When Sue Hed returned from Europe to lead IBM’s alliance with Oracle, she knew she was dealing with a classic case of co-opetition.  IBM and Oracle were competing and cooperating at the same time.  As Sue explained to me on a plane ride over the sound of screaming children, the thing that brought all the players together was a “need to work together to create value for the end client.”

Both her team and her counterparts at Oracle were particularly interested in pursuing growth in the middle-markets.  Her idea was to go after this with a three-pronged approach:

1 Target Top 5 Prospects and Channel Partners

The first prong was to target the top 5 prospects and channel partners in each market for IBM and Oracle.  These people were going to require face-to-face presence to win them over and service their business.

2 Leverage Social Media with Other Channel Partners

The second prong was a way to go after the 80% of the rest of the channel partners that were going to account for 20% of the business.  While each one of them was relatively small, there was a long tail.  Her approach there was to leverage social media like LinkedIn and Twitter to build awareness.

3 Deploy Telemarketing to Get Feedback

The third prong was to deploy telemarketing as get feedback from all the customers and prospects on how to drive into the channel.  While it wasn’t going to be cost-effective to have face-to-face meetings with the smaller customers, Sue and her team needed to keep their ears to the ground one way or another.  Telemarketing allowed them to have those conversations.

Sue’s milestones were relatively straightforward:

  1. Define the scope of the IBM-Oracle partnership.  Build the database.
  2. Assess the market and figure out how they could best create value together.
  3. Get the buy in of the sales organizations to their approach.
  4. Validate the approach
  5. Roll it out

Early Wins

The early wins came into play as a way of validating the approach.  Sue chose to pilot the programs in Australia and Turkey.  Her logic was to “validate and test by starting small, picking a more manageable geography or two before going into bigger markets like the UK or the USA”.

Sue over-invested in those first pilots going out into the field herself to work with the teams to make the contacts, establish the relationships, close the deals, and over-see the implementation of the programs.  It worked locally and gave the team a head start elsewhere.  As Sue describes it:

“The buy-in has been great in other countries because they saw the success and had testimonials from their peers.”

That sports fans is exactly why it makes so much sense to over-invest in early wins.

Our early win prescription is relatively simple:

1.   Select one or two early wins from your milestones list:

  • Choose early wins that will make a meaningful external impact.
  • Select early wins that your boss will want to talk about.
  • Pick early wins that you are sure you can deliver.
  • Choose early wins that will model important behaviors.
  • Pick early wins that would not have happened if you had not been there.

2.   Establish early wins in your second month and deliver by your sixth month:

  • Early means early. Make sure you select early wins in your first 60 days that you and the team can deliver by the end of your sixth month. Select them early. Communicate them early. Deliver them early.
  • Make sure the team understands the early wins and has bought in to delivering them on time.
  • This will give your bosses the concrete results they need when someone asks how you are doing.

3.   Over-invest resources toward early wins to over-deliver:

  • Do not skimp on your early wins. Allocate resources in a manner that will ensure timely delivery. Put more resources than you think you should need against these early opportunities so your team is certain to deliver them better and faster than anyone thought was possible.
  • Stay alert. Adjust quickly. As the leader, stay close and stay involved on the progress of your early wins and react immediately if they start to fall even slightly off track or behind schedule.

4.   Celebrate and Communicate Early Wins:

  • As your first early wins are achieved, celebrate the accomplishment with the entire team. This is important and should not be overlooked.
  • In conjunction with your communication campaign, make sure your early wins are communicated as appropriate.

What Sue did is a good example of step 8 of The New Leader’s Playbook, Over-invest in Early Wins to Build Team Confidence

Early wins are all about credibility and confidence. People have more faith in people who have delivered. You want your boss to have confidence in you. You want team members to have confidence in you, in themselves, and in the plan for change that has emerged. Early wins fuel that confidence.

Click here to read about each step in the playbook

Click here for YouTube videos highlighting each step


The New Leader’s Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months. George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director, and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 2009). Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.