Tag: Bauer Leadership Center



Kathy Mazzarella, chairman, president & CEO of Graybar

Kathy Mazzarella, chairman, president & CEO of Graybar, joins the Defining Moments speaker series to share how she rose through the ranks of a Fortune 500 company starting out without a college degree. Mazzarella—who completed an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree and MBA while working at Graybar—breaks down her success story into the following two life lessons.

Always aim for No. 1

Mazzarella shared advice from her greatest inspiration, her father, “Your only failure in life is if you don’t shoot high enough. If you shoot for the No. 1 position and don’t get it, you haven’t failed, you’ve learned. If you shoot for the No. 2 position and get it, you’ve failed.”

This lesson stuck with Mazzarella throughout her many defining moments. The first was her high school class president election. She ran and lost. Instead of giving up, the following year, Mazzarella didn’t just run for class president, but school president—the No. 1 position.

Acknowledging that it was a popularity contest, she had to strategize how to win using her connections, through sisters, in order to compensate for votes among her own classmates she knew she couldn’t win.

Mazzarella won class president.

The same lesson that initially applied to her class president election carried with her when just a few years later, she dropped out of college. Mazzarella initially went to school with aspirations of becoming a doctor. Realizing this path wasn’t for her landed her back home with two devastated parents.

Mazzarella, hoping to make her own path, went out for a job interview. On her way to the interview, she stepped into a building on the way to ask for directions. The building held the Graybar offices. They were hiring. This was fate.

The interviewer asked, “What role would you like to have?” Mazzarella, recalling her father’s advice, replied, “president.”

Use setbacks to learn, grow and become stronger

This lesson was one Mazzarella had to learn the hard way. She was up for a senior vice president position. As the first female vice president in the company—with an incredible professional track record—she was up against a male candidate who was always one step behind her.

Mazzarella frankly believed she was a shoe-in. Mazzarella worked hard, stayed late every night, worked every weekend, got every award available, and yet her competition got the job.

Mazzarella’s initial reaction? “I’m done.”

However a quick call to her father changed her mind.

This is your defining moment,” he said. “How you handle this will determine your future career. Everyone’s watching.”

Mazzarella swallowed her pride and called the winning candidate to congratulate him.

This blow steered her career toward HR and strategic planning, which ultimately made her a better leader. When Mazzarella was running for the CEO position, a board member recalled that she handled the SVP loss incredibly gracefully, proving that she cared about the company over herself.

Mazzarella truly used this setback to grow and become ultimately stronger, as she now hold the positions of chairman, president & CEO.




Bob Chapman, the chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller

Bob Chapman, the chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, stepped into the Defining Moments class ready to redefine success and leadership. To many undergraduate and graduate business students, success means money, power and position, while leadership is how well you manage those around you to achieve company goals.

Chapman wanted to change our mind.

To start, he reflects on his MBA: “I learned management, meaning the manipulation of others for your own success. I was never taught how to inspire, how to care.”

In a room full of business students, this may have served as a wake-up call for some. Chapman wanted to open our eyes to a greater understanding of leadership and success.

Leadership

Chapman shared what he believes is the incorrect definition of leadership. He made sure to emphasize the privilege of leadership. Chapman believed “there is no difference between parenting and leadership.” With that in mind, Chapman sees the honor and responsibility that comes with holding a leadership position.

In thinking about leadership, many think that the impact of leadership doesn’t extend much past one’s place of business. Chapman made sure the class knew of the much greater impact a boss can have.

He quotes Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Dying for a Paycheck: “Just in the US, the excess deaths from exposure to workplace stressors is probably 120,000 lives a year.”

Further, Chapman elaborates that with our current record low unemployment rate comes a record high in stress and anxiety.

So where does leadership come in? Focus on what Chapman refers to as human leadership, which encapsulates “people, purpose, performance.” He expands, “Leadership is the stewardship of guiding the people you have the privilege to lead.”

“Why can’t we make business fun?” he asks. “Why do we call it work?”

He brought this attitude to work one day to create a game: Whoever’s account sells the most parts by the end of the week gets $100!” Revenue rose within the week and, most importantly, people were having fun.

Success

As Chapman mentioned before, success is much more than money, power and position.

“When I look back on my success, it was always about need,” he said. “What I need.”

Chapman shares that the truth is many people with money, power and position are still miserable. So then how do we define success? Chapman asks how the class would want their eulogy written, what you would make us proud to have people say.

Success is living your life with purpose rather than living it as a series of events. Success is having an impact.

“We don’t need to change the laws, the policies, the taxes,” he said, in closing. “You are the future leaders of the world. All you have to do is care.”




