“You know what leadership looks like. You have experienced it before,” encouraged Doug Conant. “You can do this. You have to do this…I’m depending on YOU.” That is only one of the many heartfelt and authentic moments Conant was able to create during his presentation “Branding By Storytelling.”
Doug Conant was the most recent guest speaker of the GVSU APR speaker series. He is the retired president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, the current chairman of the board for Avon Products, the Chairman of Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute at Northwestern University, and the founder and CEO of Conant Leadership. Conant visited the University Club Room in the Devos Center on the the GVSU Pew Campus to speak with GVSU APR students, faculty, and alumni.
Conant engaged the audience by telling them stories from his life and having them share their own unique stories. All of this was in an effort to show the power a story can have and how to use that power in a position of leadership.
Conant admitted he aware that leadership is daunting, but he assured the group that they don’t have to be afraid of it. These are some of the main points that Conant highlighted in his presentation to help make the task less intimidating:
- Approach situations with a “How can I help?” mindset: Conant said this is the best way to approach a situation. He noted that we have a multitude of touch points (personal interactions) each day. With those touch points we need to ask ourselves “How do we make them useful?” and “Can we be effective in the small 5 minute interactions that we have each day?” Conant says yes! We just need to approach the situation wondering how we can be of assistance. Doing this will be the first step to resolving a situation and creating a meaningful touch point with those who are involved.
- Listen, frame, and then advance conversations: Good leaders make the touch points with their audiences valuable. They don’t just assume that they know how to remedy a situation the moment they walk in. The first and most important step is to listen. Once the leader fully understands the situation they can begin to frame it. Figure out how they can actually be of assistance whether it be helping personally or pulling in an outside resource. The final step is to advance a conversation by asking meaningful questions. Listen to the problem and offer unique solutions and viewpoints, specific to each situation.
- Monitor Progress: Great leaders follow-up with the situations they have addressed. They check to see if the problems have been resolved or are on a positive path. Conant presented a great example of how he did this when he was at Campbell Soup Company. He wrote small notes to each of the people he contacted to let them know the work they were doing was appreciated. Reaching out like that made the people feel important. He knew this because when he walked around any Campbell facility he would see his little notes hanging in people’s cubicles and offices. Following up and monitoring progress is what really shows people a leader cares about the problems they encounter.
- Be tough minded on standards and tender hearted with people: “Great leaders have world class standards,” Conant said. Great leaders hold those they lead to a higher standard because they know that they can do great things, however there is a caveat to that feature. Conant noted that leaders must also be tender hearted. They need to show up and be present in the moment when they are dealing with people. They tell people they are there for them and then actually show up when they are needed. Doing this will help push and motivate people to be and do better.
- Use your head, heart, and hands: These were some of the most important features of a great leader that Conant mentioned. He said great leaders use their head to create a leadership model for themselves. He compared this to building a personal brand. He encourages future leaders to ask themselves how they want to go through life and how they want to see situations through. Then comes heart. This is as easy as putting authenticity behind behind words and actions. Tune in with empathy early for others and often. The final element in the equation is hands. This is where great leaders put their plans into action. Conant mentioned that No one is going to get it right right away, but with practice anyone’s skills will get better.
Conant was quick to admit in his presentation that a leader doesn’t have to be the next Gandhi or Mother Teresa to be a good leader. He encouraged his audience to think about people in their own lives who have been leaders to them. He suggested to be more like those individuals who have helped be a leader to their personal lives. A coach, parent, sibling, professor, anyone can be that person.
Conant also said, “Anyone who says business is not personal is not very successful. Its all personal, because you are dealing with people.” That is something to keep in mind as we enter the corporate world as APR professionals.
Conant inspired with his wisdom and experience during his presentation. It was a pleasure to hear him speak and share his knowledge. He was a great addition to the line-up of speakers of the APR series
If you would like to learn more about Doug Conant and his work you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter. He also co-wrote a book with Mette Norgaard titled “Touch Points: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments.”
Post by: Jordan Punches