Gap International’s Leveraging Genius Conference began Feb. 25 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nearly 200 global executives and their teams from multiple industries and cultures came together in a weeklong journey to discover and leverage the origins of their own great performance. SmartBrief recently interviewed Gap International co-Chief Operating Officer Bob Rothman, and Gap International interviewed John Peoples of Merck Consumer Care and Jaime Graña of Diageo Mexico. The following excerpt comes from Gap International’s in-conference interview with Gary Cresswell, vice president of global marketing at Baker Hughes, about the business effect of the work under way.
As a business leader today, what are some of the main business challenges people are facing?
The main challenge is alignment. As organizations get bigger and more cumbersome, we need to align with a common purpose and a set of shared values — aligning the way we work together to win.
For us, the challenge of creating alignment comes from being a big organization with different demographics. For example, we have a lot of people getting ready to retire and a whole new set of young people coming to the organization. This next generation doesn’t necessarily have the experience and has different values and outlooks, and that brings a whole new set of challenges.
With what you’ve learned so far, how might a leader address those issues?
I think there are a couple of things. One thing is that when you are looking at the sheer effectiveness of being in your genius versus when you are not, you can go from being in a 100% negative space to a 100% positive one just by choosing where you want to be. So, what you see is the potential to be far more effective as a group because of the atmosphere you create.
But then you have a secondary benefit, which is alignment. When you are expanding your own genius, you get momentum. I like to articulate this as an avalanche. You have genius, moments of genius, and you are all working together and, all of the sudden, the avalanche occurs. The benefit that will come out of it will be massive.
Then what strikes you about this whole notion of genius?
I think what strikes me is the selectiveness of it: How you can choose to be in genius and how you can also choose to be somewhere else. Before the conference, I would have thought that you would have only limited points of genius where, in fact, with practice, you probably can bring another couple of hundred points of genius to the table. That gives you a whole other set of dimensions to perform from in multiple environments.
What tangible solutions can you see going forward?
What I can see is the ability and potential to create more breakthroughs. I also see the ability to create far better relationships, far better alignment and more time to be more effective.
If you look at this whole world of genius, how has your view of yourself as a leader changed?
A couple of things: I see there is a resonance around certain leadership attributes. In my case, I discovered personal genius around happiness, natural harmony and creating an elegant, enduring solution. When I use my genius, scenarios become aligned that make me happy. Before the conference, I would have said that it was the reverse — that the scenarios made me happy, rather than me creating them to make me happy to begin with. Tune into your genius to change the situation, and then it will all come to be.
Is there anything that you are thinking about taking on as leadership challenges or commitments that you weren’t thinking about before you engaged in the conference?
I think I need to take far more ownership of having my genius come through more often. I am going to proactively plan how to have my genius maximized. I am thinking that I am not doing that yet but I have a sense of optimism, liberation and even a little fear because there is so much potential.