Strategic Leadership Interview with Jim Wilcox

Jim WilcoxJim Wilcox is a retired senior executive from Sauer-Danfoss. Over his career, Jim has had significant global P&L responsibility in both turnaround and high growth environments. He excelled in achieving optimum performance from operations and aligning resources that protected strategic customers and the company’s core interests.

Jim’s strategic leadership built and energized high performance teams accelerating business development, increasing sales, and enhancing profits. Jim continues to be active in creating success for businesses.

What do you do to de-stress or unwind?
I like to travel and take vacations to new and different places. But on a day to day basis, I just turn things off. I have the ability to just turn off my mind and go to sleep.
What is your biggest time saver?
My biggest time saver is minimizing my involvement in the details while staying connected with people that are responsible for areas that I oversee.
First Job Navy What was your first job?
My first job was working on a farm doing maintenance tasks. During my first year of college I ran a herd of cattle. In my second year I worked in the controller’s office of a large Pharma company. Then as I came out of college, I flew for the US Navy when I was 24. My time in the Navy brought a wealth of life experience that likely takes others a decade or two to get.
What is your best leadership tool or technique?
My best leadership technique is keeping people informed. I work hard to effectively address large groups and people at all levels the organization, constantly communicating where we’re going, the challenges we’re facing, and what the road ahead looks like.
What is the best leadership advice you’ve received?
If you have to make a decision and it doesn’t turn out to be the right decision, you don’t have to beat yourself up. You made the best decision with the facts and information you had at the time. I learned that early on in my career. You’ve got to learn and move on.
Don't Be a RecluseWhat is the best leadership advice you can give someone?
Don’t be a recluse in a corner office. Get up and out and interact with people at all levels of the organization.
What drives you from day to day?
I like to make things happen. I’m a believer that you are either moving forward or falling behind. Just being on a path and having and end goal gives me motivation.
What are your daily/weekly reads to keep on top of your industry?
I like to read Business Week as it’s more in-depth than the newspapers and typically covers things outside my industry. Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal of course.
WorkstationDescribe what your workplace, office space, or workstation is like?
My office is reasonably organized if there is adequate space. I’m a sit down kind of guy. There are a few basics I keep readily available… stapler, scotch tape, a few of those old fashioned items. I don’t like to hunt for those things.
Do you have a work/life balance tip or suggestion?
Yes, everyone must take this subject seriously. It’s not just a popular culture fad. I didn’t maintain a work life balance as well as I wish I would have in the past. The key here is to find the balance that works for you and your family.
How do you effectively manage your busy schedule?
I stay on top of my calendar and schedule. I expect things to start when they are scheduled. I have little tolerance for meetings that are postponed or rescheduled 5 minutes before they’re about to happen. When I’m on the road, I use the evening as part of the business day to stay on top of things.
How do you get people energized or committed to their work?

  1. I help them understand the big picture, where we’re going and what their role is.
  2. At a more micro level, I take interest in their work. I like to learn about their job so that I can relate and understand it. I can then talk to them about it and make connections.
How do you motivate people through a difficult time in business?
Keep talking about the big picture. Provide them with feedback, progress updates, or assessments if it’s not going well. It’s important to be the champion and help people understand what it takes to deal with the difficult time. Put it in context for them.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
I’ve accomplished some significant financial turn-arounds. I helped one particular company not just get on the road to success, but continue down the road to success. Being involved in putting the talent and resources in place that sustained an annual 15% compounded growth rate was very satisfying.
What software, tool, or resources do you use to keep organized?
Emails, calendars, all the standard tools.
What is most difficult about your leadership responsibilities?
If you have an individual that is struggling or not performing, it is challenging to know where to draw the line on coaching versus moving them out of the organization. You’re dealing with someone’s livelihood, career, and well-being. It’s not easy.

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