Helping board members and executives understand the importance of thought leadership.
An interview with Kimberly Ellison-Taylor about developing organizational thought leadership and proving its worth to the highest levels.
While thought leadership has been around for a long time, it’s only recently started popping up as a topic of discussion in major boardrooms. Company executives and board members want to know the ROI and KPI of a thought leadership investment. So how do you quantify thought leadership’s impact and worth?
To help me add up the numbers, I’ve invited Kimberly Ellison-Taylor to join us in this episode of our podcast. Kimberly is a thought leadership practitioner, an experienced accountant, an active board member and the CEO of KET Solutions. She has the perfect balance of knowledge to assess the usefulness and impact of thought leadership at the highest levels.
We discuss thought leadership’s impact within the executive suite, and how it can help prepare someone for a board position. Find out what the executive team of any organization should be thinking about when they begin a thought leadership journey; from roll out to measuring impact on a wide scale. Kimberly shares the reasons that an organizational thought leadership role is critical to the client-value proposition, and how great thought leadership can set your organization apart and push it toward greater levels of success.
Kimberly understands the need to include diverse groups of people in your organization’s thought leadership, to ask the questions that might otherwise be missed. She also celebrates the next generation of thought leaders, and talks about drawing attention to the time and focus that people put into attaining their professional goals.
This is an exciting conversation for board members, executives, and thought leaders, focused on truly understanding how the power of thought leadership goes beyond the spreadsheet and into the core values of an organization.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Don’t assume executives have a lot of bandwidth for research. Be sure to discuss with them, rather than asking them to investigate on their own.
- Thought leadership is about peering around the corner into the future. Investing in thought leadership ensures that your organization is at the forefront of change.
- You need a network of leaders and executives you can rely on, to help answer questions, solve problems, and discuss current topics of thought leadership.
Join the Organizational Thought Leadership Newsletter to learn more about expanding thought leadership within your organization! This monthly newsletter is full of practical information, advice, and ideas to help you reach your organization’s thought leadership goals.
And if you need help scaling organizational thought leadership, contact Thought Leadership Leverage!
Bill Sherman How do you justify the investment in thought leadership to your organization? Questions such as attribution, ROI and KPIs swirl around thought leadership. So let’s elevate our conversation all the way up to the board level. Is thought leadership something that should be on a board members radar? And if so, how to explore these questions?
Bill Sherman There’s really only one person who was at the top of my list. Kimberly Allison Taylor. She’s uniquely qualified to speak to these questions. She’s a thought leadership practitioner, a highly experienced accountant and an active board member. Kimberly practiced thought leadership at Oracle as the executive director of Finance Thought Leadership. She was the chair of the Board of Directors for AICPA, which is the Professional Association of Accountants in the U.S., and she currently sits as an independent board member on the boards of Mutual of Omaha and U.S. Bank. She’s also the CEO of KFT Solutions. So let’s talk about making the business case for thought leadership. I’m Bill Sherman, and you’re listening to Leveraging Thought Leadership ready. Let’s begin. Welcome to the show, Kimberly.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Thank you, Bill. I’m so excited to be here. Happy New Year.
Bill Sherman Same to you. So you and I have had a wonderful conversation that’s been ongoing, and I want to include some of our listeners in some of some of the topics that you and I have been exploring together. And the first area that I want to dive in on is thought leadership and the board. And so you’ve served on a number of boards, and I want to ask you a couple of questions, one of them being – Does thought leadership help prepare someone for a board position?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor It absolutely does prepare you for board position, because when you’re on the board, whether it is corporate or volunteer board, you’re there to provide oversight over the risks, the performance and high level with the operations of the organization. You’re trusting that you’ve hired = the organization has hired the most amazing leader possible. But the board’s role is to really provide that additional fatal flaw oversight. When you’re a thought leader, that means, to me at least, that you have a broad perspective and maybe a differentiated view on a particular topic. Let’s say technology or, let’s say, finance that you then in turn can offer as it relates to those roles that board members play. And I think it is a very critical alignment between having that unique perspective or thought leadership and your role on the board.
