How Other Leaders Are Thinking About Agility & Progress


We hear a lot of memorable insights through our leadership development and coaching work at The ExCo Group, in addition to our many interviews with leaders. Here are some highlights around agility, key lessons to carry through the pandemic, and how to keep making progress.


Agility. Embracing ambiguity. Learn and unlearn. These are among the many phrases that are tossed around to describe the qualities that companies are looking for in their leaders now, particularly after the last 15 months. They’re good, but we’re always on the hunt for a vivid metaphor to bring ideas to life, and heard a great one recently in our interview with Arnold Dhanesar, the Group Chief Talent Officer at Zurich Insurance.

“We are looking for leaders who can solve Rubik’s cubes at light speed. They’re basically trying to solve a Rubik’s cube in one hand, and then they’ll have another Rubik’s cube to solve in the next hour, and on it goes. You have to have leaders who are good problem solvers, who are innovative, who have this executive agility that we are looking for.”


Many of the conversations we’re having with leadership teams these days touch on how to take key lessons from the pandemic forward – particularly around speed of decision-making and innovation. After all, when the world is more settled, it’s so easy to fall into the rut of over-analyzing every decision to the point where people start focusing on what can go wrong and all the reasons not to do something. Here’s a simple tactic to get those conversations back on track, shared in our conversation with Mary Finch, the CHRO at DXC Technology. 

“I talk about the ‘path to yes’ all the time with our management team. Often people will bring up reasons why something can’t be done or what the barriers might be. That’s when I say, ‘Let’s step back and figure out the path to get there.’”




We often ask executives about their most effective frameworks for starting conversations about race, diversity and inclusion. As we all know, race can be an uncomfortable conversation for a lot of people, and so I’m always curious about smart approaches to simply getting started. We heard this simple framework recently from Roy Weathers, the vice chair at PwC who is also chief executive of CEO Action for Racial Equity.

“I spent two years as our Chief Diversity Officer, and I learned that most people rally around the topic of diversity from three perspectives: head, heart, wallet. It’s either the head, as in, ‘What are the numbers? What are the metrics? What are we trying to do?’ Or it’s heart: ‘It’s the right thing to do. Why do we need goals?’ Or it’s about the wallet: ‘It’s important to my business and my brand.’

And what I say to people is, just pick one. If you pick two or all three, that would be great. But start with one. There’s work to do, so pick one and then let’s get on with doing the work.”

This article was contributed by The ExCo Group, an executive coaching and mentoring firm comprised of experienced former CEOs, independent directors, and global business leaders.

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Written by Paul Watson

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