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Episode 29: Seizing the Opportunity of Uncertainty with Kim Davis


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It is natural for us to want to bet on a “sure thing,” but as we know, life is full of uncertainty.  During this episode, Kim Davis, one of my favorite mentors, shares how to embrace uncertainty as an opportunity and deliver value at the highest levels.

Kim Davis is the Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs at the National Hockey League (NHL).  Prior to the NHL, she served as a Senior Managing Director at Teneo and served as President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation (fifth-largest corporate foundation in the world).


Topics Covered:

02:00 – James recalls how Kim helped him in his career at JPMorgan Chase

03:01 – Kim narrates the various roles she took throughout her professional career

05:14 – Kim shares the lessons she learned after going through nine mergers and acquisitions in JPMorgan Chase

06:47 – Leaving the role as President of JPMorgan Chase Foundation and how difficult it was

08:17 – Kim shares why she is proud of the fellowship program she initiated

09:37 – Looking back on her childhood and college years when she was molded for excellence and be proud of her authentic self as a black woman

11:59 – James recounts an event where Kim and another colleague provided  him valuable feedback on his career

14:58 – How Kim ended up working in the National Hockey League (NHL)

18:26 – What her grandmother taught her on something that exists, but she needs to hurdle

20:10 – Kim’s preconceived notions of what the NHL was about

23:52 – The three major categories of barriers to entering hockey.

27:19 – Why she focuses on the integration of employees and communities as part of the business model

31:45 – Showcasing value creation

33:03 – Kim tells what she is most excited about in her role in NHL

35:54 – The one thing that people don’t know about Kim

37:38 – The advice she would give to her 20-year old self

38:45 – James recaps his learnings on this interview


Key Takeaways: 

“I guess the biggest lesson was that the one thing you can count on is change. I think that I learned that I actually enjoy change.” – Kim Davis

“In all honesty, I think any of us, as professionals, particularly when we get to senior roles in an organization, have to constantly check ourselves to make sure that we aren’t beginning to define ourselves by the position that we have. And I’ve been very self-actualized for many years around that notion and constantly checking myself to make sure that the job didn’t define me, that I defined the job. And so, I always understood that there was a season for everything and there is a season for everything. And so, taking that role in a way I’m transforming the role of the foundation.  And use the foundation as a catalyst to really show the heart of the organization. I knew that was a window of opportunity that I had to jump in and jump in fast and hard because that window would close.”– Kim Davis

“What it speaks to is this idea that my grandmother taught me years ago.  And that is this notion of fear and what we have to do with fear. And she would say to me that fear is something that you live with every day.  Don’t deny it, and don’t be in fear of fear. But understand that it exists and that despite its existence, you have to be hurdling it constantly. You have to stand above it constantly. You have to move away from it constantly.  And so, the first part of moving away from fear is to acknowledge distance.” – Kim Davis

“The integration of employees and communities as part of the business model is something that I’ve always been focused on even when I was in the Profit and Loss role.  Because I always felt like those are two stakeholder groups that are typically ignored by organizations. And they ultimately end up being the most important stakeholders because one, your greatest brand ambassadors are always your employees. And to the extent that employees feel good about the organization they work for and filling gauged, they’re going to be the best sales force you could ever have. And so that investment, it’s something that I talked about 25 years ago before it was popular. And now that has become really popular in organizations.  Communities are important because we’ve often only thought of communities within a corporate context as receivers and not givers. We haven’t thought about our communities and those leaders in communities as influencers, as those that could help rally organizations around important causes that the organization was trying to accomplish, including those that have financial gains.” – Kim Davis

“Life is going to be an absolute series of journeys, not one journey, but for sure, not an event. And that you have to pace yourself.  Always remember this, stay true to who you are and be authentic. Allow that authenticity to shine through, which means you have to show vulnerability.  And I’ve learned that over the years, the greatest way to build trust, to earn the trust of people is to show vulnerability. And I’ve been honored to share that with many people, both in my personal networks as well as my professional network.  And to live to enjoy life, and to take advantage of every single moment, and to think of each day as the first day of the rest of your life.


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Full Biography of Kim Davis

Kimberly Davis joined the National Hockey League as Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs in December 2017. In this newly created role, she reports to Commissioner Gary Bettman in leading the League’s efforts to increase fandom, value creation and growth through increased youth participation, social impact and outreach to new and underrepresented audiences in the sport.

“Kim’s professional experience uniquely qualifies her to ensure that our League is growing the game of hockey by demonstrating the leadership principles and values in communities and with all stakeholders that can ultimately lead to new and increased fandom,” said Commissioner Bettman.

A highly respected leader in the corporate and philanthropic community, Ms Davis joined the NHL from leading CEO-advisory firm Teneo. As a Senior Managing Director, she built and ran the firm’s Corporate Responsibility and Inclusive Leadership practice, where she advised CEOs and Fortune 500 companies. One of the highlights of her four years at Teneo was advising the legendary tennis icon Billie Jean King on the creation of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative – a partnership with CEOs to advance gender diversity and pay equity in Fortune 500 companies.

Prior to Teneo, Ms Davis enjoyed a 20-plus year career at JPMorgan Chase where she most recently served as Managing Director of Global Corporate Social Responsibility, President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation (fifth-largest corporate foundation in the world) and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. Her responsibilities included leading and managing approximately $300 million in annual giving, employee and civic engagement, and corporate sponsorship programs. During her JPMC career, she was involved in many of the company’s major strategic and operational decisions, specifically regarding culture change, leadership and talent management.

Ms Davis has been recognized this year as one of Hockey News’ “Top 100 Most Influential Leaders in the sport.  She has received other notable recognitions including Savoy Magazine’s “2018 Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America, showcased in Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and the Business Journal’s 100 Most Influential Women. In 2012, she was profiled with First Lady Michelle Obama in Essence magazine’s “28 Most Influential Black Women in America.” She has been a featured keynote speaker at numerous corporate events, conferences, colleges and universities.

Kim currently serves on the boards of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), Bank of NY Mellon Foundation and Communities in Schools (National). She is a former Trustee of Spelman College and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Institute.

Davis earned a B.A. in Economics from Spelman College and has completed the Aspen Institute Executive Leadership Program and the Stamford Executive E-learning Program.

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