Isobel Ching’s 3 Take-Aways from #WEF2019

A guest post by Isobel Ching, CEO

Isobel Ching CEOAt -10°C, queuing for the shuttle that will take me from the conference centre to the Digital Technologies of Tomorrow reception, I am surrounded by my peers. These are people like me: educated, powerful, enabled, with a certain commitment to bettering the world. And yet … This year some voices are missing. No Macron, no Trump … But the key issues we are here to solve remain: climate change, gender equality, income inequality.

This make me wonder, does Davos still matter? Is it still worth me trekking to Klosters in the late January snow? Should I just send Carmen or Buck next year?

I think we are all coming next year. And here’s why:

1) In-person matters more than ever

The world might be obsessed by digital, but in-person matters more than ever. The big consulting firms bring lots of data to WEF. One example is Accenture, who asserts that trust in digital has eroded. And they have a set of recommendations for rebuilding it.

I’m struck by how digitally focused their recommendations are nevertheless – especially as they’re bringing these to a face-to-face event. So whilst I agree with the diagnosis, I’d extend the proposed remedy by saying: focus on bringing your people together more.

This why I make time to get my team in the same room. To discuss, plan and review scenarios and to learn from different perspectives. You should too.

Which leads us to the next point, where I hope to see a change next year:

2) CEOs are not getting the data they want

PwC launched their 22nd annual CEO survey. I remember being interviewed for this, and wondering what the results would be. One of the most interesting charts in the report visualised the gap between data considered critical for decision making – versus comprehensiveness of the data currently received.

2019 PwC CEO Survey Report - Exhibit 12

Part of this links to whether CEOs perceive their staff to have the right skills. In an age that is sometimes called the gig economy, I was encouraged to see that my fellow CEOs still invest in training and retraining. I encourage you to move team development from the “nice to have” to the “absolutely must” column of your to do list.

Exhibit 14 from the PwC CEO Survey Report

The report also quotes my friend and rival, Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted – exploring the tension between following a core idea and getting fresh input:

“We look at all kinds of collaborative creation as valuable — not only within our company, but with external partners as well. We are clear about the borders of our brand, because the brand is sacred to us. But we also recognize that if we have only the inspiration and creativity of people within our own organization, we miss a lot of what’s going on in the marketplace. We articulate this point by saying that we need to be consumer-obsessed and to create the best product for the consumer. If that is your endgame, then you have to be able to confront sacred cows, and open yourself up to ideas that you might not have been open to in the past.”

3) Practice analytical thinking and complex problem solving

The insights above combined with the earlier WEF Future of Jobs report all point to the need for opportunities to practice analytical thinking and complex problem solving. Preferably in-person.

Table 4 from the 2018 WEF future of jobs report -https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2018 - Comparing Skills Demand

To that end I’ve asked my colleague Hugh Mann to draw up some ideas for conferences to attend in 2019. You should think about the same for your own development.

I’m also encouraged by the number of companies bringing me and my colleagues to their offices to help their teams develop and get in touch with new ways of thinking. We’ll be in the Leeds University Business School next…

Right … The shuttle is here … Got to go. I don’t want to get stuck next to the Zuck at dinner … he always tries to practice his terrible Mandarin on me.

“I wanted to move from more of a tactical, transactional approach.” – A Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this instalment of our series of conversations, Stephen spoke to Fayrouz Essack, Strategic Communications Manager at the UK Department for Transport.

Stephen: Hi Fayrouz, please tell me a little about your work.

Fayrouz: I’m part of the strategic communications team at the Department for Transport (DfT). My work includes overseeing management of the ‘grid’ – the tool we use to coordinate departmental communication and working on our external campaigns.

Stephen: But you’ve not been at DfT for long?

Fayrouz: No, I re-joined in June 2018, after a stint working in the Prime Minister’s Office as a Senior Campaigns Manager. That was exciting because working at the centre of government gives you a new perspective. I worked with lots of different people in different departments and was able to build my network and work in some challenging situations.

Stephen: You mentioned building your network. How did you do that?

Fayrouz: I wanted to move from more of a tactical, transactional approach. So I did two things. First, where possible, I arranged to meet people face-to-face and used the opportunity to find out a bit more their professional priorities and preoccupations. Second, I tried to find things we have in common: can I ‘click’ with them? What values do we both share? What do they do outside of work? This provides a common ground for working with them.

Stephen: Very good. In my research about how to build trusted adviser relationships, I identified four elements. You are already using two: building the relationship and identifying the common ground. (The other two are defining the business outcome and reducing risk.)

Fayrouz: Indeed. I learned about the importance of networking as part of the Early Talent Programme.

Stephen: Yes, I know. We met when we ran a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop as part of the 2-day residential element of the programme. As you will recall, we built a special, tailored version for use for government communicators. What can you tell me about the wider context of the whole programme?

Fayrouz: The Early Talent Programme is a two-year programme run by the UK Government Communication Service (GCS) to help professionals build and develop their career. I started in April 2017 and it has really helped me build my career. For example, I was a given a coach who I see every month. My coach really helps me think through challenges and encourages me to think about the next step in my career. I’d encourage anyone in the GCS to see if they’re eligible to apply.

Stephen: You said earlier that you like to find out more about people do outside of work. What about you? What do you do outside of work?

Fayrouz: I go to boxing class. My coach actually suggested I go weekly, ensuring I balance my career and development with self care. I liked it so much I now go twice a week. Last weekend I was in Kiev where my partner works. It was so cold!

Stephen: Yes I can imagine. Thanks again for your time.

Learn more about the work of the UK Department for Transport and also the Early Talent Programme. And you can connect with Fayrouz on LinkedIn.

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you.

If you’re an alumna/us and you’d like to be interviewed, let us know.

Top 11 articles of the year – vote to win

As we wrap up 2018 it is time to take a look back – via a countdown of the 11 most read articles in 2018. Which was your favourite? RT to be entered into a draw for a free ticket to our next public workshop.

Number 11 – Push back?

Number 10 – Advice?

Number 9 – Never before?

Number 8 – Fun?

Number 7 – Are you?

Number 6 – Shared?

Number 5 – Vexing?

Number 4 – Indispensable?

Number 3 – Trade-offs?

Number 2 – Can we?

Number 1 – Swim?

Shaking the tree: your unexpected end-of-year bonus

A guest post from Buck Greenback, CFO

Materialesweb-10

Carmen:

How time flies. The year is almost up. Last time we met you asked me to share some ideas about how to think more commercially.

So, you know me: I like numbers. Here’s a practical idea that can help you secure an unexpected end-of-year bonus. More bang for the buck so to speak.

Now there’s a caveat: it might not immediately make a difference to your own pocketbook, but doing this could very well position you to ask for a pay rise in next year’s budget – and that does put more change into the jukebox doesn’t it?

Shake the tree

So what’s the idea? Well, it is a simple one: shake the proverbial money tree. Earlier in the year you and I agreed a budget – you made the case for a set of investments that’ll make a real tangible return to Globocorp. So now’s the last chance to check if you’re on track – coming in on budget, and with the results promised. Doing what you said you would. “That’s not much of a bonus”, I can hear you mutter. Indeed. But it is the precursor for the real kicker:

  • Knowing where you’re at with your spend (and the results) positions you early to make the case for next year’s budget.
  • It also means you can speak confidently to your suppliers – they’re doing their final sprint, trying to close their books for the year. If their CFO is anything like me, then they’d like to get as much money through the door as possible. And that often makes them more willing to negotiate discounts, extras, extensions, and whatnot.
  • And those partners you have joint projects with – have they spent all their budget? If they haven’t, now’s the time to shake it loose. Meet your stretch objectives.

The bottom line

You got a budget at the beginning of the year based on a projected return on investment. As your CFO I’m now looking for that return. Now’s the time to use the last bit of it to get as much value as you can through the door before the year is out. And then we can talk to Isobel, our CEO, about a well-deserved pay rise.

Normally we CFOs like to say “show me the money!”. In this case, though, I’m asking you to “show me the results”.

Good luck – and keep me posted.

Best, Buck

P.S. Don’t forget your team’s professional development budget – you made a particularly strong case there. Having spoken to my team, they’d love it to see more business partnering behaviour from your colleagues.  Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshops, perhaps?

Picture credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AlmondShakerbeforeafter.jpg. Father of Nehrams2020 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

“Sometimes decision-making is not so cut and dried” – A Carmen Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this installment of our series of conversations, Carmen spoke to Rita Zonius who runs the communications, change and social media agency called the Enterprise Social Engineer.

Carmen: It has been a while – what’s new with you?

Rita: Hey Carmen! I took the leap to start my own business 18 months ago after working in various corporate communications roles for a very long time in one of Australia’s largest banks.

Carmen: Cool. Congrats. That’s incredibly exciting. Now, you played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders… Tell me more about that.

Rita: Oh, I liked it so much.

I actually ended up co-hosting it with Stephen Welch in London once. So I’ve been very lucky.

Thinking back to the first time I experienced it … I was in Singapore at a conference – and the thing I liked about it was how it reminds you that, as a communications practitioner, there are often no black or white answers. There are there are shades of grey and sometimes you have to make the best decision with the information that you have available to you. I think that is the great thing about playing the game. Sometimes decision-making is not so cut and dried.

Carmen: You say cut and dried?

Rita: I think sometimes it might be an absence of information. As a leader you’re not always going to be exposed to every single piece of information that you need to help you make a perfect decision. So the scenarios in the game really force you to think carefully about the course of action you should take. How different stakeholders might react and what the outcomes of that could be.

Carmen: And your own venture … what are you doing at the moment and does any of it link back to the things you might have learnt playing this game? Or things that you might help others learn – using this game…?

A lot of what I’m doing is coaching executives around the appropriate use of social media to build their impact and influence. With that comes thinking about questions such as: ‘How should I conduct myself?’. And ‘I’m sharing what I know – and is it coming from a place of generosity and with a good intention in mind or am I simply just trying to sell?’.

So I’m really mindful of all of that dynamic when I’m talking to executive teams about how they personally conduct themselves on social media. We don’t want to involve smoke and mirrors. We want to be authentic. Find a way to use social media that really speaks to who you are what you stand for and what your personal brand is because if you try to be someone else (not your authentic self) it will come through anyway. So I think that’s also some lessons that playing this game can teach: to make the best decisions you can from a place of authenticity. Don’t try and game the system. People will see through it.

The other thing I would say about the game is the interaction. What’s great about it is that once people get over their shyness for the first two minutes, they really get into it. The conversations around the tables are very rich. Particularly when you have diverse viewpoints being put on the table and being discussed. Somebody will inevitably illustrate that things are not black and white. The right answer for ‘you’ may not be the right answer for ‘me’. And listening to the sort of vigorous conversation is great. It gives you a fresh perspective.

You can find Rita on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @RitaZonius

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you.

If you’re an alumni and you’d like to be interviewed by Carmen, let us know here.

An open letter to Carmen Spinoza

Dear Carmen,

Being the director of communications, you’re undoubtedly interested in language, and I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that that might extend to semantics too.

That’s handy, because there are some practical insights to be had through looking at what lies underneath some of the terms used to define your job. Let’s start with what’s on your business card:

Director

The root of the word is ‘to guide’ – and that’s a key to how the world’s top directors operate.

Etymology of Director

Etymology of director

It might be tempting to think that it is all about calling the shots (or shouting ‘cut’ as the cliché goes for movie directors). In truth, directors are part of a team – and the best results come when you work with your colleagues to find a shared way forward.

How might you do that in practice? Well, as the origins of guide imply: a little bit of wit might not go amiss.

Etymology of Guide

Etymology of guide

In practice this doesn’t mean cracking jokes all the time. One definition of wit is: ‘the capacity for inventive thought and quick understanding; keen intelligence.’

So it is about staying level headed when the going gets tough – and recognising that there is strength in numbers. And with the strength, there should also be room to allow for a little humour along the way. It can help you and your colleagues break a deadlock – and look at a challenge in a new way.

Now I mentioned numbers. That’s because you’ll now be part of the senior management team / senior leadership team / the executive management team. There are lots of terms and these are often shortened down to SMT, SLT and EMT but that just makes it even more vague. What is it all about when it comes to purpose and behaviours in a group like this?

Is there perhaps a single short term that can help us inform some of the what, how and why of a group like this?

I propose we take a closer look at the word…

Board

When you look at the root it becomes obvious why so many people talk about getting ‘a seat at the table’. The good people over at Fidelio even have a programme you might want to look at – called exactly this.

Etymology of Board

Etymology of board

What else might we learn from the root? Well, that when a board operates in unison, it really can be like facing a broadside. And boards operate at the sharp edge: they’re there to resolve issues that can’t be solved at lower levels of the organisation.

Now Globocorp operates all over the world, so there are management boards, supervisory boards and subsidiary boards (and a few more in-between). We’ll look closer at these another time.

You might end up serving on more than one – directly, or perhaps as part of a committee – and while the legal framework and statutory requirements will vary, there are some shared principles. The Financial Reporting Council’s updated guidance on board effectiveness is not a bad place to start as you start thinking beyond the function you came up through (so to speak).

Here I’ve pulled a few quick principles to whet your appetite:

FRC Guidance on Board Effectiveness - cover
FRC Guidance on Board Effectiveness

“Effective directors will understand their duties both collectively and individually.”

“A sound understanding at board level of how value is created over time is key in steering strategies and business models towards a sustainable future.”

“The boardroom should be a place for robust debate where challenge, support, diversity of thought and teamwork are essential features.”

“Openness and accountability matter at every level.”

As you can see immediately, this calls for working well beyond the comms department. It requires for you to be a true guide when walking into the boardroom.

Now how might you practice some of these skills in a safe environment, exploring scenarios and testing out approaches?

Get a seat at the table. Help guide.

Play Snakes & Ladders…

Good luck!

Michael

Michael Ambjorn has led people for over 20 years. He has run organisations, chaired boards and developed changemakers. You can find him on LinkedIn or follow him @michaelambjorn

 

“Never assess the situation from your own lens…” – A Carmen Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this installment of our series of conversations, Carmen spoke to Colin Hatfield the founder and senior partner at Visible Leaders.

Carmen: Hello Colin; tell me a bit more about your work…

Colin: We help leaders to articulate a vision that inspires – at all levels. We help them develop the skills to engage their internal and external audiences, to drive performance and realise their organization’s ambitions.

We believe that at the heart of leadership lies great communication. Great leaders inspire change and motivate their teams through what they say, what they do and how they listen.

Carmen: You’ve played this game more than once…

Colin: Yes! And it has developed quite a bit. The first time I tried it was when it was in a very early version. And then I partook in a ‘proper’ session earlier this year at the Strategic Adviser Forum as part of IABC’s World Conference in Montreal.

I think it works on many many levels. It is an idea that we could build in with some of our clients, and some of the relationships we’ve got.

Carmen: What surprised you the most?

Colin: Perhaps not surprised, but what I liked the most is the discussion it generates. In some situations there is a right and wrong answer. but in many there aren’t. What is interesting is to see a bunch of professionals in the room come to different outcomes. Understanding the different factors that informed their decision-making process. Getting into that was enlightening.

Carmen: You’ve recently been writing and speaking about Adaptive Leadership. Is this something that is relevant here?

Colin: Adaptive leadership is about how leaders show up: reading a situation, understanding the context – and understanding how to have the best possible impact. It is a move on from the pure ‘authenticity’ discussion that has been going on for some time. I think the game could easily be used to explore some of these challenges and approaches in practice.

Carmen: Have you got a couple of top tips from Adaptive Leadership that could be used by others playing the game?

Colin: Sure!

  1. Never assess the situation from your own lens. What’s great about the Adaptive Leadership approach is that it helps you look at things from the point of view of your stakeholders.
  2. Experiment – try taking on the different ‘personas’ as you think through the challenge. That’s essential when you play this game – and in work in general. Explore what makes the various stakeholders you deal with tick.

Carmen: Big thanks Colin – and where can we find out more about your work?

Read our blog for more on Adaptive Leadership – and you may also find our recent white papers on Communication Across Cultures and A Practical Approach to Stakeholder Management useful.

Connect with Colin on LinkedIn if you want to learn more – and follow @VisibleLeaders

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you.

If you’re an alumni and you’d like to be interviewed by Carmen, let us know here.

The Claire Underwood school of leadership

Last Sunday, after a week putting out metaphorical fires in South East Asia, I managed to book myself a “me day”. I’m in Kuala Lumpur, in one of the suites of the Mandarin Hotel, enjoying the familiar smell of their newly pressed linen (as the ads say, “I’m a fan.”).  After a run through the Perdana Botanical Gardens and a long, long bath I powered my laptop up: Claire is President and I need a binge-watch.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you may be forgiven. The world’s realpolitik has become so ‘entertaining’ that it’s almost OK to forget the dark mischievous world of House of Cards, the Netflix series that used to belong to the maligned Kevin Spacey (still I believe one of the best actors of his generation). Season 6 was just released with Robin Wright in the role the first female president of the U.S.

