Winning with Diversity: Tips from Anaplan Leaders

Celebrating diversity at Anaplan

With well over 20 years in sales, one thing I am positive about is that the best performing teams are those that prioritize diversity. In my experience, building diverse teams is one of the best ways to ensure a steady stream of new ideas and perspectives, keeping your organization more creative and, frankly, more functional. (These convictions are strongly backed up by research, incidentally.) As a bonus, diverse teams also help open new markets, and offer connections to a wider pool of human resources.

As part of an ongoing effort to promote diversity in both our organization and the workforce at large, Anaplan recently hosted two events that put the spotlight on gender diversity. I enjoyed both so much, and learned from them, that I wanted to share the experiences with customers and prospects.

The first event, a panel entitled “Women who win and GSD at Anaplan,” was hosted by the Anaplan Sales team (“GSD” is an Anaplan acronym, for “Get Stuff Done.”) The second, a panel hosted by WIN, Anaplan’s Women’s Interest Network, chose for its theme “How to Thrive in Changing Times.”

Both offered a powerful range of thought leadership from leaders across Anaplan. The first brought together Deb Kennedy, Allison Grieb, and Melissa Schwartz from San Francisco, Karen Clarke and Lauren Rhode from the UK, Carrie Donahue from NYC, and Lauren Rhode from Maryland. The second convened Allison Grieb, Marilyn Miller, Natalie Poull, and Jennifer Erikson in Anaplan’s San Francisco office.

Together, the events bestowed a boundless array of advice and insight on participants and listeners. While there’s no way to recapture it all in a blog post, a few nuggets of wisdom echoed across panels and speakers.

1. There’s no single path to success, but tenacity helps

Listening to the various speakers, what became clear was that there are, in fact, many paths for women who hope to rise in their field or their organization. Deb Kennedy, for example, described how her career began in marketing. For other panelists, being the only woman on a sales team left them few role models whose careers they could imitate.

What most speakers agreed on, however, was that being tenacious had proven quite important in their careers. Marilyn Miller, Anaplan’s Chief People Officer, for example, named the willingness to “hook yourself in” to the key priorities of an organization as an important factor in getting noticed by other leaders in the organization. Other panelists recounted stories of continuing-on even when they encountered barriers.

A key lesson, it seems, was that when there is no clear path to success, courage and sheer determination, especially when aligned to business goals, can help forge one.

2. It takes a village, or a tribe

Interestingly, while many panelists named tenacity as a trait essential to success, panelists also went out of their way to acknowledge the many people who had helped them succeed. Friends, mentors, co-workers: all had been critical to helping the panelists rise in their field, or to helping them cope with difficult choices in their professional lives.

In the Anaplan for Sales event, panelists discussed the importance of fostering a “tribe mentality,” and recognizing that a group of similarly-minded people can move ahead more effectively than an individual can. In the WIN event, Marilyn Miller and Natalie Poull named team commitment to the team—the eagerness to listen to and communicate with one’s co-workers—as a key strategy for weathering the inevitable changes of the business world.

3. Focus on business outcomes rather than process

One question from the WIN event asked about “cultivating resiliency in a dynamic environment.” Allison Grieb’s smart response was to focus on business outcomes, rather than process: focus on what needs to be done, and let that focus shape the process for getting there. Similarly, Marilyn Miller described how asking “why do we do things this way?,” but refusing to answer with “because that’s what we’ve always done,” has enabled her to devise creative solutions to problems throughout her career.

Given the high degree of adaptability the business world expects from all employees, but women in particular, a willingness to keep one’s eyes on the goal, and then build the means to reach it, may prove a worthwhile strategy.

4. Prioritize

Across panels and speakers, presenters repeatedly attributed their success to prioritizing. With so many potential distractions, it’s important to make sure that one’s work has real impact. Marilyn Miller talked about keeping an eye on who the key stakeholders are, and staying aware of how those needs might change. To Natalie Poull, “if it’s not in my calendar, it doesn’t exist.”

5. Pull others up

Above all, panelists emphasized making sure that the paths they’d blazed would made it easier for women in the future. “Use your network to recruit more diversity” and “Figure out what you can do to raise the status of others in your organization” were some key pieces of advice. These can be important actions even in an organization that is ostensibly committed to achieving gender equality in its hiring.

As both events showed, there’s real exuberance around this issue, and real excitement about promoting diversity throughout the organization. I look forward to future events, and to further discussion!

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