3 Surprising Things I Learned at WFF Executive Summit

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By Sara Sampson, Vice-President of Sales, Restaurant Technologies

I was honored to attend last week’s Executive Summit hosted by the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) in beautiful Denver Colorado. It was an opportunity to hear inspirational speakers and leaders in our industry like Alexis Krivkovich (McKinsey), Lorna Donatone (Sodexo), Denny Marie Post (Red Robin), Dawn Sweeney (NRA) and Marinn Jackson (Facebook).

Here are some of the insights I gathered:

  1. According to McKinsey data, at the current rate it will take more than 100 years to reach gender parity in the C-suite. Women hold only 5% of CEO positions across industries and board representation is only 23%. Coming from a company like Restaurant Technologies where our executive team that reports to the CEO is 50% female and 50% male this was shocking to me. I had expected that progress was being made much faster. Maybe the reason lies in another data point from McKinsey: that women are 20% less likely than men to say their manager gives them the difficult feedback they need to improve performance. Good info, we have opportunities within the Manager ranks that we’re planning to address. That seems to be where the big gap is for many organizations – we need a pipeline of strong female managers to move into the executive ranks.
  2. Jerry Magar of SMU shared insights on the Path to Change. The “aha” for me here was that the biggest issue with most change initiatives is not lack of commitment or action, but that many organizations act too soon – before they’ve had a chance to “sell the problem”, get people to see value in the change and anticipate “self-preservation behavior”. I’ve heard Jerry speak before, he’s inspiring and practical at the same time. In this case he provided a very simple yet impactful model for Change Initiatives.
  3. Marinn Jackson from Facebook gave us a peek inside their corporate culture. A couple things resonated with me – Feedback is a gift that keeps on giving and is shared daily at Facebook – top to bottom, bottom to top, within peer groups. In fact Marinn said she had never received so much feedback in any other corporate culture. It is always constructive and is helping her develop her skills. Marinn shared the accessibility and transparency of their leaders including Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sanberg. There is no question they won’t answer, no issue they won’t address. With offices spread out across the US, they use Circles to connect people. The Circle’s are comprised of 8-12 members that are in similar stages in their lives and with similar career goals. They meet virtually one time a month in a safe, confidential environment to discuss day to day challenges and problem solving. It’s a great way to keep a field workforce engaged and learning from their peers.

Thanks to WFF for a great 2 ½ days – impressive speakers, great networking and many ideas to bring back to the office.