PwC chairman Bob Moritz on the importance of being an agile leader

bob moritz pwc davos 2020
Bob Moritz, chairman of professional services firm PwC.

  • PwC Chairman Bob Moritz thinks agility is an important skill for young people to cultivate.
  • Young leaders should learn to adapt to new jobs and challenges.
  • It’s an important leadership skill that many well-known executives have touted.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

The most important skill Bob Moritz thinks young leaders should develop is agility. According to Moritz, the chairman of professional services firm PwC, they should be able to adjust to any challenge thrown their way with both speed and confidence.

“There are certain competencies they’re going to need. I’d need them to be agile enough to learn, to lean into the learning opportunities and then take them and do something with them so they can redefine themselves,” he told Insider. In 2019, PwC announced a $3 billion investment in job training for its employees. Anyone who participated was guaranteed a job at the firm, even if their original job was eliminated.

Being agile is even more important now, as the world adjusts to a post-pandemic society. New policies and challenges are afoot, and agility could be the key to successful leadership, experts say.

PwC is actively looking to hire workers with such soft skills as the ability to take risks, learn, and be agile. The company announced a $12 billion plan on Tuesday to hire an extra 100,000 people thorough 2026. About 10,000 of those hires will be Black and Latin students.

“Today’s person that gets hired for moving into a tax role, then our tax business, or a legal role, or an audit role or a consulting role,” Moritz said. “I can’t guarantee that specific job is going to be there three years from now.”

Companies like Microsoft and Amazon have used agile frameworks to grow their businesses and improve productivity for years. But this mindset isn’t exclusive to executives at big companies. It’s something any individual can cultivate with practice, Darrell Rigby, a partner and the global innovation lead at Bain & Co., previously told Insider.

Rigby said leaders should look for opportunities for employees to work on projects that make them feel fulfilled and grow their skills. Capitalizing on specific employees’ strengths will create a more well-rounded and agile team, he added.

“Understand that [agility] is both a mindset and a method,” Rigby said. “Just having a mindset and good intentions isn’t enough. Going through effective methods and practices without believing in them wouldn’t work either. You need both to succeed.”

During job interviews at PwC , Moritz said prospective employees can demonstrate their agility by talking about an example of a time where they took a new opportunity or learned a new skill. For example, a university student might want to show how they took on a leadership role in a club or adjusted to virtual learning on campus.

“That’s a good predictor of their future agility, mobility, and advancement going forward,” he said.

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Melissa Wirt is the founder of breastfeeding apparel company Latched Mama. Her parent-friendly policies are setting a new standard for flexible work.

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Melissa Wirt spent the last 15 months creating new policies and adjusting older ones around her employees who are also parents.

  • Melissa Wirt is the mother of five and owner of nursing apparel company Latched Mama.
  • She created new policies and adjusted older ones to help her employees who are parents during the pandemic.
  • Around 10 million US mothers with school-age children were not actively working in January.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

In one corner of Melissa Wirt’s warehouse, an employee prepared orders next to her daughter, who was attending virtual kindergarten. Meanwhile, an employee’s spouse was learning the ropes so he could join the company while she acted as the primary caregiver.

“We don’t have an HR department, so everything really runs through me,” said Wirt, the founder of breastfeeding clothing company Latched Mama. “Everybody was able to get whatever they needed during the pandemic.”

At a time when 10 million US mothers with school-age children aren’t actively working, Wirt has spent the last 15 months creating new policies and adjusting older ones for working parents to foster a supportive environment. Her leadership strategy has been one of flexibility and support, treating each scenario as its own case with its own unique solution.

“Our ‘why’ at Latched Mama has always been supporting parents, since the day we built the brand,” said Wirt, reflecting on her ability to assist working parents during the crisis. “It was relatively easy when the culture was already set up to allow people to be parents first and just adapt to what they needed.”

Building solutions based on specific needs

latched mama
Wirt worked with each employee to find a solution for their specific need, which often included allowing parents to bring their children to work, encouraging flexible hours, and approving paid leave.

Wirt was already the mother of two children when she hatched the idea for her business, which she runs out of her hometown of Midlothian, Virginia. She struggled to find affordable nursing clothes, and in 2014 launched Latched Mama to solve that problem.

Since then, she’s had three more children and spearheaded a generous family leave program; new parents can take 100 days of paid leave and bring their children to the office until their first birthday.

When COVID-19 reached the US, prompting schools to launch remote learning and daycare centers to temporarily close, Wirt knew her employees would need help balancing their careers and children.

“My philosophy as a business owner is that I want somebody to be able to bring their entire self to work,” said Wirt, who manages a 40-person company. “And it’s really hard to bring your entire self when people don’t realize that your entire self also includes your children.”

Wirt worked with each employee to find a solution for their specific need, which often included allowing parents to bring their children to work, encouraging flexible hours, and approving paid leave.

Other times, if one employee was the primary caregiver and their spouse was out of work, Wirt found ways to get them on the company payroll. She tapped that person’s expertise along with offering training sessions for newcomers.

“We were flexible about training entire families because we found that would help us make sure that needs are being met at home as well as needs for us as a company,” Wirt said.

While Wirt’s strategies were tackled on a case-by-case basis, she believes some of those pandemic-inspired policies might endure.

For example, she doesn’t feel the need to drag employees back to the office if they’ve found a rhythm to working from home.

“Most business owners feel the last 15 months have been a complete blur of survival and adapting and pivoting,” Wirt said. “We’re just going to adapt to what’s working now and the new normal.”

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A Fortune 500 CEO recruiter shares the one trait to develop if you want to be a corporate leader: adaptability

Clarke  Murphy, CEO of Russell Reynolds
Clarke Murphy, CEO of executive search and recruiting firm Russell Reynolds.

  • Clarke Murphy is a CEO recruiter and adviser for Fortune 500 companies.
  • He said board rooms are looking for leaders with a high “LQ” or learning quotient.
  • Having high “LQ” means you’re able to adapt to change quickly.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

For over three decades, Clarke Murphy has helped the biggest companies name their next CEO. For the last eight years, as the CEO consultancy Russell Reynolds, Murphy has advised more than 30 Fortune 500 CEO appointments and over 60 board appointments at companies that will remain unnamed due to privacy agreements.

While Murphy’s advice spans multiple industries including finance, retail, and technology, he’s found that boardrooms and executive committees today are looking for leadership candidates with one particular trait in common: a high LQ – a person’s willingness and ability to adapt to change.

“CEOs are not paid to have all the answers,” Murphy told Insider. “Today, it’s about your ability to be agile.”

The events of 2020 forced leaders to double down on this trait, the CEO adviser explained. Many corporate executives had to move their employees to remote work in a matter of days and ensure their workers were safe. Weeks later, they had to respond to demands for racial equity amid nationwide protests with statements and pledges. The role of the CEO changed, and leaders have had to adapt.

“What the COVID pandemic has brought on is the need for pretty rapid transformation,” he said. “Leaders not only have to have emotional intelligence, they have to have LQ, the ability to learn, listen, watch, and communicate transformation.”

How to develop LQ

To develop your own sense of LQ, Murphy recommends professionals ask their bosses for feedback, explore how they can improve work for their direct reports, and think about the problems their consumers face.

Ask your boss where you feel you could grow personally and professionally. Having this understanding will help you focus on how to become a better leader, Murphy said.

“You want to show that you’re always learning,” he said, “that you’re always improving.”

The second is to explore the obstacles your direct reports encounter at work, in order to make your organization more efficient. According to Murphy, this will help you lead transformation within your company.

Lastly, Murphy recommends that managers keep a pulse on the issues their customers care about, like reducing pollution or increasing data privacy, so they can develop innovative products.

“Successful leaders of the future will know these three things,” Murphy said. “They’ll know where they can grow and innovate to help their stakeholders.”

The PepsiCo case

Ramon Laguarta
PepsiCo CEP Ramon Laguarta has helped the company reinvent itself over the past few years.

In addition to the transformation exhibited by corporate leaders during the pandemic, one CEO, PepsiCo’s Ramon Laguarta, stands out to Murphy for his ability to be agile.

Laguarta has grappled with rapidly changing consumer habits that pose a threat to the company. People are looking for healthier food options and environmentally friendly products. That’s a potential risk for a company that sells snacks and plastic bottle products.

In response, Laguarta doubled down on a decades-long effort to cut calories in its products and engineer new, healthier ones. In the company’s 2021 statement to investors, the Pepsi CEO spoke about the company’s “special focus on no sugar beverages” and its continued efforts to “reduce added sugars, sodium and saturated fat in many of our products.”

