PwC U.S. Chairman: 'It’s About Truly Listening.'

Tim Ryan discusses leadership and how to bring people together with common purpose

December 15, 2020

Having served clients in the financial services industry in the U.S. and internationally for more than 25 years, Tim Ryan has talked a lot of finance.

But as U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC, he’s now frequently discussing issues involving human capital, specifically how to make sure all employees feel part of the team.

“It’s all about truly listening, not just going through the motions,” Ryan told Dean Bill Boulding as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series.

Ryan has made diversity and inclusion an integral part of PwC, publicly releasing a Diversity and Inclusion Transparency Report. He also founded the CEO Action Network for Diversity and Inclusion bringing more than 1,400 CEOs together to advance inclusion.

Ryan has also listened when people have pushed back on diversity efforts. He recounted how an employee who identified as a white male sent him an angry email after the firm released its diversity report.

Rather than dismiss the employee’s comments, Ryan scheduled a chat. The employee explained he was supportive of the efforts, but had overcome economic barriers in his own life. The man felt left behind in how the company was talking about diversity and he didn’t know how he “fit in.”

“If I’d never had that experience, we would have left – unintentionally – a group behind, which we had no desire to do,” Ryan said.

He said listening is also critical in an organization with 3,800 partners, making it impossible for everyone to be on the same page.

“I have taken a lot of body blows, and I am OK with that," he said. "I’ve stuck to 90 percent of what I believe in, and 10 percent of the time I’ve adjusted, because the situation warranted adjustment."

The full video can be viewed above. Shorter snippets from the talk are below, including why Ryan feels honest leaders should explain what they can and cannot control.

“The whole name of the game in business is focus and scale in driving outcomes, and that means can you get the organization focused on what it can control," he said.

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