The 10 Minute Mentor
Leading in a Social Crisis: What Blood Diamonds Taught One Industry Leader

Leading in a Social Crisis: What Blood Diamonds Taught One Industry Leader

October 11, 2017

The 10 Minute Mentor Podcast
Our ongoing series on leadership in the age of disruption

Episode 8: Leading in a Social Crisis: What Blood Diamonds Taught One Industry Leader

Guest: Varda Shine, Executive Mentor, Merryck & Co UK (Former CEO, De Beers Diamond Trading Company)
HostDavid Reimer, CEO, Merryck & Co Americas

Summary:

In Episode 8 of the 10 Minute Mentor Podcast series, former CEO of De Beers Diamond Trade Company, Varda Shine, sits down with host David Reimer to discuss leading the company through a time when social consciousness targeted the diamond industry. At the height of the Blood Diamond social crisis, Shine found herself at the forefront of a movement that would ultimately change the diamond industry forever.

Is disruption inevitable? What is a leader to do when social consciousness threatens their business? How can a leader remain agile in the face of disruption? What can a leader do when they are charged with reinventing the organization?

In reflecting on her experience leading the company and industry through significant transformation, Varda Shine argues that while any company may believe they are safe from disruption, this is often not the case, and organizations must proactively develop the muscle to work in this new age. Shine also cites the importance of brand messaging, communication, and the huge significance of understanding the evolving customer.

Key Takeaways:

04:45 I think quite a leadership act that De Beers took, but to be honest, with such a big market share, it was very important for De Beers to make sure the industry is in the right space.

07:48 Suddenly being in a world where it can turn in a minute into uncertainty and vagueness, and, it was just, how do we make sure that we keep on assessing where we are and how do we then respond? And how do I make sure that I remain updated? In my time as CEO, I had the blood diamonds and all of that, I had, 2008 with the question whether the world is going to fall to pieces and if in that case, would people continue buying diamonds?

08:35 When you are in an environment where you get balls thrown at you, right, left and center, you need to make sure that A, you have the right people with the right skills, and B, you involve them. You can’t pretend that everything is okay, so you have to involve them…. because there might be people out there that knew very well and that could come up with a better idea than you.

11:30: You really need to be able to reinvent your business. If you’re getting too comfortable in your seat, and if you just think that things will continue as they are now and no matter what happens you’re robust enough, you’re bound to be surprised. Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity are here to stay…Make sure that you’re developing the muscle to work in this kind of world.

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Learning from Failure Part II: Non-Traditional Investments and M&A

Learning from Failure Part II: Non-Traditional Investments and M&A

August 28, 2017

The 10 Minute Mentor Podcast
Our ongoing series on leadership in the age of disruption.

Episode 7: Learning from Failure Part II: Non-Traditional Investments and M&A

GuestPhil Gross, Executive Mentor, Merryck & Co Americas (Former VP & GM, GE Plastics, and SVP, Warner-Lambert Company)
HostDavid Reimer, CEO, Merryck & Co Americas

 

Summary:

Phil Gross returns for Part II of his 10 Minute Mentor Podcast series where he reflects on learning from failure over the course of his career. In this episode, Phil discusses the decision to bring a breakthrough technology to market during his time as SVP at the Warner-Lambert Company. Considering this decision “the biggest failure I’ve been involved in”, Phil Gross provides tools for leaders as they navigate similar choices around innovation during this age of disruption.

Is failure avoidable? When is it okay to take a risk? Can a leader rely on third party experts in making strategic decisions? Is the company equipped to handle defeat?

In the culmination of Phil’s conversation with host David Reimer, he argues that leaders should constantly challenge their own thinking with “what ifs?”, have a backup plan, and understand the limitations of third party experts in grasping the unique business context of the strategic decision. Ultimately, some organizations will handle defeat better than others, often a testament to the company’s culture.

 

Key Takeaways:

07:10 PG: When you look at a business, to what extent are you relying on third party information to make big decisions? …We relied on third party people to really understand it and they signed off on what we were doing. Once we hired our own people, then it turned out we learned a lot more.

09:15 PG: The key strategy in flying safely is redundancy, and not only redundancy in the technology, but redundancy in your thinking. What am I going to do if this happens? The question is at what level will you be able to absorb the risk? And if you can view yourself at the level at which you can absorb the risk, and say “Okay I can handle it”, then you can go ahead.

11:12 PG: While the management of the company might be criticized for the fact that it got into something it didn't know about well enough and maybe moved too fast in terms of moving into a marketplace that was unknown, it has to get a lot of credit for how it handled this defeat in terms of not changing the minds of its people, in terms of being willing to take risks and not being punitive for trying to do something great. And looking back, that has to do, in many ways, with the culture of the company.

Click here to download the full transcript. 

Learning from Failure Part I: Non-Traditional Investments and M&A

Learning from Failure Part I: Non-Traditional Investments and M&A

August 15, 2017

The 10 Minute Mentor Podcast
Our ongoing series on leadership in the age of disruption.

