Debra – Small Formats, Space Productivity, Layouts – It’s not every day a front row seat opens up to hear some of Walmart’s greatest leaders share their thoughts on leadership. As a Walmart leader herself, Debra takes it further than that, offering a “backstage pass” to hear advice from the leaders she’s experienced in her 28 years with the company.
It was 28 years ago when I walked into my local Walmart in a small town in Missouri to fill out a job application. I landed a part-time job as a cashier, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. I blinked and found myself working in store operations in Kansas City. I blinked again and found myself in store operations in Minnesota and a handful of other places. Next up: Bentonville. Then, it was Santiago, Chile. Maybe I closed my eyes for a nap during that jump. If you’ve ever tried traveling from Arkansas to the west coast of South America, you know what I mean. Not a quick trip with a husband, two kids and a shih tzu.
I wasn’t wandering aimlessly; I was following my passion and opportunity. I was going with the flow – one of the traits of great leaders that I’ve learned from mine at Walmart. You can find a lot of inspiring quotes about leadership but it’s this learning by example that’s stuck with me. So whether you’re just starting your career or already leading a team, here’s something everyone can benefit from: free advice, courtesy of my leaders at Walmart.
1. Go with the flow. Be flexible. Be quick on your feet. Embrace change. Roll with it. No matter what you call it, it all boils down to this: When something unexpected happens, figure it out. A big part of leadership is problem solving and taking everything as it comes.
2. Take calculated risks. My best advice? Don’t get comfortable in your job. For me, that meant stepping outside of my comfort zone – and country – to become the chief merchandising officer in Chile. A funny thing happens when you take risks: you learn. I had no idea my time in Chile would be marked by the sixth largest earthquake on record, but I’m a better person having lived through it.
3. Show emotion. Supervisors love to see passion and excitement from their employees. This means sharing your goals with your leaders. And employees want their leaders to be fun, compassionate and honest. You can show that by rewarding performance and building a strong culture. I can’t stress transparency enough.
4. Bite off more than you can chew. Then take small bites as you work your way towards a big goal. You’ll always feel overwhelmed if you try and do everything at once. This spills over to work/life balance, too. You can have it all, just maybe not all at once. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was Walmart. Your career or success as a leader probably won’t be either.
There’s nothing easy about being a leader. And here’s a little secret: leaders don’t know everything. Shocker, I know. We’re all learning, whether a cashier in our hometown Walmart or in the middle of an earthquake in a foreign country. So find your place at Walmart today and let’s learn together.
Who has been your most inspiring leader?
Tom Smith, Institute Leadership Academy – Tom has been with Walmart for 31 years – moving his way up from a store associate to manager before transitioning to training, international, benefits and to the Walton Institute. A lot has changed in that time, but Tom never forgot something that Sam Walton always knew: a little cheering does a lot of good.
There are certain times of the year where this place literally pulsates. Right now is one. Our annual Shareholders’ meeting is happening this week, and it always creates an amazing vibe around our Home Office. You may be thinking a shareholders’ meeting sounds boring. I mean, who wants to sit around and talk about stock performance and sales, right? Wrong.
We talk about those things, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s associates from across the world sharing cultures, and ideas and celebrating. A lot of celebrating. A couple of years ago, Justin Timberlake hosted the meeting and walked on stage, not in a suit and tie, but a grass skirt. A little strange if you don’t know the story behind it. Here’s the proof.
Our company’s founder, Mr. Sam, hula danced on Wall Street years ago after losing a bet. You’ve got to admire a guy for holding up his end of the bargain. What that demonstrates is a little bit about our culture. Yes, we work hard, but we believe in having fun, too. What’s life without taking time to do that?
In the 31 years I’ve worked here, a lot of people have asked me what it’s like to work for Walmart. It’s been pretty awesome and I’m really proud of the amazing things that we’ve accomplished. We make each other better, our company stronger and give our customers what they need. That’s a pretty good deal all around and the reason why we celebrate with things like the cheer. That’s right, a cheer. Think, give me a W, give me an A, and so on. Except we throw a squiggly in the middle. That’s right, a squiggly. It’s a lot like doing the Twist, and it dates back to when to the cheer was rolled out in 1975 and a squiggle was part of our logo.
