Today, I spoke to Lee Cottle, Vice President of Business Development and Global Alliances at Push Technology Limited. His company ensures that businesses can deliver engaging real-time applications and services that increase customer experiences and employee productivity, while reducing communication and infrastructure costs.
Personally, I used to work with Lee a couple of years ago, when I was still living in the UK. Lee isn’t only a networker. Moreover, he also is a people connector. He is optimistic, fun to be with and has an excellent sense for business opportunities. I spoke with him about career, leadership and how he perceives social media.
Lee, I have followed your incredibly fast career since I know you. What drives you in your business life?
I personally need to believe in the company and its technology as well as in the benefits that it brings. I know that this sounds a little cliché, but if I don’t believe in what I am doing I cannot be passionate, and that is the fuel that drives me.
I know, you have been perceived by many people as a leader at Speechworks (today Nuance), where we met. Which characteristics do you think make a good leader and why?
That’s very kind of you to say, Claudia. I think a good leader has to be a good communicator and that means you listen and I mean really listen to your team and customers and partners. You must do what you say you are going to do. So that means being honest. This is (in my mind) the basis of your own integrity. The ability to delegate is important, but you must delegate based upon your teams individual abilities with consideration of their own personal objectives. Finally, you must remove negative thought from the work place. A positive “can do” attitude must be the default operating model for the entire team.
Would you have an example of when you had to show leadership and steer a team throughout a difficult situation? How did you succeed?
Over the years I have experienced good performers within a team that have upset the balance. Often the root cause of the presenting issues are either disagreements or points of view (not being heard) or non-work related influences. I try to understand and have the individual acknowledge the core issue before we agree a specific action plan.
A good example is when I joined the board of a small software company; I spent the first week meeting the sales team, reviewing the sales opportunities, followed by one-to-one meetings with the rest of the 40 strong company workforce. It was clear that the company, which had just raised a significant amount of funding, was not going to make the company sales target. I discussed the issue with the Sales Director, who at first, struggled to acknowledge the very clear issue. I later presented my findings to the CEO, who understandably did not receive it well and, of course being the bearer of bad news, alienated me personally somewhat. Fortunately, I had a high-level plan which included a change in market focus and cost cutting. Once I had fleshed out the details with buy-ins from the other stakeholders, we went into my favorite mode “execution”. We succeed through what I call “relentless execution”. The impact was positive for the business including the staff, but it wasn’t easy. The important thing is communicating this; something I constantly try to improve. The results were, the company being listed 16 months later after moving into profit.
You are Vice President Business Development and Global Alliances at a young, innovative company. Sounds as if social media plays a vital part in your business? Do you use it to your advantage and what are your learning experiences so far?
We fully acknowledge the importance of social media, we are still at a very early stage of using this medium and are still learning how best to use it. I would say that we are not yet fully using social media to our advantage. We have a presence on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, but we need to improve this by exploring other groups and forums that we can be part of. This is very high on our corporate strategy. However what we have learned is that we have been able to reach new geographies and markets through this medium. At the same time, you need to keep up the quality of your information and you need more of your employee workforce contributing.
Which social media platform is your favorite one and why?
I personally like LinkedIn and Twitter, but if I had to pick one it would be LinkedIn, because I find it a better platform for business to business. It’s great for research on the companies and people who you might want to engage with, but also what’s happening in those organizations.