After finishing her MBA at Duke, Christina Warner, one of my former students, was seeking advice for emerging leaders. As she was working and expanding her professional network, she realized that gaining insights from others who have had interesting and successful lives could be helpful as she shaped her own next steps.
She decided to interview several executives she knew to get their perspectives, and then she decided to share what she learned with others. I was honored to be contacted by her when she was deciding who to interview, and I’m grateful to be included in the article that she posted on Medium at https://medium.com/@christinadwarner/3-business-executives-share-their-top-advice-for-emerging-leaders-5eeacdc123eb
And mostly I’m excited to share it with you here!
3 Business Executives Share Their Top Advice For Emerging Leaders
I’ve had the amazing opportunities to interview a variety of thought leaders and business executive. One of the questions I often ask is ‘do you have any advice for up and coming leaders’. I’ve compiled a short selection of the best tips and advice from business executives. Enjoy!
Robin Moriarty—Global Executive and COO
Q: Do you have any advice for up and coming leaders?
- Leap and figure it out. I always jump in the deep end without knowing what I’m doing or how deep the water is. However, I know I’ll figure it out. Everyone else is figuring it out too. Use good judgment and logic to drive towards the goal.
- Take the job that no one else wants to take. It will suck until you figure out how to make it cool. You’ll learn something, and it will give you a chance to make the mark
- See life as nonlinear, and its always better to do SOMETHING than to sit still and be stagnant and take up space. I’ve gone into a lot of stuff as a result of that mindset. The benefit is that I have had a lot of exciting experiences and have collected insights for my personal and professional portfolio.
Resilience is key. People always talk about the glamorous part and the story after they have gotten to the positive side of things. I’m willing to say that the middle section can be difficult and messy and confusing and just plain hard.
Jeff Elkins—Entrepreneur, Veniti Endovenous Therapies, Aptus Endosystems, and FlowMedical Inc.
Q: Do you have a collection of advice passed down to you?
Take Calculated Risks
- It’s not ‘can something be done’ but ‘how can that something be done’. What I mean by that is that I focus on ‘ok, it may not seem possible, but what is necessary? What resources, what time, what money?”
- Look for landmines. I constantly look for them. When I think about project spending, or the team, or the timing. I always look for landmines that will get you, kill the project, cause a delay. I put a lot of time into risk management and looking for places that are going to fail and then creating means to mitigate it. I do a thing called ‘gross screening’. I seek to grossly figure out if something is worthwhile early and screen out the risks as much as possible
- Jump into opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone. For example, if you are an engineer, switch to field mode and engage with customers, or switch to finances or business development or marketing. Leaving that comfort zone is very important.
There is a lot to be said for unconventional approaches. The term paradigm (as much as it’s a buzzword in today’s business climate) the truth is, paradigms are very powerful things. If you get stuck in an established pattern of thinking, established constraint, it’s limiting. You have to be willing to think outside of that paradigm. Do things a little unconventional.
- Surround yourself with multi-position players. I focus a huge amount and put a lot of value on people who can do multiple roles. I value someone with multiple perspectives. For example, someone with field perspective when designing a project. Or someone who can write the regulatory documents because they understand the risks and clinical patients. Or an engineer who has marketing experience.
- Insanely do whatever it takes. Whatever crazy hours, travel, out of box solutions. I’ve always said whatever it takes to get it done, you’ll kill yourself trying, but get it done. Case in point- in the startup world, it is really really hard to get an exit. You have to work insanely to get an exit, do miracle things and crazy over the top commitments
- Give very high quality of work in terms of exceeding expectations. If you are expected to deliver something, exceed it, whether in terms of quality or timeliness or completeness.
- Try harder. Whatever you are doing, whether you are competing with a company or with another person, put forth more effort, more thought, more worry to simply do a better job. Be more complete, more thorough, think through risks.
Immerse in whatever area of interest. If I’m working in the brain, or peripheral, or kidneys, or whatever field I’m in, I am completely immersed and try to understand everything about it — the science, all the history, who the thought leaders are, society, standards of care — so that I can be a first-hand expert. A leader sets the pace. I may not be a statistical guru or CFO, but I have to understand it enough to converse on all levels.
- In the startup world, failures are normal. I go into it understanding that it will be like a rollercoaster ride. With very high highs and very low lows. Facing adversity and failures just comes with the territory. I put my heads down and work through it, describe to your team and our culture. Know that failure will happen and have everyone ready when it does happen. In our world, examples can be running out of money, difficulty raising funds, a patient who dies or gets injured with your product, FDA delays, regulatory approval costs. It can be a competitor with a big victory, or the devices you are training physicians with do not show up on time. These things are absolutely apart of it. At the minimum, you have to plan for it, assume emergency happens, and teach everyone its part of it.
- Sometimes I use the term ‘consequence of being wrong’. If there is not a horrible consequence, and the worst case is the company goes out of business, but there is still a lot of opportunity in that region, or the investor group has more for you, I’m always comfortable taking some big risks. But I never take a unreasonable risk on patients or patient safety.
Susan Willig—Senior Director of Global Brand and Strategic Marketing at Edwards Lifesciences
Q: What steps did you take that you believe emerging leaders could emulate?
- Gather a personal board of directors. External or internal colleagues that will be honest with you and give you feedback
- Find a mentor. Do not wait for a formal mentor program. When you need guidance and help, be specific with your ask
- Constantly seek to learn. Seek what you desire and not be afraid to ask. Even if your job description is x, but you want this job to look like y, pursue that. First, you have to earn credibility delivering on the requirements of the role. Then pursue that.
Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions and rational. Even if it was wrong, I had thought it through and I owned it, and I had a rationale. I can be coached on the rationale and where it was flawed. But sometimes, it’s also time to fall in line. If you’ve said your piece, you need to support the greater cause and move forward.
Christina D. Warner is a healthcare marketer and contributing writer for Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. You can download her free ‘How To Get Into the C-Suite and More: top secrets from CEO’s, political figures, and best-selling authors’