Hershey's President and CEO on Leadership, Technology Trends and More
Last week, Total Retail's sister brand, Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC), released its 10th annual list of the top women executives in retail. As in previous years, the honorees were chosen based on their leadership position within their retail organizations, the scope of responsibility within those positions, their career achievements, and their involvement within the retail industry.
The 2020 Top Women in Retail honorees include 36 standout women leaders, recognized for their impact on their organizations and the industry at large. One of the honorees, Michele Buck, chairman of the board, president and CEO at The Hershey Company, shared how she solved the biggest challenge she's faced in her career, who her favorite leader is, the best advice she's ever received, and more in her exclusive interview for the issue. Here's a glimpse into what Buck had to say:
Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC): What do you love about retail?
Michele Buck: The fact that it’s always evolving and changing to meet the needs and wants of consumers. I love to understand what matters to a consumer, what unmet need they may have, and how within retail we can create products and experiences that delight them.
WIRLC: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how did you solve it?
MB: One of the most formative challenges I faced was my first general management job, in which I was charged with turning around a plant that was underperforming on every level. Going into it, I knew I would have to rely on my team’s technical knowledge related to the manufacturing processes and the teams running them. I had to learn to manage through others expertise and my leadership skills and strengths — my ability to create a vision, work with people, ask questions, filter through data and input, and solve problems — to succeed.
I went out on the lines with people, and I watched the process because I wanted to learn what wasn’t working. I engaged in conversations with the team. At the end of every shift we would gather and talk about what was working and what we needed to change. I knew the answer was there in the people, and I challenged them to own those answers and implement the right changes. Together, we were able to turn around that plant.
WIRLC: How would you describe your leadership style?
MB: One key characteristic of my leadership style is intentional listening; I’m known for sitting quietly in meetings as I listen to what people have to say. I have deep respect for the unique perspectives of those around me and what they bring to work. Allowing myself time and space to solicit and listen to diverse perspectives and divergent thinking is critical to my business decision-making process.
Through that process, I’ve been able to unlock the innovation that comes from diverse teams. There’s a lot of power in surrounding myself with people who are not afraid to speak up and share their points of view. Along with that comes innovative thinking and new ideas.
WIRLC: What’s the best advice you ever received, and who gave you the advice?
MB: I’ve been given a lot of good advice throughout my career. I’m especially appreciative of the leaders who saw in me what I didn’t see in myself. They challenged me to take on roles where I could expand my experiences and gain a greater understanding of my own capabilities. Their advice — and the advice I give to others I mentor — is to always lean into things that are uncomfortable and a stretch. Really seek them out because this is where you’ll experience the best growth.
WIRLC: What one new retail technology or trend do you believe will have the biggest impact in 2020, and why?
MB: As consumers change the way they shop, they also change the way they consume media. Retailers are rapidly becoming more sophisticated in their ability to deliver media to their customers. By working with retail partners, we’re matching our insights with retailers’ in-store and online data to market with greater precision. We’re able to deliver media in the format that best complements the online and in-store experience for the right user, at the right moment, in order to maximize the impact and achieve measurable sales conversions.
To read the rest of the exclusive interviews with Michele Buck and the rest of the honorees, download the 2020 Top Women in Retail report today. (WIRLC members can receive ungated access to the report here.)
Related story: 2020 Top Women in Retail
Kristina Stidham is the digital content director at Total Retail and sister brands Women in Retail Leadership Circle and Women Leading Travel & Hospitality at NAPCO Media. She is passionate about digital media and handles video, podcast and virtual event production for all brands. You can often find her at WIRLC, TR, WLT&H or industry events with her camera and podcasting equipment—or at home on Zoom—recording interviews with thought leaders and business executives.
Kristina holds a B.A. in Media Studies and Production from the Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication in Philadelphia. Go Owls! When she's not in the office, she loves to go on long walks, sing around the house, hangout with her family and two pet guinea pigs, and travel to new places.