Here is the thing, after the first episode, I got a text from Hugh Mann, our HR Director. He needed to confirm things were OK for next week’s Exec Team meeting. I said “Yes. Now I’m going to lose myself in House of Cards, have you seen it?” “Yes, but I quit watching after the first episode. Once I realised she was only playing her version of Kevin Spacey.”

This totally innocuous comment got me thinking about the topic of women in leadership. No matter how you play it, someone is probably trying to see if you measure up, especially if you’re playing it right. Because, given the limited examples we have of women in positions of power, I believe there is less understanding of diversity and different styles of leadership in women. It’s normal, we are only just beginning to experience what a female leader looks like, is, and how she acts and reacts. The trouble is, when it comes to men, we can see leaders of every shade and tend to judge the person and behaviour. When it comes to female leaders – trust me, I’m one – the starting point is always – consciously or unconsciously – gender.

How, you might ask, have I handled the obvious pressures of being a female leader? I’m still grappling with it, every day. But here are four things I use to guide me in my journey:

  • A mirror – It can be a mentor, a colleague or your right-hand person. It’s someone who can look at you and give you the encouragement and/or the reality check you need. It is someone who knows you from your pre-leader days and can cut through the trappings of power. See: IABC UK’s mentoring programme
  • Noise-cancelling headphones – I use Globocorp’s own “STFU” brand (available at all our stores), the best in the market (of course). You need them to mute and silence the critics. Particularly the ones within. I don’t get the impression that effective male leaders replay every meeting and pull apart every decision they make to imagine a better reaction. In my experience, women tend to do so, we ruminate. So brush off that voice and only listen to her when it’s time to reflect. Brené Brown has some very useful tips on how to silence the inner critic.
  • A compass Sometimes I get lost in the power-jostling, life-balancing, decision-making maze I call my job. Should I fight for that extra million for a new campaign? Should I get involved when I see Buck cutting the canteen budget in our operations? Should I push back when my CEO makes a ridiculous request? How to know? I consult my compass. My true north is the purpose we -as a company- are here to fulfill. My decisions should always align with it. Frankly, sometimes I go off-piste, but that’s OK. The compass is there to bring me back.
  • A skills lab – A safe space to flex your decision-making muscles.  Would you get on a plane with a pilot that hasn’t successfully landed lots and lots of planes in simulation? Would you let a surgeon who had never used a scalpel take out your appendix? Many of us have prepared organizations to respond to crisis through simulations, stress testing a team’s response to media and organizational pressures. It works. We know it. But why should ‘crisis’ have a monopoly on simulations? When was the last time you took your team on a simulation to build their skills in other areas?

I’m still watching the last few episodes House of Cards, so no spoilers, please. I think Robin Wright is delightful in her complex back and forth between total evil and vulnerability, but ask me again after I finish watching. In the meantime, let me know what you think.

And if you want to put your toe into the waters of leadership and learn in the process, I can be the head of your skills lab. Bring a session of Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders to your team.

“…you’ll also make connections – who knows, maybe even a future colleague or mentor.” – A Carmen Q&A

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. In this installment of our series of conversations, Carmen spoke to Adity Tripathi who played the game at the London College of Communication as part of the MA in Public Relations.

Carmen: Tell me a bit more about yourself

I’ve been living in London for about a year. I came here from New Delhi in order to do a Master’s degree in Public Relations.

Right now I’m working on my dissertation. It is on the topic of Male Gaze, something the feminist film critic Laura Mulvey identified her 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema“. I’m exploring how it still applies today – well beyond cinema. If you have something interesting to add on that, do reach out.

Carmen: Interesting work Adity. Now, you played Corporate Snakes & Career Ladders – how did you find it?

Adity: It was a unique experience – and a lot of fun. We were 5-6 people and it was like game grew up with us, and us with it. We learnt a lot as a group.

Carmen: What was the main take-away for you?

Adity: We had to make lots of decisions. Your decisions individually, and as a team, directly impact the result. It isn’t always about following the text-book approach so to speak. You really have to collaborate with the others on the team.

Carmen: Would you play it again?

Adity: Definitively. In addition to have fun and learning, you’ll also make connections – who knows, maybe even a future colleague or mentor!

Carmen: What’s next for you?

Graduation – and then I’ll be searching for a job. If you have ideas / opportunities, do contact me.

Connect with Adity on LinkedIn – and follow her @adity_noni

And if you’d like to try the game: see if it is right for you. We feature on the curriculum for Adity’s course.

If you’re an alumni and you’d like to be interviewed by Carmen, let us know here.

 

Are you Beast or Beauty?

Many communication professionals I know seem besotted with the concept of becoming a ‘business partner’. They say things like: If only my CEO would listen to me … I’ve got lots of great ideas but senior executives just treat me like a copy editor … I can never get time in their diaries … they only think of communication after the fact and don’t involve me in decision-making … they seem to think my job is to ‘make things pretty’.

An 1875 illustration from "Beauty and the Beast" by Eleanor Vere Boyle, where Beast is depicted as a saber-toothed panther. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Reusing_content_outside_Wikimedia
An 1875 illustration from “Beauty and the Beast” by Eleanor Vere Boyle, where Beast is depicted as a saber-toothed panther. 

This is reminiscent of my niece’s favourite Fairy Tale “Beauty and the Beast”; where a lack of mutual understanding and tolerance initially gets in the way of a fruitful and successful relationship. The power of partnership overcomes initial antipathy. If this sounds like some of your internal relationships – with senior executives or other functions in your organizations, then read on.

For many people in our profession, creating a successful partnership with senior colleagues is a vexing challenge. The dilemma is about how to balance your professional expertise with the other skills require to create a great partnership. The problem is made more difficult by the professional curriculum of the profession.

By this I contend that companies, individuals, and organizations invest a lot of time and energy on the technical skills side of training. There are many conferences on skills and tools to become an ‘expert’, or about the last ‘shiny tools’ and techniques. But becoming a business partner is about more than just becoming a great technician. Playing in the professional sandbox is great fun but doesn’t add much value.

To help understand this, I spoke to my other functional colleagues – Buck Greenback, Lloyd Barr and Hugh Mann to get a different perspective. It seems that other functions, have also started to recognise this, invest in training and new approaches, and are therefore seen as more of a partner, whether they have the job title of ‘business partner’ or not.

Developing great partnerships and being taken seriously is more than just being a beautifully crafted expert. In the fable, Belle succeeds because she relies on more than just her looks; just as the true professional has to rely on more than just technical expertise. In fact, it is rare that your internal customers will judge you on your skills, they’ll focus instead on impact. In business – whether you are in HR, Communications, or IT – becoming a true partner is demonstrating business know-how and having great advisory/consulting behaviours.

Developing these requires investment. And sometimes training. But when was the last time you attended a training course that was about business know-how, operating models, value creation, advisory skills, consulting behaviours, or coaching?

If you want a seat at the table, for the CEO (in my case Isobel Ching) or other leaders to invest time in you, then you need to invest in them. Reciprocity: senior business people will only partner with those who understand their business, know how value is created, and demonstrate that they have done their homework. But it is surprising how few functional professionals know who their organization’s biggest customers are; who are the most important shareholders; what competitors are up to; the regulatory environment. Focusing on technical skills or new technologies is the sign of the technician, not the business partner. It’s also the sign of the vacuous beauty of Belle’s friends — the Bimbettes — who don’t have her emotional intelligence and charm.

This applies whether you are working with the senior executives, or even other functional heads. How can you help them if you don’t make an attempt to understand their world, their challenges, and their operating environment? The Beast is more than just a repellent monster. To create a partnership Belle has to understand his back-story and what drives his behaviour. Then work with him. He, in turn, invests (and overcomes his antipathy) also to discover she is more than just ‘belle’.

Once you have business knowledge, then you need to marry your experience with your business know-how with the help of the priest of consulting and advisory skills. These act as the bridge to get senior leaders to listen to your advice and guidance. These skills are about relationship building, audience analysis, creating trust, influencing skills, and being clear about what you do and how you make a difference. How you give advice is just as important as what the advice is.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast has moments of tragedy and it is also tragic that many professionals punch below their weight despite the fact that business and advisory skills are relatively easy to learn.

Advancing the profession – and advancing your own career – might be easier by focusing less on knowing the latest digital communication tools and focusing more on developing consulting tools.

If you would like to learn more about how to be a business partner, and practice your skills in a safe environment, please get in touch and we can play Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders with your team.