Bill Sherman So let’s dive into that relationship between the board and the senior leadership team, right? So if you are looking at full leadership as a function because I know you’ve served in a functional capacity, is that leadership and we’ll dove into that too. But if you’re a board member and you want to make sure the executive team is thinking about the leadership, what sort of questions should you be asking and how do you identify, is there a gap that needs to be filled? Are they looking in the right places? What goes through your mind?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor So many thoughts, Bill, because there’s so much going on, so I don’t presume that the executive leadership team has the bandwidth or time to maybe read all of the things that I’m reading. So it could be just as easy as the Association of Certified Professional Accountants will put together news articles about what regulators are doing, what small businesses. It could be what’s happening in business and industry. And it could be specific to an industry for which I’m on the board of. And I may say to whatever the leader is and say, Hi, I just saw this amazing article from the Association of Certified Professional Accountants. And I’m wondering if you saw this as well. And if you did, what do you think about this as it relates to the new strategy that you discussed last week? And so I think when you’re on a board, you’ve mastered the art of asking questions, can you walk me through this? Can you share with me your thoughts? What are you thinking as it relates to that? Have you taken into account these new industry trends that have been occurring? And so you’re asking questions in a way that is definitely noting that write me online between the day to day operational roles and responsibilities that they have versus your oversight role as a board director?
Bill Sherman Well, and I love that in terms of the relationship to ideas that may be coming from the outside into the organization. And many times a leader may have their focus on day to day operations, right? And so doing that environmental scan and saying, Are you aware and how does that relate? Great questions to ask. Let’s flip that as well, and let’s talk about the organization’s own unique thought leadership, the capacity to add to the conversation, to clients, to customers, to the market they serve, whomever. How are you thinking about an organization developing its own thought leadership when you’re on the board? What are you looking for?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor I think that role is critical, and I think it’s critical, bill, because I’ve been in the role where it’s important to have a point of view. I think it’s a part of member value. I think it’s a part of the customer or client value proposition for why they are engaging the goods and services of that particular organization. I think it shows that there are leaders who are credible, have experience and capability. I think it shows how you’re differentiated versus your peers in that particular industry. I think it’s important and it’s critical. And it also would lend itself to a little more benefit of the doubt as it relates to emerging trends because with a thought leader perspective, then we already know you’re thinking about what’s happening with ESG. We already know that you’re thinking about how students are learning, for instance, or memberships are being formulated and member of value. We already know that you’re thinking about it because you have a point of view, and I think that shows not only the board directors, initial stakeholders, as well as customers and clients that you’re out in front and you are looking around corners. You’re not just waiting for the industry to move along on its own.
Bill Sherman Well, in my thought and correct me, if I’m wrong, is this a board member you’re looking to see? Are they looking around the corner into the future and they really doing a good view of what’s possibly ahead and preparing for that right?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor That’s absolutely true because with the speed of change happening like overnight, it could be completely something wholesale different in order to stay abreast and ahead. You’ve got to be worried. You’ve got to go out of network. You’ve got to keep in touch with the regulators. You have to know what your customers and clients are needing and requesting. And sometimes it’s things that they’re not asking for today. What as your point of view evolves, you are forecasting or speculating that that may be something that the whole organization. So it’s a bet. It’s always a bit, but that’s what the organization should be striving toward or doing digital transformation or modernization to be ready for whatever is next and building in that business resilience by having a thought leader perspective is very important.
Bill Sherman Well, that process of peering around the corner into the future, identifying risks and opportunities, and then bringing it back and saying, OK, here’s what we need to do today as an organization, as well as here’s what it matters to our clients, customers, etc. That process of taking the vision of the future into action keeps you on a forward foot rather than a back foot.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Absolutely. And not only that, as you were talking, I was thinking that what really happens is that the thought leadership informs the strategy of the organization because they are the scouts. They’re out there looking around corners and looking under every rock. They’re making bold bets. They’re looking at related industries. Just because it’s not your industry doesn’t mean you can’t look across the aisle or see what’s happening in retail or what’s happening health care. You may be able to take some of those lessons and apply it to your particular industry. So it’s very, very important to have a broad lens and to collaborate with like minded individuals, whether it’s in a volunteer organization or professional organization. But to get the broadest views possible so that you can develop that point of view that then helps you decide where to park is going to be. There before anyone else even gets there,
Bill Sherman So, is thought leadership a term that you’re hearing in the boardroom these days, or is it appearing under a different name or guys?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor We hear thought leadership as a term because sometimes when you hear a thought leadership, it sounds like a consultant, right? Doesn’t sound like an integrated part of the education and learning of what leaders need to have. Learning never stops. As a certified public accountant, I have a commitment to lifelong learning. I have continuing education requirements that I have to do every single year. So I am well aligned with the notion of there’s always something to know, there’s always something to do. But when you hear thought leadership in and of itself, it doesn’t sound as connected as it could be. And so I think we have a responsibility those of us who carry a thought leader title. So reframe that conversation and to say that thought leadership is a point of view. It is the expertise. It’s your that you bring to your particular role. It’s how you are evolving to meet customer expectations. It’s how you’re building in a seamless, integrated value proposition, leveraging technology in a way that really provides double digit year over year advantage and market share and growth in the marketplace. And I think that it is critical to any leader to have that in your portfolio, that capability or that access to individuals who would inform their strategies and be places where they can’t be because leaders can’t be everywhere. But if you had that thought leadership angle and perspective, then you would know where to go to get the information that you need.
Bill Sherman Well, and you quoted the Gretsky in terms of skate to where the puck will be. And I was thinking this week, as we record first week of January, BlackBerry is finally turning off its systems. And I think about how that was such an innovative skate to where the puck was going to be when those first devices came out. And anyone who was anyone carried one on their belts, right? And now they’re anachronistic that if you show them to a teenager, let alone a child, they’re like, What is this device?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Now they dragged me kicking the screaming off of my BlackBerry. I got nasty love to the full keypad. I got emails. They even say, finally, the I.T. department finally sent an email to my manager because they had been sending me two emails and my manager. They finally sent the email to my manager and they said, Kimberly is like one of 10 people. We can’t shut this server down because she is still using her BlackBerry and. Now. I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go, but yes, I hear you, and I was very sad that it did not work out is I had hoped and thought that they right right.
Bill Sherman The things that we love don’t always carry into the future. And so I really like your point that although thought leadership is not necessarily the term that any of us chose, it’s been around much longer than you or I in terms of it being recognized as a business function connected to strategy, connected to growth, connected to organizational performance. We have to show those connections. We can’t assume that the board or senior leadership will see this as a must have rather than a nice to have.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor That that is true today, people are calling it roundtable discussions. They’re calling it. I would say consortiums. They’re calling it any networking groups. They’re calling it advisory groups. All of those different terms are pseudonyms for thought leadership, because if you are heads down working hard every day, you have to keep your head up and look around you to do a survey of the environment. And when we hear of iconic companies not being here today, it’s because they didn’t do this survey of the environment. There maybe was not the thought leader that was out there saying, Wait a minute, the market is changing. We’re doing great today. But I see some softening when I look at our financial numbers. We need to start thinking about how we, you know, meet more of what the clients and customers are expecting, what businesses are demanding. And if we’re not going to do that, we’re not going to be here. They’re usually the scalp. They’re out two three years ahead of the organization. Today, they might be called the head of innovation. They might be called the head of digital transformation. The Head of change management. The head of transformation. In general, they might be sitting in the sales department or a CFO department, but there is usually someone who is out there thinking about all of the possibilities of what could be not just what is today. They see things that people don’t see. And everyone needs that person on their team.
Bill Sherman Absolutely. And if you if it’s not, you surround yourself with people who are that. And if it is you, you’ll be happier by being surrounded by people who have one eye on where their feet are today, as well as one eye in their specialty in the future. Because you have these great conversations as a result. And you mentioned you mentioned something, though, in terms of titles, right? That practicing thought leadership you may or may not have thought leadership in your title. It could be innovation. It could be strategy could be a CIO. We as thought leadership practitioners go by many names. And so I want to talk and sort of pivot for a moment back to the time that you wore a head of thought leadership title. And for that, I believe you came from strategy at Oracle into the leadership. Could you share a little bit of that story with us?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Absolutely. So when I first started at Oracle way back, it wasn’t that long ago, but way back in 2004, I was more in a business development role, driving revenue for my particular industry, and at the time it was public sector and health and human services. That role evolved, however, and it evolved because what I recognized was that even if I thought we had the most amazing, you know, enterprise solutions ever at Oracle, they needed to be in context. They needed to have the thought leadership of the leaders and decision makers that we were targeting and pursuing. My role was evolving into more of a strategic role because I understood the need to be in the mission, purpose and values of the target audience and of the organization really making sure that they understood that I knew it doesn’t matter if you have the best technology, if you’re not meeting the business outcomes that you were designed to do. And so strategy around where you are today, what you plan to do, how you’re going to have a greater impact and better intention about the services that you provide always are going to be important. But then that role, their strategy role really started evolving when I step out of that role and it’s more of the financial services arena and more into a role that was targeting the office of the Chief Financial Officer. And the reason that it was important to have a thought leader perspective was because many CFOs have responsibilities that are just around at that time, paying the bills, issuing regulatory compliance and making sure that they were getting the financial statements out the door. In today’s environment, as we started to see the evolution, the role of the CFO was expanding and as the apples were now having responsibilities for I.T., they have responsibility for digital transformation. They were doing mergers and acquisitions. They were actually doing more and they were doing more things around Treasury and cash management. The IRS had a tax remit in their portfolio. Just the role was expanding beyond just those initial things. So as it relates to an industry view, we wanted to make sure that they understood that when you have a partner that that partner understands your business and having a point of view about regulatory compliance or implementation of regulations, or how it relates to the technology that you’re pursuing was one more way to really, I think, tipped the edge over to why Oracle Solutions would have been the best to select in the marketplace. And I think that was really a smart opportunity for Oracle to pursue. And I know that many of the customers and clients appreciate it, not just having their own team, but also having leaders who wore similar hats on the vendor side, sharing their insights, sharing their perspectives and really rolling up your sleeves to say we understand what you are trying to do. Let’s give you some guidance on where we think the market is going to be in a couple of years from now so we can help you get there.
Bill Sherman And you mentioned you came then from a business development perspective, and as I heard your answer, that seemed to be very well integrated with leveraging your experience and expertise from business development in that it’s like you’ve got to solve problems for your client and also understand the shoes they’re walking in.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Absolutely. I don’t think in today’s environment any one is selling and I have air quotes since we’re on a podcast. Anything sue leaders who were on the ground every day working and doing as hard as they can to meet the expectations of their shareholders, expectations of their board and also of their team members and leadership team. They need partners who are going to also say why you’re working on doing this part of your role. We’ve already started thinking about these regulations that are next on deck. We know that in this post-COVID environment, there will be lots of changes. The business models lots of changes in the supply chain. Lots of changes and disclosures and notes and things that you want to put out in the marketplace to really convey a deeper relationship between what you provide and what the customers and clients are expecting. Having partners who really get it, I think, is going to be critical and important. And I think the CEOs that I know at least have no tolerance, no time for people who didn’t do their homework. People who didn’t do the bare minimum of understanding what their strategic goals and objectives are and are showing up at their door with a blanket one size fits all approach that’s not going to work anymore. We’re going to have to have vendors, especially with point of views and thought leadership, in order to really maximize relationships that CEOs can rely on.
Bill Sherman If you are enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about the podcast, please leave a five-star review and share it with your friends. We are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all major platforms, as well as at LeveragingThoughtLeadership.com.
Bill Sherman So at the time that you took on the thought leadership role that you did at Oracle? Was it common for people to have the title of thought leadership or how did that come about for you? How was it identified as a thought leadership role?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor You know, it’s so interesting because at the time that I carry the executive director role, there wasn’t that many executive directors. So I was like a big deal to be an executive director. And then over time, the evolution in the marketplace, we started seeing people go from director to senior director to executive director to just the know how they were being promoted and advance through their organizations. But I will tell you, there were not a lot of people who actually had thought leadership in their title. Sometimes they’ll say they’re managing directors, but they won’t actually have it in their title. They’ll just be, you know, executive director of X Y Z. And so I think that’s still not something that we see as common. But in my particular case, I think we wanted to be crystal clear that my role was not a sales direct sales role. It was really a point of view thought leadership. If you have a business challenge, I’m going to go out and do some work. I’m going to look at peer groups and kind of look across the industry and help you evaluate where you might want to take some of those lessons learned and leading practices and apply it to your organization. So it’s a value add, and having a value add is always great when you’re trying to develop sticky relationships.