He also announced the company’s goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2030, and has launched new climate-friendly agricultural projects. All the while, the company’s stock has been on a generally-upward trajectory.

“Laguarta has really been able to usher in change,” Murphy said. “He’s an example of truly embracing transformation.”

More CEOs will be tested on their LQ as the climate crisis worsens, Murphy added. Investors and consumers will want leaders who are able to respond to environmental, social, and good governance (ESG) issues like the need for more transparency around diversity efforts as well as carbon-cutting measures.

“I think the great leaders of the future will balance operational profit with sustainable leadership,” Murphy said. “They’ll adapt to changing times.”

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The founder of a multi-million-dollar apron company shares 5 leadership tips for stepping back and trusting your team

Ellen Marie Bennett is a chef and the founder and CEO of Hedley & Bennett.
Ellen Marie Bennett is the founder and CEO of apron company Hedley & Bennett.

  • Ellen Marie Bennett was a line cook in 2012 when she started her apron business with $500.
  • Hedley & Bennett is now a multi-million dollar company outfitting chefs like Martha Stewart and Matt Horn.
  • Five takeaways from Bennet’s new book can help leaders avoid micromanaging as their businesses grow.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

Ellen Marie Bennett was a line cook at B├Ąco Mercat in Los Angeles when she plunged into entrepreneurship on a whim. She’d excitedly promised her boss, Chef Josef Centeno, she’d make 40 aprons for his staff in four weeks. The only problem was that she’d never designed or made an apron before.

Book cover of "Dream First Details Later" by Ellen Marie Bennett

The aprons she delivered a month later weren’t perfect – she would have to take them back to make improvements – but she met the deadline. And it was just what she needed to jumpstart her dream and turn $500 in savings into an apron company that’s outfitted celebrity chefs like Martha Stewart, Chrissy Teigen, and Matt Horn.

In her new book “Dream First, Details Later,” Bennett details her entrepreneurial journey, from developing her first apron to growing her company, Hedley & Bennett, which currently has 30 employees. (The company declined to share revenue figures, but the book describes it as a multi-million dollar company.)

Bennet gives five tips for leaders to avoid micromanaging as they scale and trust their teams to make things happen.

Trust your team and let them do what they’re good at

After working tirelessly to build their business, a founder may be tempted to continue taking on every responsibility and decision. But as teams and operations expand, a leader must let go. A big step for Bennett’s growth as a leader was to stop worrying about the things she no longer needed to take care of. Instead of jumping in to fix a problem herself, she delegates it to the right person who can fix it.

“Trying to do everything, or be involved in everything, will only keep the focus away from the areas that I do best and that really matter for me to tackle,” she says, “and it would also prevent the other members of my team from growing into their roles.”

Your role as the company’s leader is less about the day-to-day decisions and more about supporting and empowering your employees. You lead the vision; they execute it through their talent and perspective.

“Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve come to realize that all of the upgrades you make in a company only work if you trust the people doing the work on the ground,” she says.

Bennett recalls a busy Black Friday in 2019 when the company doubled orders from the previous year. Despite everyone in the headquarters scrambling around, most employees didn’t need her help when she offered it. Her team often told her, “No, we’ve got it,” or “We’re good on this.” She hovered around, waiting to be needed, until she realized she could trust them – they had it covered.

Spend less time trying to fix things

Stepping back helped Bennett see where she could be more valuable to her team. Once she let go that Black Friday, she was able to zoom out. “I could see more things because I wasn’t so fixated on fixing things all the time,” she wrote.

She turned her focus to the things she’s good at, like telling the story of her product, designing the product, and motivating others.

Ellen Marie Bennett in the factory where Hedley & Bennett aprons are made.
Ellen Marie Bennett in the factory where Hedley & Bennett aprons are made.

Train employees to problem solve on their own

Hedley & Bennett uses a few strategies when building its staff, starting with an onboarding deck that explains what they do and the deeper “why” behind the company. Each employee is given a 90-day plan for their role so they know how their work affects the business. Managers meet with their reports in weekly one-on-ones to ensure everyone is on track and clearly communicate expectations.

Training employees gives them the understanding and practice to put out fires themselves so they don’t need to rely on you. “Rather than maintaining a hand in every department or possible position, I accepted that we’d taught the team the ropes, so they could be brilliant problem solvers on their own,” Bennett writes.

