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File Away These Leadership Tips From H&R Block CEO Jeff Jones

Headshot of H&R Block CEO Jeff Jones
Corporate Competitor Podcast
In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, H&R Block president and CEO Jeff Jones shares the single greatest contribution a leader can make to an organization. 

Level set: Jeff Jones had never done his own taxes. So when a recruiter called and told him about the position as CEO of H&R Block, his response was, “Are you sure you have the right Jeff Jones?” 

But while Jones knew nothing about taxes, he knew a great deal about leadership, having provided it to such brands as Gap, Target and Uber before getting the curious call about H&R Block.

His varied experiences allowed him to realize that the most important gift he has is the ability to ask the right questions. As Jones says on the podcast, he didn’t enter any job with a playbook—instead, he entered it “with a question book.”

“There’s a belief that to be in leadership roles, you have to have a certain approach and personality. The thing I’ve learned is, the higher up you go, in fact, the very less you know about all the details of the business,” he explains. The best way to succeed as a top leader “is to surround yourself with a great team, and be an incredible student and curious.” 

The quality and impact of your leadership, explains Jones, is equal to the quality of the questions you can ask about what could be done to make your organization stronger. This mindset can only come about when the leader focuses on the long-term strategic direction of the organization—and leaves the day-to-day to an able team.

While Jones doesn’t do his own taxes, he does “file” many useful insights and practical tips in the podcast that any leader can adopt to any organization, whether the firm has 60 people or a number closer to the 60,000 global tax professionals Jones leads at H&R Block. These lessons include:

• How to frame questions that are “provocative” but also productive rather than aggressive or alienating. 

• How to rescue an unproductive meeting by figuratively getting everyone on your leadership “out on the balcony” to get some distance on what’s going sideways.

• The important difference between the “failing fast” and “learning more” mindsets.

Jones doesn’t have much interest in the popular concept of failing fast. He greatly prefers to focus on learning more. A former baseball catcher and lifelong student of legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s leadership, Jones says, “People don’t walk around looking for ways to fail, right? If you know that failing is inevitable but that learning is the goal, then each time something happens, you have an opportunity to do something with it.”  

For more episodes of Corporate Competitor Podcast with guests including Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, MasterClass CEO David Rogier, and Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian click here!


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