July 2021 | 

The Enterprise Mindset: An Integrated Business Approach

The Enterprise Mindset: An Integrated Business Approach

According to a new study by CEB, while 67 percent of leaders excel at key competencies, and 82 percent are meeting the objectives of their business unit, only 12 percent are true “enterprise leaders.” Without this key attribute — a focus on organizational rather than individual or functionally narrow outcomes — they struggle to act effectively in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) business environment. The bottom line? Senior executives would replace them if they could.

That means individual contributors seeking greater responsibility would be wise to develop an enterprise mindset. Recently, that was the objective for two leaders who attended the Executive Development Program (EDP). They were able to step beyond their roles (finance and marketing, respectively), building not just business acumen in less-familiar areas, but an integrated mindset that sees the organization as a functioning whole.

Growing into General Management

Carla Frias, who has just started her new role in her family business as group marketing director, says she came to the EDP to grow her knowledge outside the marketing function, with a strong interest in developing financial acumen and leadership skills. “Our company is going into a special time now, where the third generation is taking on more responsibility,” she says. “I wanted to see what I could bring by learning more, growing, and acquiring the skills to be a leader, not just a manager. It was precisely the catalyst I needed to transition into my new role.”

What Frias found was a multi-dimensional approach to help her achieve her goals. First, classroom sessions led by Wharton MBA faculty provide the latest research and thinking into each functional area — with a twist. The sessions she anticipated most weren’t the straight finance-focused ones she expected. Specifically, “Integrating Finance, Strategy, and Operations,” taught by Michael Roberts, and “Operational Excellence and the Link to Financial Performance,” led by Christian Terwiesch, “really made sense, because they're completely interrelated. You can have all the knowledge on finance, but if you can’t put it together with operations and strategy, you won’t get very far. It’s like having great ideas, but not being able to communicate and reach people. These areas are so important to each other that they shouldn't be taught separately.”

EDP participants must immediately put their new knowledge to the test in a simulation developed to work side-by-side with the classroom sessions. For Frias, it was an opportunity to jump into the role of CFO, learning as much as possible in a trial-by-fire immersion. “It's a unique opportunity,” she says, “because it's not very often that you get to step into a role that is completely different from your day-to-day. It took me very much out of my comfort zone, which was stressful. But I learned a lot.”

Frias says in addition to putting classroom knowledge into action, the simulation made clear the need for specific leadership competencies. “One of the most important takeaways for me was that it's not only about hard skills like marketing, finance, and strategy. Without ‘soft skills’ like communication, persuasion, and influence, you'll just plateau at a certain level. Success as a leader has to include both.”

Overall, she says the EDP helped her to see management “as a system. It's a combination of things — not just the departments working in silos. You have to work toward the same goal. Everything has to blend together, and the strategy has to be uniform. I came in on the first day as a marketing person, and I came out more of a general management person.”

Mentoring the Next Generation

After almost 30 years working as an auditor in a public accounting firm in Indonesia, Kusumaningsih Angkawidjaja (Ningsih) is looking to the future. “I'm very skillful in accounting, but when I retire someday it is my dream to serve on a board and advise management teams, so I need to know the whole operation, including marketing, operations, finance, and leadership, integrated together. If I have a chance to be on a board, I want to be an effective, efficient, and productive member, bringing value to the management team by working collaboratively. I have to navigate with them, working together to solve complex issues and also adding value from my skillset and experience. Taking EDP is part of my preparations.”

But Angkawidjaja is already making a difference, helping to develop the next generation of leaders. “That has always been my desire and my calling, in my profession and in my community. I'm working with many younger people because 80 percent of our workforce is young. I want to take this opportunity, with my position in the firm, to really coach and mentor them to be great leaders.”

Sessions that were particularly important for her were “Power and Influence,” led by Cade Massey, and the “Executive Negotiation Workshop,” led by Richard Shell. “As leaders, we have to continually negotiate with our clients, persuading them about our view, our belief, and our opinion while still maintaining our professional independence,” Angkawidjaja says. “We also have to influence our team to do what is right in every circumstance.” She says a key takeaway is that being an influential leader is not about your role. “What happens when someday you do not have your title anymore? Can you still be an influencer? The answer is yes, because influence is not based in authority.”

She was surprised to learn about the three types of power identified in the leverage inventory tool (soft, hard, and smart power). “My result was that my style uses a lot of soft power, but not a lot of smart power. This is eye opening for me, not because one type is better than another, but because I have to start being mindful to use a combination of powers and adapt it to each different situation in order to be a more effective influencer.”

Angkawidjaja says just a few weeks after the program ended, she was already putting key lessons into action. “As a part of auditing the clients’ financial statements, we do a risk assessment process. One of the important things about that process is understanding the client’s business. I use my new broadened perspective to have better discussions with and ask better questions of the CEO and CFO. Everything I learned in EDP about business acumen has truly helped me to be more effective.”