Help employees improve when they aren’t hitting the mark

Bennett writes that stepping back from task management helped her understand her role to support and believe in her employees. When hiring and building her team, she designated “swim lanes” so that everyone’s expectations for their roles are clear. And if an employee seems to be struggling to meet those expectations, then it’s an opportunity for her to help them in another direction.

“When someone isn’t able to handle their role, either help them to improve, or give them the support to transition into something they’d be happier doing, and find the person who’s cherry-picked for the job,” she writes.

Continue learning and improving

Once you’ve reached a high level of success in your business, it may feel like you’ve learned everything you can, but Bennett found her entrepreneurial journey would continue to evolve and challenge her.

“This can be an uneasy endeavor when you realize that some of the things that got you from Point A to Point B aren’t going to get you the rest of the way,” she writes. “Each day, the adventure presents fresh sinkholes.”

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The founder of $5 billion healthy snack company Kind on how to build a culture of empathy without losing your competitive edge

Daniel Lubetzky Headshot 1
Daniel Lubetzky.

  • Daniel Lubetzky is founder and executive chairman of Kind snacks and a “Shark Tank” guest judge.
  • He recommended leaders incorporate kindness into their cultures as it helped him find success.
  • To build an empathetic culture, define and implement your “how” and encourage honest feedback.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of snack company Kind, guest judge on “Shark Tank,” and founder of multiple foundations and nonprofits, grew up with empathy in his blood.

The child of a Holocaust survivor and Jewish immigrant to Mexico, his parents taught him the importance of deeply caring about other people and finding common ground in order to avoid hatred and division.

While these types of childhood lessons don’t always translate into great business advice, Lubetzky has always been adamant about instilling empathy into the companies he builds.

His team culture emphasizes kindness over competition, and he believes this approach actually helps his companies outperform – and based on Kind’s recent $5 billion acquisition, this softer approach hasn’t stopped them from succeeding.

Here are a few of the ways Lubetzky recommends other leaders start to bring more kindness into their cultures – without needing to completely overhaul their approach or lose their competitive edge.

Focus on the ‘how’ as much as the ‘what’

Setting aggressive goals is a part of any competitive business strategy.

But Lubetzky thinks too many business leaders overlook an important aspect of this kind of planning – how you want to go about achieving those goals. “Where you’re heading is very important, but how you get there, how you’re approaching every day, is as important as anything,” Lubetzky told Insider.

In an end-of-year letter to employees, Lubetzky shared some examples of what this looks like day-to-day on his team: “The way we work – the way we welcome hearty debate and disagreement, because we know it makes our ideas better and stronger; the way we respectfully listen to one another, try to see one another’s points of view, and assume positive intent; the way we practice integrity across all of our decisions and refuse to cut corners or accept false compromises; the way we push ourselves to achieve excellence but not at the expense of practicing kindness in every small action; the way we take initiative and responsibility for what we do – is what fills me with pride.”

Defining and implementing the “how” of your business can take many approaches, but Lubetzky swears by a simple set of core values that can guide team behaviors and decision-making. Perhaps more importantly, this can also help ensure you’re hiring the right people to keep this empathetic culture strong.

For instance, two of Kind’s values are “kind yet hungry,” which helps them look for teammates who will balance a drive to achieve with integrity and respect.

They can also guide what behaviors you choose to incentivize and celebrate. “We have an annual tradition called ‘Kindos of the Year,’ when we recognize those team members who have gone above and beyond to live out the kind values and champion them within the organization,” Lubetzky said. “Kindos is just as high an honor, if not more so, than meeting an important sales goal or other business objective.”

Be kind, not just nice, and encourage honest feedback

Lubetzky said there’s an important distinction to keep in mind when building a more empathetic team culture: that true kindness is different than just being nice, and while one will create a more competitive team, the other may weaken it.

“You can be nice and not criticize and be polite,” he said. “I’ve seen it so many times with companies I admire where nobody will tell the CEO or founder something they need to hear because they don’t want to be the one to disagree. That’s the moment when mediocrity is going to start seeping into the consciousness of that company.”

Instead of just being passively nice, you should be aiming for an active empathy, where your teammates have plenty of opportunity to get to know each other and connect – which ultimately leads to an organization where people are comfortable giving hard but important feedback.

