from the design limitations of yesteryear.

So we like to think that we’re helping designers discard the now outdated design rule book.

Altium helps by replacing this piecemeal approach with a new way of designing. Altium’s next generation electronics design solution is unified, meaning that it works off a single data model and provides a single view of the entire design process. Designing with a unified system means electronics designers can move across the hard, soft and programmable design domains. It also means that changes made in one domain are reflected within the rest of the design in real time.

This process frees electronics designers to innovate because the design process is now reversed. The functional intelligence, coupled with the best interests of the end user, is now at the centre of the design process, courtesy of Altium’s higher abstraction approach to programmable design. And because designers are freed from having to make an initial choice about the hardware, they can explore ideas, experiment with devices and develop rapid prototypes, all without constraint.

CS: Altium has announced that plenty of opportunities remain in China – can you elaborate on this?

ELR: China is emerging as a real powerhouse in the electronics design industry. And there is growing evidence to show that this change may come sooner than expected. Many commentators continue to see China as a manufacturing mecca, but the tag ‘made in China’ is set to change to ‘designed in China’. These commentators, who continue to ignore China’s vision and commitment to making this a reality, are doing so at their peril.

When analysing the data, it is easy to see that there are rapid increases in patents, university graduates and technology exports in China. There are also major Government investments being made in the name of innovation. For example, China has shown the highest growth on R&D expenditure, and the fourth highest overall in the years 2000-2005, and as recently as March, the Chinese Government announced a US$66 billion stimulus package for the electronics design sector alone. These investments combined indicate that China is not slowing down.

These figures are just the beginning. Every day, more research indicates that China is rising up the innovation ranks. For example, only this month the Economist Intelligence Unit announced that China has moved up from 59th to 54th in the Global Innovation Rankings. Many predicted that this would take China five years to accomplish, but it only took two.

It just goes to show that China’s potential is nothing short of unbelievable. China is producing more engineers, more designs, more innovation and more competition than ever before. For Altium, this represents a huge opportunity that is augmented by the estimated 250-300,000 unlicensed users of our older solutions, whom we are now migrating with our Invest in Innovation programme.

This unmatched growth and confidence raises some interesting questions for European organisations: what are you doing to prepare for the post recession climate? Where will tomorrow’s competitors be based?

CS: How important do you feel seminars and exhibitions are compared with resources available on the Internet?

ELR: Seminars and exhibitions have their place. They bring to light industry trends, build user communities and provide great opportunities for vendors to exhibit their technology. But, particularly in the current climate, there always seems to be another way to build communities, interact with peers, converse with users.

For example, Altium has used our website to develop a world class support centre and community for engineers. Our web based resource centre offers instructional videos and PDFs that demonstrate step by step how engineers can enhance their Altium Designer experience. These videos have proved to be invaluable to customers new to Altium Designer. And Altium has a very active user forum where Altium employees and users from all over the world contribute. It’s one of the most valued support services Altium offers, and is based on an open and collaborative approach by both Altium and its users.

Published April 28, 2009

 
 
 

Innovation is the only means for sustainable differentiation

Further from my earlier view, it seems to me that there is much debate and self-rationalization about where innovation is and where it will remain, with some expectation that it won’t change in the near future.  This view is just out-right dangerous.  The world is in rapid change, and we are seeing major changes when it comes to investment in R&D.

Please read my post to BusinessWeek:

http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2009/04/innovation.html

Emma Lo Russo

Interesting this debate has a certain degree of fixation on “western innovation.” That somehow it is “more innovative” than other regions’ innovation, especially innovation emanating from “the east.”

Yet the recent data (much of it factually from the US) tells a different story: Innovation is shifting. By any measure, China, India, and other countries are investing more in R&D, are exporting more high-technology goods, and are selling more to internal markets. Most significantly, they seem more enthusiastic about accelerating these effects, and moving into new areas.

Here are some examples from my desktop. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in its report called The Atlantic Century: Benchmarking EU and US Innovation and Competitiveness, China has changed its innovation ranking score by 19.5 over the past 10 years (the highest margin) and tops the ITIF’s table for change, while the US has changed its score by 2.7, and is at bottom.

Elsewhere, the WTO reports that China’s electronic exports grew 173 times in the 17 years to 2007. The US grew four times. The proportion of total exports from hi-tech goods also grew in China. The US, albeit with a much larger proportion, halved.

