Blog article

How to be a great sponsor

As a senior leader, you have been asked to be a sponsor for a high-potential employee your company is seeking to develop and retain as part of its diversity-and-inclusion efforts. You agree, because you believe retaining underrepresented talent is important. And you are always willing to help young talent succeed, anyway; it’s the fun part of your job. You probably already sponsor a few people, but being assigned someone to sponsor is different. You may know the employee’s reputation, but you don’t know anything regarding his or her real strengths and limitations or ambitions.

Let’s say the sponsored employee is two levels below you. She reports to one of your peers in another area of the business. At your first meeting, she’d asked about the company’s China strategy, which is your area of expertise, and then about how she should deal with a direct report who isn’t pulling his weight

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Do you really want a CEO to be a role model?

When Fortune magazine named Elon Musk as the 2020 Businessperson of the Year, its CEO, Alan Murray, announced the news with palpable distaste: “I have never been a Musk fanboy; he is a mix of some of the worst characteristics of today’s leaders — more messianic than Adam Neumann, as allergic to rules and governance as Travis Kalanick, nearly as narcissistic as Donald Trump.” So why honor Musk? He has been extraordinarily successful at turning bold visions into successful companies. As a result, Tesla’s stock is up more than 1,000 percent since the summer of 2019, making its CEO and largest shareholder, with a nearly 20 percent stake, the second richest person in the world.

Musk is the latest in a long line of celebrated leaders who aren’t exactly paragons of good behavior. Steve Jobs was another notable example. In his acclaimed biography of Jobs, Walter Isaacson documented his subject’s

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India’s digital-first banker

When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalized India’s banking system in 1969, more than 80 percent of the country’s bank assets were brought under government control. With liberalization in the early 1990s, the balance began to shift, and today private banks claim about 35 percent of the market — a figure that is poised to grow in coming years. At the center of this activity is Uday Kotak, CEO of India’s second-most-valued bank by market capitalization, Kotak Mahindra.

Kotak, whose early plans to play professional cricket were derailed by injury, founded a one-man financing and bill-discounting business in 1985 with a small loan from family and friends. He would eventually expand the business to include automobile financing, investment banking,

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Rethinking gender alliances at work

The United States, like much of the rest of the world, has an extremely long way to go to achieve gender equality in the workplace. The latest pyramid showing where women are in the hierarchy of S&P 500 companies, from the nonprofit organization Catalyst, reveals that although women make up nearly half of the total S&P 500 workforce, they hold only about one-fifth of board seats, 11 percent of top-earning jobs, and 6 percent of CEO positions. So to many people, it comes as a surprise when I share a question that I’m often asked by women’s groups inside businesses: How can we help men?

It’s an important, but often overlooked, topic in addressing the attitudes and practices that prevent equal opportunities. And the answer to these challenges lies in building more powerful alliances in the workplace. Just as men and women must work to build a level playing field

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To see the future more clearly, find your blind spots

It was the year we saw it all. And 2020 was also the year we didn’t see it all coming. Wildfires. Floods. So many storms in the Atlantic that meteorologists had to resort to the Greek alphabet to name them. Global protests over racial and economic inequality. And, of course, the pandemic.

What is surprising is that we were surprised. In a recent PwC study, 69 percent of responding organizations had experienced a crisis in the past five years and 95 percent expected to face one. We all watched Australia aflame in the months before the pandemic. California, too. It was only three years ago that multiple storms rattled the Gulf Coast in the United States in rapid succession. And climate watchers had been predicting that there will be more of these severe weather events in the future.

And the pandemic? Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, H1N1

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A Malaysian conglomerate charts a course to stay ahead

Sime Darby, one of Malaysia’s leading and oldest conglomerates, underwent a major restructuring in 2017. The agricultural plantations business, which is more than 100 years old, and the property divisions were spun off into separate entities. Sime Darby Berhad was left with the high-profile automotive assembly and distribution businesses (it holds the rights to sell for BMW and Rolls-Royce across Asia), industrial heavy equipment, logistics (it runs ports in China), and a smaller healthcare operation.

This mix of businesses and their geographic spread have helped the company face the challenges of 2020, according to Jeffri Salim Davidson, who has led the realigned entity since December 2017. Revenues increased 2 percent for the year ending June 30, 2020, to US$9 billion, even as the impact of COVID-19 saw net profits decrease by 14 percent to $200 million. (The government of Malaysia holds a majority stake in the company, through state-owned fund

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