- 20 years experience in executive search with a special focus on financial services, conducting C-level and board of director search assignments in both the U.S. and overseas.
- Founded Allyon Solutions to provide integrated operations in finance to emerging companies in underserved markets. Co-founded Sextant Search Partners, a boutique financial services executive search business based in New York City, and Axiom Consulting, a human capital and strategy consulting firm.
- CEO of TMP Worldwide's executive search division following TMP's acquisition of Highland Search, an executive search group he set up in 1995.
- 14 years at Russell Reynolds Associates, eventually heading its financial services practice and managing its Asia Pacific operation.
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How to Revamp Your Team to Become Digitally Aware
- People are afraid of change.
- Many people fear change for the obvious reason that they think that it’s going to affect them negatively. This is particularly the case when they have been with a company that is not known for being innovative or making radical changes. One of the most common problems is internal resistance from these people who feel threatened by any kind of change initiative.
Many of these resisters are generally digitally unaware people. They have been in their positions for a long time and have perfected the model where they make one item and sell one item. New ways of thinking that leverage digital thinking to create entirely new business models is like speaking a new language for this element in your company – a language these digital resisters have no intention of learning.
- Companies know they need to become digitally aware but they don’t know what to do about it.
Most companies need help with pivoting to a new business model and that usually means help from outside the four walls of the corporate headquarters. Sometimes companies have a vague sense of an action they'd like to take such as bringing in a chief digital officer and they may approach an outside expert with that concept.
Often such companies find that they must address the challenges at a more fundamental level. They find they need to assess their talent, perhaps do an event (such as a "digital boot camp") to educate the works force and create a sense of urgency. They then begin to brainstorm, to assess where their executives and board stand with respect to digital awareness, and a plan of action takes shape. But, at the beginning, many companies that are aware of the pressing need to become digitally savvy do not know how to proceed.
- Companies have a surprisingly low level of digital awareness.
- In fact, most people ascribe a level of awareness to companies that is often undeserved. The history of business is littered with examples of companies that misjudged the current market and missed huge opportunities. We can laugh at the record company that turned down The Beatles because "groups with guitars are on the way out," or at Wang Computers, which was a leader in its field at one point and then missed the massive PC revolution. One of the root causes of these cautionary tales was a simple lack of awareness of the need to pivot and where the pivot should lead.
- The leadership often "say" they want to become more digitally savvy but lack commitment when the time comes for action that entails risk.
“I know we said we’re serious," says the senior manager, "but I’m not going to bring in a 'digital native' board member right now. That would upset the apple cart. Let’s stick to our own level.” It is all too common for executives faced with the need to change, and who think they want to make the pivot, to then be unwilling to commit to what it takes to accomplish it.
They want to be able to go to their board, or to the press, and announce that the company hired a chief digital officer. But a little digging discovers that the new CDO is buried four levels down in the company, reporting to the head of marketing, and nothing really changes. One of the biggest pitfalls is this halfway approach, and this is especially the case when the initiative to become more digitally aware is not a board- or CEO-driven initiative.
- Some companies destabilize what's working successfully in order to pivot to a new model – throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
You don’t want to destabilize what's working for your company. You want to incubate a new digital business model, or open up new revenue stream, that will be successful. If you are just adding a new revenue stream, then your company should be happy with that. But both your older and newer businesses need to be developing and growing. Any significant capital outlays should, of course, go through a process of vetting, like any other initiative. But if you’re vetting an idea in a digitally aware environment, then the better ideas are more likely to get through the screen.