Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

Tough Times Call for Transformational Leadership

By / April 2017


“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

In times of monumental transition and turbulence, leaders must articulate a vision that moves their teams to action. By projecting an aspirational picture of a new, improved figure, organization, product or service, the best leaders inspire people to collaborate, innovate and strive for excellence.

Advancing technologies are creating novel business opportunities and propelling the sharing economy, crowdsourcing, social selling and more. But on the flip side, the new technologies are forcing organizations to modernize their business models and feeding consumers’ appetites for instant gratification and transactions on their terms.

These are the times when we need transformational leadership. Transformational leaders identify a necessary change, then guide individuals and organizations to commit to working together towards specified goals. As I described in a previous Aptaris Insights article about high performing teams, teams are inspired when goals have a positive impact beyond themselves.

One example of a transformational leader is David Dillon, who was CEO of Kroger 2003 – 2013. The Cincinnati Business Journal provides a list of Dillon’s achievements, including:

  • 159 percent total shareholder return
  • $45 billion in revenue growth
  • 53,000 new jobs
  • 39 consecutive quarters of revenue growth

In fact, Kroger continued a record 52 consecutive quarters of revenue growth! Dillon also changed the corporate mindset to focus on customer satisfaction in the stores.

A significant contributor to Dillon’s success is a joint venture with United Kingdom-based data analysis firm dunnhumby to create Cincinnati-based dunnhumbyUSA during his first year as CEO.  The venture was Kroger’s entry into “big data” before the industry began using the term big data. Kroger and dunnhumby used loyalty cards to collect consumer data, allowing Kroger to identify shopper habits and trends to better communicate with customers and provide more relevant offers.

The unparalleled data science and success with retailers’ promotional programs is the reason Aptaris began partnering with dunnhumby last year.

Transformational Leadership Strategies

During turbulent times, leaders must take bold actions to survive and thrive. Here are ideas for leading through tough times from Darwin Gillett, author of Noble Enterprise: The Commonsense Guide to Uplifting People and Profits.

Strategy #1: Get Closer to Clients

Most companies cut costs by minimizing travel, but it’s imperative to stay in close contact with clients. Luckily, there are many ways to stay in touch without traveling, including video conference calls, instant messaging, text and social media. It’s critical that you stay on top of your clients’ challenges, anticipate their needs and continue to be the resource for solutions and reliable support.

Strategy #2: Build Up Your People

During difficult times, people’s energy and morale may dip. Some executives make the mistake of focusing solely on finances. Instead, leaders must communicate openly and frequently about the state of the business.  Team members need to know how they can positively impact business goals and sales. By keeping your teams focused on proactive approaches, they will work together towards common objectives.

Strategy #3: Explore New Markets

Now is an ideal time to enter new markets and develop new products. You’ll stand out from competitors who may be hunkering down to ride out the storm. In addition, asking your team to work on research and development will send a strong message that the company is focused on growth and that they can contribute to the organization’s success.

Strategy #4: Promote Managers

Take a close look at your team members and determine if any can be promoted. Some may need training, coaching and mentoring to advance, but promoting from within provides tremendous encouragement and incentive to elevate skills and raise performance.

This may also be a time for new hires to insert a fresh perspective, new processes and renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Strategy #5: Mindset Matters

In addition to decisive action, leaders must demonstrate their passion for the company, its purpose, the vision and mission. They must show dedication to their teams and clients. By creating a narrative that you’re in this together, for the long haul, toward a brighter future, you’re inspiring the team to keep going even through the most challenging circumstances.

This mindset of perseverance and competitive, winning spirit will rally people around the company’s success. You will attract the best talent and inspire them to keep advancing.

Inspiration v. Motivation

It’s also worth noting the difference between inspiration and motivation. Most people use the terms interchangeably but they’re actually very different.

Inspiration comes from within and pulls you into action. We are inspired by a person, book or event.

Motivation is external and pushes you toward a result.

A recent Inc. article describes Why Great Leaders Inspire Instead of Motivate:

“When we are filled with inspiration, we often don’t need external motivation to move forward. The feeling of purpose and meaning is enough to propel us. When we… operate and live from a place of purpose, [we] are inspired every day to give 100 percent. This is why the most effective leaders are the most inspired leaders − and the most inspirational.”

Learn more about the ways Aptaris and dunnhumby are teaming up to help our clients stay competitive during tough times.

dunnhumby’s forecasting and promotions analytics within the Aptaris software platform delivers a solution that includes customer-centric strategy empowered by data, science-based merchandising and automated marketing – all in a single-system technology.

For many retailers, promotional planning continues to be chaotic. The Aptaris platform, powered by dunnhumby science, helps retailers manage marketing, minimize manual processes, and arm them with data for more accurate forecasting and faster decision-making. Please contact us for more information.

Contributed by Tom O’Reilly – President and CEO, Aptaris

Tom has a deep understanding of the retail business from both the store and vendor perspectives. He brings decades of hands-on experience in advertising and promotions including new media innovations. As an entrepreneur, he has transformed each organization he has worked with. Tom is a forward-thinking leader with a history of driving innovation, growth and profitability. As an avid reader, Tom is always enthusiastically sharing cutting-edge ideas with clients and colleagues.


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