Sara Lee exec offers advice at Chicago NEW event
CHICAGO -- More than 250 women and men from the retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industries came together on Tuesday to network and ponder "authentic leadership," at an event sponsored by the Network of Executive Women (NEW).
The event, the first of its kind in the Chicago area for NEW, brought the group together for a few hours of networking and an interactive interview with Kim Feil, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Sara Lee Food & Beverage, Downers Grove, Ill. Feil has worked for 25 years in the CPG industry at companies such as Frito-Lay, KFC, Cadbury [image-nocss] Schweppes, Information Resources Inc. and Kimberly-Clark.
Helayne Angelus, president of NEW and vice president of global customer business development diversity for Procter & Gamble, welcomed the crowd to the event and asked everyone for a moment of silence in honor of the day.
Alison Paul of Deloitte & Touche moderated the interview with Feil, who discussed her view of authentic leadership, encouraging the group to build strong teams and have an open mind about solving problems.
Feil cited three aspects of authentic leadership:
Getting resultsâ€”and articulating the importance of getting results without causing more stress to yourself or your team. Support of a team. Big jobs canâ€™t get done with just one person; you need a supportive team. â€œFind a way to connect with your people,â€ she said. â€œAs a leader, genuinely care about them. Be fair. Be even-handed. Make sure they know what their role is. You as a leader cannot read their minds.â€ Being true to yourself. In any work environment, you have to adapt, but you also have to â€œlook inside yourself and figure out the absolutesâ€â€”what you will do, and what you wonâ€™t, she said. Also, donâ€™t be afraid to share your flaws with your team; that way you can get them to help you fill in the gaps and get results.
Another important aspect of leadership: not being afraid to delegate. It doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re relinquishing authority or that you wonâ€™t get credit. â€œLet go of it!â€ she said. â€œIt does the opposite of what you think: You build trusting relationships with your co-workers.â€
When asked what one needs to be an authentic leader, Feil said thereâ€™s no set formula. â€œYou just have to be passionate about what you do,â€ she said. â€œYou have to like your customers, or want to engage your manufacturers. You have to love your products. If you donâ€™t, find an industry where you do.â€
Be true to your values, but be an adaptive, flexible person, she said. â€œSee that there are creative ways to do things in this industry, such as [manufacturers] partnering with retailers,â€ she said. â€œBe open to new ideas, even being told youâ€™re wrong.â€
Also, have a clear understanding of what it means to be successful in this industry. â€œYou have to be able to triage, to know whatâ€™s important,â€ Feil said. And even though you have to triage, you also have to do deep, critical thinking, she said. â€œIf we donâ€™t say, â€˜Time out! This needs deep thought,â€™ it might get off our desk, but itâ€™ll come back,â€ she said.
After the event, NEW executives expressed elation at the turnout. â€œWe were so pleased to have a standing-room-only crowd turn out for our inaugural Chicago event,â€ said Joan Toth, executive director of NEW.
Founded in 2001, NEW is a nonprofit organization promoting diversity and professional development in the consumer packaged goods and retail industries.