Business

In 1 sentence, Walgreen CEO Roz Brewer reveals what we still don’t understand about equality – and how we can get it right.

In late 2021, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Roz Brewer spoke with Harvard Business Review for a chat. The meaning of the interview? Empowering employees, the importance of learning the inner workings of the business and the issues we still face with Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI).

Brewer is a black female CEO – one of two in the Fortune 500 – and has an impressive career that ranges from driving at Starbucks to trucking for Walmart and most recently heading one of the largest companies in health and welfare of the country.

His experience is a gold mine for entrepreneurs, as the HBR interview revealed. Not only does it show what future business leaders need to do to climb the ladder (hint: pay attention, listen, work in the trenches and do the “worst and best” of jobs so you really know the business) , but uncovers the embarrassing DEI breakups that still divide the workforce.

Perhaps most insightful was this snippet from the back-and-forth with HBR, especially the last line:

“… [this is] the story we know in the United States: give someone their starting point, then they take it to the next level. …[But w]We haven’t done enough work to study and think about what happens in someone’s life, when you are a single parent with more than one child and you have to take care of that child? And it’s more than a cost, it’s a matter of self-esteem. And so we started looking at things like, what do you think of yourself and do we develop that in people? “

For many people with ambitions to rise in the business world, the focus is on efficiency and productivity practices early in the journey: How are you positioning yourself to be a successful leader? How to reach the highest level and stay on top?

Brewer, however, shines a spotlight on the work left to do when you’ve reached the top, emphasizing more than dollars and cents. It’s about people. Instead of asking questions about best practices for staying at the top, the questions should become: How can I give my employees a fair and equal chance to climb their own ladder?

It is not, she implies, general statements or general programs, but asking individuals: what do you want and what do you need to achieve it?

It’s a matter of fairness, says Brewer. It’s about making sure the people who make your business successful feel seen and heard, and have a fair chance to succeed on their own terms.

“It’s the next level of leadership,” she explains. “[W]We’re going to have to be serious enough to listen and act and make people feel included in the environments we create, as leaders. “

It’s not just how you fight the big quit – it’s how you thrive in a modern business world.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.

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