I’ll tell you from experience it seems a little corny when you first see it, but it’s actually a pretty cool thing. My first day on the job, working on a team that set up stores prior to opening, was my first encounter with it. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. But all of these years later here I am, proud to lead it. Here’s how I see it:
• It’s all about the team. If you’ve ever played sports or are a sports fan, you know the power of a cheer. It brings everyone together and is backed by a whole lot of feeling. The Walmart cheer helps us lighten up and reminds us why we do what we do. There’s a lot of serious in the workplace today. The cheer reminds us that coming together makes us stronger, that this is MY Walmart, and we all have a personal responsibility to serve the customer. It’s simple, it’s loud and a real motivator.
• It connects us around the world. When I joined the company, there were no Supercenters, no Sam’s Clubs and no international stores. Now, we have associates cheering all over the globe. While it’s slightly different from country to country, what it stands for is the same. Seeing fellow associates from Brazil, China, Argentina and other countries clap, squiggle (you read that right) and laugh together just makes you happy. It’s part of what makes Walmart, Walmart, no matter where you are. Like the time I stood on stage in Mexico City doing a duck dance because that’s what my colleagues do at Walmart de’ Mexico – and with a lot of enthusiasm. It’s a little thing that connects us all and inspires us in a very unique way.
Mr. Sam was on to something when he introduced the cheer to our company. He knew the importance of bringing associates together and having fun. It’s a part of our culture that’s makes working here fun.
And, who knows, you could end up at our Shareholders’ meeting one day leading a team of associates and celebrating right along with celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Tom Cruise.
I know what you’re thinking. Being a “temporary associate” probably means doing things like stuffing envelopes and answering phones, right? Not at Walmart. Not even close. When I started as a temporary associate, I heard people say things like “You can do anything with this company.” They weren’t lying.
I know coming on board was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Why? One word: opportunity. Before I started, I was working as a radio deejay, so I wasn’t exactly a desk job kind of guy. But I loved social media, so working on the Sam’s Club social media team in the marketing department was actually a great fit for me. During my year there, we crossed the one million fans mark (join here!), which was awesome. Now I’m working with the SamsClub.com team on some great projects. But the coolest and most unexpected thing that’s happened to me so far is that I’ve been given the chance to do what I love the most – entertain thousands of people.
Sam’s Club has two big meetings every year. I was asked to be the first-ever host and show off my deejay skills at the year beginning meeting in 2013. I won’t lie – that wasn’t a bad day for me. I had so much fun! I apparently didn’t do a terrible job, either, since I was asked to do the same at the fall meeting; and at the 2014 year beginning meeting; and at ALL the upcoming Sam’s Club grand openings. See what I mean by opportunity?
You really can do anything here. If you don’t think your skills fit at Walmart, you might be surprised how doing what you love can make it a better place. Here I am, doing exactly what I love to do for one of the biggest companies in the world. Who would’ve thought that was possible? Not bad for a temporary gig.
Paul, Corporate Affairs Constituent Relations – Paul worked in education, government and public affairs for several years before settling into his role at Walmart. Today, he works to build partnerships with minority organizations across the U.S., generating awareness around their causes and building support for them on behalf of Walmart.
Walmart Corporate Affairs is a hugely diverse group. Every day, Corporate Affairs works to figure out issues that impact our associates, business and the world. Then we help come up with ways to be part of the solution to these issues and bring associates and supporters on board to help make a difference. Fighting hunger, women’s empowerment and job creation are a few things that matter to Walmart. Building awareness for minority groups is another.
There are thousands of non-profit and advocacy organizations in the U.S. – so many of them focused on serving minority populations. Groups made up of the Hispanic community, LGBT population, Native and African Americans, women and others are raising awareness about challenges they face today. They can’t do this alone. That’s where Walmart steps in.
It’s so important for Walmart to support these groups because they are part of the communities our stores serve. Becoming advocates for minority groups is part of who we are as a company. We all know it’s the right thing to do, and I get to help improve lives daily working in Constituent Relations.
I typically work with Hispanic, LGBT and Native American Groups in ways that are making a big impact. Last fall, we sponsored an event in Los Angeles to help the Hispanic population better understand how important it is to lead a healthy life. More than 16,000 people attended. It was amazing to see such a turnout.
Another important initiative I’ve been involved with focuses on immigrant integration and involves providing English as a second language, history and civic courses to people new to the U.S. There are so many more organizations we partner with like the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Center for Asian Pacific American Women.
