How Stanley Black & Decker’s CEO Defined the Purpose of the 175-Year-Old Company

January 2, 2018, 7:28 PM UTC

Just about every old-line American company talks about the actions it’s taking to be an innovator and a disruptor these days. If you want to know how that works in real life, take a look at 175-year-old Stanley Black & Decker (SWK), the legendary manufacturer of tools and household hardware, and its leadership under James Loree.

When Loree took charge of the Connecticut-based company in 2016, he said it bothered him that the company had not articulated its “purpose.” Even though Loree had been involved in the 2010 merger of Stanley Works with Black & Decker and had worked at the company for 20 years, he wanted an answer to the question, “what societal need do we fulfill?”.

It took learning new leadership skills and an entire year of working closely with the company’s 45,000 employees to answer that. Loree, who spent his career working on the finance side of the business, says the hardest part was “letting go” of the traditional command and control style of leadership.

“It’s letting loose and being confident enough to believe the answer will come and it will be a very good answer. And it did,” Loree says of the company-wide process of reinventing Stanley Black & Decker. “It was a great answer.”

Stanley Black & Decker defines its purpose as providing the best tools “for those who make the world.”

One of the positive outcomes of this team effort, Loree says proudly, is that he now has constant conversations with employees, mostly through social media.

“People feel like they can say what they want to say. If they have an issue they want to get on the table, they can do it,” he says. “I cannot overstate the importance of social media to fulfilling this initiative and purpose.”

Watch the video above for more of our conversation with Loree.

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