How to Launch a Leader

Von Todd Datz

People Skills and Technology - a Dynamic Duo

Denene Coyle, Unisys's director of global training and development, has spent 30 years at the technology services company, carving out a dual role in the IT and finance departments. On the techy side, Coyle handles training activities for the company's internal ERPERP system. She also serves on seven organizational excellence teams and develops IT-Training curricula. On the finance side, Coyle provides curriculum advice for the IT finance and procurement courses at Unisys University, the company's in-house training program. How did this unique position come about? "I wrote a white paper that created this job," she says, matter-of-factly. She reports to the CFO, Janet Haugen, but both Haugen and CIO John Carrow give her performance reviews. Alles zu ERP auf

Coyle highlights the organizational excellence teams as particularly important in developing leadership skills. Carrow adapted the concept from his days at GE and the city of Philadelphia, and brought it to Unisys about four years ago. The idea behind the teams is to get IT workers involved in meaty organizational issues that go beyond technical concerns. So, for example, teams have formed around how to assimilate employees better into the company, how to communicate better, how to improve skills and how to get better at identifying employees' areas of expertise. About 15 to 20 volunteers join each team. "The [organizational excellence] teams helped us identify key leaders [via seeing] who became the natural leaders of teams," says Carrow, who heads a staff of 850. "There was a high degree of correlation with the talent review process in the company."

For Coyle, the benefits of working on those teams go beyond the specific subject matter. Because the teams are voluntary and don't have a big stick to wave to "cajole" others in the company, Coyle has learned collaboration and influence skills. "You're a motivator and cheerleader and someone who needs to communicate well to get people onboard," she says.

Coyle is a big believer in participating in the more informal activities that a large company offers - both for altruistic ends and for the leadership opportunities that those activities present. "When I talk to people about leadership and career advancement, I always talk about the nontraditional activities, things outside of your job," she says. She chairs the Unisys professional women's forum (which helps develop women's careers) and heads one of the three teams that compose the company's North American diversity council. "At Unisys, being able to matrix-manage [that is, manage people and projects that don't report to you] across a variety of organizations is key. Those are difficult skills to hone. Through some of the activities I've been involved in, I've been able to practice those skills. The higher up you go, you have to be able to influence people, to collaborate. You have to convince people that what you're recommending is the right thing. You have to learn how to influence without the strong hammer of having them report to you," Coyle says.

Not to be overlooked are the networking prospects these activities offer. "You meet people you'd never meet in your traditional role, and that allows you to have opportunities in areas of companies you wouldn't normally have," she says. Coyle makes a good point - slapping backs, shaking hands and trading war stories with leaders in other IT or business units can add a little turbo boost to one's journey up the corporate hierarchy. Meeting people outside company walls has been valuable to Coyle. "That grounds you in making sure you clearly understand the company's positioning in the marketplace and what customers think is important," she says.

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