The best leaders among us think big. Visionary leaders create a future that seems impossible to others. Think Kennedy, who sent a man to the moon. Or Steve Jobs, who imagined the iPod and iPhone, which would transform the way we communicate with one another. Or Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected President of South Africa, and the leader of the Anti-Apartheid movement.
And then there are everyday heroes who make big, audacious, impossible things happen. Like Desray Shuck, former head of leadership development for the global mining conglomerate, Anglo American, with operations across six continents and with over 63,000 people worldwide. As a voice in the leader development space, I’m interested in people who make big things happen in a large, complex organization.
I learned about Desray from my colleague, Amy Moore, who coaches and teaches at GIBS Business School (Gordon Institute of Business Science) in South Africa. Amy and her colleagues Verity Hawarden and Hayley Pearson recently wrote a case study about the leadership Desray provided for Anglo American to help students learn about how to do big things by studying Desray’s example.
Few of us will have the privilege of reading the case study and learning from what Desray has done. So, I present to you the six keys to getting big things done in your organization. Or at least will help you to think through what you missed the last time you wanted to lead a large change or transformation.
To begin, Desray’s challenge was to resource, identify, develop and retain the diverse internal and external talent pool required to achieve Anglo American’s business objectives. In other words, to find, develop and keep really great people. To this end, she created a Leadership Academy. It sounds simple enough, but surely it was not. Here is what she and her team had to do, step-by-step, to deliver on this challenge:
- Understand who your key stakeholders are and the interrelatedness between positions and influence. You have to identify who cares about the issue you care about. You have to have a way to determine who has influence and who might block your big ideas. In other words, keep your eyes wide open.
- Meet with these stakeholders and really listen to their needs. Prior to Desray’s arrival, each business unit, each region, and each geography had its own learning and development offerings and strategy. She needed to listen and learn about what they were doing and what they needed to build a relevant and valued solution.
- Ensure your ideas clearly link to and build on the organizational strategy. Desray connected everything she was doing to the overall strategy of the organization.
- Address pain points. Find out what people are frustrated and hurting about. Desray and her team interviewed key stakeholders and asked them, “What is your definition of success? What has been missing? What would be ideal?”
- Keep it simple. Boil your big ideas down to their essence. And a graphic is better. Help people understand easily what you are so excited about, what your big idea is. Use visual diagrams that make your ideas easy to understand. This is key. Desray composed a concise three-page leadership development strategy and presented it to the Group Management Committee. Her purpose was to easily help them to understand what she was up to and to say “yes” to her vision.
- Build something great so others will want to be associated with it. People love winners. Be a winner, do good and you will attract the energy and attention of others who can build on your big idea. The Leadership Academy created five levels of programs for leaders at all levels, which is attracting wonderful attention.
I encourage you to think and dream big – that’s what great leaders do. And then to implement these six steps to make your vision into a reality in your organization. I’ll be cheering for you!