Top Executives on Leading in a Volatile World



The world is changing at a pace we have never seen before. A quick look at your Twitter feed or news scroll will show you just how volatile and uncertain the world has become. I believe our greatest challenge in navigating an unpredictable world is remembering to stick to the basics: Get your leaders right and connect with your people!   

Get Your Leaders Right  

Jim Nixon, Chairman and CEO of Nixon Energy Services and EY World Entrepreneur of the Year Judge recently explained to me that selecting the right leaders is critical to success in any environment, particularly a volatile one. He is currently invested in six business and when it comes to investing, “I have got to have a high degree of confidence in the management team” he says. When either building or vetting a management team Nixon specifically looks at their ability to listen, take advice, and be flexible. “I want someone smarter than me” and they don’t necessarily need to have the experience because that is teachable.

Nixon also points out there has to be chemistry. The leaders on your team must have a high degree of excitement and enthusiasm for the business as well as an alignment with the vision and values of the business. “I want to understand what drives them and their vision for the future” says Nixon. This is why it is critical that you take the time to understand who your candidates are and how they will fit with the values and culture of your company. Vetting prospective leaders for values and culture fit is often overlooked in the hiring process. Be sure to structure your interviews to cover values alignment and culture fit before getting into skill because chemistry matters.    

Connect with You People

“The only solid ground is the trust and good will in your business” explained H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson while addressing a recent conference. Trust is about authenticity and transparency, which is something Johnson believes has been critical to the success and longevity of the family owned and operated SC Johnson.       

Strong teams are safe teams, psychologically safe that is. Psychological safety is critical to fostering the trust necessary to create a culture of open dialogue. In other words, you have to be open to challenge and encourage dissent. The impact of psychological safety isn’t conjecture, there is data to back it up. The Google Aristotle Study famously found that underlying the most successful teams at Google was in fact psychological safety. Google’s researchers found that their highest performing teams were the ones where speaking up was encouraged and even rewarded. This atmosphere allowed for a more open and rapid exchange of information, which led to greater bottom line success.  

Keep in mind that fostering a team culture of open dialogue requires ongoing effort. Leaders must recognize constructive disagreement and encourage healthy resolutions.


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