“Kindness requires honest feedback and honest feedback requires strength, and that strength is much better achieved when you have a culture where people trust each other and know that they mean well toward one another,” Lubetzky said.

This deep trust built off connection and empathy is why he and former Kind president John Leahy worked so well together, despite rarely seeing eye to eye. “Because we knew we shared a goal to strengthen Kind, we never tried to one-up one another or put the other person down,” he said. “We were able to have constructive back-and-forths knowing there never was a different agenda or underlying issue masked as something else.”

Start small and build empathy into the everyday

Lubetzky said an intent to improve is the best way to start integrating empathy into your workplace. “If you’re asking how to create a more empathetic workplace, you’re already way ahead of everybody else,” he said.

Then, think of small ways you can model the behaviors you want to see, such as taking a moment to ask a colleague how they’re doing, giving a more junior person the floor, or celebrating a small win a teammate had. “We all are a product of all those little interactions with every person, and that’s what counts the most,” he said.

Also look for ways to build more opportunities for empathetic connection. This doesn’t have to be anything revolutionary: Lubetzky suggests things like team events that give everyone a chance to meet or slightly less efficient meetings that allow time for casual connection. “All of our leadership team is encouraged to do 15-minute connects every month or so where they check in with everyone on the team on a personal level,” Lubetzky said.

Finally, as you’re going through this process, be empathetic and forgiving with yourself, understanding that it’s not easy to build this kind of culture and you’re sure to make mistakes along the way. “I don’t have all the answers and I don’t always behave the way I’d like to,” Lubetzky said. “But it’s the commitment to try to improve that really matters.”

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TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson, who oversees 17,000 employees, shares the one leadership trait that’s the most important in today’s corporate world: empathy

Roger Ferguson
Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA, said interpersonal skills were crucial to his success.

  • TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson is set to retire at the end of April after 13 years as a corporate chief.
  • Insider spoke with Ferguson about what he’s learned about leadership.
  • He explained why empathy is the most important skill for leaders to develop and show today.
  • This article is part of a series called “Secrets of Success,” which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.

Roger Ferguson knows a thing or two about leadership.

As the vice chair of the Federal Reserve from 1997 to 2006, he steered the country’s economy through the massive financial aftershock of September 11. After serving as an executive and then chair of reinsurance company Swiss Re for two years, he took the helm as CEO of TIAA in April 2008 – leading a financial-services company that manages over $1 trillion in retirement funds.

And in the past year, he’s overseen 17,000 employees through a shift to remote work during a pandemic and the racial reckoning following George Floyd’s death.

“I’m really proud of the fact that during those periods, we kept our values,” Ferguson told Insider. “We have come through these series of crises as a financially strong and stable company with ample capital.”

Ferguson is set to retire at the end of April, handing the company over to Thasunda Brown Duckett, former CEO of consumer banking at JP Morgan. As his tenure as the company’s chief winds down, he’s had more time to reflect on his career. He told Insider that there are four specific traits that define a good leader: expertise, vision, perseverance, and empathy.

Empathy, he said, has been the most helpful in his career as a leader – especially during difficult or uncertain times. Having this trait, regardless of your industry, will make you a better manager or executive, he said.

Empathy, as Ferguson defines it, is the ability to create an environment in which team members can bring all of themselves to work.

“Individuals don’t want to follow someone who’s going to treat the follower as just a cog in some grand plan, a small piece of wood in the large machine – that does not make anyone feel very good,” the CEO said.

Effective leaders take time to embrace diversity, the unique skill sets individuals bring to the table. They care about how their employees feel and cultivate an environment where all people can feel comfortable.

Workplace experts agree that empathy, and emotional intelligence in general, are key to leading productive and engaged teams.

Empathy can take many forms. It can be a leader making work more flexible for employees juggling caregiving responsibilities or expanding child care benefits, as many parents struggle to work and raise their children during a pandemic. Ferguson took both of these steps to support employees recently.

“In a crisis moment, showing some empathy gets people to follow you,” he said.

There’s a clear payoff. People are generally happier when they’re shown empathy. And multiple studies, including one conducted in 2019 by the University of Oxford, have found that happier employees are more productive.

“At the end of the day, the leader probably makes a small number of decisions, but many other people make daily decisions and they must be done in a way that’s consistent with the larger goal,” Ferguson said. “I think that’s best done by people who are really most engaged and are really committed to and bought into the vision.”

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