Why disruption isn’t always a bad thing
CPG executives discussed the best way to fight off disruption during at a panel discussion moderated by Dan Mack, executive director of the Mack Elevation Forum, at the Future Leaders Summit.
One of the biggest challenges facing companies in the last several years has been the near-constant rate of business disruption. Changing consumer attitudes and delivery methods are upending countless industry sectors and businesses. A recent panel discussion of CPG executives — including Ansell VP marketing North America Carol Carrozza, Paris Presents chief customer officer Bob Wiltz, GSK Consumer Health Care chief customer officer Dennis Curran and Blistex VP U.S. and Canada Kevin Brunory — outlined how their companies are adapting to the new normal of constant change and upheaval.
(Click here to view the complete Future Leaders Summit report.)
“Every five to seven years, industries get flipped,” explained moderator Dan Mack, founder and executive director of the Mack Elevation Forum, setting the table for the discussion. “You have to be really good at facing challenges; you have to love reinventing yourself.”
For Ansell, since its target audience tends to shift every several years, the company is constantly spurred to innovate in the categories they compete in. “I deal with so much of this [because] every five to seven years my customer ages out, so I constantly have to reinvent and rethink,” Carrozza said.
According to Carrozza, the changing CPG landscape allows not just for new solutions, but also creates the opportunity to reinvent and retry programs and initiatives that may have been unsuccessful in the past, as technology and con sumer attitudes change. “One of the things that I’ve discovered … is that what didn’t work 15 years ago may work today,” she said. Carrozza pointed to Ansell’s recent launch of an e-commerce site for its condom business, which previously hadn’t taken off, given that most purchases in the space were what she called “distress purchases,” made at the last minute in a brick-and-mortar store. Now, though, e-commerce has been “magnificently successful” for the brand, she said.
One of the key ways companies can stay ahead of disruption — as their competitors fall behind — is by anticipating future shopper attitudes and needs.
“We’re actually spending a lot of time thinking about what 2025 looks like from a portfolio perspective, where we should be playing, any of the emerging trends,” GSK’s Curran said. “We’re [testing a lot of] different technologies to figure out how we can better [engage] with consumers, and we’re trying to fast-track them.”
Besides the consumer-facing parts of an organization, Curran noted that looking to the future also means changing the way that organizations develop talent internally.
“As I look at the organization and think about talent in the future, for a sales organization, I think the days of just being a good sales person are over,” Curran said. “I would tell you becoming a general manager and having an understanding of all the functions — and a somewhat deep understanding, not to be the expert, but to understand what makes them tick — is really important. The other element is collaboration, not just across your internal organization, but how we’re partnering with our retail partners.”
Growing amid constant disruption also can mean understanding what is working with current practices and building on that, while also building a new generation of talent that contributes to a business’ ability to adapt by fostering growth among employees who show promise.
“When I think about disruption, … the first challenge is ‘What do I believe is my competitive advantage?’” said Paris Presents’ Wiltz. “I break that down and ask ‘What’s rare, valuable, sustainable [and] can’t easily be replicated?’”
According to Wiltz, that typically boils down to two factors — technology and people. “On the people side, [you have to ask yourself,] ‘Who are my high potentials?’ First I want to align with their career plans. … The second thing is to make sure that I’m investing in them, surrounding them with other high potentials and always make myself available to them.”
And though much of the discussion revolved around how to avoid disruption, Blistex’s Brunory said that his company is embracing it and looking to bring its own bit of “positive disruption.”
“Any time you’re asking someone to do something they’re not used to doing, … it’s disruptive. … Disruption [is] really not a bad word,” he said. According to Brunory, Blistex spends a lot of time trying to make positive disruption happen. “You’ve got to find a way to build positive disruption so that it creates momentum that you can use to build new best practices. As we create new ways to do things and we solve issues together, we seek ways within a business planning cycle — quietly on our own and then with our partners — to find a way to ask ‘What’s the next area of momentum for our categories and for our business relationships?’ Positive disruption is what fuels the innovation that makes growth happen.”
