Taking five with Jeanne Johns

Jeanne Johns onsite dressed in hi vis workwear

Rebecca Gundalech, 20 February, 2019

A global executive and chemical engineer with more than 25 years’ experience, Jeanne Johns was appointed Managing Director and CEO of the ASX 100 company Incitec Pivot in 2017.

Incitec Pivot is a global leader in the resources and agricultural sectors, with an annual turnover of more than $3.6 billion. It is a major force in the Australian industrial explosives market and is Australia’s largest supplier of fertilisers with manufacturing operations throughout the world. 

What has been your career highlight to date?

Throughout my career I have been blessed with a wide range of enjoyable opportunities, leading diverse people in challenging businesses, operating in multiple countries. Each role has been special to me with its own unique mix of opportunities to connect, learn, develop and deepen my experience base. The unifying factor across all my various roles, however, is an underlying challenge of delivering extraordinary business results through bringing out the best in the people you lead. That requires inspiring people to engage and apply their skills to improve the business and to likewise ensure that the organization is receptive and encourages this. My most rewarding experiences have been when I successfully created, aligned and mobilised great teams of people and empowered them to achieve things beyond what they thought was possible.

One example I will share was in the aftermath of BP’s Deepwater Horizon accident. I became the head of the global downstream safety and operational risk organization to lead the cultural safety and risk transformation to restore the confidence – of both internal and external stakeholders – in BP’s ability to operate highly hazardous operations safely and reliably. It is fair to say that, internally, the employees were both shell-shocked about the disaster, as well as apprehensive and sceptical about how a new organisation would drive this transformation. We needed to pull together some key people, define the new organisation’s purpose, design it and the processes under which it would operate – all while creating a collaborative partnership with the business. Whilst this was an extremely challenging environment, it was an extraordinary opportunity and rewarding to deliver an outstanding result on something that was so important.

What leadership values are important to you?

My leadership values are simple – respect, trust and collaboration. They stem from my core belief that we can achieve so much more when working together as aligned and motivated teams, as opposed to individuals. Being part of a winning team is much better – and more successful – than being on a team of winners. Without respecting our different perspectives and building an environment of trust, we cannot collaborate around creating and delivering innovative solutions to the constantly changing business challenges we face.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Incitec Pivot Limited (IPL) today?

IPL’s biggest challenge is how we prioritise what we choose to take on – how we spend time and money to create value. There are so many great opportunities out there, with an equal number of business challenges to address which means prioritisation is critical. As a leader, it is important to stand back from the day to day issues to get the necessary perspective and ensure that you and those that you lead are focussed on the right things at the right time.

What excites you about the future of your industry?

I believe our industry has a great future. It underpins the two key building blocks of modern day society. It supports the growing of crops that feed the world and the extraction of natural resources to build the infrastructure needed for everyday living.

What excites me is how our industry is continually evolving and technology is improving which provides us with the opportunity to keep innovating with our customers to deliver better results and outcomes.

Can you give us a sneak preview of what you will speak about at the QUT Business Leaders’ Forum?

We are living in extraordinary times right now, in fact, some of the most prosperous and peaceful times in history, yet there is no shortage of concerns and challenges facing us. Whether that be sustainability, technological advances or ensuring the perceived fairness of globalisation. I hope to start a conversation about our role as business leaders in embracing and addressing these changes.

Jeanne Johns will join us for the QUT Business Leaders’ Forum on Tuesday 12 March 2019. To find out more, visit the QUT Business Leaders’ Forum.

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Rebecca Gundalech

Rebecca Gundalech

Events & Engagement Officer, QUT Business School.

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