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Keeping employees happy and engaged while advancing a company is a delicate balancing act. Go too easy and the work doesn’t get done; go too hard on them and they check out. Right?
Not according to Doug Conant, the former Campbell Soup Company CEO who unlocked the secrets of having both an engaged workforce and a thriving organization. When Doug took the helm at Campbell’s in 2001, sales were in decline. It was ranked at the bottom among the top 20 food corporations. Plus, Campbell’s leadership team clearly hadn’t been drinking their V8. In just a few years’ time, Doug was able to boost both morale and the company’s bottom line.
The secret sauce is a combination of authenticity, servant leadership, and a tough-minded, tender-hearted management style. Doug thinks authenticity can be summed up with the phrase “what you see is what you get, and what you hear is what I believe.” He spent much of his career trying to please other people without being true to himself but found greater success after battling his own introversion.
Doug and host Jan Griffiths have an enlightening, candid conversation about leading from the head and the heart — and how that combination drives success and workplace satisfaction.
Themes discussed in the episode:
- Showing up with authenticity
- How leadership can be both demanding and compassionate
- Improving employee engagement
- Servant leadership as a two-way street
- Why introverts can be leaders, too
Featured Guest: Doug Conant
🥣 What he does: Doug is the founder and CEO of Conant Leadership, giving companies the tools to level up their leadership by leading from the heart. With an extensive C-suite background in roles at Nabisco Foods Company, Campbell Soup Company, and Avon Products, he is a celebrated New York Times best-selling author, speaker, and innovator in the field of leadership.
💡 On Gravitas: “[Gravitas is] authenticity. You declare a commitment to something and that’s how you show up, to a point where it’s just unquestionable. You have to be living and breathing it. It has to be the essence of how you show up every day.”
Timestamped inflection points from the show
[01:45] Doug’s professional journey: Doug boasts an impressive resume with senior roles at Nabisco Foods, Campbell’s, and Avon. He now is a keynote speaker and author on leadership.
[05:46] What’s your story?: Doug gives an overview of his background.
[07:57] The authentic zone: This principle is that “what you see is what you get, and what you hear is what I believe.” From there, it’s important to leverage your own talents to elevate the company or team.
[10:03] Tough mind, tender heart: Doug says you have to be tough on standards while also being tender-hearted with people.
[11:35] The three-year path: When you’re recruited into a leadership role, it’s likely because the person before you failed. You’re typically given about three years to prove results.
[12:42] The people on the bus: Doug references Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great,” saying that when he started at Campbell’s, they didn’t have the right people “on the bus.” This led to Doug replacing 300 of the top 350 leaders at the company.
[14:07] Skyrocketing employee engagement: By making such critical cuts to the management at Campbell’s, Doug showed the non-management employees that he had their backs. Employee engagement metrics went from four-to-one engagement to 77 to one, where 12 to one is a marker of an exceptional organization.
[18:17] Dealing with fear: When a new leader steps in, some employees fear change or not “making the cut.” Doug deals with this by being clear about expectations and standards.
[22:25] Weakness as a strength: Coming from a traditional, militaristic model of business, Doug worried people would think of him as weak. However, he was up-front in his interview process on how he intended to lead.
[26:36] Courage is key: Many people aren’t aware of their convictions, but it’s important to explore them and have the courage to stick to your convictions.
[27:26] Leading from your experience: Everyone’s leadership style is different because we all have different experiences. Chances are, you’ll be more successful being yourself than trying to fit in a mold.
[32:10] The covenant of hard work: Doug is a proponent of servant leadership, with leaders performing as well for employees as they do for their own leaders. He also encourages forgetting perfection, as you only have to be as good as your competitor.
[33:39] Dealing with toxic high performers: Clear expectations and continuous feedback can help to check bad attitudes in the workplace.
[38:03] TSR (Total Stakeholder Returns): The traditional measure is Total Shareholder Returns, but Doug prefers to think of it as Total Stakeholder Returns.
[40:58] On gravitas: Doug’s answer to this is simple: What you see is what you get.
[42:24] The power of introversion: Doug outlines both the downsides of being an introvert and the benefits introverts bring to the table.
[46:43] Advice for 25-year-old Doug: Doug follows the advice of Conan O’Brien: “Work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen.”
Get ready to join a conversation with an authentic leader who achieved the highest employee engagement ratio that Gallup had ever seen. From an industry average of four to one meaning four people engaged to everyone, to seventy-seven to one who is this guy. He is Doug Conant. Doug is an internationally renowned business leader. He is a New York Times best selling author, a keynote speaker, social media influencer with over 40 years of leadership experience at World Class global companies. He is the only former fortune 500 CEO, who is a top 100 leadership speaker, a top 15 leadership guru, and a top 100 Most Influential author in the world. Wow. That's a lot of top stuff. And he is a top guy. And he is very down to earth and very comfortable in his own skin. And you will hear that in just a moment. For the past 20 years of his leadership journey, he's honed his leadership craft at the most senior levels, first as president of Nabisco foods company, then as CEO of Campbell's soups. And finally is chairman of Avon products. In 2011. He founded Conant Leadership, a mission driven community of leaders and learners who are championing leadership that works in the 21st century. Yep, you guessed it, authentic leadership. In this conversation, you're going to hear how to manage that struggle that we all face as leaders in the business world today. And that is how on earth? Do you focus on the people and the results? We all know it's about the people and the numbers. But how do you do that? Doug totally gets it. He knows what it's like to grind through the workweek. He knows how to be tough on performance and tender hearted with people. This is the man who changed out 300 People in the top leadership level, as he turned around Campbell Soup. He really understands employee engagement, you have to deliver he says and and be kind, you have to do both. He knows how to inspire trust. It was number one on the Campbell leadership model. We talk about how to anchor yourself in authenticity, how to create your own personal leadership model, what do you stand for? And have you thought about marrying that to the company values? What is your leadership purpose? For Doug honoring people is at the center. But right along with that is how to deliver extraordinary results. He talks about how important it is to declare yourself who are you as a leader and then follow through. We talk about his belief in total stakeholder returns, which is a switch from the old TSR or total shareholder returns. And we see a lot of businesses focusing on all stakeholders now or not just shareholder value. There's a lot to be learned in this episode. And something you might not have known is that Doug is a self confessed introvert. How on earth does an introvert become a top keynote speaker, author and CEO of these world class companies? You'll find out. Doug, welcome to the show.Doug:
Well, thank you. It's great to be here.Jan Griffiths:
You know, most of my guests, Doug, I know them somewhere along the line. I've come across them. I know somebody who knows them. I've had you know, some sort of prep call with them. And this is the first time that you and I are needing but I got to tell you. Where have you been all my life? I heard you speak On the Brene Brown podcast, you are a guest with Brene Brown. And there I am one day I'm on the treadmill in the gym because that's when I listen, that's when I consume my podcasts. That's my little treat to myself. And I was I almost stopped dead in my tracks on the treadmill. I thought, oh my gosh, where's this man been all my life here is a man who clearly understands authentic leadership has practiced it. Now you've written a book about it, essentially, on his authentic leadership. There's so much to you that I want to talk about. And I can't because the very first thing is, I need you to explain your story to the audience. So Doug Conant, what is your story?Doug:
My story in 25 words or less, my story is one of someone who grew up in the Midwest, I was the oldest of four boys. So of course, I was always right. I went to high school and college and graduate school in the Chicagoland area. And then I went off, and I was a good athlete, and a decent student and a hard working guy. And then I went off to the corporate world for a 45 year journey at the age of 25. And I just turned 70. I worked for four companies, General Mills for about 10 years, Kraft for 10 years, Nabisco for about 10 years, and then Campbell's Soup, where I was CEO for about 10 years. And then I worked for Avon as chairman for several years as well after that. So I've had a long corporate career, mostly in the food industry, all in consumer packaged goods, along with a lot of board experiences as well, in the for profit and not for profits. So look, I know what it's like to grind through a workweek. And in fact, for the record, for most of my career, I was sitting in the seat of the audience. I wasn't president, chairman, CEO. At the front of the room, I was sitting long with all my colleagues, listening and watching and trying to follow direction. So I've been there. And I've done that all along. I've been a student of leadership as well. I really became a serious student when I was fired from a job about 10 years in a General Mills that experience. Upon reflection, I realized, well, I didn't do anything wrong, but I didn't do enough, right. And I wasn't standing up and being counted, largely because I was very introverted and unsure myself. And just following directions. I learned from that experience and the subsequent experiences I had there. After that I needed to drill some conviction upon what I believed and how I wanted to walk in the world. I was too busy trying to please everybody else. And over the next 35 years of my career, I worked on that. And I'm still working on it, quite frankly, as I did that I lived into what I will call my authentic zone, where what you see is what you get, and what you hear is what I believe. And that's I'm not trying to proselytize, I'm just trying to be clear. The other observation I've had is, well, that's great that I believe all this stuff and everything else. But that's only half the story. The other half of the story is what is the organization trying to do? And how can I leverage what I'm bringing to the party to help the organization and the team thrive? Because it's not about me, it's all about the team. And so I need to be anchored in what I believe in. But I all of that needs to be leveraged in service to the team. And that probably is the key lesson out of all of this. I don't know I'm slow. It took me 45 years to figure that out. That's where I net out and that's my backstory.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah, it took me a while to duck, I get it. I'm all about breaking the mold. And when you were first in your CEO role or senior leadership roles, I have to imagine that the mold that you are expected to fit was that that many people particularly in the auto industry think is the mold that you're supposed to fit as a CEO, and that is this tough guy that was supposed to be banging your fists at the head of the table. Right, and performance and metrics and numbers and people. People were secondary. I know people don't often say that, but that's that's the way that they they preach. They don't treat people well. It's all about the numbers and nothing else. How did you break that mold? Doug?Doug:
Well, you know, I didn't break it. I built upon it. It's a tough world out there. You know, it's not for the faint of heart. You have to be wildly tough minded on your standards of performance. You got to be tough, or you're not going to make it. This is life is very Darwinian. You either grow or die. So, you know, I get that. And you have to be tough minded. But I would tell you, that's insufficient. It's half the battle, the other half of the battle is, at the same time, you also need to be tender hearted, because you're totally dependent on others, to secure the kind of performance to which you aspire. And if you don't care about their agenda, and them, it's pretty silly to expect them to care about your agenda. For the enterprise. My belief is, and my one of my core beliefs is that you have to be as a leader, you've got to be tough minded on standards. And you have to be tender hearted with people not either or both. Jim Collins called it the genius of the end, you have to embrace the genius of the end, you have to be tough minded and tender hearted, not one or the other. Both anything else is insufficient. I've worked with a lot of people who are very tender hearted and kind by can't get the job done. Okay. And I've worked with a lot of people who are very tough minded, and lose sight of the people sometimes, and they can't get the job done in an enduring way, either. The only path forward is to be tough minded on standards, and tender hearted with people.Jan Griffiths:
How did you do that? Doug at Campbell's kit, it was a tremendous turnaround at Campbell's. And I think on the Brene Brown podcast, you talked about changing out over 300 people in a leadership team.Doug:
As I said, this isn't for the faint of heart, if you're going into a leadership role. Many times when you're recruited into an organization, it's because the person in front of you didn't get the job done. So you tend to inherit a mess. And then you tend to have three years to fix it. The first year, it's the other guys fall, the second year, well, we're learning in the third year you own it. So you've got to actually get it on track by year three, if you're lucky. Okay.Jan Griffiths:
Oh my god, that's so true. That is so true.Doug:
So that's the situation you're facing. If you believe like I do, that it's all dependent on the people you're working for and with, because out of 100 decisions as a CEO every day, 99 of them out of 100. I'm not in the room when those decisions are being made. And they're out the door by the time I hear about them. So I'm totally dependent on an organization to make the right decisions in a principled way that are tough minded and tender hearted for all of our stakeholders. And you need leadership to do that. The first thing Jim Collins talks about in Good to Great is get the right people on the bus. And we didn't have the right people, we had performed ourselves at Campbell into a real malaise, where we were the poorest performing food company in the world of the top 20 food companies. And we were headquartered in the poorest, most dangerous city in the United States, Camden, New Jersey made Detroit look like Palm Beach. I mean, it was tough. I looked at the leadership team, and they were all well intentioned, but we had an old economy company, making old economy products, led by an old economy workforce. And it wasn't good enough, we were clear about what the standards were. And we did turn out turnover in the first three years 300 of the top 350. I'm not sure that's ever been done before. I don't know of anything in a fortune 500 company, were six out of the seven leaders in the top 350 were new to their leadership roles. We promoted 150 from within. But we also hired 150 from outside at the higher leadership roles. And we tried to be fully competitive by year three, it was it was a real challenge. So we had to be tough minded on standards. But at the same time, the organization had to know that we were wildly committed to the people in the organization. So we had to be celebrating all the successes and all the things that were being done right. While we were making the tough calls. And we did it. We've measured employee engagement. And every year as we let the senior leaders go, employee engagement actually went up. And it was like, Well, why is that? Well, they all knew that we needed to change. They all knew that what got us there was not going to get us to where we needed to get to and we needed to make changes. So we did and seven years later, we had the highest senior leadership employee engagement numbers that Gallup had ever seen. They measured something called the engagement ratio, which was how many people are wildly engaged compared to how many people are not engaged and the average In our industry was four to one world for people engaged for everyone who wasn't, the average in the US workforce was only two to one. And to be world class, you had to be 12 to one, well of our top 357 years after all those changes, we were 77, to one, there had to be four or five people out of 350, that weren't wildly engaged. And I'm telling you, we were able to put an old economy canned soup company headquartered in the poorest, most dangerous city in the United States on our backs, and take it to being an outstanding food company over those seven years, because we had the right leadership in place, and our entire workforce knew we had their backs, and we cared about them. If you think about it, it just makes sense to me, I can't imagine running a company any other way. Anyway, that's my story. And I'm sticking to it.Jan Griffiths:
And those employee engagement metrics you talk about, there's a direct correlation between those metrics and the hardcore bottom line of the business, right?
Well, you got to, you got to do both. It's not one or the other, it's both you got to deliver. As a leader, you're not going to have your job very long if you're not delivering, but I don't know why you can't deliver and also be kind, I don't get it, you have to have the high standards. You know, sadly, we have 330 million Americans in this country. And if you look at the measure, only 15 million of them are managers, less than 5% of the total population. So we've got 315 million people that don't know what management is like, because I haven't had to do it. And it's easy to say, well, it's not good enough. But from my perspective, the only way you can lead is to set the bar at the right place and deliver against it, or otherwise, you don't have your job very long. Think about being a parent, we've got those 315 million people who are parts of families, if you're raising children, you have your children, at least one I know. And you have to be tough minded on your standards, they have to know what here's the standard we have. And you need to be caring and kind too. That's not one or the other, it's both, you have to do the same thing and leadership and management to think that it's one or the other. To me, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny.Jan Griffiths:
Doug, I'm trying to imagine if I was at Campbell Soup, if I was working for you at Campbell's. And, you know, you're the new CEO coming in, and I knew that you were there to turn the company around. And you were going to be evaluating the leadership team, you were going to be evaluating me how there's got to be some fear, right? I mean, as a, as a leader, as a CEO, you want to instill trust, you want to nurture trust, and psychological safety and all these things. But if I'm a leader, if I'm on your leadership team, I know that you're also evaluating me and all my peers. So you know, there's a little bit of fear there. Tell me, how do you how do you handle that?
Well, I think it starts out with clarity of expectations, you need to be crystal clear, people need to know where you're coming from. And so I'm a big believer, you tell them, day one, I can't expect you to value our agenda as a company until I've tangibly demonstrate to you that I value your agenda as an individual. Myself and this management team are committed to valuing your agenda, and then you got to deliver on it, you got to ask them what their agendas are, and then you've got to manage against it. And then we created what we call the Campbell leadership model, said, here are the six behaviors that we've got to manifest in order to lead this company to higher ground. And the first one was we have to inspire trust. And if we're not doing that, it's hard for me to believe that we can do anything else. We put inspire trust is the number one thing. And then we tracked it as a leader as a manager. You did it in procurement, you can't manage it if you can't measure it. Right. So we said you got to be inspiring trust. Well, how are we going to know that? Well, we're going to do a Gallup survey every year. And we're going to see how you're doing. And the first year I'm not going to look at the survey results, that's going to be your base. By year two, I'm going to look at how we're doing. By year three, we have to be making traction or we have to make changes because our folks deserve better. We were very clear. Here's what's expected these six behaviors and these values, and we're going to measure and we're going to have conversations about it. And we're going to also share with transparency with the entire company, ultimately, my last five years there, we actually put it in the annual report. In the annual report, we reported our engagement scores, because I believe that's how you create value. If you think about running a company, you have tangible assets and intangible assets, the tangible assets, property, plant and equipment, you have returned measures on that the intangible stuff is the soft stuff. It's the knowledge you have in the processes you have and how you make it all work. I'm telling you, employee engagement is the heart of that, how the employees are leveraging all that. Gallup is the leading employee engagement measurement system in the world. So we went there, we did it, we spent a million dollars a year just doing employee engagement surveys.Jan Griffiths:
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But I'm telling you paid for itself 100 times over. But it was clear, clear expectations. Here's what's expected day one, you got three years to get it right. And if this isn't right for you, you probably shouldn't be here and we'll help you find another job. Or we'll find a job for you where you can contribute, where you're not leading people or managing people, you can be an individual contributor. But you got three years. Now, to be clear, most of the managers probably thought they'd outlast me. Because I was I sounded like Pollyanna, right? Nobody talks like this. And they'd seen leaders come and go, and they were still there a lot like the auto industry. Oh, you guys talk a good game and you come and go, we'll see who knows, we'll see who's here. When the dust settles, and the middle management and the leaders are assumed they're going to be there and the CEO is going to be gone. I was really determined. And fortunately, we we got it right. And by year three, everybody got the message. And so we were able to really move from being uncompetitive every day. By the end of year three, we're we were competitive on a good day. And by the end of year 10, we were a darn good global consumer products company.Jan Griffiths:
By focusing so much on people, Doug and employee engagement, and the Gallup polls that you talked about, were you ever concerned that you would be considered weak?Doug:
Yeah. But yeah, people did the old model. Yeah. And you've written about it, and you've talked about it a lot. The old bottle that I grew up with was a command and control model, it was a, it was residual fall off from a military model that came was imported into business after World War Two. And then the hierarchy started to crumble. And it was insufficient. Because when you and I started, I'm not going to put you in my cubicle. I'm older than you are. You're you're you're a baby compared to me. But when I started, if I didn't know what to do, I'd go talk to my manager, my manager would tell me how to do it, right? Today, your manager has no frickin idea how to do your job. They're dependent on you now. So it's a it requires a different management model, and a different engagement approach where you're real clear about the output you need. But you're not prescriptive about how they do their job. It's a very different model. I was comfortable with it. And quite frankly, if I couldn't lead that way, I didn't want the job. So I was real clear. When I took the job, I said, here's how I'm going to do it. And if this doesn't work, that's okay. You should probably hire somebody else. You know, I Life's too short. And I'll be fine. I'll be fine.Jan Griffiths:
You got to be very comfortable in your own skin to to have that mindset.
Oh, can you imagine being a CEO in today's world, and being nervous about what everybody else thinks? Oh my god. You wouldn't sleep awake. Teddy Roosevelt heaven at that wonderful speech. where he talks about it's not the critic who counts, not the person who points out how the poor person stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who's actually in the arena. Well, guess what, we've got a world of critics now who don't know their aspirin, their elbow, who are all telling you how to do it better. If you weren't well anchored as a leader today, if you're not in an authentic way, which we should get into, then you don't Good luck, you don't stand a chance.Jan Griffiths:
But how do you do that? Doug, how do you have to use your term? How do you anchor yourself your true authentic self, I've heard you talk. And in your book, and also in other podcasts about understanding your own leadership story and bringing your story into leadership. And you and I, you know, the way that I grew up, and most of us grew up in our careers, we were told to keep that story out of it. Personal and professional are two very, very different things. So how do you anchor yourself in authenticity?Doug:
Well, I think today, and it's it's a different, different world. But I believe this is probably a better model for yesterday, as well. As for today. We often talk about people having the courage to lead the courage of their convictions. Well, sadly, I gotta tell you, most people don't know what their convictions are. They're leading life by the seat of their pants. Let's face it, they're reacting to what comes to them. You and I do that too. But I think as we grew in our careers, we developed some degree of conviction about what mattered most. And that became a very anchoring part of how we showed up, right? Well, today's leaders are so busy reacting, they're not spending a lot of time anchoring. It's hard to have the courage of your convictions, if you don't know what your convictions are. My Angelo has that great quote, but she says the most important trait anyone can have is courage. Because without courage, you can't practice any other trait with consistency. You can't show up for people, you can't lead people either. How do you develop the courage of your convictions? Well, you go through a lot of reflective work that says, What do I believe in? What do I want to stand for? And we have people do their life story, and reflect on what mattered most to them? What did they learn from all that. And then we have them study the world around them, okay, I'm anchored in the things that mattered most to me as I grew up, and that really influence how I show up every day, a work ethic, people focused servant leadership, or whatever you want to call, whatever your traits are, that you grew up with. And then we have them study the world around them and say, what are some things that make sense to you from what's going on in the broader world of leadership. And so you do the reflective work, and you do the study with our book, you can do it in a couple of weeks. And then what you do is you create your own leadership model, I've worked out with well over 1000 people who have developed their own personal leadership models. What's fascinating to me is no two, no two are the same. They're all different. Why is that? Well, they're all informed by that person's personal life experience, their aspirations, their work situation, we're all unique. And we all have a unique capacity to contribute. Yet, we don't have our arms around that all we know is we have 13 things we're evaluated on by the company. So we tend to focus on what the company wants from us, not what we have to offer the company. That's not good enough, you need to know what you want to stand for. And then you need to marry that with what the company needs. It's not one or the other. It's both. It's an abundance mentality. So I'm going to get anchored in what I believe in. And then I'm going to find a way to noodle it so that I can be more that way with the people with whom I live and work in the company. One last thought I would tell you, we have people develop their own leadership model. Usually it's no more than eight elements. And they all look different and they're, it's crazy. But they figure out what are the things that matter most to me, and then we say okay, how would you apply that to where you go to work at GM or Ford or pick a company, Campbell Soup Company? And what I find fascinating is everybody can find a way to be more like themselves in their current work environment. Why is that? Well, it's because they now know what they want to look like when they show up. everybody's worried, well, if I'm show up as myself, I'll lose my job. No, by the way, if you do it smartly, you'll actually have more responsibility and you feel better about what you're doing.Jan Griffiths:
There it is. There it is. That's it. That's it,Doug:
In my opinion.Jan Griffiths:
But how do people, you know, people have to understand that and embrace that. And one of the things that I really loved about the book was you talk about establishing your leadership purpose. And I don't know that I think I've danced around it for many years. But I don't know that I've ever stood back certainly in my corporate life, and said, Okay, what is my leadership purpose. And for our audience, I'm going to read back to you, I'm going to read Doug's leadership purpose, because you can't see this because this is audio. But if you could see the copy of Doug's book that I'm showing him right now, it's got about a million different flags, identifying all the different pages that I like in this book. But here we go. Doug's leadership purpose is he says, I intend to help build high trust, high performance teams that honor people, defy the critics and thrive in the face of adversity. Hmm. I mean, seriously, like, I get a chill when I read that back on a people is right at the center of your leadership model. And it seems like it from what I know of you, that is so true. But to have the courage and the conviction to put that right at the center,Doug:
is just what I believe. And by the way, in that leadership model, is also a commitment to delivering extraordinary results. I want to honor people, in fact, that's at the heart of my model. But the last thing you read when you go around my model is it's a results oriented model. We're going to deliver extraordinary results. And if we're not going to deliver extraordinary results with this set of activities. Why are we working on it? It's a commitment to being extraordinary, extraordinary on the input and extraordinary on the output. And it's not easy. It's a recognition that performance isn't easy. Anyway, in a very complicated world. It's not easy. That's my belief. Anybody working in the corporate world, we have a plan for everything. We have a plan, we got to deliver this year's plan, we got plan output plan input, we've got cost savings, we've got this, we've got that. Okay. And then I talked to someone, what's the plan for your leadership profile, which I would argue is the single most important plan you should have. Nobody has one. I'm doing it by the seat of my pants, not good enough. Not good enough, the people who are working for you. I treat leadership as sacred ground. Look, the people who are working for you are thinking more about their work, and doing that work than anything else they do, including taking care of their own family, you owe it to them. If you want them to perform well for you, you damn well better perform well for them. And if you're not going to honor them, why should you expect them to honor you? This is a very servant leadership oriented model attached to a very extraordinary results driven model. It's not one or the other. It's both. And it can be done. And by the way, I'm on my high horse again, bear with me. The good news is it only has to be better than the other guy. And the other guy isn't that good. I mean, look at look at the world. You just got to be better than the other guy and then committed to getting better over time. You don't have to be perfect. In fact, one of the tenants in our book is forget perfection. You just want to do a little bit better tomorrow than you did today. And you're going to be ahead of the other guy. This is not hard. Really. You just got to be a little bit.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah, that's right. That's true. Doug, when you talk about honoring people, and it's not easy, because that does sound like one of those things. That's you know, everybody says it's nicey nicey. But let me ask you this question. And I know you had to come across this in your career. What do you do with that toxic employee? who's also a high performer? What do you do with that person?Doug:
None of this is easy. You know, we're going to talk about it. It's going to sound well, so obvious. Well, it's not it's not. It's hard. Because it's not like there's the completely toxic person who delivers great performance. It's somebody who's toxic at times, who's delivering pretty good performance at times. This is this is very messy. All right. To be clear, I think it has to start with clarity of expectations. People need to know what's expected, which is why we built the Campbell leadership model upfront. We said here's what's expected your job one If we want all these expectations, these six expectations, actually, I guess there were five at first. The first one was to inspire trust, the last one was delivered for ordinary results. So there were five elements in the Campbell leadership model, I now have eight elements in mind. We were clear about that in year one, and then we start to manage against it, performance reviews were conducted against it. All right. And we measured it. And not only the Gallup metrics, but we had management by objectives, we had our scorecards, where we expected certain financial performance, certain marketplace performance, deliverables, on key projects, advancing the strategic plan. So we had a management system in place. But it starts with clarity of expectations, and continuous feedback. And, and I think that continuous feedback is important because it can't be a surprise to a employee. Exactly. We gave a time we gave this process room to breathe, we gave it three years. And most of the activity happened in the lead in a year and a half to two years, the last two years of that three year period, where we gave everybody a chance to get with the program, while we were trying to get it up and running. Nobody could say I didn't have well, a few cases, we didn't manage it well. But out of the 300, I'm gonna make up the number 275 of them, it was pretty clear. By the time we got to a point where we were, maybe need to have a conversation, I would guess half those people had already self selected up, because they saw it coming. It all starts with clarity, expectations. And then once you declare yourself, you've got to follow through. A lot of managers are good at declaring themselves and then have trouble with the follow through and the tough conversations. This is where you have to have the courage of your convictions. And you have what we call courageous conversations, where you say, here's the conviction, we talked about it. And here's the implication, if we can't get it, right, we've got to make a change, we want you to prosper. I'm not trying to make your life miserable. But we've got a greater good here, we've got 25,000 People who are counting on us, in 38 countries. And under 25 markets, we've got to serve this enterprise well. And you're part of the leadership elite, either you kept with the program, or we'll put you in a position where you can contribute as an individual contributor, or we'll help you find a job elsewhere. I don't know you when I think about it, what was the choice? I don't know what the choice was?Jan Griffiths:
Well, I think some people struggle with having that tough conversation. And they convince themselves that because they're making the numbers that it's okay, that the behavior is okay, even though they might be destroying a particular unit or department or something. And it's not okay.Doug:
Yeah, it's not okay. And that's short term in nature, a lot of my work, I talk about having enduring performance, not episodic performance, quite frankly, when the markets when I became a CEO were very short term oriented. And you could deliver great numbers for two or three years as an enterprise, and cash out and be gone and leave the employees holding the bag as a leader. Fortunately, those days are behind us now. And we have to deliver more enduring performance. This is about creating value in an enduring way. And not just for investors, but for the measure when I started was TSR total shareholder returns. Now I think about it completely differently. I think about it as total stakeholder returns. And we have lots of stakeholders, number one of which is employees. We got we take care of the employees, and then they take care of the investors. And that was my experience at Campbell.Jan Griffiths:
Yeah. How many people did you say at Campbell?Doug:
2520 to 25,000, depending on the edges of all of our financial acquisitions and divestitures. But it was 20 to 25,000 while I was thereJan Griffiths:
That's a lot of people and how many countries?Doug:
38 countries we had sites in marketing 125 countries and we were much larger. We were the obviously the largest soup business in the world. But we were also the largest vegetable juice company in the world, you know, V eight, and other assorted vegetable juice products, and we were the third largest snack company in the world. What you would know in the United States would be Pepperidge Farm. We had a platform that was built around soup, juices and snacks.Jan Griffiths:
Doug with, with that level of complexity with that many people that many different countries and cultures and leaders, how do you keep people on the same page? How do you communicate your vision and make sure they understand this is where we're going as a company, how'd you do that?Doug:
It's funny, as a CEO, you tend to think, well, I've said this a million times. But you got to say it 1,000,001, you have to be beating the drum all the time, because the people who are listening to you in any one setting, only hear from you once or twice a year, you have to be incredibly well anchored in what matters. And then you have to say it and say it again and say it again. And then when you deliver on it, you have to say, here's our platform, here's what we intended to do, and we just did it, or we fell short of it. So we have to double down here and there. So you have to keep going back to the principles by which you want to manage the enterprise, you have to be a broken record with it. You know, if people compromise inconsistent with the operating philosophy of the enterprise, there have to be consequences for that. And I'm not saying employment consequences, but compensation consequences or responsibility consequences, people are watching. And when you declare yourself and committed to a certain path, people are watching to see if you know, are you going to do what you say you're going to do? You have to do it. If you want to be there a decade or two like I was.Jan Griffiths:
Doug, I defined Gravitas as the hallmark of authentic leadership. So that given that definition, what is gravitas to you?Doug:
I'm going to give you layman's response to it. What you see is what you get is authenticity. You declare a commitment to something and and that's how you show up. And to a point where it's just unquestionable, you have to be living and breathing it. It has to be the essence of how you show up every day. Gravitas to me is what you see is what you Get. When Jim Collins, who's a good friend did his Good to Great work. And he was studying companies that outperformed their sectors for 20 years, he was expecting to see all these icons of leadership as CEOs surface. Lo and behold, he hadn't heard of any of the companies that actually outperformed. And he discovered that the two differentiating characteristics of these Good to Great leaders over two decades outperforming their sectors were humility, and fierce resolve, not pomp and circumstance. When you think Gravitas. Sometimes people think well larger than life and all this stuff. No, it's what you see is what you get. That's my definition of Gravitas. And it's all in the performance.Jan Griffiths:
I think that's a perfect definition. What You See Is What You Get, though, for you, you are a self confessed introvert.Doug:
and Myers Briggs, I think I've shared many times that I've taken a course my career, I took five Myers Briggs tests. And all five times I was an introvert. And you know, if you're an introvert, you're dying to one time test as an extrovert because if you're an introvert, you want to be an extrovert presses, I guess is always greener on the other side, you want to be the life of the party. That just wasn't me. I was just too self conscious. Yeah, that that's a hard thing. It really impeded my growth for a while because I was not comfortable enough in my own skin. But I would tell you that because I was an introvert, I felt I needed to double down on my work to get really well anchored because I had to, in order to overcome my introversion, I really had to get well anchored in what I wanted to stand for, to a point where I would be comfortable actually saying it, which was really hard for me. Stephen Covey was laughing. He's laughing up there somewhere, because I did my personal mission statement with him one year, a long, long time ago. And he said, Well, I want you to take it home and share it with your wife. And I said, Yeah, I just kind of do a few more little things to it. And then I'm going to share with I went back a year later, he said, What did your wife think? I said, Well, I'm still working on it. I haven't quite got it. And he said, Doug, just show it to her. You gotta have the courage of your convictions. And I did, and I was 90 It was 90% of where it needed to be. But it was just hard for me to share those kind of deep and important thoughts with anybody, even my wife who I share everything with, you know, that was my that's my introversion story.Jan Griffiths:
And I think that people sometimes think that if you are introverted. You can't be this, you know, CEO or senior leader on certainly can't be a leader with Gravitas. And nothing could be further from the truth. It's not about being an introvert or an extrovert. It's about being true to yourself, and bringing your whole self into leadership, would you agree?Doug:
I couldn't agree with you more. And I have become good friends with Susan Cain, author of The Quiet Revolution, which she would tell you that the most under leveraged population in any company are the introverts. They're half the company and that and the organization is not built to listen to them. And I think that's true. They really will think about things, and they really will reflect on them before they stand up and are counted. So if you can find a way to tap into the introverts in your organization, you can learn a lot, and they can be very helpful.Jan Griffiths:
And I've learned, and I've seen that myself in my career, that great leaders are the ones who don't just have the conversation with the four or five people in the in crowd, if you will, right. They're the ones that will will see and hear the quiet voices and encourage those voices to come through and bring them it's caught cognitive diversity. That's what it's all about. And great leaders know how to nurture that and encourage that, and they will get a better decision and a better result.Doug:
Yeah, my good friend, Amy Edmondson, you mentioned some of her work indirectly, when you talk about psychological safety. A great leader creates the conditions where people feel safe to express themselves. And that's particularly true with introverts. Also, I often talk about leading by listening, you're not just listening to what is being said, but you're listening to what has been not said, and who's not talking. And then you're pulling it out of them. You've got to be, in my opinion, a gifted listener to what is being said and not said, in order to really lead an enterprise forward. It's not about the talking. It's all about the listening.Jan Griffiths:
So true. So true. Doug, after all, this time in leadership, and where you sit today and you look back at your career in your life, what advice would you give to 25 year old Doug Conant in the world, if you were if he were in the world today, if you were looking at him today,Doug:
I have a favorite quote from Conan O'Brien of all people, work hard, be kind and amazing things will happen. That was the path I followed. I worked hard. I tried to be kind. And Amazing things happen for me. And the, the, the the teams and the organizations I've been associated with. It's not easy to you got to work hard in any endeavor, where we've really excelled at in sports or academics. Guess what, we had to work hard at it. I don't know any exceptional athlete that didn't work hard at their craft. You got to work hard at it. But that's not enough. You got to develop the competence. But then you have to leverage it. In my experience in a team based environment in the organization sense you have to be kind. And if you're kind to the enterprise, the enterprise will be kind to you, as long as you're working hard and have high standards. I guess the other thought is, I would encourage everybody to lead with conviction to be tough minded on the standards that they hold dear and tender hearted with the people with whom they are traveling on this journey.Jan Griffiths:
And that's a beautiful way to end our conversation today. Doug Conant I am so glad that you came into my life and we're able to share your story with our audience. Thank you.Doug:
Happy to be here. Thank you!