CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Effective leadership is much more about human skills than technical skills, according to the presenters at the 2022 Convenience Store News Future Leaders in Convenience (FLIC) Summit, which brought together emerging young leaders in the convenience store industry for recognition, education and networking opportunities.
The fifth-annual event featured the presentation of the 2022 Future Leaders in Convenience Awards, which recognized a class of 33 honorees that included, for the first time ever, rising stars from convenience store retailer, distributor and supplier companies. The FLIC awards celebrate the achievements of industry up-and-comers, aged 35 or under at the time of their nomination.
This year's Future Leaders in Convenience Summit also provided education and networking opportunities to attendees. In addition to roundtable discussions, the program featured a Positive Leadership workshop led by Danielle Mattiussi, the former vice president of retail operations for Maverik – Adventure's First Stop and a current industry consultant. This was followed by a "What Does Leadership Mean to Me?" presentation delivered by CSNews'2022 Retailer Executive of the Year Doug Haugh, former president of Parkland USA.
"As leaders, the things we say and do have an outsized impact and a lasting impact," Mattiussi said as she kicked off her workshop, which focused on leading in a positive way.
She acknowledged that it's easy to get caught up in the management side of leadership and in fact, in her opinion, performance reviews sometimes drive this behavior because the process focuses on finding what's not quite right and what someone can do better.
"Of course, you want to continually improve, but you want to make sure that you don't lose sight of what's going really right. Anyone can point out the shortcomings in others. It takes a special skillset to keep in mind what's really right. It's more difficult, I think, to do that," she said.
Mattiussi asked attendees to identify two to three leaders they admire and describe why they admire these individuals, pinpointing specific skills, attributes or qualities they possess. She then asked the group to categorize those qualities as either technical or human skills and had everyone put marbles into two cups: one labeled technical and the other labeled human. At the end of the exercise, the marbles in the human cup far outnumbered the technical cup.
"You need both. The technical substance is what garners that confidence in what you can do, but what really leaves a mark on you and your career, and makes it memorable, are the human skills," she said, citing that positive workplace environments lead to higher levels of productivity, higher levels of customer satisfaction and ultimately better financial performance.
She urged the emerging young leaders in the audience to never forget how fortunate they are to be in a leadership position and to always seize the opportunity to build people up. "Even your poorest-performing employee has something positive about them," she said.
The Heart of Leadership
Haugh, who established a nonprofit organization that's aimed at developing leadership skills in the engineering profession, shared with the FLIC honorees the key tenets of his program known as "Engineering Leadership." He especially focused on five elements he believes are "the heart of leadership." They are humility, optimism, courage, trust and love.
For leaders, humility is not only about being humble in your own accomplishments, but also knowing that it's not what you can do, it's not what you know; rather it's how you help others find the best in them. And then, have the optimism to see it go to work, according to Haugh. "The power of suggestion is unbelievable from a leadership position," he said.
On the topic of courage, Haugh pointed out that leaders must always take accountability. "You own it, good or bad. And certain days, it's going to be bad," he admitted. "How you respond to that and push through that — with humility and with optimism and with love for your team — will make all the difference in the outcome."
As for love, Haugh believes it is "the too seldom used human superpower" and an essential part of being a successful leader. "It is that superpower that will lead you through those moments of courage that are needed. It will remind you of the humility you need to [earn] the empathy and support and love of the people around you," he explained. "You'll need love to forgive. When some people break that trust or disappoint you or don’t follow through on an optimistic situation, you're going to have to forgive them. If you carry around those burdens from those situations, you can't lead. The burden will bury you down; it's too heavy."
He left attendees with this final thought: "Constantly lead with your heart."
Supporters of the 2022 Future Leaders in Convenience Summit included founding and presenting sponsor Reynolds Marketing Services Co. and silver sponsor McLane Co. Inc.
In closing remarks, Matt Domingo, senior director of external relations for Reynolds, stressed the importance of putting resources behind a business' best asset: its people. He also reiterated that leaders are made by who they are (their character) and not so much by what they know.
He recalled a moment in 2011, early on his career, when he inherited a large team at Reynolds and one of his new direct reports pulled him aside and told him: "Don't feel like you have to know everything. The trust that we have in you, and the person you've shown us you are so far, is more than enough. We'll help you figure out what you don't know."
To Domingo, that was "a profound moment" in his career and helped shape him into the leader he is today. "It's really your character day to day that shines through, and that's what people notice," he said. "Your career is going to be made on the number of people you impacted, not the projects you worked on."