NRF: Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly talks about what it takes to ‘be’ a great leader

Discussion
Photo: Best Buy
Jan 16, 2019
Tom Ryan

In a session focusing on “leading with conviction” at the NRF Big Show in New York, Best Buy’s CEO, Hubert Joly, admitted that he began working with an executive coach about 10 years ago and recognized that one of his biggest “quirks” was a lingering tendency to think he was ”the smartest person in the room.” That was holding back his ability to create an environment for others to be successful.

Said Mr. Joly, “As I age, I believe that IQ is way overrated and that EQ is where it matters. It’s how you assemble a team and what kind of types of leaders you put in power.”

Being clear about your role as a leader is one of the five “be”’s of Mr. Joly’s leadership philosophy, which also includes being a purposeful leader. “Be clear about what drives you as an individual and what’s the meaning of your life and how it connects you to the company,” he said.

A good leader focuses on serving customers, not themselves or their “boss”, and is driven by their underlying values, added Mr. Joly.

Finally, leaders have to be authentic. He questioned the notion that “life happens outside of work” and encouraged executives to bring the “true version of yourself” to the workplace.

A move that embraced many of these leadership guidelines was the retailer’s decision last year to take proceeds from the 2017 tax reform to invest in additional benefits for employees, most notably a child care backup service.

On the other hand, Mr. Joly said leaders should be aware of four common leadership drivers — power, fame, glory and money — that cause “bad things” to happen.

Indeed, he believes a successful company must be about more than making money. He said, “You have to make money to be in business, but the purpose is to contribute to our customers, employees, shareholders and the communities we’re in. Magic happens when you can align people with the purpose of the company.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What core leadership qualities do you believe guide successful retailers today? Have those principles changed over the years? What are the bad habits that tend to plague ineffective teams?

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"The Street may not appreciate it. But GO FOR IT."
"...empathy is vital – both in terms of being able to put yourself in your the shoes of your staff and your shoppers."
"Leadership is enduring and its core elements transcends the ages. However, technological advances and societal changes impact how leadership is manifested..."

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8 Comments on "NRF: Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly talks about what it takes to ‘be’ a great leader"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I agree with Mr. Joly – retail is a people business and being able to connect with other human beings is vital. As part of this, empathy is vital – both in terms of being able to put yourself in your the shoes of your staff and your shoppers. I don’t think those skills have changed over time; they are enduring.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Listening and learning. Clarity and consistency. Learning requires sufficient humility to be open to ever-shifting market dynamics. And how do shifting dynamics get woven into a clear and consistent brand promise? All of the above cultivate trust and loyalty.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Culture beats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What drives professionals to work for your company, especially in retail is an environment where there is openness, transparency, trust, and collaboration. It all stems from the top of the organization, and I agree with Mr, Joly that leaders have to set the stage for success by establishing a trusting, safe and successful work environment.

True leaders lead by example, empower, trust and are empathetic to the workers’ needs. Organizations are truly successful when their employees are motivated, incentivized, and have an environment that supports their collective success. Best Buy and other retail companies should take notice that an outstanding employee experience will directly translate into great customer experience.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Assuming some modicum of intelligence — otherwise how would people be in position to lead — I’d say that honesty, integrity, creativity, empathy and vision are the core leadership qualities necessary for success in today’s market. And yes, years ago, in a more hierarchical world, you may have gotten by on other leadership qualities such as commanding respect, ambition, and coloring inside the lines at all times, but today leaders must be less ego driven and more agile. Oh, and today, “the smartest person in the room” surrounds herself or himself with individuals that are — in fact — smarter than they are.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

This kind of comment: “You have to make money to be in business, but the purpose is to contribute to our customers, employees, shareholders and the communities we’re in. Magic happens when you can align people with the purpose of the company.” is pure music to my ears.

Costco seems to have done it. Best Buy is getting there (not quite there yet, but certainly back from the dead) and the Street may not appreciate it. But GO FOR IT.

Mr. Joly is a rare executive. And I’ve been spending my money at Best Buy because if it.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Odd that empathy was missing in his talk. I personally have found that to get to the root of what’s causing issues or even motivation, it’s what associates are feeling in reaction to your decisions and how you relate to those feelings. How’d you like it if five of your friends were terminated because business is bad? Not very much, right? So people need to understand, one at a time if possible, why that happened and then asked for empathy or at least understanding in return.

To me, empathy should dictate how you respond to your decisions — sure power, fame and money come into play, but if you think of how those look from and average employee’s perspective, they’d better!

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
6 months 6 days ago

Being a purposeful leader is important and Mr. Joly certainly brought that out. Peeling back on purpose requires having empathy and understanding that business is a terrific construct for helping us improve what we do, the way we engage with each other, and how we experience life. You get to keep on participating if your revenues exceed your costs and more people buy your products or use your services.

Leadership is enduring and its core elements transcends the ages. However, technological advances and societal changes impact how leadership is manifested and what gets the spotlight. Leadership in retailing is no different, just more challenging and unforgiving. Retail is at the leading edge and intersection of people, technology, media – all within rising and shifting expectations from individual consumers to financial markets.

Dan Frechtling
BrainTrust

Great leaders have the ability to sidestep self-interest to serve a greater interest. What they do for others supersedes what they do for themselves. Three of the “be’s” reflect this:

1. Be purposeful
2. Be clear about who you’re serving
3. Be values-driven

This reflects the importance of leading oneself before leading others. Retail leaders that distinguish themselves are exceptionally good at intra-personal and interpersonal management. Ineffective leaders focus on IQ over EQ, to the detriment of their teams.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The Street may not appreciate it. But GO FOR IT."
"...empathy is vital – both in terms of being able to put yourself in your the shoes of your staff and your shoppers."
"Leadership is enduring and its core elements transcends the ages. However, technological advances and societal changes impact how leadership is manifested..."

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