410: How to Clarify What’s Important, with Ron Williams
Published May 27, 2019
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38 min
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    Ron Williams: Learning to Lead
    Ron Williams is a veteran business leader, turn-around expert, and advocate for value creation. Today he is chairman and CEO of RW2 Enterprises and also a member of the board of directors for American Express, The Boeing Company, and Johnson & Johnson.

    Ron is the former chairman and CEO of health insurance giant Aetna. When he joined Aetna in 2001, its loss from continuing operations was $292 million, with earnings per share at a loss of $0.46. In 2011, the year he stepped down as Chairman, Aetna’s full-year operating earnings were $2 billion, with operating earnings per share of $5.17.

    In this conversation, Ron shares wisdom from his book, Learning to Lead: The Journey to Leading Yourself, Leading Others, and Leading an Organization*. Ron discusses his own leadership journey and how he asked the right questions to inspire a successful turn-around at Aetna. He also shares the reason for avoiding “why” questions and the value that knowledge maps provided at Aetna.
    Key Points
    Ron’s five kinds of questions that help challenge your organization’s reality:

    Highlight key problems
    Clarify the facts
    Probe an underlying story
    Suggest alternatives
    Drill down to basics

    In addition, Ron suggested:

    Ask questions that start with “what” instead of “why.”
    Utilize knowledge maps to support business literacy for complex issues.
    Make yourself better every year by aiming for 15% improvement.

    Resources Mentioned

    Learning to Lead: The Journey to Leading Yourself, Leading Others, and Leading an Organization* by Ron Williams

    Book Notes
    Download my highlights from Learning to Lead in PDF format (free membership required).
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