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We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. That's why we’ve launched an interview series where we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better workplaces.

Ian Ziskin

Join us in our next installment below as Ian Ziskin — President, EXec EXcel Group LLC – shares his insights with us.

We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.

I have been in the Human Resources and Leadership profession for over 40 years and was very fortunate to find a career I loved very early on. 

My first 28 years were spent working in large corporations with a wide variety of roles in HR cutting across multiple industries and many geographies. I have moved 11 times during my career. 

Toward the latter part of my corporate life, I served as the Chief Human Resources Officer for two companies, most recently Northrop Grumman in the aerospace and defense industry.

A little over 12 years ago, I founded my own coaching and consulting business, EXec EXcel Group LLC, which has been a much more entrepreneurial experience. 

My business portfolio includes coaching, consulting, board advising and membership, speaking, teaching, and writing. I am the author of four books, the most recent of which was published in June 2022 called, The Secret Sauce for Leading Transformational Change. 

I really enjoy helping clients be successful and I value the flexibility I have to do what I want, when I want, where I want, and with whom I want. I am very fortunate and grateful to have had a great family and career.

If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?

My friends would say I care about them and their lives, am a good listener and advisor, that I ask good questions, and am a stickler for being on time (to the point of being annoying). They would also say that I work too much but I'm very passionate about what I do, and that I love my family, sports, movies, pretzel nuggets, and Diet Dr. Pepper.

Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?

I took my first CHRO job in the telecommunications industry a little over 20 years ago, right before the industry completed imploded. 

The company went from growing like crazy to laying off 14,000 employees almost overnight. People did not like seeing me coming, because they knew layoffs would not be far behind.

It was a very difficult and challenging time, and probably the least fun I have ever had in a job, but it also toughened me up and taught me a lot about the importance of making difficult business decisions while also treating people with dignity and respect.

What’s the most impactful lesson you've learned over your career thus far?

Find a void and fill it. There are a lot of frustrations and obstacles that remain ignored or poorly addressed. If you can solve problems for people and fix what needs fixing, people will value you and see you as a credible leader.

taking personal responsibility will help us build a better world of work with ian ziskin quote graphic

Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?

To me, building a better world of work means creating a work environment where people feel seen, heard, valued, and respected as individuals and for what they can contribute to the team and organization. 

For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?

The primary blocker to building a better world of work is poor leadership. The best leaders set a tone of trust and investment in people, listen, coach and develop, do what they say they will do, and hold others accountable to the same standards.

Poor leaders do the opposite and are the main blockers to building a better world of work.

What’s one thing within our control that we can practically do to build a better world of work today? And, how do you recommend going about it?

I believe strongly in taking personal responsibility for making things better. That is one thing we all control… how we personally contribute to making things better. 

The best way to do so is to listen to people, find what is getting in the way of them doing their jobs to the best of their ability, remove obstacles, and provide them freedom and encouragement to do great things.

I would follow Elon Musk and do the exact opposite of everything he does as a people leader.

Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?

The recent movement toward remote/hybrid work, while still emerging and being figured out, is a very positive move toward a better world of work. 

This redefinition of work and the workplace requires unprecedented levels of flexibility and trust. I see that as a very positive trend.

I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?

I would follow Elon Musk and do the exact opposite of everything he does as a people leader.

He seems to be a visionary inventor who has absolutely no common sense about what it takes to lead people or build a better world of work.

How can our readers follow your work? and

Thank you for adding your voice to People Managing People’s interview series on How to Build a Better World of Work!

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By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.