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How to Succeed at the Enterprise Level

Posted on January 16, 2017

By Joanne Goveas

“What got you here may not get you there.”
Marshall Goldsmith

Last Fall, I had the opportunity to sit with a diverse group of senior managers looking to move from functional management to performing at the enterprise level. They were the latest cohort in Rotman’s Strategic Business Leadership program and came from both the private and public sectors which added a lovely richness to class conversations.

The journey to senior management will typically progress through a number of phases. You begin your career as an individual contributor, progress into roles in which you’re responsible for getting work done through others, and finally transition into a senior position which requires you to think differently about a much broader and more complex set of competing issues.

It truly is different at the top.

Making this transition from function head to enterprise leader involves learning new skills and developing new mindsets — and this can be a seismic shift. It involves moving from:
  • tactician to strategist
  • specialist to generalist
  • analyst to integrator
  • bricklayer to architect
  • problem solver to agenda setter
  • warrior to diplomat, and
  • supporting cast to leading role
An all-star line up of Rotman Faculty teach in Organizational Leadership: People, Culture and Performance.
Organizational Leadership: People, Culture and Performance program is built around a model of leadership that integrates people, strategy, culture and systems. Here are just a few of the topics we covered:


Strategy: As a senior manager, you are responsible for developing and implementing strategy for the business units you lead. However, managers are often confused about what strategy really is and what constitutes a good one. So, the program helped us identify the critical elements of effective strategies, the characteristics of hard to attack strategies and the importance of deliberately choosing where to excel and where not to.

Design Thinking: Over two days, we got to play with Design Thinking: a customer-centered design methodology practiced by some of the most innovative firms in the world (e.g., IDEO, Google, P&G, IBM, GE, etc.). Design Thinking is applicable anywhere in the value chain from the design of new products and services to customer experiences and business strategies. As senior leaders need to nurture innovation at all stages, it is important that they have a strong knowledge of the basic processes and skills of Design Thinking.

First, we looked at ways both public and private sector organizations used empathy to design neat new solutions for the client journey whether it was enhancing the experience of cancer patients waiting for chemo therapy or Delaine Hampton sharing her insights from decades at the helm of P&G’s marketing department. We learned how to reverse engineer the moment of choice to think about opportunities at each stage of the decision process.

We also experimented with a variety of ways to generate ideas so members of your team who may need different approaches to harnessing their ideas can really unearth smart new solutions. Finally, we got to work building a prototype and experienced the benefits of prototyping early and often.

Networking for success: As you move into enterprise level positions, creating new connections becomes even more important since success increasingly depends on coordinating across units and having a broad strategic perspective. To tackle the often unsavory topic of networking, we used the Reciprocity Ring to form more meaningful connections. The Reciprocity Ring is used by major companies and universities such as GM, Stanford, Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Meyers Squibb Company and the Kellogg School of Management.

Leaning into conflict.

A  major theme running through the program was leaning into conflict. Rotman believes tension is an opportunity for innovation and transformation. This is a different mindset that requires a curious and open stance.
  • Model-Based Problem Solving: In this session, we were given the tools to discern the different models at play during conflicts, the likely sources of tension and strategies to capitalize on those conflicts. We then applied these learnings to the context of a senior management team.
  • Negotiations: Negotiation is also a problem-solving process and the typical method by which resources are allocated in organizations. The ability to negotiate effectively is a key managerial and leadership competency. Using best practices and cases, we conducted a series of negotiations and group decision-making exercises and then debriefed the results. This way, we explored what is involved in effective negotiation and strategies and techniques senior managers need to do it well.
  • The Culturally Fluent Leader: Becoming what Professor Nouman Ashraf calls an ‘emancipatory leader’means moving from tolerance for differences to embracing differences. Again, using the model-based problem solving approach, this session helps leaders go from ‘oh no, conflict’ to ‘oh, yes conflict’. This approach changes your mindset to see a diversity as a strategic advantage.
As we make the shift to senior management, it’s important to realize that what got us here may actually hamper us at the next stage of our career. To this end, the class drilled down on what they needed to do differently in their new roles, but also what they needed to stop doing to ensure their success for the future. Each participant left with a personal action plan to put their new learnings into practice. They also met with a coach three weeks after class to work through any roadblocks that arose.

After being back at their jobs for two months, the class came together to share how they applied their new skills to increase their impact as senior leaders. They shared ways the program has helped them approach situations differently, tackle complex challenges and even improve their personal lives.

They ended with a workshop on personal productivity to learn how to pivot their time from focusing on tasks that can overwhelm to carving out time to dedicate to longer lasting strategic activities.


At Rotman, we learn best practices in theory, use cases to apply those theories, and finally create personalized action learning plans to apply your new skills and mindsets as soon as you return to work.  If you’re ready to move from managing people to increasing your impact at the enterprise level, join us or call me at 416.946.0722.

Questions?We’re here to help

Speak to our expert Learning Advisor about choosing the right program for you or your organization.

Tel: 416.978.8815

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