Episode 6: Learning from Failure Part I: Non-Traditional Investments and M&A

Guest: Phil Gross, Executive Mentor, Merryck & Co Americas (Former VP & GM, GE Plastics, and SVP, Warner-Lambert Company)
Host: David Reimer, CEO, Merryck & Co Americas

 

Summary:

Phil Gross has had many successes over the course of his career as a Fortune 50 executive, but in this special 2-part edition of the 10 Minute Mentor, Phil Gross reflects on learning from failure while at General Electric and the Warner-Lambert Company. In this episode, Phil provides his retrospective insights on both a failed investment and a failed merger and acquisition during his time at General Electric. Phil provides lessons for leaders as they navigate failure, perhaps a more common risk than ever before during this age of disruption.  

Is failure avoidable? What role should a leader take when an initiative fails? How does a leader not only personally recover, but also carry their team forward? Are there steps a leader can take to mitigate the damage of failure?

In Phil’s conversation with host David Reimer, he argues that while retrospect is 20-20, in the face of failure it is important that leaders keep emotions at arm’s length, do not get blind-sided, and always have an alternate plan.

 

Key Takeaways:

04:36: For one thing, you can't know everything. But in thinking about it, the biggest lesson here is that there are going to be some projects that you ought to decide that you shouldn't do them unless you can absorb a major loss.

08:01: Even though I had been running businesses now for probably 10 years, more than 10 years, I was just thunderstruck by this. I couldn't believe it was happening, and I have to admit that even though I wasn't a deer in the headlights, I was very close to one because this is sort of like your whole world, your whole game plan has been taken away from you.

08:43: You have to have an alternate plan, even if you don't talk about it but just because it's strategically a good thing doesn't mean it's going to happen, and managers sometimes have to be more flexible and, I have to admit, more detached.

Click here to download the full transcript. 

It’s Not About “Fixing Women”: The Role of Boards and Organizations in Developing the Next Generation of Women

It’s Not About “Fixing Women”: The Role of Boards and Organizations in Developing the Next Generation of Women

August 14, 2017

The 10 Minute Mentor Podcast
Our ongoing series on leadership in the age of disruption.

Episode 5: It’s Not About “Fixing Women”: The Role of Boards and Organizations in Developing the Next Generation of Women

GuestMeredith Hellicar, CEO, Merryck & Co Australia (Former: Multiple Companies, CEO and Director)
Host: David Reimer, CEO, Merryck & Co Americas

Summary:

Over the course of her career, Meredith Hellicar, CEO of Merryck & Co. Australia, has served as manager or CEO to more than a dozen public and private companies and is one of a few women to chair an S&P ASX 100 company. Meredith reflects on her journey as a woman leader and discusses the different eras of how women leaders have been developed in the past. She argues that organizations and boards in today’s era need to be intentional in developing the leaders they need to win in this age of disruption. 

<p>How have companies approached women in leadership over the last three decades? What has changed for organizations that has made diversity of thought critical for future success? What is the role of the board in developing the next generation of the right leaders to win? </p>

In Meredith’s conversation with host David Reimer, she argues that in today’s world it is not about “Fixing Women” but instead, organizations valuing diversity of thought and women leaders bringing their true, authentic self to work.

Key Takeaways:

03:03: I've got this theory that there are three eras. The first era is change the policies and processes. And that's all been kind of dusted, every organization's got the right policies and processes. The second era was change the women, fix the women. Let's have them all mentored and let's have women's leadership programs, let's teach them how to be. And the current era is fix the organization.

06:04: The change for leaders, whether it's male or female, is have a mentor to help you be the leader you are, to help you navigate in an organization whilst being yourself, which is different from helping you become a chameleon and just becoming one of the clones within the organization.

12:43: If you don't model the leadership you want in others, it simply won't exist. And tied up with that is— and don't look for one single style of how to get things done—Embrace the diversity, build a team around you of difference, of different ways of approaching, push for wonderful constructive conflict between them, give specific and actionable feedback. If you're not doing it right for everyone, then you'll certainly not be doing it right for women. 

Click here to download the full transcript.

Activist Shareholders and the CEO: Disruption in the Boardroom

Activist Shareholders and the CEO: Disruption in the Boardroom

March 13, 2017

The 10 Minute Mentor Podcast
Our ongoing series on leadership in the age of disruption.

Episode 4: Activist Shareholders and the CEO: Disruption in the Boardroom

Guest: Dave Goebel, former President & CEO, Applebee’s International
Host: David Reimer, CEO, Merryck & Co Americas

 

Summary:

As the former CEO of Applebee’s International, Dave Goebel remarks on his experience and lessons learned in dealing with an activist shareholder, whom ultimately landed representation on the board, amidst disruption in the casual-dining restaurant. 

How can a leader detect future disruption from shareholders? Are there patterns of disruption across industries that attract activists of which CEOs should recognize? How do CEOs delineate between noise in the system and significant disruption from an activist?

Can a CEO recognize a shareholder’s perspective from his/her position? Once you have an activist, how does a CEO work through the decision on what course of action to take in dealing with this disruption?