Can your company pass the EQ test?
CPG executives each discussed their companies’ efforts to recruit and develop high emotional intelligence during a panel discussion moderated by Dan Mack, executive director of the Mack Elevation Forum, at the Future Leaders Summit.
For a sales and marketing team operating in the retail space to be truly successful today, team members need to have a high EQ — the emotional equivalent to IQ.
(Click here to view the complete Future Leaders Summit report.)
That was the key takeaway from a panel discussion among leading CPG executives — including, Todd Hutsko, VP sales at Fleet Labs; Nick Rini, VP global sales at i-Health; Kevin Garvey, director of sales for the Target team at Pfizer Consumer Healthcare; and Andrew Archambault, chief customer officer at U.S. Nutrition-NBTY — about what their companies are doing both to recruit and develop high emotional intelligence in their organizations.
“The data is wildly telling. People who demonstrate high emotional intelligence have a 58% higher success rate in every job there is — high tech, medicine, everything. It’s that powerful,” noted Mack Elevation Forum executive director Dan Mack and co-host and moderator of the May 24 Future Leaders Summit.
“One of the things I look for in people to join our team, is how much they talk about their performance in terms of what they did with others versus how much they talk about what they know,” said U.S. Nutrition’s Archambault.
For Pfizer Consumer Healthcare’s Garvey, “it all comes back to interest and passion,” he said. “That’s when you link it all together, when you connect those basic business competencies that we all have with energizing someone [around] purpose, passion and interest.”
“The most important thing is someone who has a passion for continuous improvement,” added Fleet’s Hutsko. “Someone willing to listen, willing to ask questions, willing to not have the answers; someone who wants to be better, wants to do what it takes. What’s going to stop [my] team from being the best it can be? That’s me. What can I do to support them and help make them better? [EQ] is the multiplier. Twenty-five percent of your success comes from IQ, 75%[comes from] EQ.”
Turning the lens inward, Mack asked the panel the types of EQ-related leadership skills that they are trying to develop within themselves.
“We have a saying within the team: ‘Feedback is a gift — both good and bad,’” said i-Health’s Rini. “Real-time feedback is critically important. So not only praise what we do well, but more importantly, what is it that we need to work on. … That goes all the way up the organization; in our organization, rank doesn’t have a privilege.”
At Fleet, not only do titles and roles not carry any special privilege, the company has done away with conventional business titles altogether. “We don’t use roles in our organization, and that’s really important because now I’ve got five coaches on my leadership team instead of five direct reports,” Hutsko explained.
In fact for Fleet, EQ has become synonymous with company culture. “If you have high EQ and you’re not worried about a title, and you’re very focused with a purpose — everyone’s rowing in the same direction — EQ is just an abbreviation for good culture,” Hutsko said.
Archambault believes he was fortunate enough to have mentors who put him in a number of different roles early on in his career to help him “understand the things you don’t know,” have the freedom to fail and to learn from it.
“The other piece [is], you’ve got to be really comfortable putting people on your team who are very different from you,” he added. Borrowing a lesson from famed hockey coach Herb Brooks, who led the 1980 U.S. “Miracle” Olympic team to gold, “I’m not looking for the best ones, I’m looking for the right ones,” Archambault said.
According to Garvey, at Pfizer there are really three critical factors that help foster happiness and create work-life balance for people at the company.
“The first is my job — what I’m doing,” Garvey said. “Does it provide meaning for me or drive something creative in my soul? Meaning and creativity are main drivers for us. The second — and this plays even more so with millennials — it’s relationships, interconnectivity with people. We all have individual jobs, but we can’t do them alone. And the final thing is — and I’m passionate about this — that work is going to change; life is going to change, we’re all going to have different challenges that affect us. But it all comes back to an EQ skill — being able to choose your attitude.”
