CEO of ConantLeadership and former CEO of Campbell Soup Co.
Former CEO of Campbell Soup Co. Doug Conant talks to Bill Ringle about personal leadership and taking charge of the things you can actually control.
>>> Visit MyQuestforTheBest.com for complete show notes and more expert advice and inspiring stories to propel your small business growth. My Quest for the Best is a top-rated small business podcast with over 300 episodes of thought-provoking and insightful interviews with today’s top thought leaders and business experts. Host Bill Ringle’s mission with this show is to provide the strategies, insights, and resources that will unlock the growth potential of your business through these powerful conversations.
Listen to this interview to learn:
- How getting fired can lead to new and better opportunities
- What it means to “turn the coin over” when presented with a problem
- The two top qualities of mind that set exceptional leaders apart from well-intentioned leaders
- How you can use the criteria to win in the marketplace in your own business
- What resulted from combining the social agenda with the value agenda at Cambell’s Soup for employees and other stakeholders
Read the Show Notes from this Episode
- 1:12 Where Conant started his career, moving from Kellogg in Chicago to General Mills in Minnesota.
- 2:05 [On how to get things done] – “I learned very early on that most of the people I worked with had full lives. If they were going to be helpful to me, I generally needed to be helpful to them.”
- 2:53 How getting fired from General Mills played a pivotal role in Conant’s career, and how meeting executive outplacement counselor Neil McKenna helped get Conant made the difference in getting him back on his feet.
- 4:45 “It reaffirmed for me the importance of just trying to be helpful, to be helpful in a thoughtful caring way, with intentionality to move the enterprise forward.”
- 5:27 [Lessons learned: The Importance of Empathy] – “My first thought was one of betrayal and devastation, I had given everything to this company for nine years, and I felt it was incredibly insensitive the way it was handled. And that was a good thing too because I’ve had to make tough calls too, but I’ve made them in a caring way.”
- 6:45 Turning the coin over after devastating news.
- 8:09 [Paraphrasing Louis L’Amour on Perseverance] – “He never knew when he was licked, so he never was.”
- 9:37 “Great things are having powerful incremental impacts in the moment with people.”
- 10:21 “Life is just a sequence of interactions. And if I’m really alert and thinking abundantly I find that I can be helpful in those small interactions, and cumulatively over time, I develop enormous credibility, which Stephen Covey might call a very positive emotional bank account with people. And as we build the emotional bank account up, it’s amazing what we find we are able to do collectively and individually.”
- 11:01 “It’s about making it personal. People are either at work or thinking about work, more than anything else they do, including spending time with their families. I think we sort of have to honor that as sacred ground, their work, and I think we have to take it personally.”
- 11:19 “I have found that if I make it personal and it I lean into creating a personally fulfilling work experience for people, they lean into the agenda of the company in a more personal and committed way.”
- 11:41 “Make it personal, be alert to the moment – be helpful in the moment, are two of the foundational ideas that I have…The third one would be that leadership, ultimately, it starts with personal leadership and getting comfortable with the things you can control.”
- 12:20 “If you really want to be good at leadership, my observation is that you have to treat it as a mastery model. You have to apprentice at it, you have to work at it, you have study it, you have to be thoughtful about it, you have to think through your philosophy of how you want to walk in the world and how you want to lead.”
- 13:06 “I take issue, for the most part, with this concept of born leaders. Some leaders have a capacity to lead at a certain level that may be above average, but to be great I guarantee you they all work at at.”
- 13:17 Jack Welch’s leadership work ethic.
- 14:14 Some of the problems Campbell’s faced internally and externally before Conant took leadership in the company.
- 16:33 “We were overpraising and under delivering and making bad decisions to patch up the performance.”
- 18:29 Conant lists the four criteria you need to win in the marketplace.
- 21:01 [On challenges in taking over leadership at Campbell’s] – “It literally took a few years to get the kind of traction we needed and get the company on solid footing.”
- 23:04 “I was going to bed thinking about all of the things we needed to do 365 days a year for the first three years.”
- 23:45 “Employees are not mind readers. You need to tell them what’s expected and how to expected to deliver that performance.”
- 24:25 “The more clear we could be, the more accessible the whole came to every employee.”
- 24:34 How Conant used the “Balanced Scorecard” create clarity and direction for employees.
- 25:50 “The single most important thing in any of these organizations is employee engagement.”
- 26:32 “I have found over time that if I just focus on the people, the people take care of the business. But if you have to put one over the other, you put the people first.”
- 27:02 The Campbell Success Model – metrics for management.
- 29:14 The Boston College reputation institute.
- 30:17 [Campbell’s success model] – “Winning in the workplace, winning in the marketplace, winning in the community, and winning with integrity.”
- 30:59 “It helps to have metrics, it helps to create focus for the organization that says, at a high level, this is what we stand for as a company.”
- 32:04 “The more engaged people can become in the work of the enterprise, the better you’ll do.”
- 32:15 Four things which drive employee engagement.
- 33:15 “Driving an aggressive social agenda, while we were driving an aggressive economic value creation agenda was very synergistic. Because we were saying, ‘Here’s how you can leave a legacy of contribution through your work that transcends your ordinary work experience while you’re making a living, while you’re feeling valued, and while you’re learning.”
- 33:44 “The more we leaned into building a better world, the more engaged our employees got, and the better we performed in the marketplace.”
- 35:14 “I think the challenge in the next decade is going to be for corporations to build this intuitively obvious practice more into the fabric of how they run their companies.”
- 36:01 Examples of companies building a better world by building better companies.
- 37:11 “All organizations aspire to be relevant in the world, to certainly create economic value, but they also are committed to enduring success. All leaders want to be associated with enduring success. And they see the value in being good citizens.”
- 38:12 “It’s important that once you declare yourself, you deliver on it.”
- 39:24 What Conant reads for inspiration.
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Doug Conant is the founder and CEO of ConantLeadership, which is dedicated to helping improve the quality of leadership in the 21st century. He is passionate about employee engagement and firmly believes in the importance of coming up with your own leadership model.
Doug was appointed President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company in 2001. Under his leadership, Campbell reversed a precipitous decline in market value and employee engagement; the company has won many recognitions since, including the prestigious 2010 Catalyst Award. When Doug retired in 2011, he received the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) 2011 Champion of Workplace Learning and Performance Award.
Doug joined Campbell with 25 years of experience from three of the world’s leading food companies: General Mills, Kraft, and Nabisco. He began his career in 1976 marketing at General Mills. After 10 years, he moved to Kraft where he held top management positions in marketing and strategy. Immediately prior to coming to Campbell, he was President of the $3.5 billion Nabisco Foods Company where he led his team to improved marketplace performance and five consecutive years of double-digit earnings growth.
During his tenure at Campbell, Doug established the Campbell CEO Institute to train the company’s future leaders and ensure that the company’s highest-potential employees were well-equipped to handle the challenges and surprises that inevitably create a leader’s impact and legacy.
He is now a sought-after speaker on leading with integrity and other business topics and is the co-author of the New York Times bestselling book TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments.