We met with Caroline Losson, the current VP Marketing for Keurig – previously the VP Marketing for Natrel, Marketing Director for Molson Coors, and Coca Cola.
The seasoned executive sheds some light on the right time for micromanagement, the truth about work-life balance, and what it’s like being a female executive in today’s workforce. Most of all – why companies today need to put their people first.
A Bit About Caroline Losson
Caroline Losson – VP Marketing Keurig
You’re a real go-getter. So busy that I wonder – do you value work-life balance?
I believe that the balance is in your mind more than in the number of hours you spend at the office. It’s a mental state, not a cookie-cutter approach; it depends on what works for you based on your life situation, which is different for everyone.
I like to get a head start on emails and go to the gym before work, which leaves me the room at the end of the day to cook and unwind. That’s my balance. I also love to travel and visit my kids who live abroad, so waking up early to get things done allows me to take the time off I need to do that. But, the idea of work-life balance shouldn’t be misconstrued as an excuse to not push oneself.
How can workplaces help employees achieve work-life balance?
Workplaces need to offer flexibility to their teams. People have lives and families outside of the office, and sometimes need to leave early or come late, or even just take a day. I completely trust my team to do what they have to do and get their work done. Trust is essential between managers and employees.
There have been times that my position has come with tough choices and compromises. I missed my kids’ graduation ceremonies and many parent teacher interviews, but I had to work. That was a choice I made then to get to where I am today. And they understood. The reconciliation is that I set the example for them that with hard work, anything is possible.
Thanks for being so open. Would you say that vulnerability is an important trait for leaders?
I think that sharing mistakes and failures is really important amongst teams. I’ve made some big mistakes in my career, even as an executive, and the best thing to do with these mistakes is to share them, learn, and try again. It’s also important for employees to see that even bosses are fallible – we’re all human. Transparency is so important.
Whether or not I’m a leader is for other people to say. If I inspire people to think outside of their comfort zone and take risks that move them forward, then I’m a leader, but that’s for others to judge. When you read foundation books like The Social Animal and The Road To Character, they remind you to reflect on yourself every day, so you can become better. Part of being a good leader is knowing that you can always improve, just like you ask your employees to.
What is one characteristic that is indispensable to all leaders?
As much as possible, you have to show up to work the same every day, which can be difficult because you’re human. But if you’re a yo-yo then your team will be a yo-yo. When you’re off your game, it will have a trickle-down effect to the rest of the team. Know yourself, and your limits. If you need a day. Take a day. I extend this to my employees as well. This goes back to the book I am currently reading: Reality-Based Leadership, which is about removing drama from the workplace.
Leaders also need to have empathy. There needs to be a human connection. Every week, I have breakfast with a different employee to chat about whatever is on their mind, work or other, and we catch up one-on-one. We’re a team of 29 and we work extremely hard, so it’s important to stop and connect every now and then.
As a leader of industry, what is one thing you wish to see in the workplace of the future?
Companies need to know that they are nothing without their people, and not just think it, but act on it.
We have to start putting employees at the center of their organization. Unless you run an automated factory, at the end of the day, your employees are what make you successful and what set you apart from other companies.
And as a leader, it’s your job to make sure that each employee has what they need to thrive.
Give them the resources and feedback they need to grow and learn. That is what they want. It’s really a two-way street if you want people to give you their best every day, you need to give them your best, every day. That is commitment.
The first and simplest way to do this is to not put them in a box – let them breathe, think beyond the boundaries and share ideas.
How do you build a strong team?
You need to have a balance of different minds and skills that inspire each other, and to let your employees hone in on their strengths. Realize that not everyone can be good at or take on everything, so give your team the resources they need to become experts in their own skill.
Build a strong team by putting the team’s needs first. Leaders and managers need to impart this mindset to their employees. We aren’t only working towards our individual greatness, we are working towards the greatness of the team.
As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, how do you avoid micromanaging your employees?
Micromanaging and macromanaging cannot always be seen as bad. Sometime’s it’s necessary and that’s ok.
The Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing theory is important here. You go through different stages with your teams, and each phase requires a different level of involvement from the manager. Right now at Keurig, we’re back at square one, re-establishing boundaries, roles and responsibilities, so I will be directing now more than I will be later on.
It’s idealistic to think that everyone can be autonomous all of the time, even myself.
Of course, it is important to trust your employees, inspire free thinking, and let them run with ideas, but it is also important for managers to check in, guide and give feedback.
Bottom line, it’s the way that managers offer this guidance that can make it a negative or positive experience for their employees.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about being a female executive in today’s workforce. Should we even still draw attention to this subject?
Yes, we for sure still need to emphasize it. Women were only voting as of the 1940s, and we need to remember that struggle. And companies should acknowledge that while we’re equal, we’re different, and we face different challenges, which is why at Keurig we have an executive coach dedicated specifically to the female execs.
I believe that female leaders fundamentally have it harder, just by nature of the fact that we have the kids (which, consequently, makes me feel that we have greater rewards).
Can women in powerful, demanding positions like yours really “have it all”?
Absolutely, but in my opinion, it depends on what “all” means to you as an individual. People used to say that I don’t have it all because I don’t have a partner, but back then, the meaning of “all” to me was my career and my children. Personalize the meaning, because you are not everyone else, and don’t have the same needs and desires as everyone else. Now that my children are grown up, my definition of all has shifted, and I am ready to fill other parts of my life.
But the point is, you don’t need to have absolutely everything all at once, to feel you have it all.
- Work-life balance is a state of mind, not the number of hours you work.
- There is a time for micromanaging and a time for autonomy.
- Leaders need to be consistent and empathetic.
- To build a strong team, nurture the mindset that the team comes first.
- Companies need to offer more flexibility to their employees.
- Putting employees at the center of your organization means giving them the tools they need to grow.
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