With over three decades of experience working with some of the world’s best companies and top business leaders, Marian Powell is an expert at helping people work together on exciting ideas that drive results.
Prior to founding Bamboo Partners in 2010, Powell was a partner at Korn Consulting Group Inc. She also spent 17 years at GE where she served as Officer of GE Capital and SVP of Global Sales and Marketing for GE Equipment Services.
Following the tragic passing of medtech pioneer and sister Ferolyn Powell, she helped launch the Ferolyn Fellowship alongside her sister Liz McDermott, offering her time as a member of the Advisory Council and providing customized goal-setting coaching to its fellows.
We had the privilege of catching up with Powell to discuss her career, the value of leadership coaching and her role with the Ferolyn fellows.
Q. What led you to launch Bamboo Partners and how are you helping companies/individuals develop better processes and become more effective?
A. During my 17 years at GE Capital, I was able to learn so much about running different businesses and developing streamlined processes that I can now apply those learnings to our clients’ businesses.
Intuitively, executives know that you can accomplish so much more when employees are aligned and working towards the same goal. And many companies have done a good job of cascading goals vertically from the top to the line staff. Unfortunately, the desire or intention to collaborate across functions can get lost in a company where employees may be structurally divided or leaders just don’t think about lateral process — and ultimately it hurts the business.
That realization led to the start of Bamboo Partners with my business partner, Susan Heinlein. It was founded on the premise of helping people work together in transformational ways. Collaboration is something you see in startups, but as companies mature, it’s easy for people to lose sight of how to sync up and pursue a common goal.
Companies bring us in when they start noticing they’re no longer achieving results, often because of a lack of productivity or inability to implement a strategy. We come in and quickly find the root cause of the problem, which is often a misalignment in the areas of process and culture.
We tell our clients that in 100 days we will have a solution in place, and that’s what we deliver. We facilitate the development of long-lasting, effective and sustainable solutions by involving the people closest to the work in the redesign. Seeing these breakthrough discoveries succeed is very rewarding.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about your work?
A. It’s very rewarding to quickly short circuit negative cycles. We have seen so many “shades of the same color” that we can quickly see what works well and what doesn’t. We help companies overcome those chronic issues that they can’t seem to resolve.
And I am very excited that now we can use these “lessons learned” with the Ferolyn fellows. By bypassing some common stumbling blocks, it accelerates the ability of these bright innovators to go out and change the world.
Q. How will the Ferolyn Fellowship help aspiring medtech entrepreneurs?
A. Ferolyn was all about connections. And we are fulfilling that legacy with the fellowship by connecting promising entrepreneurs with the right people who can mentor them based on their individual needs. Here’s how it works…each fellow is paired with a host mentor and together they work on a very tailored program. A big component of this is introducing the innovators to the people they want to get to know in their industry or product category.
I haven’t seen any other programs like the Ferolyn Fellowship that can offer this level of tailored mentoring and collaboration. The fellows are at a perfect place in their careers to really benefit from this because they already have terrific experience: they are self-driven and thoughtful, and have developed a number of strong leadership traits.
Q. How are you helping the Ferolyn Fund fellows and why is goal-setting such a critical component of the program and in shaping one’s career?
A. Companies and individuals spend a lot of time goal setting, but it is often done very poorly. Simply said, the reason we set goals is first, to prioritize our work efforts, and second, to know how much we have accomplished. Setting goals at the beginning of a program like this one is very important so both the fellows and their mentors stay focused on making progress on a few very important things.
The goal-setting session we held with the Ferolyn fellows was very specific to help identify what they want to gain from the program. We discussed what they are trying to do, what they see as challenges and what they feel they are not yet doing well in their roles. We also talked about whom they might want to meet in their industry or with relevant experience.
To be effective, goals have to be SMART: specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely. Too often people fall into the trap of setting vague goals that are hard to measure. We wanted to ensure that each fellow focused on a small number of very specific things they wanted to accomplish. Setting the goals helped them crystallize their thoughts about what they wanted to achieve in the program.
The Ferolyn Fellowship is a winning combination of a passionate advisory board, top-notch mentors and some of the brightest entrepreneurs in the medtech space.