For July’s Cedar Talks, we were joined by Joe Jimenez, co-founder and managing partner at Aditum Bio and former Novartis CEO. During the hour-long talk, moderated by Cedar co-founder and CEO Florian Otto, Jimenez shared the leadership insights he’s gained leading biopharma venture capital and Fortune 500 companies for decades. His top five nuggets of leadership wisdom are featured below. For the full conversation click here.
Put yourself into situations where you gain broad and unique experience from a diverse team
Jimenez points to his experience as a swimmer at Stanford as huge in terms of his forming outlook.
“I was able to really learn the value of a team and how together a group of individuals can deliver more than any one individual could have by themselves. I carried [that] with me throughout my different career path […] One of the things that I tell young people that I meet all over the world is don’t take a linear career path. Try to get as many broad experiences as you can get and experience different industries and different types of people in terms of the way that they approach problems. That diversity of experience is something that really helped me every step.”
Curious about Jimenez’s formative leadership and team building lessons? Check out 3:18 here.
Creatively apply that experience and your unique skills in new situations whenever possible—you might surprise yourself
Jimenez said that building the aforementioned broad and unique experience and working with diverse teams was instrumental in his atypical career path, particularly when he needed to move from B2B to B2C.
“While working at a consumer packaged goods company, AstraZeneca asked me to sit on their board of directors and I fell in love with it, so I tried to figure out how to get into the pharmaceutical industry […] I entered Novartis through their over-the-counter drug business. And about six months after I got there the board asked me to run the pharmaceutical division and I about fell out of my chair.
I said, ‘Look, I’m not a physician or a scientist.’ And the board said, ‘Well, we have a lot of physicians and scientists. What we don’t have is somebody who can look at the way that the world is changing and position the division to win in that new world: somebody with a consumer background or a marketing background is exactly what the division needs.’
[But] it was very interesting to see the similarities. [I was able to] bring what I learned from a very different and lower margin business into a pharmaceutical business where they had some of the [same] issues.”
Find out about how Jimenez “hacked” his way into a completely different industry and applied his skillset successfully at 5:31 here.
Understand how you’re incentivizing certain behaviors
Jimenez said his advice to anyone leading or moving up in an organization is to really understand the consequences in your organization for certain types of behavior.
“If somebody takes a risk and that risk doesn’t play out and they’re punished for that, how many people are going to take risks? They’re not, because the consequence of taking that risk was punishing. I’m not a big believer in celebrating failure, but I am a big believer in celebrating taking calculated risks that sometimes end in success.
Sometimes they end in failure, but the outcome is not as important as the fact that they took a calculated risk. If you reward that behavior you can change organizations [and their cultures]…[Ensure] the consequences of behavior—both positive and negative—are taking your company in the direction that you want to take it from a culture standpoint.”
Want to know how Jimenez fostered risk at Novartis and saved the company billions? Check out 10:12.
If you can’t hold something in your head, you won’t be able to internalize and act on it.
According to Jimenez, simplicity is critical when it comes to strategy.
“Try to distill what you want to do into a recommendation [with] three reasons why it makes sense and what your next steps are. You can usually fit it on a page. And if you can articulate that and you can hold that in your head, then you have the clarity with which you act. [That’s] much better than if you’ve got a much more elaborate and complicated solution to a particular problem where you kind of have to go back to the formula every time you’re thrown a curveball. If you’ve got it in your head and you know exactly what you’re trying to do, you can communicate it to people. It’s your compass.”
Curious about how Jimenez has used simplicity to transform companies? Click here and navigate to 21:11.
Build a team with an emotional need to deliver results
According to Jimenez an emotional need to deliver results is critical in building the best possible team (55:55).
“I’ve hired a lot of people and the best people […] all had a common trait and that’s they physically had an emotional need to deliver results–and that drove them. The way I get at that is just through behavioral interviewing to understand in their past [if] I see evidence. I think you can answer that question pretty easily, even in a Zoom meeting.”
For more on how Adtium Bio is investing in the biopharma “sweet spot,” Jimenez’s thoughts on how COVID-19 changed the pharma industry and many more leadership lessons, check out the full replay here.
Cedar Talks is a thought leadership series highlighting experienced entrepreneurs, tech innovators and healthcare leaders who are solving important problems by challenging the status quo. Recent Cedar Talks have included Zola Co-founder and CEO Shan-Lyn Ma, CareJourney President Aneesh Chopra, Affirm founder and CEO Max Levchin and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton.