Smucker’s CEO Shares The Importance Of Mindful Leaders, Empowered Customers, And Engaged Employees
Mark Smucker understands the need for leaders to look to the future. Growing up in the Smuckers family, becoming a leader in the family-owned company wasn’t a guarantee. To even be considered for the top role, Mark had to go to college and get experience working in other companies. He spent years getting degrees in international business and working around the world before becoming CEO of The J.M. Smucker Company in 2016. It’s those experiences that taught him the value of leading with a sense of purpose and creating powerful experiences for customers and employees.
Because Mark prioritizes creating a mindful and purpose-driven company, Smucker’s is regularly ranked as a top global company, even being listed as one of the top employers in the world. I had the chance to interview Mark for my new book, The Future Leader, and he shared powerful thoughts on three groups that drive purposeful companies: mindful leaders, empowered customers, and engaged employees.
Successful future leaders don’t reign with an iron fist—they must practice mindfulness and positivity. According to Mark, a leader’s responsibility is to convey a message of hope and a bright vision for the future.
Mark told me this: “The best leaders are those who lead with a sense of mindfulness, hope, and compassion. They are in tune internally with their own organization. They’re mindful of how their actions or words impact the broader organization.”
Every meeting at The J.M. Smucker Company starts with the team discussing recent successes and positive happenings, which sets a positive tone before jumping into the numbers and the harder side of business.
The company’s 300 top managers are trained in techniques of mindfulness so they can best manage their teams with hope and compassion. But Mark doesn’t just train his managers—he also follows practices of mindfulness daily. He considers all of the decisions he makes with a sincere sense of compassion and empathy. Instead of focusing on numbers and being hardened and cold, Mark focuses on people and how his decisions will impact their lives.
A focus on mindfulness goes hand in hand with creating strong experiences for customers. Modern customers are empowered with technology and social media, and that will only continue in the future. The empowered consumer will change industries, especially as they have higher expectations for the level of service should receive. Empowered customers are more informed and connected to brands, and they expect convenient, personalized experiences every day. Mark says that experiences will be more important than brands or products.
Empowered consumers will also have a stronger voice, which future leaders need to listen to. Mark says leaders need to help their organizations understand why they need to adapt to changing customer demands and expectations. He says that listening to customers and giving them power to make strong choices will be one of strongest trends facing future leaders. The voice of consumers as a whole is important, as is the voice of each individual customer. Leaders need to be able to identify the most important forms of data and sort through the noise to deliver great customer experiences.
Mark puts this idea into practice at Smucker’s. Since Mark has been CEO, the company has updated many of its products to match customer demand, including updating some of its popular recipes and adding a pet food line.
Leaders don’t create successful companies on their own. As Mark says, mindful leaders connect with their employees and create engaged workers who are invested in moving towards the future vision of the company. To create engaged employees, leaders must be able to convey a strong message and compelling vision. Ultimately, it comes down to the question Why? Why are you in business? Why does you company operate in a certain way?
Mark told me this: “I think organizations are hungrier now than they ever were for understanding why, why we’re changing, why we’re doing this, why our business is challenged. What can we do different? The why is very important.”
For the J.M. Smucker Company, the why is to support family meals and hunger relief and education. That’s the bigger purpose. Every leader needs to be able to state their higher purpose and why. Being able to convey why a company is in business helps employees understand their role in the bigger picture and what they’re working towards. Engaged employees don’t just happen—they become engaged because of leaders who can clearly share a vision and motivate people to get on board and work towards something better.
The way we work is constantly changing, but core leadership principles remain. Mark Smucker shows that leaders who are mindful and care about people while staying connected and finding their why will always be successful.
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