Corporate Affairs at Walmart is all about building partnerships and sharing information to make the world a better place. I’m filling a big need in our communities. That’s what makes this job perfect for me. If this sounds like your kind of gig, you’re in luck – we’re hiring! Check out our job openings. Have questions about how else we’re helping build stronger communities through our work? Tell us in the comment section or tweet @walmartcareers with the hashtag #WMTJobs.
Steven, Human Resources – Steven has spent the last 10 years in a variety of human resources roles. Now, he supports associates in Walmart’s Legal and Global Ethics divisions, where he gets the chance to counsel leaders on how to work through processes and better lead their teams.
When most people think about HR, they think of it in terms of operations – things like managing hiring, pay and benefits. I think we all agree these are pretty important – (I, for one, enjoy receiving a regular paycheck), but for me, there’s so much more to what I do as part of Walmart’s HR team. I really feel like I’m helping leaders in our Legal and Global Ethics divisions perform the best they can while encouraging Walmart to think more globally for our associates. This is where this company gives me the opportunity to shine.
I look at the leaders I work with throughout the company as business partners, and they look at me the same way. I’m always happy to help when we need to work through HR processes like performance management reviews, hiring and succession planning. And doing a good job of this usually lands me a seat at the table when they’re thinking through how they can be more strategic in their business. I love that about my job.
Think about it. Where else could I have the opportunity to sit next to people who lead some of the most influential teams in their fields and tell them my ideas on how they can be better leaders and help their associates develop as professionals and as people? That’s what I get the chance to do. And the best part is that they actually listen to what I have to say because they trust my opinion. Building this trust is so important for anyone in HR, especially when stakes are high. One of my big responsibilities is to help the company think more globally about how our HR processes apply in other countries. We haven’t always done this in the past, so helping leaders abroad trust that we’ll do this right is so important.
When I started working at Walmart, I was given some advice that has served me well: build strong relationships with my internal partners. Taking an interest in their business and their lives lets them know I care and want to help. Once these lines of communication are open, just being visible makes them comfortable coming to me for advice. It’s awesome to see them take that advice and become successful, and It feels great to know my thoughts can help lead to that success.
Lucas is our very own Walmart meteorologist, and here he talks about how Walmart offers him a great quality of life.
Dale, Disaster Response and Recovery – Dale has spent nearly 25 years with Walmart focusing his early career on Risk Management Claims, and now on Emergency Management Disaster Response and Recovery. He helped develop disaster recovery systems and processes early in his career that are still used today to help stores – and communities – recover more quickly than ever.
We’ve all seen the devastation caused by natural disasters – events that destroy communities and change lives forever. There isn’t anything you or I can do to prevent these things from happening, but the resources of Walmart enable my team to help prepare and recover when they do.
When I started my career almost 25 years ago, Walmart didn’t have advanced technology or systems to help us cope with major natural disasters. Now, we rely on our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Emergency Management Team to keep us ahead of storms and have developed processes that help our communities and our customers get back on their feet once the clouds pass. The EOC is our central communications point when disaster strikes – where we assemble the best of the best to field questions and provide support.
There are events we’ll never forget – Hurricane Katrina, the 2011 tsunami in Japan, the tornado that leveled Joplin, Mo., that same year. Walmart was there for all of them. I was on the top floor of a high rise in Japan during a disaster recovery effort and was tossed around during a strong 7.4 magnitude aftershock. I’ve stood in the rubble of entire towns destroyed by tornadoes and in the washed out ruins left by raging flood waters. People ask how I can stand to see these things. The work Walmart does to help people and the responses we see from our community members make it all worth it.
When disaster hits, my team responds with on-the-ground support when needed. Walmart begins helping victims immediately after the event and works with local relief organizations to make sure community needs are being met. One of the best ways to do this is to bring our stores back online as soon as possible because when stores aren’t open, customers can’t get what they need to start rebuilding their lives. So we make it a priority to clean up, restock and reopen as quickly as we can. And it always surprises me to see how associates and community members rally around their store. When this happens, the stores become nerve centers in the middle of the devastation. It reminds me what an important role we play.
I’m really proud to say that I have been a part of recovery efforts in one way or another since the early 1990’s. Helping people and our communities in this way is so rewarding to me.