Bill Sherman Well, and if I have my timeline right and correct me, if I’m wrong, the time that you were serving in the top leadership role at Oracle, you were also incredibly active in AICPA, which would give you a perspective across the field. Do I have to have that right?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor That is exactly right, and that bill is exactly why it was easy to move into that role, and it was easier to move into the role because think of me as a sponge. So as the chairman of AICPA, I’m a sponge. I’m going places around the world. We’re talking about management, accounting, we’re talking about public accounting, we’re talking about issues and challenges by industry. Keynote speaker, a lot of places people are presenting, selling me articles, webcast, podcast conferences, think about how many data sources on any given day that someone who is in a thought leader role is consuming. I was consuming and I still am to a large degree, a lot of those sources that gave me, I think, a great point of view to offer then to at the time the clients and customers of Oracle, because many of them perhaps could. Travel, so if you’re someone in Asia or you’re someone in the UK and you’re interested to know what are organizations similar to yours, doing so will be a transformation. I was in a position where I got to hear all those stories and then I would travel to Oracle’s major conference. Oracle OpenWorld got many opportunities to hear. The CEO of Oracle at the time was lock her to Safra Catz to hear them speak, to hear Larry Ellison speak and then package that in a way that was very specific to the industry that our customer client was looking for, I think is a definite key value proposition.
Bill Sherman And with that, it’s not just hearing these people speak because anyone can go online and, you know, watch a Ted X these days writing who you had built relationships with people around the world so that if someone had a question and you didn’t have the answer. My sense is you knew who to reach out to
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor When you’re in an organization. And I think it has served me in great stead. Matrix organizations, the hierarchy that many of us came up in our careers with when it was one person and was one center of influence. The reality is, and when you’re in a large corporation, it doesn’t exist that way. It is about a better rated network of people who have pieces and parts of what you need, and you have to know where to go and you’re bridging and you’re collaborating and you’re talking to people all over the entire world. And to be able to do that, I think, is an art in and of itself. But you’re definitely right. Just listening to all of that information and getting those data sources would not be enough. It is about going to where, you know, someone else has the other part of the answer or going and asking someone you’ve never met to come and be with you on a customer call that I loved. And that is what makes being in a large organization sometimes so powerful because you have amazing people that you can touch, no matter where they are in the leadership chain all over the world.
Bill Sherman Well, and then when you take Oracle plus your network through AICPA, that becomes incredibly powerful. Right? And so I think one of the things that I want to ask is I want to flip to you mentioned being chairman of the board for AICPA, and I want to ask how did thought leadership impact that organization and where does that fit in?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor What I love about AICPA, so many things to love, but one of the things I love is that the team members who were doing thought leadership who were liaisons to the various committees. Any one of them could go out tomorrow and get a role inside public accounting, business and industry government, not for profit, education or consulting. You’re talking about the best of the best in one place where everyone is working together to advance the accounting profession and are doing it across two thousand volunteers, 200 committees all around the world, keeping their they really their eyes open to what’s happening wherever our interests might be impacted and then shaping that through the lens of practitioners providing references, resources, tools, content to help our members help other people in the marketplace. And we’re talking about Mr. and Mrs. Main Street investor. It’s just as simple as that. So when you’re talking about influence because I think as a thought leader, you have to have some influence. They are the champions of influence. The leaders of leaders of thought leaders are in the CPA. And so having them? Back me, me beside me prepped me for meetings, I had no fear because what I didn’t know, I had no problem saying, Wait, I don’t know this as well as so-and-so, so I’m going to connect you to them, and they would be more than happy to pick up the charge and run with it to help a particular member or business.
Bill Sherman Well, in the way you describe that is a shift from an accrediting body almost into a research institute.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Oh, it’s a combination of all of those things.
Bill Sherman Exactly, but it’s the you had basically a think tank that you could tap and say, what’s our opinion or what’s the best thinking on X, regardless of whatever the topic was?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Exactly. Bill, you’re talking about people who are who have the credibility, the experience who’ve been there, done that, who are well regarded in the marketplace, who can stand up and they forget more than most of us would ever know in a day on a topic and be out in front and shaping policies, leading practices and criterion that’s used for practitioners every single day. So I can’t say enough amazing things about my time working with AICPA and I still am a volunteer with the CPA. I’m the chair of the National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, and I’m also a committee member on the Insurance Services Executive Committee. So I am definitely all in to be a part and associate with such amazing thought leaders and practitioners and standard setters.
Bill Sherman And that leads to the third topic that I wanted to talk about is your journey from what called the classroom to the boardroom and your eagerness to pay it forward, right? One of the things as you and I met, I guess it’s several years ago now is I see you actively celebrating when someone posts on LinkedIn that they’ve, you know, just passed their CPA exam and they’ve got the study guides in hand or they’ve got the printout of their passing scores. You’re always there to comment and cheer to the next generation. And we’ve had conversations about how that share came about and why. And I really want to pause here in a moment because I think it’s something remarkable. How did that sort of congratulatory? Yes, that you put out there? How did that come about?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor I am known for my yes, exactly. So you know what, Bill? I’m so excited because it is an intention. You can’t by accident become a CPA. It takes intention. It takes time, it takes focus, it takes prioritization, and it also takes getting your family to get on board. And so for me, I wanted to respect and appreciate that, and especially for the women and the minorities. I know that it was not easy. It wasn’t easy for anybody. But when you see that there are individuals who have gone through the figurative up and down a hill, nine miles carrying books on their arms each way and the cold and snow, you want to celebrate that, so let them know that we welcome you. We want you. We appreciate that you’re here and especially as it relates to people who are diverse. I want them to know that we have been waiting for you. We are excited that you are here. And so you know, what’s even more powerful bill is that in today’s environment, everyone is greeting all of the students city more and more of our colleagues doing it. Some of the we’re probably doing it anyway, but now I see more and more of my colleagues and they say it’s actually in some ways, say Kimberly were racing to get there before you. You know, if you see it, you’re going to say yes because I want them to notice someone they don’t even know. Their families are supposed to be happy and to be delighted, and most of them are because they wanted their family member back into the fold. But so think about someone who has never met you and may never meet you, who’s excited, who’s pulling for you, who’s praying for you, who’s encouraging you. I think they need to know that this is an amazing profession and I welcome each and every one of them. I’m celebrating with them. I’m crying with them. And it even is to the point that all in all, everyone knows I’m technology and accounting. I’m getting those four people who passed the bar the first time I was like, Why am I getting this right? Somebody passed the bar. And then I said, You know what? OK. Yes, I want the people who pass the bar. I’m thinking to myself, Wow, it’s about
Bill Sherman The world needs more celebration, right?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Exactly.
Bill Sherman And so, yeah, with that, I’ve actually taken a cue from you on that, right? So now when I see someone has taken on a role at an organization for thought leadership, I’m congratulating them and carrying that forward because one of my hopes for thought leadership is that it starts to see itself as a. Fashion and a community, and if we’re not welcoming people not only to the fields, but I’ve talked to so many people who practice thought leadership who say I’m a team of one as in thought leadership or many people around here don’t get what I do, right? If they don’t have colleagues internally who get it, they need to have the connection to folks outside.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Agreed. And you said it so well. Absolutely. It’ll give them courage to stick to it, and it may also have their organizations recognize that this is a critical and essential role inside the organization and maybe that they should be OK with having the title be part of it, be thought leadership. And it’s OK to have that as a part of their title
Bill Sherman And that we encourage and welcome women, minorities to the role and the title of thought leadership. And that’s one of the things that I love is that you serve as a role model in many ways on that and in terms of the welcoming and you say for inclusion on accounting, I think we have similar work to do in Paul’s leadership.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor That is absolutely true. And I would say and I thank you for those kind words. Bill, and I would say it’s really important to have an inclusive approach as it relates to thought leadership and have representation across a wide spectrum because people who are in thought leadership roles are going to ask the questions you wouldn’t think to ask. They’re going to provide the perspectives that you wouldn’t think to have. They’re going to go places and ask questions of other people so they can bring those perspectives back. Because if your thought leadership looks completely like the internal organization, who’s asking the questions that might be represented by diverse groups. And so this is an area that needs inclusion and representation as well across the full spectrum of inclusion characteristics.
