News•Oct 05, 2023
Credera hosts 100 executives at annual All Forum Event for insightful peer learning
On August 24, 2023, 100 executives gathered at the five-star Las Colinas Resort in Dallas for Credera’s annual All Forum Event. This is Credera’s eighth year to host this event, with growing attendance of members of Credera’s 10 Strategic Forums and selected guests. The afternoon included an executive panel and interviews, table discussions, and peer networking.
The topic of the day was “Partnering across the C-suite: Effective executive partnership to succeed together.” As artificial intelligence (AI) disrupts business models, marketing and technology trends evolve ever more rapidly, and departmental goals often clash under the pressure of economic waves, the executive team can sometimes pull apart instead of propel the organization forward.
The attending executives—from chief marketing officers and chief information officers to chief innovation officers and chief diversity officers, and several other executive roles—came together to discuss how to more effectively partner with their C-suite teams, learning from each other’s successes and challenges to experience the power of greater unity.
Succeeding in the new business paradigm with unified leadership
Kicking off the afternoon with the keynote presentation, Credera’s Chief Data Scientist and Partner Vincent Yates discussed how AI has not only thrust businesses into a new paradigm, but that the only way to launch and sustain AI initiatives successfully is for all C-suite leaders to collaborate with one another.
Vincent provided ample examples of the extraordinary current and potential value of AI, and posed the question, “Are you responsible for capturing that value?” Siloed organizations may find multiple executives expecting another department to lead the organization’s implementation of AI capabilities. Instead of only one business unit leading the charge, however, executives who share the responsibility will capture greater value together.
Ultimately, AI by itself cannot solve business problems. C-suite collaboration and a structured, multidisciplinary approach are imperative to ensure new capabilities are implemented and adopted effectively throughout the organization and by consumers.
Partnering across roles and agendas
Next, a panel of four executives from varied backgrounds shared their perspectives on the event’s theme: Ami Anderson, chief marketing officer of CityVet; Paul Puopolo, executive vice president of innovation at DFW International Airport; Ravi Malick, global chief information officer at Box; and Veena Yelamanchili, vice president and head of operations and strategy at BenefitMall.
The panelists shared both challenges when they experienced personal agendas creating executive misalignment, as well as strategies, tactics, or mindsets that have led to alignment and progress forward.
Some highlights follow:
One C-suite team at a previous company was hierarchical, which prevented partnership and dissenting feedback. The team reached the point of avoiding each other and initiatives ground to a standstill. At this point, they took a mandatory day trip together. Forming connections on both a personal and professional level broke down barriers and were the turning point for the initiatives’ success.
Another panelist shared the value experienced in reviewing all executives’ annual goals at the start of the year to gain a common understanding of each other’s priorities. Then, a customer experience goal can also be an innovation goal, or a technology goal can become a sales goal.
One panelist’s experience with bringing in an external partner is what enabled executive collaboration and delivering results together. When building a large cross-functional program, aligning on values and culture helps to set the foundation to align on plans and tactics.
Another experienced executive team cultures on both sides of the spectrum: displaying a scarcity mindset in which one individual’s success seems to diminish others’ image, versus displaying servant leadership, generosity to all, and constant efforts to make each other more successful. The far more positive and productive C-suite teams have been those who live by “HOPE: help one person every day.”
Each panelist had deeper wisdom than could be shared in one afternoon session. Given their years of examples and insights on how to speak another executive’s language, connect as humans, communicate with data and research, seek to understand humbly, avoid working in siloes, and more, attendees were left wanting to hear more.
Learning from large cross-functional initiatives
After a short break and chance to mingle, James Whatley, chief information officer at Mary Kay, and Wanda Gierhart Fearing, executive vice president and chief marketing and content officer for Cinemark Holdings, Inc., each shared case study experiences of leading major initiatives in partnership with their entire C-suite teams.
James shared how he has led Mary Kay’s digital transformation initiative, overseeing a wholesale IT migration from custom developed solutions to Salesforce.com over the past five years, deploying in more than 20 markets and improving the experience of independent beauty consultants.
He found the following to be successful in leading cross-functionally:
He first framed the initiative as a “business project run by IT” and researched the significant return on investment, which effectively gained buy-in from the CEO and executive team from the start.
Organizational change management was crucial to keep the focus and momentum of 25 IT teams, 25 marketing leaders, 25 customer service groups, all beauty consultants, contractors, and vendors. Constant communication—providing updates to his fellow executives, partnering with regional leads, and communicating with employees—was key.
James shared that as the leader in a global initiative like this, frequent and consistent messaging has kept everyone focused, unified, and successful—creating one team.
Wanda then shared how she was able to lead Cinemark through a global rebrand and several customer experience innovations in the wake of the 2020 pandemic devastating the cinema business.
Some of her lessons in partnership include the following:
Prior to the pandemic, Wanda and her executive colleagues set up a cross-functional task force to plan for a rebrand and innovations. In early 2020 they paused, but then regrouped and the task force pushed forward to rebrand the entire company. An “all hands on deck” mentality brought everyone together stronger than ever.
Wanda then found that obtaining buy-in incrementally over several months—first with her executive team, then the board of directors, then all 300 general managers, and finally the whole company—was effective to get all teams on board, level by level.
Specifically, it was crucial to meet with individual executives and hundreds of theater General Managers to share customer research and concrete data, potential impacts to their plans, and how the rebrand could benefit them. Instead of moving full steam ahead, she shared a three-year incremental roadmap and addressed the obstacles for all teams, not only her own.
Both leaders have made significant progress in their organizations and have impacted their fellow leaders, teams, and customers around the globe through unified and engaged leadership. They began with gaining alignment and support from their C-suite team members, and maintained those throughout the phases of roll-out to reach remarkable progress today.
Empowering current and future leaders
Jim Haring, chief information officer of MV Transportation, closed the afternoon with an engaging and fascinating topic on how he adopted “citizen development” as a way of empowering non-IT employees to become developers with low or no code.
With the overnight rise of generative AI, Jim believes that no-code development is where IT is headed. Along with his servant leadership style and desire to empower the next generation of leaders, he is effectively breaking down barriers between his IT organization and the other company departments by including non-IT employees in his initiatives.
To do this, he started with what he calls “friendly borders.” He identified eight non-IT employees with the potential for growth and leadership while maintaining their current responsibilities. He trained them on no-code development, and as they began to “show and tell” their progress on Fridays, the program has steadily expanded and earned favor from all levels.
Jim shared the idea from author Patrick Lencioni that “there’s a team you lead and a team you’re on.” As leaders often focus more on the team they lead, he has found great reward in this opportunity to bridge the gap between departments and partner with the executive team he is on.
Executive partnership throughout the year
Members of Credera’s 10 Strategic Forums continue discussing various topics like these in their forum meetings that run from October through May. Some forums are also recruiting additional engaging members to build relationships and support peer learning throughout the year.
If you are interested in learning more about Credera’s Strategic Forums, reach out to Allison De La Torre at firstname.lastname@example.org.