How to Rev Up the Ranks

Footwear News surveyed 13 top CEOs, leaders and designers to hear how they’re motivating themselves, their staffs and sales force to help drive change in the footwear industry while staying true to the corporate culture and the architecture of their brand. From seasoned industry veterans to relative newcomers, this diverse group of leaders candidly shares their top techniques for getting people inspired on the job.

Angel Martinez
Chairman, CEO & President, Deckers Outdoor Corp.

“We compensate people well, and we hope to provide a great [company] culture. In many workplaces there’s a serious soul-sucking component. One of my key tasks is to ensure that everyone’s ability to do their best work is not compromised by that which can pollute the environment — politics, pettiness, greed, selfishness, etc. If I can do that, that’s motivation enough and I believe people are drawn to that kind of place.”

Manolo Blahnik
Designer & Founder, Manolo Blahnik

“I try to soak up the beauty around me wherever I am, pass that on to the people I work with and share my new ideas and inspirations. It’s very important to stay true to oneself. A lot of people are motivated only by money and trends and they lose themselves. I believe in sticking with your values and aesthetic.”

Rebecca Minkoff
Creative Director & Co-founder, Rebecca Minkoff LLC

“My motivation comes from my customer base. The Minkette Girl is always looking for what’s new, so I have to stay ahead of the trends, but still remain true to the aesthetic of the brand.”

Ken Hicks
Chairman, President & CEO, Foot Locker Inc.

“I need to give people the confidence that I have the competence to do what I do and what we do as a whole. People look for consistency, and that their leader lives and believes in the values of the company. When others see that I know what I need to do, they feel they should do it, too. Everyone wants to be supportive of someone who is supporting them.”

Patrik Nilsson
President, Adidas Group North America

“In an organization as large as ours, I don’t believe a leader can effectively motivate everyone. My role is to provide inspiration so that everyone can find their own motivation. Inspiration is about providing vision. We design high-performance footwear for the best athletes in the world, and when that reality gets lost in the day-to-day shuffle, it’s my job to remind our team how inspiring that task really is.”

Glenn Lyon
Chairman & CEO, The Finish Line Inc.

“I share my principles of leadership with people all the time. First, it’s not about you, so shut up and listen. Next, develop your people. Third, share your vision. Communicate constantly. When you think you’ve communicated enough, communicate more. Next, be a life learner. There’s always the ability to get better. Finally, trust in your team. Focus on and reward the team for results, and recognize people so they’re not irrelevant.”

Jessie Randall
Creative Director, Loeffler Randall

“We spend a lot of time on our lookbooks to inspire our buyers, and during market, we’ll have treats for our buyers to snack on, or a fun takeaway like custom nail polish colors going back to the collection to get them excited for the new season. During those rare periods when there’s less work to do, I try to carve out time for my team to relax and get inspired. I encourage them to leave work early, get outside. For the holidays, I’m treating them to a textile painting class.”

Jerome Rousseau
Founder, Jerome C. Rousseau LLC

“I love sharing my story and what inspires me. It helps everyone around me feel like a part of the label and to understand the product and where it came from. My retail partners are a huge part of my label’s family, and I love sharing every detail about my collections with them. I have a genuine enthusiasm for my work and my business, and that’s palpable whenever I speak with my team, when I present my collections to buyers or press, when I work with an actress or when I need to rally a team together to resolve an issue.”

Mandy Cabot
CEO, President & Co-founder, Dansko

“One of my favorite sayings is from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of ‘The Little Prince:’ ‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.’ Don’t get too bogged down with the details. It’s more important to keep the big picture in mind, especially when times are tough and you’re wrapped to the point of paralysis in all the daily details. We’re 100 percent employee-owned, so we remind our employees how everyone contributes to the success of the whole. That’s a powerful thing, and it creates longer-term visionaries of all of them.”

Michele Levy
U.S. CEO, Melissa

“I believe in creating a cultural backdrop that minimizes tension and negativity. We train our troops to see problems as an opportunity to find a solution and move on. Everyday challenges can’t interfere with my attitude and judgment. Think of it as applying a sort of emotional Teflon coat that allows everything to slide — you may have problems and challenges but they can’t have you. Keeping a finger on the pulse of my troops is also important. Sometimes I call a halt to all activities and take time off to do something that gets everyone on a different track: a long boozy lunch, a trip to the bowling alley or giving someone a day off.”

Yeardley Smith
CEO & Designer, Marchez Vous

“I rarely have to motivate my team directly, but I do try to motivate by example, by cheerfully accepting and respecting my position at the top, and trusting each person with a little more responsibility than they think they’re capable of.”

Alejandro Ingelmo
Designer & Owner, Alejandro Ingelmo

“I believe the key to being a motivating leader is letting people be a part of the whole team, and making them feel like their voices are heard. There’s a need to challenge people to think differently and I think that’s what it’s all about.”

Blake Krueger
President, Chairman & CEO, Wolverine World Wide Inc.

“We originated 6,500 flights this year from Grand Rapids, [Mich.], so our people are used to seeing the world and to seeing what’s working at retail in Chile, what’s working at retail in Australia and what’s new in various geographic regions. One of the things that motivates our team as a whole is variety. Between 16 brands and 200 countries and territories, we have probably an unmanageable level of variety, but variety is fun. Different experiences keep the juices flowing.”