Interview with Jim Wall, Global HR at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

1.  What are the key contributors to your success as the Global Managing Director, Talent and Chief Diversity Officer, DTTL?

a)      What do you think it is about your leadership style that is most valued?

I think it’s the commitment that I demonstrate to them as people, both professionally and personally.   I believe in giving whoever I am with my undivided attention. Employee concerns go to the top of the list.  It is clear to everyone that people are my top priority.

DTTL’s former CEO, Ed Kangas, who is a good friend, used to say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Talk less and listen more”.  It’s advice I try to live by as a leader.

b)      How do other senior leaders help to ensure the success of your employees?

We have a global, diverse workforce, and our employees want to work with and learn from leaders they respect, and who they know respect them in return. I think this is key, having leaders who are invested in the development of their people, who value them as individuals, and who appreciate their contributions.

Also, you have to have good mentors, in your functional area and outside it.  Developing leadership is not a solitary exercise.  Effective mentoring relationships have been part of our culture for a long time.

2.  What is one of the most important things you have learned about leadership?

Legitimacy and power do not come from your position.  It is more about relationships and how you use what you know for the benefit of the client and the people around you, rather than “I am in a certain box on the organization chart.”

The Deloitte network is now the largest professional services organization in world.  As we get larger, we don’t want to lose our core values that got us there: Integrity, Outstanding value to markets & clients, Commitment to each other, and Strength from cultural diversity. It’s important for the leadership to be stewards of these values, which then cascade to all 170,000 member firm people worldwide.  Environment comes from the top down.

3.  What were the main challenges for you moving from a US firm to a global role, and how did you overcome those challenges?

I had my role in the US firm as head of human resources for 12 years, and have been in the DTTL global role for seven years.

Probably the biggest challenge with a global role is understanding all the cultural nuances that vary from one member firm to another. The customs and how they do business in one culture differs greatly from one to the next.

However, I have also found that what makes us the same is far greater than what makes us different as a human race.  Focusing on the differences can create conflict.  People want basic things – safety, security, a sense of self esteem, family, and they don’t want to be afraid.  If you deal with all people at that human level, my experience is that connections happen quickly, the relationship is authentic, and progress can follow.

4.  What were the most pivotal moments in your career?

The most pivotal experience for me was being hired by the Deloitte US member firm in 1984. This was in the old Touche Ross organization, in Boston, and I was the first non-auditor to be hired as a recruiter in what was then the “Big 8.”

Truth be told, I was with Deloitte US one year and I was having a bit of a hard time in terms of making the transition.  I had been Director of Housing Programs at Michigan State at 29 years old; I was young for the job.  I had a staff of 500 and budget of $200M. When I came to Deloitte US, things were very different–it was just me and a part-time PA, and I was having a hard time finding my place.

A couple of Deloitte US people took personal interest in my success.  They said, “Your heart is not in it.  If your heart is in it, it will make a difference.  We will help you see how you can be successful here.  Stick with us, you will be ok.”   I never forgot that.  I never forgot the support and their interest in me.

5.  We’ve heard a lot about the Deloitte organization’s diversity initiative. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how it’s added value to the Deloitte culture?

Strength from cultural diversity is one of the Deloitte organization’s core shared values.  Long before our competitors and the larger business community took actions to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Deloitte member firms took the lead, launching local initiatives for cultural change.

For example, a number of Deloitte member firms have implemented a program called Mass Career Customization, which allows employees to customize their careers. Unlike the “one-size-fits-all” model, which isn’t realistic, a professional career needs to be moderated over time so that someone can let down or let up, depending on the stage in their life. The hours, travel time and intensity of work should vary. It benefits both women and men. It has introduced flexibility not just within a working week but a working lifetime.

Research shows that diverse workforces come up with better solutions than homogenous problem solving, and we’ve definitely found that to be true within the Deloitte netork.  Diversity is a fundamental source of our competitive advantage.

6.  If we were to bring together a cadre (roundtable) of your peer executives in other firms- what are some topics that you would like to discuss? And who would you like to see as other participants on that kind of roundtable?

From a business perspective, I’d like to examine how  you rebuild, achieve maximum profit, short term growth, etc.  And then discuss how important employee engagement is versus profit, and how to reconcile the two.

Other topics I would like to discuss would be macro topics about the implications of the movement of capital from the West to East; the implications of disproportionate growth in emerging markets versus mature markets; the future of Africa, in terms of population and investment opportunity?  Also, the turmoil in Middle East –what’s going to happen? How will all of this affect the global economy and world as a whole?

7.  What are you reading?

I am reading a number of books about interesting and diverse individuals, including Abraham Lincoln, Churchill, Colin Powell, Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography, Nelson Mandela. I have had the privilege of meeting Mr. Mandela.  He has just written a book, “Conversations with Myself,” comprised of notes he wrote to himself while a prisoner. It’s truly fascinating.

About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see www.deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms.

Deloitte provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. With a globally connected network of member firms in more than 150 countries, Deloitte brings world-class capabilities and deep local expertise to help clients succeed wherever they operate. Deloitte’s approximately 170,000 professionals are committed to becoming the standard of excellence.

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