Bill Sherman As we begin to wrap up, I want to ask you a couple of questions. The first off is one that I know that many people who are practicing thought leadership in organizations worry their CFO will ask them, How do I measure the results of our investment and thought leadership, right? How do we account for this investment that we know it’s money well spent? How do you answer that question? And how have you answered it in the past?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Well, it is an interesting question. So when you work inside a sales organization, the ultimate and really the only metric that counts is revenue and sales. And so what happens? And hopefully people have an opportunity to actually touch whatever is driving the revenue of the organization to be able to go out on sales calls to talk to customers and clients when they’re making the decision on whether or not they’re going to go with you or someone else to be a part of the capture management team, to be a part of the orals, to respond to requests for information, to be a part of the project and critical design meetings that are happening. Once you win the deal and you then have to make sure that it’s a success and their customers and clients feel like there’s a value add. Retention of customers and clients can’t be taken for granted. And so that person who said that thought leadership role is the person that’s going to make the customer or client feel like your hand isn’t in your pocket all the time because of your hand is literally in their pocket, you’re not leaving anything behind. They’re going to go to someone else who’s going to be able to answer those questions for them and give them some value as just a course of them being a valued VIP customer. Everyone should be treated like a VIP customer. And so. I think that this is a part of customer acquisition. I think it’s also a part of customer retention. I think it’s also a part of how you’re ranked from a social media perspective, how you show up as it relates to your peers. And I think it’s so intertwined with so many different roles and functions and touches so many different things that it is hard to actually say, how much money did you help? You know, actually captured, but it would be a lot easier to say if your role wasn’t there. How much did they lose? How much did they lose in time with not having someone already scouting ahead to see what’s next and how many customers were wooed away by someone else who had the amazing thought leader person on deck? That company that did not have that role would be at a severe disadvantage.
Bill Sherman I think looking at that way as opportunities lost and either in win rate or retention is a really interesting way to look at that, right? And assigning fractional credit on a sale is always difficult in the best of the times, you know. But those questions where you start looking and saying, did we create new opportunities? Or if this revenue line wasn’t here and we had to rely on the solutions of three years ago, how would we feel about the business, right?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Exactly. I think it is just the as just as much a part of R&D has probably what would be coded on a line item as actually R&D because there is a very real public perception on having that thought leadership point of view and how you’re branded in the marketplace and how people who are thinking about buying your goods and services, they’re buying your bench, they’re buying your R&D, they’re buying your skills and people who’ve been there done that. They’re not just buying software and you’re cumulative thinking. That’s exactly right.
Bill Sherman So the last question I want to ask is one where I want you to think back to a younger version of yourself, maybe where you were stepping into that role and thought leadership at Oracle, or maybe as your time at AICPA leading that organization. And what I want to ask you is what advice from a thought leadership perspective would you give your younger self? The reason I ask is there are many practitioners who are stepping into heads of thought leadership roles right now. And so what do you wish you knew when you stepped up?
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor That’s a good question. Oh, so somebody thought that I’ll make is I’ll make a short. I think I wish I had known then that fast forward that there would be so many communities that we can tap into in a virtual environment has given me an opportunity to touch and talk to people that ordinarily I might not have. I think I would have been in back then feels like so long ago I really wasn’t relying on paper as opposed to in today’s environment. There are so many digital aggregators where you can have a search on key topics and you can pull data and curate data from a number of sources so that you’re not overwhelmed with all of the things that as a thought leader, you feel like you really should know or be kept abreast of. And there are definitely leading publications that are around today, and it probably wasn’t as visible to me then, and I think I don’t need to memorize it all. I need to know it. I need to understand the strategy of it. But then I need to be able to put it somewhere where I can go and get it, when I need it and to use. For intents and purposes, the cloud is a part of my brain extension. So part of my brain is in the cloud because I don’t need to know it every day. It’s not in my day-to-day memory bank. I can just go get it whenever I need it and pull it in and then absorb it and then send it back. And that’s what I am using a lot to expand and scale my thought leadership.
Bill Sherman Kimberly, thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts and your experience with us today.
Kimberly Ellison-Taylor Thank you so much, Bill, for having me. I’m excited to see the rest of your podcast of the year and to just keep track of all of the amazing things that you are doing.
Bill Sherman Thank you. If you’re interested in organizational thought leadership, then I invite you to subscribe to the OrgTL newsletter. Each month, we talk about the people who create, curate and deploy thought leadership on behalf of their organizations. Go to the website OrgTL.com and choose “Join our newsletter.” I’ll leave a link to the website, as well as my LinkedIn profile, in the show notes. Thanks for listening, and I look forward to hearing what you thought of the show.