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Cheryl Krueger – Passion for Excellence

Cheryl Krueger, Founder of Cheryl & Co, provides the finest baked cookies and desserts in gift packaging, was a featured speaker as part of the TechColumbus 2011 Leadership Series sponsored by Vorys.  This series was designed in a conversational format to create the greatest interest and value for senior company leaders. Veteran “business builders” share their philosophies and best business practices in an open, interactive setting.   As Cheryl shared her story, it was clear why she had been able to start and scale a successful business making and selling cookies and gourmet baked goods.

Cheryl connected her passion for cooking to her childhood experience with helping her grandmother cook and give cookies as holiday gifts.  After graduating from college, she worked for a retail chain, followed by the Limited where she worked for a focused entrepreneur, Les Wexner, who developed/guided her keen awareness for detail.  She left after 6 years and started Cheryl’s Cookies in 1981.  Her reasons for starting a business were to:

  • control of her schedule
  • influence strategy including brand positioning/image and product assortment
  • earn more money; get paid for her work

Cheryl talked about six key success factors in running and scaling a world class business:

  • Vision – “People who can see the invisible can do the impossible.” 
  • Innovate – you must innovate to stay in business
  • Financial discipline
  • Take advantage of government programs
  • Understand the risks
  • Care for your customers

In listening to her, she seemed very clear that no one element drove her success but rather the combination of doing everything well.  She created a system (business model) that operated impeccably.  She was committed to employee morale and engagement as a key enabler to deliver the customer experience she expected in every interaction.

While her entire talk was interesting, a few things really stood out to me.  She was passionate about the company, about her vision, innovation and customer service. Her company was the first to offer individually wrapped cookies which had several benefits including flavor preservation and allowed the cookies to arrive intact.  As a consumer, I had not given packaging any thought.  In her discussion it was clear that the packaging was an important innovation that was unique to Cheryl’s and created a competitive advantage and also ensured a better customer experience.

What stood out most was her militant focus on customer care.  She talked about reading and signing over 8,000 customer letters per year (as the CEO).  She signed them personally.  She talked about learning about her business and the impact her decisions had on the customer.   She told a story of how she dealt with one customer complaint.  The story went something like this:

  • Customer we will call Jill came in and purchased a $20 tin of cookies and asked for a card saying:  “Tim, thanks for saving my ass”.
  • Customer paid for the cookies and took the card and cookies to Tim.
  • Customer called Cheryl indicating the card said “thanks for shaving my ass” – Jill was humiliated and said she would not do business with them ever again
  • Cheryl first apologized for the mistake – saying this should never have happened
  • Cheryl sent a letter to Tim apologizing and sent a copy to Jill the same day
  • Cheryl sent a $100 tin of cookies to both Jill and Tim
  • Cheryl followed up with a phone call personally to Tim
  • Cheryl sent a $100 gift certificate to both Jill and Tim
  • Tim called Jill to thank her for doing business with such a responsive company
  • Jill who swore she would never do business with Cheryl’s called to thank Cheryl personally
  • Tim placed an order with Cheryl’s 4 months later for $5,000

She told other stories about how employees demonstrated the same level of commitment to customer service.

Cheryl talked about her values and commitments and she demonstrated them with all of her actions.  From the presentation, I was left with a clear sense of who she is and that her personal behavior matched the values she discussed.  Additionally, she created a corporate culture, systems, processes, compensation plans, and organizational structure that delivered an experience to employees and customers that is consistent with her values.

Are you clear about your values?  Do you demonstrate those values by the way you act?  What you measure?  What you reinforce?  The company systems and processes you create?  Where can you improve your alignment?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Building Resilient Leaders – Part 2

Fulfill Life Purpose While Living Your Values

Having a strong sense of life purposeand aligning your activities with that purpose creates a strong foundation for wellbeing.  Emotional intelligence accounts for 85-90% of the difference between outstanding leaders and their more average peers. Emotional intelligence is a major factor in accomplishing life purpose.  Key areas of focus:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

I have been working with several clients using the Enneagram to develop more insight about their personalities.  This tool helped one client identify why she is struggling in her leadership role.  She is focused on achieving (an overdone strength).  Her need to achieve overshadows her ability to work well with others.  When she became more aware of this quality, she began taking more time to work with her team members, remembering to slow down and take a few minutes to talk to them as people that she actually likes.  The team has responded very well.  Over the past year of using this awareness practice, she has seen her team productivity improve and her relationship with the team members improve.  Over this time, the entire team is more engaged and productive.

Keys to purpose and emotional resilience: Have a clear life purpose, develop skills in self-management, and appreciate and work with your emotions regularly.

Harness the Power of Connection

The ability to interact with other people with awareness, empathy, and skillfulness and to experience closeness is vital in building resilience.  Keys to connection: invest time in key relationships and build the necessary skills to relate with others such as communication and empathy. Interpersonal skills include the ability to interact with other people with awareness, empathy, and skillfulness.  Ideally, using interpersonal skills translates to empathic understanding to engage the strengths and energy of business relationships, at every level within the organization, as well as with customers and suppliers.

Accoding to Gallup “Those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1 in 12 chance of being engaged.  Social relationships at work have also been shown to boost employee retention, safety, work quality and customer engagement.”  This research represents a significant shift in views of friendships at work and the importance of developing strong connections, yet the research is clear – investing the time in connection improves our work and our work environment.

I will be speaking at the ASQ Conference as the keynote speaker about Building Leadership Resilience.  If you are interested, please click the link.

Photocredit:  Power of connection David Boyle

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

James Cameron at World Business Forum 2010 – The power of Innovation, Creativity and Passion

James Cameron is a renowned film writer, producer and director whose films have blazed new trails in visual effects and set numerous performance records both domestically and abroad.  He shared his experience of creating the block buster movie Avatar at World Business Forum 2010.

His story illustrates many of the points that speakers over the past 2 days have made.  Leaders in their fields across multiple industries tell a very similar story.  To name just a couple of the common threads, AG Lafley from P&G talked about the importance of curiosity, openness and collaborating and  Jack Welsh talked about fielding the best talent and how fear was an ineffective management tool.   Following are 5 points from James Cameron’s presentation.

1. Be curious and open to learning.  “Curiosity is the most important thing we have – we pursue avenues for things we do not know what the pay off will be.”  I will thrust myself into any situation where I think I can learn.

2.  Collaboration is a dynamic process.  Each group has a role in making the movie come to life, the designers, the actors, the writers and the editors.  The film takes on a new life in each stage of the process with the expansion of the team.

3. People empower you to lead. Leadership can be learned.  Dictatorial style is not as good as an encouraging style.  Be firm and in charge but not authoritarian.  Leadership skills that were not innate could be learned.  To be a good leader you get the best out of people by respecting them.  You have to be analytical and critical of yourself as a leader, and always be open to learning.

4. Your personal passion gets you a long way.  Passion is a strong motivator for others, they can see your vision and feel that you will accomplish it.

5.  Timing is critical in innovation.  Innovation is like riding a wave,  don’t create the wave, harness the energy it’s building.  Commit to what you are trying to create.  Too much study causes opportunities to pass you by and premature launch can also lead to failure.

So as we look at Avatar and the new and innovative techniques used to create this movie and the passion that allowed the team to stay together and make it happen, we may wonder how to translate this message to our personal and professional lives.  I propose a few questions that I will be thinking about as take aways.  What am I passionate about in my work and in my community?  What am I curious about?  How can I combine curiosity and passion to spark innovation in my work?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

What are the 5 key elements that drive effective Leadership in 2010 and beyond?

Leadership defined We talk a lot about ‘transformational leadership’ as being the kind of leadership necessary to transform organizations but the term is still not commonly understood.  In this post we talk about the key components to consider when discussing, assessing and developing leaders.

Based on years of research, consulting, and coaching, we have developed a model identifying five key elements that work together to deliver exceptional results.  A leader who can effectively transform organizations must have all of these elements functioning in alignment.

Here is the story of a leader who over-emphasized a few elements while under developing others:  meet Dave.  Dave is an exceptionally talented man and has built strong skills in his area of focus.  He rose quickly in the ranks of a large consulting firm on the strength of his intellect, his charisma, and his presence.  He then bought a division of a smaller company and was faced with the challenge of creating a new market and building a company.  He failed and closed the company, losing the company and most of his personal wealth.  His largest mistake was his over-confidence.  In order to create a differentiated offering, leaders and entrepreneurs have to have the confidence to take on what many others would not.  At the same time, they need to be keenly aware of their environment and know when to make changes.  If the leader is too confident, he will miss the subtle cues.  Dave missed them.  Dave had too much hubris and discounted the cues that he was missing the mark.

We introduce all five elements briefly in this post and will go into greater detail about each one in subsequent blog posts.

What are the components each leader must have?

  • Character/type – each of us has a type.  This is what we commonly call personality – qualities like introversion or extroversion.  We would measure this using something like the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Leaders benefit  from understanding themselves and working with their gifts and limitations.  Self-awareness is key.
  • Developmental level – we move through developmental levels as we mature and grow.  This can be deliberately changed with attention and work.  When we are talk about “Level 5” leaders, we mean individuals who have moved up the developmental ladder.  Leaders can progress through higher levels and doing so increases their effectiveness.
  • Leadership behaviors – these come in two categories.
    • Leadership specific competencies involve knowing how effective leaders behave and measure behaviors like mentoring and developing staff.
    • Business skills and acumen is the other critical part of leadership behavior that evaluates industry acumen, skills required to run a business and to make solid business decisions.
  • Situational Awareness – in dynamic environments, it is critical for leaders to understand the situation or context they are working in and to make decisions that are appropriate to that situation.  A leader in a bank may make very different decisions after the financial crash in 2009 than before because the situation has changed.
  • Resilience – is the ability to adapt and thrive and to take a positive attitude toward the challenges we face as leaders.  Resilient leaders navigate challenges and inspire others to move forward toward success.

The most successful leaders perform well in all of these categories.  A significant deficiency in any of the areas could derail an otherwise talented leader.  When considering how to invest your development time, we recommend spending about 80% of your time building on your strengths and the remaining 20% addressing areas that could be deficiencies.  The exception to this rule is if there is an area that is derailing the organization.  Additionally, if you are overusing a strength to the detriment of developing others, attending to the under-used strengths will also pay dividends.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.