Even as a little girl, Kat Peeler was determined to enter the world of beauty. She used to mix her own lipsticks and create custom colors. Now, as senior vice president of marketing at L'Oreal, she manages multiple hair-care brands, including Pureology and Mizani, and all that work seems to have paid off.

Peeler's CEO refers to her as "The Mother of Fructis" for good reason: She helped launch the wildly successful Garnier Fructis brand in the United States. Peeler wears that nickname proudly as a badge of honor. After all, there aren't a lot of opportunities to launch one of the top brands within a 23-billion-euro multinational.

Here's Kat Peeler's secret sauce for success--and what you can do to emulate her:

1. Properly direct your competitive energy.

"Maybe I'm more competitive than I think," Peeler admits, "but it's not competitive against others in my organization. It's directed at the market at large." She has come across those who fall into that exact trap--targeting perceived competition within their company--and adamantly believes that to be a poor use of time and energy.

2. Be authentic.

Authenticity is important not just because it's a buzzword but because it's simply so much more efficient to be the same person 24/7. Peeler feels that her personal and professional brands are so aligned that "they're totally the same." She knew she wanted to pick an industry and organization "where I could be 'me.' If I couldn't be 'me' there, I would have left a long time ago."

To Peeler, being unable to be herself would simply be exhausting, and a distraction from the work she's trying to accomplish. Authenticity, in her eyes, is about being transparent, true, and direct--all of which conveys a sense of respect for those you're dealing with.

3. Find the right environment for success.

Sitting down with Peeler, one can clearly see her passion for the beauty business, which is made even more impressive by the fact that she's in her 18th year at L'Oreal, a company known for its competitiveness. "It feels like I started five years ago," she says. "The time has flown by so quickly." Peeler's character has made her a natural fit at L'Oreal. "If you have a point of view and can champion your ideas, then that is valued and you are heard."

4. Always prioritize.

Peeler always tries to prioritize at work. It's not just to be effective; it's so she can take off her work hat and make time for some of her other interests, such as real estate investment and baking classes at the Culinary Institute of America. Those other activities give her time to replenish her energies for her day job.

To prioritize and stay focused, Peeler is a huge list-maker. "Reflect on the list. Know the list," she advises. Her lists are somewhat old-school: She uses the iOS Reminders app, finding Evernote a little feature-heavy, but advises others to use whatever works.

5. Carve out time for critical thinking.

She challenges her team to think deeply whenever possible. This is admittedly difficult because everyone is normally in a rush. "We just do, do, do, do, do," she says.

Nevertheless, critical thinking is a nonnegotiable assignment in her eyes, not just for her team but herself as well.

6. Develop situational leadership.

Peeler's managerial style is often cited as one of her winning traits. She believes in situational leadership and treating people differently based on individual employees' confidence and competence. A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't make sense when you know for a fact that different employees will react differently to the same management style. If getting the most out of your team is what you're after, then how people react to you matters too.

7. Challenge yourself; rinse, repeat.

Consistent challenges are inherent in her company, as L'Oreal tends to transfer highly talented individuals from one division to another. In Peeler's case, it was from the consumer-facing Garnier Fructis brand to Pureology, which is distributed through hair salons. "You learn about different channels and marketing levels," says Peeler, thinking about the move. "The learning was intellectually stimulating." Moving from one distribution channel to another is just one of the many growth opportunities Peeler has actively sought out.

8. Never stop learning.

"Curiosity is key," says Peeler. "Things shift and change all the time." Case in point: Think about the marketing landscape 18 years ago. It's hard to even picture it, right? Yet adapting with the times and learning the latest technologies and marketing levers have helped Peeler stay relevant and successful.

"To be able to keep your finger on the pulse and abreast of changes" is critical in this day and age, advises Peeler, who feels that marketing has changed more within her professional career than ever before.

What's next for one of L'Oreal's finest? Time will tell. Peeler would like to be remembered as someone who had managerial courage, which is something she tries to exude. Above all, she wants to be a source of inspiration to others--something this checklist for success might very well help with.

Published on: Jun 2, 2015
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.