For about three generations now, IBM has been training fresh batches of leaders straight out of college. Now, Big Blue’s got a brand new bag.
Here are the new leadership traits that IBM plans to grade its executives on ... and that you can cultivate, too:
Ability to sustain customer relationships. IBM says it’s no longer interested in the single sale or transaction ... if it ever was. Its top executives think of the people who buy IBM products and services not as one-shot customers but as longstanding clients with whom they’ve established a relationship.
It’s not good enough to sell somebody a server, says Harris Ginsberg, an IBM director. An IBM employee should be so focused on trust and the long-term partnership that she might discourage her client from buying a new piece of hardware if it would be in his best interest to wait.
Ability to influence without direct authority. IBM calls this skill “collaborative influence,” meaning that various groups team up informally, depending on the job at hand, to complete the work. No more thinking in a vertical silo. No more command and-control hierarchies.
Where’s IBM been for the past few years, you may ask? Well, apparently, working this stuff out. Example: Vice President Frank Squillante has only four direct reports in his job putting together IBM’s intranet strategy. He develops and launches applications for 325,000 people and 100,000 business partners by coaxing employees whom he has no authority over. Bossing people around would blow up in his face, he says, so he tries to influence them into going his way “every minute of every day.”
— Adapted from “IBM’s Management Makeover," Linda Tischler, Fast Company.