the-cisco-wayYour most important asset may not the products you sell. Rather, it’s your employees, especially if you are in a service industry, says Dushyant Sukhija, a former executive with Cisco Systems and author of The Cisco Way: Leadership Lessons Learned from One of the World’s Greatest Technology Services Companies.

“Employees are the true intellectual capital of the company and that means businesses must invest in their people,” Sukhija says.

He suggests at least four ways businesses can “turn people into your secret weapon,” which is just one of nine leadership lessons outlined in his book:

  • Align employees to a common goal. No organization works well if everyone is a maverick, going off in his or her own direction. It’s important to communicate what the goal is and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Create a nurturing environment. Any business should want to motivate its employees to excel. One way this can be done is through rewards and recognition, so that employees know that their hard work and efforts are appreciated.
  • Harness employees’ intellectual horsepower. It’s important to get the most out of employees, and that can be accomplished through helping them build their skills. Cisco, for example, used certification programs to train employees and promote personal growth. “This wasn’t just for our experienced people,” Sukhija says. “We developed special programs to prepare our junior talent to become the Cisco workforce of the future.”
  • Drive exceptional thought leadership. It’s critical to hire the right people because so much else can hinge on how they perform. Sukhija says companies should look for people with a command and understanding of the business’ mission; who have stellar reputations and ability to attract new talent; and who have the potential to grow into the next level of leadership.

“When products are a company’s focus, it’s important to invest in research and development, and product innovation,” Sukhija says. “But when it is services that drive a company’s success, then the investment should be in people. Get them inspired, because inspired people make the difference.”

Dushyant Sukhija, author of “The Cisco Way: Leadership Lessons Learned from One of the World’s Greatest Technology Services Companies” (, is a former executive with Cisco Systems. He has an MBA from Santa Clara University in California and a Bachelor of Technology degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India.

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