OECD countries awarded 6.7 million degrees in 2004. China awarded 2.1 million–one-third of all the OECD countries combined. And again, according to the OECD, China was only 15th on the world patents list in 2005, but grew patents by 35% that year. The US grew by 3%

So the argument is not that innovation is region-specific, but instead that acknowledgement is required that the world and innovation leadership is changing. Where design is created, what designs are being done, who it is done by, how it is done, even where designs are being manufactured, is all under a massive period of change.

It’s re-skilling over and over again, combined with innovation, that should set the agenda for future success, rather than dwelling on past and potentially fading glories.

This is what is happening in countries such as China. China is no longer about so-called cheap labor. Nations such as China, in many cases under national policies, are investing in innovation and re-skilling en masse. In electronics design, the industry in which Altium operates, the appetite for technical training and new development software runs unabated. Altium, as one example, is growing sales in China three times faster than other regions. And the desire is stronger about looking to the future rather then in rationalizing past decisions or investment. Whilst it is easy to argue that there is nothing to rationalize if payment of the tools they were using was not there in the first place, we should look to see how liberating that can be when it comes to evaluating what is required to lead and the willingness to leapfrog yesterday’s design paradigms. When I visit and meet with customers, universities, and partners in China, the desire to be ahead of the rest of the world, along with considerable self-belief, and commitment to investing in world-leading tools and practices are obvious.

Our future, as individuals, as companies and as nations, is in our own hands. Governments should focus on investments for companies that focus on technology innovation and in re-skilling people and organizations over and over again. Individuals should clamor for these new skills, preferably building on those they have already.

Let’s not hide from the challenge and the opportunity to do things differently. We will continue to seek great new products that are connected and smart. Someone, somewhere, will make the products we want to use or own, and at a price that we are prepared to pay, and for the quality we expect for that price. These are all “ands,” rather than choices to trade off, and in truth become the price of entry if you want to compete.

As to who will lead in various sectors, it will be down to us as individuals, and us as individual companies. The US has had a history of leading the world in innovation and electronic products, to assume it’s always going to be that way without changing its view of the world, what will be required, where competitors will be, and where the markets will be, will be required. Focusing on what makes us special requires real discipline of approach around true differentiation, being first to market, being cheapest, having historical leadership–none of these will do and thinking so will be a big mistake.

Innovation is the only means for sustainable differentiation.

Turning organization values into organization valuables

Values need to be more then words we aspire to…we must live them and hold ourselves (and others) to account…

Much has been written about the downfall of the financial markets and many of the leading institutions who are paying the price for over extending on high-risk portfolios. 

Even those who have survived relatively unscathed, and those who remain propped up by government support, must ask themselves how they plan to deal with the next 12-18 months. 

It seems to me that there are two fundamental learning lessons from these recent times that we need to revisit as part of rebuilding the greater organization culture:

1)  Revisiting what we mean by organization values

This requires an urgent and hard look at what this means in relation to core values such as honesty, transparency, respect, responsibility, duty of care, balancing risk and return, and what are the non-negotiable points and measures. 

Organization values need to be more than empty words on paper. 

Values must be lived.  They need to move from ticking the box of “we have organization values” and instead move to be seen and be protected as “organization valuables”. 

You know your values are living when:

  • they are discussed regularly in meetings not as a separate topic, but within every topic
  • senior management are being measured and called out if they are not acting in harmony with the values (employees and managers are encouraged to ask and call this out), and 
  •  when every decision is understood and explained in relation to how it represents the business values. 

A good measure would be if every employee understands the decisions being made in relation to where it sits within the balance of investor returns against customer, community and employee responsibilities.

Values need to be shared and explored in every stage of recruitment, decision making, promotions, and in explaining any changes the organization is making.

The other lesson needs to be around industry regulation:

2)  Industry regulation needs to be overhauled

We need to change our model from having those who regulate the industry who previously have mostly been made up of those within the industry, to those representing the greater business, customer, government and investor community.  We need to move from a secular-type model to a representative-democracy of the greater stakeholders.

It is too easy to corrupt decision making when the regulators are also those who are likely to be influenced by the decisions, either positively or negatively. 

Whilst representatives from all groups are required to provide a good forum of interested parties, it needs to be strongly balanced out by those who represent the greater beneficiaries and of those likely to suffer the on-consequences of any decision.

With increasing pressures on short term results, the pull will be significant to overlook both these aspects in the immediate.  If values can be made omnipresent, not only will it be representative of strong organizational character but become a valuable platform of strong characters (employees) to leverage from.

The challenge for all organization leaders will be how to balance long term progress against short term and to never be tempted to accept or deliver anything if it comes at the expense of organization values or the greater stakeholders.

Emma Lo Russo

Published: April 13, 2009