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Here's How Newell Brands' CEO Plans to Lead 50,000 Employees

August 22, 2016 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated April 29, 2020 17:53 PM UTC

After his company acquired Jarden earlier this year.

Mike, since you became CEO of Newell five years ago, you got a lot of praise for a remarkable turnaround. The stock has quadrupled. Earnings have been up every single quarter. From a leadership point of view, what has been the key to your success? Look, it's determination. It's intensity. It's choicefulness. You have to make choices, and you have to be consistent in your actions with those choices. There are costs associated with change, so you have to be empathetic to-- and understanding, and open, and transparent about the costs of change that come with a transformation such as the one we've come through. Now, your job is to merge in Jarden and integrate into Newell brand. And you've already made a lot of significant changes. You've-- hiring senior executives from outside of the company. You're moving the headquarters from Atlanta to Hoboken, New Jersey. I'm guessing that there's been a lot of conversation within the company about all of these dramatic changes. So what do you have to do, as a leader, to make sure that people stick with you? You have to paint a picture of the company you aspire to be. If you want to maintain engagement through a change program as profound as the one we're going through, you have to define the destination. And that's what I mean by painting a picture of the company we aspire to be. Any missteps-- anything that you say, I wish I could have done that just didn't go over? I sometimes didn't move fast enough, because I was cautious about continuity and cautious about delivery. With the benefit of five years of hindsight, I can tell you we probably should have gone faster. And that one's on me, as a leader. If I'd had that experience doing something as big as what we've done before, I might have done it differently. I will definitely apply those lessons learned to the combination with Jarden. What is your biggest fear? One of the most important leadership lessons learned-- I've had is that my inclination-- my personal inclination is to come to a point of view pretty quickly based on the data, based on conversations. I think it's really important to govern the speed with which you make choices to make sure that you've listened actively, you've engaged actively, you've debated appropriately some of the big calls you made. And my fear is that, in the drive to achieve the outcome, we'll miss something as a result of making an error of omission. Before you came to Newell, you had long stints at many big blue chip companies-- Yeah. --Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Unilever. And I'm sure that you got a lot of good advice over the years, but what would you say was the best leadership advice you ever got? The best advice I ever got was actually not spoken. It was observed by me over my formative years at home. My father came to the US through Ellis Island. I'm first-generation American. They came here with nothing. And my father modeled the behavior that I've tried to embrace. And it's in that cumulative experience with him for my 20 years at home that I have formulated the person I am. He was always forward-looking. He never looked back. He was unbelievably hardworking. He achieved an immense amount from nothing. And he set an environment up for me and my sister to go out and be the best that we could be. Now, between my mother and my father, they set an environment that I grew from, and I would consider that advice of a different form. It's not spoken advice, but it's modeled advice.