Dave’s conversation with host, David Reimer provides insights for a CEO as he/she navigates the disruption of dealing with an activist shareholder. While it is key for leaders to remain optimistic and open-minded to the positions and views of shareholders, it is also important to prevent yourself from becoming an easy target.

Key Takeaways:

5:48— I think I bring a much more proactive attitude to looking at the environment, benchmarking in the industry, listening to trends and reading the best of the best there is in terms of where any of those spaces are headed and what the headwinds and challenges may be. And then constantly asking the board and the leadership team to come forward with that exact question. "If we were our own activist, what might we be paying more attention to with a greater sense of urgency?"

7:33— Once you’ve got an activist there are some fundamental behaviors that can’t be ignored and when they’re around be a good listener, be respectful, don’t be afraid to share a little tough love to be sure your point of view is heard well.

10.44 — It’s often very, very helpful at times just to stand above the fray and try to stand in the shoes of the activist shareholder and ask the questions that an activist shareholder may be asking and be proactive, stay out in front of the curve. Activists are attracted to easy targets. Be thoughtful, be proactive, and try not to put yourself in the position of being an easy target.

Click here to download the full transcript.

CEO of CEOs: How an insider helped lead the magazine industry through disruption and transformation

CEO of CEOs: How an insider helped lead the magazine industry through disruption and transformation

February 14, 2017

The 10 Minute Mentor Podcast
Our ongoing series on leadership in the age of disruption.

Episode 3: CEO of CEOs: How an insider helped lead the magazine industry through disruption and transformation

Guest: Nina Link, former President & CEO of MPA, The Association of Magazine Media
Host: David Reimer, CEO, Merryck & Co Americas

Summary:
Nina Link’s leadership guided the magazine industry as President and CEO of MPA, The Association for Magazine Media. During her 13-year tenure, she steered the organization through massive industry upheaval and played a pivotal role in their digital transformation.

How does a seasoned CEO navigate the inevitable headwinds of industry disruption? Does it require a complete re-engineering of the core business model or can incremental tweaks be implemented to foster sustained growth and long-term success?

How can a leader be a catalyst for change in a public industry, with larger-than-life personalities, where every action is scrutinized? When a CEO goes through a period of major transformation, how does it directly impact her and her world view?

Nina’s conversation with host, David Reimer asks these – and other pressing questions -on what is most relevant today to help a leader’s mindset as they’re dealing with disruption.

Key Takeaways:

4:32 – I really understood how difficult it is to implement massive change. I saw really smart people who saw the disruption around them, saw certain industries that were having some successes in transformation, understood what it could mean for their own organization, but was still not able to implement certainly on a timely basis, because they were protecting the business model they had, which had been so successful, and they were also protecting their culture.

6:41 – I think the biggest learning curve for me was working with a board of…at the time, I believe there were 33 board members, who were a team of rivals. During the day, they are highly competitive and here as a board they were to come in and take off their company hat and put on their industry hat. And they had somewhat different business models, they were large organizations, they were smaller companies. It was really a challenge to figure out how to be aligned around some of the really big issues and not focus on all the little squabbles.

8:35 – And my role became really being a catalyst, and nudging, and finding champions to help me get the agenda of change across. We brought them to Facebook, we brought them to Google, we brought them to Twitter, we brought in Netflix.

10:16 – Finding a way to blend the new talent that may have a different vocabulary and come from a kind of different work culture with the talent that you have that are so valuable without alienating, that is such a challenge, but it’s so critical to the ultimate success and continued growth of industries that are going to have continued upheaval.

11:47 – Thrive on a lack of certainty, because that is the landscape going forward and you have to be able to not only deal with it, but to thrive.

The challenge for a CEO in leading in a hypergrowth environment

The challenge for a CEO in leading in a hypergrowth environment

December 14, 2016

Episode 2: Cameron Byers, former President & CEO of BP Energy Company North America, on the challenge for a CEO in leading in a hypergrowth environment.

David Reimer, CEO of Merryck Americas spoke with Cameron Byers on his experience and the challenges for a CEO in leading in a hypergrowth environment. 

How does a hypergrowth environment affect a leader, and what kind of shifts does a leader have to make from earlier roles? Cameron explains how the rapidly changing business environment required a pivot in order to build an infrastructure that would be sustainable in the future. His own journey of moving from COO to CEO provides a unique perspective relative to leading through significant growth and will help answer the question many leaders are faced with: how do I lead in a hypergrowth environment?

The impact of an IPO on the role and life of a CEO

The impact of an IPO on the role and life of a CEO

November 28, 2016

Episode 1: George Napier, former Chairman & CEO of Prince Sports, on the impact of an IPO on the role and life of a CEO.

David Reimer, CEO of Merryck Americas spoke with George Napier on his experience the first time he went through the ramp-up to an IPO and in his life and leadership after an IPO.

What do marriage and Broadway have to do with taking a company public? George offers insights on the excitement of the IPO process, providing some unique analogies on how it broadens your scope as a CEO - from operating the business to actually thinking about investors, stakeholders, and shareholders. And if you decide to go public, what does a CEO need from their management team to better prepare for post-IPO success?