Arnold W. Donald

Arnold W. Donald is the CEO of Carnival Corporation and had previously worked his way up within Monsanto to president of nutrition and consumer sector. Donald spoke for our Olin Business School’s Defining Moments series in which CEOs share the moments that shaped their career.

However Donald wasn’t always a powerful force in the corporate world. He started in New Orleans, where he attended an all-black high school. It was not easy growing up in segregated New Orleans.

“I was told and told again to prepare myself, that I could do anything—all at a time when I couldn’t drink from this water fountain or eat at that lunch counter,” Donald said. He put all of his belief and energy into the value of education: “Education is a portal to prosperity.”

Even as a teen, Donald was career-focused: by high school he had decided he was going to be a general manager at a Fortune 50 science-based global company. With a very narrow vision, he set out to achieve that goal. He worked hard to get into Carleton College, but didn’t stop there. Donald plowed his way through a Washington University bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and later received his MBA from the University of Chicago.

His goal began to materialize as he scored a position at Monsanto right after graduating from Washington University. This position led to his Defining Moment. Donald, then just a rookie, was assigned an account no one wanted.

Arnold Donald, Carnival Cruise

Arnold Donald, Carnival Corporation

When his boss offered him the losing account, he referred to him as “Nick,” using the name of the only other African American employee. Donald reiterates, “Marketing didn’t want the account because they were judged on sales. Logistics didn’t want it because they were judged on efficiency. My boss didn’t want it because it was an embarrassment.”

Donald, as a rookie and as one of two black employees, was driven to make a profit from this account.

Donald ended up sharing a presentation with his client that saved them a significant amount of money. The client then turned to Donald’s boss and explained how he had just completely saved the account. The boss replied, “I know that’s why we put Arnold on it.” This was the first time the boss had called him by the correct name.

This instance of hard work on Donald’s part—countered by his boss’s ignorance—had defined the start of his career. There will be bumps in the road, but he knew he could count on himself.

From this defining moment, Donald outlined his key takeaways: “Know your heart, find your passion; chart your course, develop a plan; prepare yourself.” These takeaways led him to his current position as CEO of Carnival Corp., a nearly $50 billion corporation.

 




Jennifer Labit

Jennifer Labit had many forces working against her—an unfinished high school diploma, the tech crash of 2000 and a new baby on the way—but she had a vision and was determined to see it through.

For this week’s Defining Moments series, an MBA and undergraduate class taught by Stuart Bunderson, Jennifer Labit shared how her company, Cotton Babies, was born.

As she explained, “I started a company by accident.” Labit’s company, Cotton Babies, grew out of all of the things working against her. A self-taught coder found herself as one of the only women in a company full of men. This job didn’t last long, as it was washed away with the 2000 tech crash.

Around the same time, she moved back to St. Louis. As she was just figuring out how to make ends meet with her husband working at minimum wage, Labit got pregnant with her first child.

She asked the class, “How much do you think a box of diapers costs?” The class filled with undergraduate and MBA students, many of whom didn’t have children, guessed around $10. When Labit responded that a box of diapers cost $25, the class immediately got behind her vision of reusable diapers.

The idea was born through struggle: Labit and her husband only had $30 after paying the bills for both groceries and diapers. They had to start using cloth diapers because they had to eat. Even still, Labit found a solution to her problem at home, but didn’t see a possibility for a business.

It wasn’t until she’d walk down the street carrying her baby in a homemade sling, having mothers stop her constantly asking where they could buy it, that she knew she had something.

Labit had $100 in her bank account and sold the sling to friends for just $5 above wholesale. She would strategically put a business card in each sling and tell her friends that if people asked about the sling to have them call her. Her phone began ringing off the hook. Every dollar of earnings she put back into her bank account.

Cotton Babies grew so quickly that Labit was forced to move into a retail space for insurance purposes and before she knew it, the company had 600 individual retail accounts.

“I’m an inventor; that’s what I’m good at,” Labit explained. “I’m an idea person.” Labit’s creativity and passion for her company truly radiated through the room as she lectured.

Labit explained that offering a diaper solution to parents struggling economically has a much broader impact than you’d imagine: “I equate a diaper solution to adding a well to a village doesn’t have clean water. It’s just as important but we never talk about it.”

Having too few diapers leads parents down a slippery slope. It leads to using a diaper for too long, which can lead to diaper rash, which then causes increased stress in the home because the baby cries often. Labit shared that not having enough money for diapers creates this cycle of embarrassment and guilt for the parents. Even more extreme: it’s linked to an increased likelihood of childhood abuse.