Harnessing the strength of a knowledge organization
Michelle Gloeckler, Walmart EVP consumables and health and wellness
The people within a large company can be one of a leader’s biggest assets when it comes to solving problems and growing the business — if only you listen to your associates and stick to a core set of principles that guide all your interactions. This was the thrust of Walmart EVP consumables and health and wellness Michelle Gloeckler’s talk, “Harnessing a Knowledge Organization,” in May at the Future Leaders Summit, co-hosted by Drug Store News and Mack Elevation Forum.
(Click here to view the complete Future Leaders Summit report.)
It’s among the important lessons handed down from Walmart founder Sam Walton — this idea that large companies are only as strong as the people, knowledge and expertise that exists within them. “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say. It’s terribly important for everyone to get involved,” Walton once said.
But Gloeckler admitted that today, at organizations as large as Walmart with its 2.3 million global employees — including 1.4 million in the United States — listening to associates at the same level of granularity as Walton once did might seem impossible. But rather than be daunted by the idea of trying to talk to millions of associates, you can begin the process by identifying areas of diversity and understanding what people representing smaller groups can bring to the table, she said. By way of example, Gloeckler introduced attendees to a handful of key Walmart associates — including VP Walmart Care Clinics Sandy Ryan, chief medical officer Daniel Stein and support manager Daronn Gommer, who was homeless before starting a career at Walmart — to highlight how people from different backgrounds, areas of education and experience, and the roles they each play, can help bridge the knowledge and expertise that exists across a company the size of Walmart.
“This is the scope of associates that we have, and when you think about the challenge of harnessing a knowledge organization and listening to your people — the number isn’t the thing, it’s the vast experience and the vast life story that each of these individuals brings to work every day,” Gloeckler said.
Engagement and listening begin, Gloeckler explained, with four key factors that should inform all interactions — humility, self-motivation, confidence and the ability to filter risk. Gloeckler noted that humility was a necessary component of working with her team to find a solution to a problem in Walmart’s pharmacy business — an area in which she admittedly lacks knowledge, as she’s never been a pharmacist.
“The humble thing that the team and I had to do was to come together regardless of titles, put the common goal on the table and then work as a team,” Gloeckler said. “Being humble is about recognizing that you don’t have to have all the answers, and to be so bold as to be able to say to a group of your own associates, or your peers — or your leader — ‘I don’t know.’”
On the subject of self-motivation, Gloeckler shared a rather personal example, recalling her own modest, working-class Michigan roots, which fed her drive to work hard and succeed at an early age, graduating a semester early from college.
Another powerful example of self-motivation for Gloeckler is Gommer, the St. Louis-based Walmart support manager, who was homeless with two daughters before he joined the company. Gommer, in a profile from a local newspaper that Gloeckler read aloud, told the paper he used his situation and the difficulty of working while staying with different friends and trying to raise his kids as a motivator.
“I think about the different ways people are motivated, and that has to come from within; it has to be something that you believe in,” Gloeckler said. “In order to get the most out of any organization, you have to know your own self-motivation.”
Ironically, when she thinks about confidence, Gloeckler reflects on Michael Jordan’s career — not his six-time NBA championship career, but his otherwise lackluster baseball career, spent largely in the minor leagues. Confidence, she explained, goes hand-in-hand with humility; it is “the willingness to say you don’t know, to take a role you may not have experience in, and be humble enough to leverage the organization around you to find success.”
Finally, Gloeckler stressed the critical importance of a strong risk-filter to the leaders of today and tomorrow — the ability to know when people might be going too far and when you need to guide them back — and left attendees with a call to action.
“Think about a risky decision that’s on your plate right now. Who in your organization that you have not already reached out to might have had a similar experience or might have information that you need?” she said. “I [think about the] 1.4 million [U.S.] associates we have at Walmart — what a blessing that we have access to that many associates; what a shame if we aren’t able to connect with them and hear them.”