Skip to Content



A CEO's Thoughts On Unleashing Employee Potential In The Workplace

October 01, 2017 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated September 02, 2020 11:44 AM UTC

A CEO’s Thoughts On Unleashing Employee Potential In The Workplace

Jim, when you became CEO of Stanley Black and Decker, you started a whole process of figuring out, what is the purpose of the company? What motivated you to do that? As I prepared to become CEO, I stepped back and I thought, you know, we're missing something here. We need a-- there's a fabric that needs to be-- a context that needs to be richer. And also, the young people coming in, it was clear that they were looking for something more as well. So I happened to be reading an article from Boston Consulting Group about purpose, and I thought to myself, this could do the trick. Stanley Black and Decker has been around for 175 years. You've been with a company for nearly 20 years. I mean, why did you think it was so important to have this corporate social responsibility focus right now? Well, we've been through three industrial revolutions as a company. This is the fourth, and it's the most disruptive of all. And we needed a north star to help guide the company through this incredible time of accelerating technological change. And also some of the institutions that we see, as we look around us, are at risk here, and we thought that maybe there was something we could do to help fill in for some of the things that were being left behind, some of the people that were being left behind. So after a year of soul searching with all of Stanley Black and Decker's employees, you came up with defining your purpose as for those who make the world. Tell us, what does that mean to you? Well, if you think about it, we're a tool company. We're the largest tool company in the world, and we impact people through our tools. And so for those who make the world, it's not about us, even though we make tools. It's for the makers and the creators that really make the world. What feedback have you been getting from your customers, your shareholders? It's really quite surprising to me how much positive feedback we've received. Like, for instance, when we go for an acquisition target and we start talking about purpose, we become, in some cases, the company that people want to be part of, even in an acquisition setting-- so very, very high impact beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I thought this would be nice, this would be great, but it's really, really all encompassing. What about on the financial side? You told investors recently that Stanley Black and Decker will double sales to $22 billion in six years. So how does this new mission help you get to that goal? It helps in many ways. I think the most significant way is the focus on innovation that we have. And when you can have purpose-driven innovation, then people are really inspired to pursue that aggressively. And it's very fulfilling for the employees, and it's very fulfilling for everybody to understand that the company has this higher order purpose that we're trying to do something, in any way we can, to impact society through innovation, through our business model, and so on. You know what, it all sounds so good, but let's say this doesn't work, if this strategy doesn't play out in terms of your financial goals. Then what? It'll work. There's no doubt in my mind. Our culture is so energetic and so focused and now so inspired. I mean, in some ways that was the missing link before. We hit all the numbers, 17 years of outperformance, but something was missing. And I think for this last kind of doubling in my career, we're going to do it, and we're going to do it through purpose-driven performance. What is the most important lesson you've learned through this whole process? I think we were only tapping 25% of the employees' energy and bandwidth. I think there's so much more bandwidth that we've been able to open up with this purpose initiative, and that surprised me.