The Leader Magazine

MAR 2018

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t H e le A de R MARCH 2018 49 How long have you been at G s K? a nd how long have you been in corporate real estate (C re )? I've been with GSK, including its legacy companies, for 26 years, working in some version of facility operations, services or real estate. I've had opportunities to work as a designer, a site leader, and a project manager. I've also been fortunate to have the chance to build, from the ground up, departments in real estate and strategic and capital planning. What do you see as your biggest accomplishment? Starting in 2002, we began rethinking the way we provided real estate and space to our company's teams. We created our workspace brand, SMART Working, which is all about providing a variety of workspaces to teams, not individuals. By doing that, we radically increased the effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility of our spaces. About 90 percent of our population say this is a vast improvement. This is probably my biggest accomplishment, and one that's had the most impact for the company. SMART Working allows us to move fast, reduce our real estate footprint, and save money for the businesses. We are 75 percent through the process of innovating our scientific laboratory settings and early indications from our scientists show a highly energized and receptive customer base. Christian b igsby Senior Vice President of Worldwide Real Estate and Facilities GSK What's one of your favorite quotes? My favorite quote comes from a childhood friend's father, back when I was a little kid playing baseball: "Never give authority to anyone who wants it." It was in reference to a very power-hungry coach for another team. It's a great statement because you should give leadership roles to people who want to have an impact, who want to make a difference, and who have more noble ambitions. The last thing you want to do is give authority to someone simply because they want authority. If scope and power is someone's motivation, it's a flashing red light to me. What is the last book you read? I have a tendency to read five books all at the same time, which is why it takes me a year to get through all of them. My most recent "completion" was "Valiant Ambition," by Nathaniel Philbrick. It's the whole story behind what created Benedict Arnold's turn. It's a fascinating story, and it's not quite as simple as what we learned about this man in grade school. The bigger point is that there are often multiple versions of the truth, and multiple levels of detail, that we need to know before attempting to pass judgment on someone else. History is funny like that; historic facts never change, but the narrative and context always evolve. People would be surprised to know that. . . When my wife was in vet school, I built custom furniture on the side to help make ends meet. In about 1998, I built a writing desk for Nicholas Dawidoff, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and The New York Times best-selling author. He wrote "The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg." It's a biography about a catcher in the big leagues who worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. Nicky is a remarkable writer with a passion for history that is utterly infectious. I wonder if he still uses my desk? What was the best advice you ever received? One of my mentors in the company, Nancy Marsh, once told me that whenever you're managing through difficult circumstances, you CORPORATE PARTNER PROFILE should "always go to the scary place first." It's a difficult challenge to stick to but rewarding if you have tough decisions to make or an uncomfortable situation to address. If you go there first, it makes everything else seem easy. i f not in C re , what would you be? I would probably be in construction or working as a chef. When I was 6 years old, I began cooking and still consider it one of life's greatest escapes. What is your favorite pastime? My two favorite things to do are downhill skiing and cooking. What do you want your legacy to be? I am not a big fan of legacies. They can be a bit self-serving. What I am interested in is this: when I leave, and as people look back, how do they remember me? I hope I am remembered as the "people's candidate," or the people's leader. Nearly every stress I've encountered over the last 10 years has been trying to do best by my teams, and I've always tried to run a non- hierarchical operation: very open and candid. t ell us about your family. I have been with my wife since I was 20 years old, when we were in college together. We've been married for 24 years, and we have two children. Our 14-year-old daughter is a musician, athlete and student. Our son, who has Down syndrome and autism, is 12. He has about 30 medals from competing in gymnastics here in North Carolina in the Special Olympics. My wife is a veterinarian, so you can imagine we have a house full of pets. My family keeps me grounded. It's good to have someone who knew you in the pre-formative years – there's no pretending or posing with my wife. To learn more about the CoreNet Global Corporate Partner program, contact David Vining at

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