JLL CIO Edward Wagoner on leading change

Feb 16, 2022
CIODigital TransformationIT Leadership

What worked in the past isn’t going to work in the future, says Wagoner. His advice: engage and welcome the different ways of thinking that are so critical for transformation.

Edward Wagoner is the CIO for Digital at JLL Technologies, one of the world’s leading real estate and investment management firms with annual revenue of $16.5 billion, operations in over 80 countries, and a global workforce of more than 90,000 people. 

A 25-year technology veteran at JLL, Wagoner previously served as the company’s Global CIO for Corporate Solutions, and before that as CIO for its Americas Region.’s Maryfran Johnson sat down with Wagoner on a recent episode of CIO Leadership Live to discuss  creating workplaces that draw people in, how he engineered the pivot into his new role, and how he creates space for change.

Following are edited excerpts of that conversation. For more of Wagoner’s insights, watch the full interview embedded below.

On the return to office:

Real estate has been a slow adopter of technology, but there were trends that were starting pre-pandemic, they’ve just accelerated because of the pandemic. 

The office is one place where many people feel like they’ve been forced, or they’ve not had a great experience.  When we create that good experience that draws people in, then when people choose to come in or when they need to come to collaborate, to socialize, for training, or maybe to just get out of the house, that great experience will draw [them] in.

But when you drill into it about how people work, about different situations and opportunities, what you find out is people really want the flexibility and the choice.  They will come back for the right reasons. 

On the CIO as change agent:  

I think I have a unique perspective, because I went through a personal and professional transformation right before the pandemic.  And I think a lot of us may say, “I like change” or “I embrace change.”  But I think most people that say that, they like controlled change, they like change that they’re initiating. 

[JLL has] never been better positioned like we are today to meet the challenges and the opportunities for technology in our industry.  But I have to say if it had been left up just to me, we would not be transformed the way we are now.

I was inspired by a speech by H. James Dallas, who’s the retired CIO for Georgia-Pacific, who talked about the different ways that you can manage change in your company.  He said CIOs need to be agents of change.  And he said, the single best way to lead change is to break glass on yourself.  I went back and said, “I’ve got to change.  I’m not sure what that is.  The team needs to change.  We’ve been very successful over 25 years, but we would probably build it a little differently.” 

On playing to your strengths:

Now, for me personally, the strength feedback [from my executive coaching] was across the board that I had this ability to take technical concepts and explain it to businesspeople and real estate people in a non-threatening way. 

So [my new] role initially was to go out and talk to our clients about the acquisitions we had made, the new technology capabilities.  I was on my way to my first keynote with a client to talk about this when the world shut down.  And so pretty quickly [the role became even more externally focused]. It was Could you talk to this media?  Could you talk to this group?  Can you talk to this big company that wants to understand what we’re thinking? 

And so, I think my message to a lot of people is to be right time, right place.  You’ve got to engage with some of those changes and coaching and play to your strengths.  I think as CIOs, quite often we get pulled into operations, we get pulled into the task of the day.  And being able to be freed up from some of that, with the right people that are towering strengths in that area where I’m not allows me to play better to my strength.

On embracing the outsider’s view:

It’s always challenging when you’ve been with a company for so long and been so successful to have a new person come in and say, “Why are you doing it this way?”  And as they start asking questions, you realize they’re about to tell you there’s a better way, because of their background and experience. 

We’ve brought in a lot [of] Silicon Valley people [who] don’t know anything about real estate.  Well, that’s okay.  I do.  They know a lot about different ways of thinking, different technologies. 

And so having this external talent to come in, that is going to think differently, and engaging that and welcoming that is so critical to that transformative thinking. 

On adopting a future-focused mindset:

In IT, I think so often we get the “It works, I don’t want any problems.”  Think about the classic help desk.  Make the problem go away, keep the data center up.  And all of those are important.  But we also need to challenge ourselves to think out of the box. 

We need to challenge ourselves that what worked really, really well a year ago, two years ago, is not going to work really, really well in the future, especially in the real estate industry, which had been slow to adopt technologies.  And now the trend has accelerated and the impacts.