I’ve spent 23 years in merchandising with department, specialty, and discount stores, progressing from buying to merchandise management to Executive VP. In my seven years at Wal-Mart I’ve seen advancement based on talents and ability, no matter who you are.
Leaders don’t get paid just to have visions, but also to execute them. For instance, to improve the ‘now-ness’ of our fashion assortment and branding, my job is to see and articulate the vision in order to lead the team through execution. We need to build the relationship of win-win with merchants and position for acceptance, to look five years out and show what the impact will be on business, and at end of each year we look to see whether we met our goals or not.
Learning and growing are also important for leadership. We need to try new things and get away from tunnel vision. When Wal-Mart called, I didn’t shop here and wasn’t sure I was interested, but I said to myself, “get on that plane and at least have a conversation.” I came back saying “I want to work for Wal-Mart.” Here, I can learn from all kinds of people in logistics, real estate, marketing, and international operations. To look at our business through their eyes has made me a much better executive. Although not originally my idea, I’ve gotten a lot from being asked to sit in on a store planning meeting or work in a warehouse during the day.
Since life is short, I also try to work hard and work smart—to sort priorities and ask “does this make a difference to this company, this division, and my personal life?” Maintaining relationships is particularly important. I still have as mentor one of the people who hired me 23 years ago. I also have a four-yearold daughter who teaches me how to be an editor of priorities, to be incredibly organized. I’m home for dinner at 6:30 every night.
Over the years, the rewards of leadership change. Early on, the thrill is knowing you can drive a business: it’s absolutely exhilarating to come in every morning and see sales results. My second stage was being excited about bringing beautiful products to people. As you get later into your career, it’s the people themselves: I try to help other people to find success, to help them establish career paths.