I’m in awe of the impact digital has had on Cisco over the past few years. With our customers’ success in mind, we’ve transformed our entire culture to be data centric and digital first. And we’ve made big investments in interconnected platforms, AI and automation to support customers in choosing, using, and loving their Cisco solutions.

As we’ve worked closely with our partners on their own digital transformations, one of the greatest lessons we’ve learned is that success isn’t tethered to data or technology, but to talent. Knowing how to effectively lead that talent into the digital future is what separates a great company from a good one today.

Below are four leadership strategies that have served Cisco well as we’ve navigated intense change across our organization while placing the highest priority on the needs of our people. I hope you’ll find these strategies useful in the New Year:


  • Think differently: Don’t merely apply org charts or business unit functions to your talent requirements. Really think about the specific skills and capabilities (for example: user experience, storytelling and/or data science) that you’ll need to develop cross-functionally. Consider what success should look like in each of those key capabilities and recreate hiring and employee development plans to acquire and nurture that talent. The goal isn’t to build talent on a particular team, but rather to evangelize the need for that talent and capability across the entire organization.


  • Focus on the long-view: Consider compromising short-term impacts in the interest of long-view benefits. Prioritize complimentary scaling functions that are going to have multiplying effects over time. For example, instead of hiring another deeply-technical person to round out your data science team, perhaps hire the communications expert who can be really effective at evangelizing the power of what data science can do in order to create more opportunities for success.


  • Work where you are: Flexibility in letting your employees live in different ways (and use technology to connect) gives you access and lets you appeal to a much broader talent pool. It also allows you to differentiate as a workplace and incubate talent in different ways. Again, this is about taking the long-view approach to how people want to work and how to gain access to the best and brightest talent around the world. At the end of the day, the goal is to connect talent from anywhere, even if they are mobile.Where people are in the world isn’t nearly as important as the skills they bring to your company and culture.


  • Invest in your people: Organizations that invest in their people perform better. Every person needs to feel belonging, appreciation and purpose within an organization. This connection is particularly important in the midst of great change. Celebrate your employee wins, both personal and professional, and give credit to every person and team regardless of how peripheral their function or contribution levels. At Cisco, one of the key evaluation criteria we have for all new-hire decisions is whether a candidate will be the right cultural fit. Are they receptive to risk-based vulnerability? Will they work well cross-functionally? What meaningful ways do they give back to the community? Yes, having the right skill set and focus on leader and team outcomes are critical, but acquiring talent based on your organization’s cultural priorities is equally important in the long-view.


We will kick off 2019 with a SuccessTalk on January 15 titled “Lead from Afar. Work Where You Are,” which will take a deeper dive into the issues our partners face in preparing for the digital future. I hope you’ll join us and be a part of the conversation.


Tricia Hitmar

Learning & Development Manager

Global Learning & Leadership Development