Originally posted on 3/11/2014
If you ever thought that alliance management was an uncertain career path, Lisa Caswell begs to differ. An entrepreneurial business executive who has spent 30 years in alliance management across numerous corporate roles, Caswell kicked off the ASAP Global Alliance Summit with a clear message: the competencies that made her a successful alliance manager are the same competencies that make her effective in a wide variety of corporate leadership roles—including as a division president at Siemens e-Meter.
In Caswell’s view, to be a leader in the connected era requires the ability to partner and collaborate. “We are the collaboration masters as alliance managers,” she said. As a division president, her framework for leadership continually builds connectedness—“using partnering to engage customers as individuals, to empower your employees, and to amplify innovation.” Partnering ability, for instance, has allowed Siemens e-Meter to set a higher bar than Siemens' company-wide benchmarking of employee engagement. “You can buy employee engagement, but you have to motivate, create, and cultivate employee excellence,” she said. “It’s all about partnership and enabling.”
She talked extensively about the leverage that partnering capability has given her in her career—in particular, as a Silicon Valley veteran, how partnering has been essential to “driving innovation around not only technology, but also around business models.” Moreover, as an alliance executive in smaller, entrepreneurial organizations, Caswell has repeatedly leveraged partnering with IBM and other industry Goliaths to “build far more credibility than we could have through marketing ourselves.” Caswell recommended several keys to success for alliance managers and leadership in general:
- "Always carry a number. Alliance managers often don’t want to be accountable to a number—but it guarantees you a seat at the table."
- “You need one single owner of strategic relationships—not 10.”
- Embrace risk. She cited the example of creating an appliance for the utilities marketplace in conjunction with IBM. “We got tremendous marketing support from IBM—but it ended up being a flop. However, IBM wasn’t angry, we weren’t angry, because we tried—we took a risk as part of establishing the meter data management marketplace.”
- “Coopetition is great. It forces us as a company to stay on our toes.”
Caswell’s challenge to the approximately 300 attendees in the opening plenary was: ask yourself what’s next—and don’t be afraid to think big. “If you do so, you will do something extraordinary.”