It’s not only Labit’s passion that landed her a successful business, but also her grit. Labit got emotional as she shared that a Chinese manufacturer knocked off her diapers and sold them on Amazon. The counterfeit product remained on Amazon as Labit begged them continuously to take it down.

She realized direct communication wasn’t going to work while Amazon turned the other way. She needed their attention, so she turned to the power of the Internet. Labit wrote a powerful blog pouring her emotions into words. Amazon responded immediately. The support she received only confirmed the power of having an incredible reputation with high quality products.

Feeling strength within herself, Labit turned the tables to take on China. She recognized their main advantage was their reasonable prices so she went to the drawing board to create high quality products at a competitively low price. Her line Elemental Joy was born, which will be sold at Walmart in just a few weeks. “And that’s how you disrupt China,” Labit triumphantly concludes.


John Mozeliak, CEO and president of the St. Louis Cardinals, starts his Defining Moments talk by reflecting on the baseball industry’s incredible growth: “When I began in baseball, it was less than a $1 billion industry. Today it is $10 billion.”

Mozeliak had to find ways to keep up with this 10x growth. Through advocating for change, keeping to his business philosophy, and redefining the team’s competitive advantages, Mozeliak kept the Cardinals winning.

Change

If you’re in the baseball industry, you know it’s often resistant to change. Mozeliak explained many small changes that he’s pushing for that could increase the baseball market as a whole and bring in more revenue.

For example, he revealed a current debate within the industry over increasing the size of each base by 1 or 2 inches. This small change would allow for more steals, translating to a more interesting game for viewers. However, something that sounds so simple is met with a lot of opposition.

Baseball is a game of tradition and the bases have never been changed. With Mozeliak’s supervision, the Cardinals will have a day this year to test out the larger bases. Mozeliak attributes small changes such as these to remaining competitive.

Philosophy

Mozeliak sticks to two main philosophies to keep business in line. The first is a metaphor: “Baseball is like a table, if any of the legs is un-sturdy, the table is un-sturdy.” Mozeliak focuses on four “legs:” international scouting, amateur scouting, player development and the analytical department. This table model allows Mozeliak to keep a holistic view of the business, making sure each department remains in check.

The second philosophy is Mozeliak’s management philosophy focusing on teamwork. The management philosophy works to break down silos, and above all else emphasizes the process. Mozeliak stresses that once you find a process that works, you have to stick to it: “If you remain disciplined and true to your process, you tend to make fewer mistakes.”

Competitive Advantage

Lastly, Mozeliak focuses on the team’s competitive advantage. Mozeliak explains, “It’s easy to be short-sighted, focusing on your day-to-day job, but you have to think about the competitive environment that you’re in.” For the Cardinals, data is a huge part of their competitive edge. The team used data to scout players before others were in amateur scouting. This advantage led them to Matt Adams, an incredible player who was scouted with relatively low cost.

In short, with his emphasis on change, his business philosophies and maintaining a competitive advantage, Mozeliak strictly follows the Cardinal Way. The Cardinal Way is having an appreciation for your past, understanding where you are today and having an eye on tomorrow.




Emily Pitts

“Stop tip-toeing around these difficult topics,” said Emily Pitts, principal of diversity and inclusion at Edward Jones, as she began her Women and Leadership talk.

Pitts has been in the financial industry for 33 years and as an African American woman, it wasn’t difficult for her to recognize that the industry isn’t historically diverse. Pitts’s drive and ability to overcome adversity was striking and admirable. Her passion for the finance space was tangible as she reflected on her time at Edward Jones.

Even still, she sees room for change.

In order to raise the company’s awareness on issues of diversity and inclusion, Pitts first had to open up about her past struggles within the workplace. Pitts shared with her boss the brutal incidents of racism that had affected her at work. Her unbelievable honesty and vulnerability created a launching pad into her diversity role.

Pitts wasn’t satisfied with just sharing her own experience. She wanted to change the face of the company.

She urged the company to discuss difficult topics that people are often “tip-toeing around,” such as how men and women interact in the workplace, how employees can be their authentic self, and the reality of visible and invisible barriers at work. Pitts believes that breaking into these difficult topics is the first step toward change.

However the conversation doesn’t stop there.

Pitts managed to create a cross-cultural development program. Edward Jones noticed that it was attracting diverse talent, but having trouble retaining employees. Pitts had the answer: With this new development program, Pitts gave anyone who may feel out of place a community.

This space created a system of mentoring and support that allows Edward Jones employees to face challenges together and work to improve the company from within. Pitts reminds us that “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is being able to pick the music.”

Pitts wants to transform Edward Jones into a place of belonging. Emily Pitts displays incredible strength and resilience in her ability to take her personal struggles and translate them into change in workplace diversity and inclusion.