NEW YORK — Even as a top executive, you can always learn from your employees.
That was the message at last week’s Footwear Leadership Town Hall, presented by the Two Ten Footwear Foundation and Footwear News at The Museum of Arts & Design in New York.
A panel of industry players tackled topics such as motivating the troops during a recession and mentoring emerging leaders. Panelists included four execs: Puma U.S. President Jay Piccola; Shoebuy President and CEO Scott Savitz; Payless ShoeSource President and CEO LuAnn Via; and Nina Footwear CEO Scott Silverstein. Ann Beatty, president of Psychological Associates, was also on hand to provide an expert’s view of leadership, while Clarks EVP Jim Salzano served as moderator.
The event was supported by the Ron and Cheri Fromm Leadership Fund of Two Ten. Here are a few of the key highlights.
On their leadership styles:
Savitz: “I surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. I try to make myself available and answer my phone day and night. I [also] walk around to my employees almost every day and ask how [the company] is doing.”
Via: “When I came to Payless, Matt Rubel had put in place a clear-cut strategy. It’s important that everyone you work with understands … that the company is aligned.”
On planning for succession:
Silverstein: “I’m in a family business, I’m not going anywhere. We do try to create a good sense of camaraderie and remain a family-owned company.”
Beatty: “Most of our clients prefer internal promotion. When you bring in [external employees] at higher levels, they don’t acclimate to the culture.”
On leading during the recession:
Piccola: “One of my least-favorite days at Puma was when we had to downsize, that was a very difficult time. That experience was moving and helped us move forward; [employees] appreciated their job more.”
Via: “You have to still celebrate the wins, not everything is bad. You have to be clear-cut, direct and honest, and manage that balance of good and bad times.”
Salzano: “When the economy really took the downturn, great leaders turned inward and found opportunities.”
On being a mentor:
Salzano: “Ron Fromm, [chairman and CEO of Brown Shoe Co.], took the time to go to dinner with me and tell me how he communicates. Now I’m paying it forward [and teaching others].”
Piccola: “I’ve found it very engaging to talk to college students. We have a great business and it’s sexy, [but] it’s not all Ferraris and going to the Olympics. [College speeches] give you the opportunity to [show them] what a business is really like.”