Walmart is an iconic brand. They have 11,620 stores all over the world (minus a few that have recently closed, mostly in the Southeast.) As you can imagine, leading a major retailer through the highs and lows of retail dominance can be a challenge.
Recently, I caught up with Carmen Bauza, a Senior Vice President and General Merchandise Manager at Walmart, to ask about how she handles tough leadership challenges. Carmen has spoken at conferences and has some keen insight into leading in the modern age of digital obsession.
What are some of the biggest challenges most leaders face and how have you dealt with them?
Fear of failure. It took me a while to realize that failure is a precondition of success. I love this quote by Samuel Beckett: "Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better."
What are the differences in leadership between a large company like Wal-Mart and a smaller company?
Having worked for smaller companies and startups, the difference is that leaders in those organizations seem more willing to take risk than those in large corporations.
Large companies, by virtue of their size, can create bureaucracy, potentially slowing down decisions. Smaller companies on the other hand, are more nimble and agile. Their organizations are flatter enabling them to reach decisions with speed. That's a focus in our business - looking at how we can be nimble an agile at the size and scale of the world's largest retailer.
What have been some of your biggest leadership challenges? How did you resolve them?
There are so many challenges I have encountered in my thirty plus years in leadership roles. But, what we as leaders are experiencing today is fascinating and is very different than 20 years ago.
With more Millennials growing in the ranks of organizations and the role ever-changing technology plays, today's leaders have an interesting challenge on their hands. They need new skills to manage in a complex and uncertain environment in order to lead in to the future. Bottom line, as leaders, we need to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable and lead aggressively.
If you could give a brand new leader one piece of advice, what would it be?
I read a book recently by Paul Arden called It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be. Arden wrote that being right is based upon knowledge and experience and it is often probable. Knowledge is opposite of originality. Experience is the opposite of being creative. If you can prove you are right, it shows you are not open to new ideas.
What have you learned about mentoring leaders over the years?
I've learned to be a thoughtful listener; to seek criticism, not always praise; to aim beyond my capabilities, that nothing is impossible; and have the courage to seize the opportunity.
What's the biggest mistake you've seen in young leaders?
Hiring and surrounding themselves with people that are like them and not realizing the power of having diversity in a team.