"Leave the crown in the garage."
Indra Nooyi has been the CEO of PepsiCo for over a decade now. Since then, she has learnt so much about running a company, but also about life.
She shares her thoughts on a lengthy LinkedIn post and this is what she has to say.
She quotes the Bible in her first life lesson, from Book of Proverbs, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” She believes the same can be said of any institution.
"When I came on as CEO, I didn’t want to completely change the direction of the company. But I also believed we needed to bring a new sense of meaning to the work we did every day. We called it, 'Performance with Purpose.'"
Come up with a vision that not only reflects the direction of a company, but moves people, inspires people to make it a reality, she says.
The New Yorker published a great cartoon which read: “Yes, the planet got destroyed. But for a beautiful moment in time, we created a lot of value for shareholders.”
This cartoon made her think about how important it is to balance short-term and long-term interests, which got her thinking about time horizons.
"When you focus on the level of returns alone, you’re producing returns that, however high they may be in the short-run, are not sustainable," she says.
"At PepsiCo, we’ve adopted a different strategy, one that we believe balances both the level and duration of returns. As a result, we’ve delivered good returns that have grown consistently and sustainably over a long period of time," she adds.
3) Ensure that culture change sticks
Her third lesson is on the importance of persuasion. "Right after I announced Performance with Purpose, I paid a visit to the Frito team in Plano, Texas. They were my first recruits. I armed them and others at the company with the messages they needed to help persuade the rest of the organization to embrace Performance with Purpose," Nooyi explains.
But she faced a lot of resistance.
"Today, Performance with Purpose has become ingrained into our culture, which never would have happened without community support. It’s crucial, not just to have a clear message, but to have a critical mass of supporters who can help you deliver it," she advises.
4) Listen carefully
Her fourth lesson is perhaps the most important part of persuasion: listening. There are always people with ideas for how we can do things differently – ideas we may not want to hear.
"But I’ve found that when I’ve been willing to listen, I’ve been better for it, as a CEO and a person. There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth. We should do more listening than talking. We should lead as CEOs. But we should also learn to follow, if needed. We should listen to the wisdom all around us," she says.
5) Be a student for life
Her fifth lesson to everyone is to keep learning. Nooyi herself practices to be a lifelong student.
"Being a CEO today requires more than just taking a course. It requires getting out of our offices and seeing things up close," she says. Something not many bosses do. But it is something good leaders do.
"I can’t afford to stop learning. None of us can. CEOs need to be students for life, and all our employees do, too."
6) People are everything
According to Nooyi, the success of an enterprise usually comes down to one thing: the team.
"In the past, if you wanted the best talent, it was all about the job. In today’s world, it goes beyond that. You need to appeal not only to your employees’ heads, but to their hearts."
7) “Leave the crown in the garage”
Finally, the last thing is to be humble and remember who you are.
"None of us is just an employee. We’re also mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, daughters and sons, trying to balance multiple roles. And that’s what my seventh lesson is all about," she says.
One of the most memorable experiences that cemented this life lesson of hers is this: she came home after being named President of PepsiCo back in 2001 and her mother was visiting at the time.
“I’ve got great news for you,” she shouted. Her mother replied, “It can wait. We need you to go out and get some milk.”
So what does Nooyi do? She goes out and gets milk.
"And when I come back, I’m hopping mad. I say, “I had great news for you. I’ve just been named President of PepsiCo. And all you want me to do is go out and get milk.”
Then she says, “Let me explain something to you. You may be President of PepsiCo. But when you step into this house, you’re a wife and mother first. Nobody can take that place. So leave that crown in the garage.”
No matter who we are, or what we do, nobody can take our place in our families."
What do you think of the life lessons Indra Nooyi has to share with everyone? Let us know in the comments below.