Convenience Store News’ Retailer Executive of the Year Andrew Clyde subscribes to a concept known as appreciative inquiry. This approach to organizational change utilizes questions and dialogue to help participants uncover strengths and opportunities in their organizations.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Clyde, the president and CEO of Murphy USA Inc., for our November issue cover story and one of the topics we discussed was his leadership style, which is rooted in appreciative inquiry. “If you came in with all your prior experience and you knew all the answers, I mean, that usually doesn't play out very well,” he told me.
Asking questions and listening, however, has played out well for Clyde.
He shared with me a story about how roughly a year into his tenure, he attended the company’s national leadership conference, followed by a district managers meeting, and it became apparent to him that his message wasn't being heard in the field and their voices weren't getting to him.
Immediately setting out to change this, he surprised his team by asking the 150 district managers at the meeting to send him 100 ideas in 100 hours. Within a week, more than 150 unique ideas poured into his inbox. Rather than taking tons of time to mull them over, he got to work right away with his team organizing those ideas into quick wins and longer-term initiatives.
“That set into motion some of the earliest initiatives back in 2014, and it also reinforced my expectations around inclusion, which I define for the organization as meaning you have a voice and your voice will be included by leaders when we make decisions,” Clyde told me.
Asking questions and listening seem like such simple and common-sense practices for leaders, but too often decisions are made for employees without any actual input from them. Being in a position of authority should increase one's ability to see and hear others, not decrease it.
Take it from the Retailer Executive of the Year: “You just got to be open to learning.”