From the creator of How I Built This, host Guy Raz invites you to listen in as he talks to leadership experts and the visionary leaders of some of the world's biggest brands. Along the way, you'll hear accounts of crisis, failure, turnaround, and triumph, as the leaders reveal their secrets on their way to the top. These are stories that didn't make it into their company bios, and valuable lessons for anyone trying to make it in business.
Amex Change Agent: Kenneth Chenault
When a mentor, and now friend, told Kenneth Chenault during a hiring process at American Express that he was "looking for catalytic agents of change," it struck a deep chord--because it's exactly what Chenault wanted to be. Kenneth Chenault learned early on to only worry about the things he could control; this helped him when life—and business at American Express—threw unpredictable events his way. In this 2020 interview, he tells Guy how he broke barriers as the company’s first African American CEO and helped turn AmEx from a traveler’s check company into a credit card powerhouse.
The Gospel of Slow Growth, ft. Jason Fried
Jason Fried, the CEO and co-founder of 37signals (maker of Basecamp) doesn’t want you to come to meetings. He insists that you work no more than 40 hours a week; 36 in the summer. He doesn’t really want you coming to the office either…and this approach has helped make Basecamp hugely successful. In this episode, Fried describes how he’s built an institution by bucking a lot of conventional wisdom.
Lead Más: Taco Bell's Mark King
On taking what you learn shaking up one industry and applying it to an entirely different industry: Mark King has a reputation for turning businesses around by moving fast on innovative, and sometimes expensive, endeavors. Before his current tenure as CEO of Taco Bell, Mark served as president for Adidas’ long-stagnant North American division, reinvigorating the brand with major athletic sponsorships and a deal with Kanye West. From 2003 to 2014, King was CEO of TaylorMade, which under his leadership became the most profitable golf company in the world.
Finding Work with Meaning, ft Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman calls himself “America’s Career Coach.” In his syndicated call-in show, and in books like The Proximity Principle and One Question, Coleman helps people think about what kind of work they would find meaningful, and how they can connect with people that will help get them into that work. Coleman came about the knowledge he imparts honestly: he spent about a decade working different jobs before he found his real calling in broadcasting. In this encore episode, he poses a simple question: what do you wonder about doing? Learn more about why that question is so powerful.
How to Build Confidence via Strangers, ft. Joe Keohane
Joe Keohane is a longtime journalist and editor who believes that talking to strangers can not only help people feel happier and more empathetic, but can actually make the world a better place. In his first book, The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting In A Suspicious World, Joe talks to psychologists, anthropologists and plenty of strangers to prove it. In this encore episode, Guy and Joe explore why the lost art of connecting is now so important for our personal and professional well-being.
Why Generalists Succeed: David Epstein
David Epstein is a science writer and investigative reporter. His articles have spanned a wide range of topics, from crime and violence, to athletes using steroids, to the intersection of science and the Olympics. And, he’s the author of the books The Sports Gene and Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. But, before all of that, David studied geology and ran on Columbia University’s track team as a walk-on. In this encore episode, follow the thread: David went from star athlete to discovering that having a wide range of interests leads to more successful outcomes -- in sports and in life.
Tiny Habits, Big Rewards: BJ Fogg
What does it take for a person to change? BJ Fogg, founder of Stanford’s Behavior Design Lab, says the key to behavior change isn’t what we’ve always been taught. In Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything Fogg draws upon true experiments--from his lab and his life--to outline a system anyone can use to create good habits or unravel the bad. In this episode, originally published in 2021: the invaluable lessons about making change through design and celebration.
Machiavelli for Women: Stacey Vanek Smith
Stacey Vanek Smith has reported on business and the economy for over 15 years now, first for public radio’s “Marketplace,” and as the host of Planet Money’s daily podcast “The Indicator.” Over that time, she’s seen the same barriers blocking advancement for women in the workplace again and again. Recently, she’s started to recognize that a lot of tools to move past those barriers can be found in the work of Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. Vanek Smith lays out these solutions in her book, Machiavelli for Women: Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win the Workplace.
Black Magic: Chad Sanders on Black Leadership
Throughout his life, Chad Sanders found himself having to navigate white culture; at school, in the tech industry, and eventually in his career in entertainment. He learned to cope with the frustration of having to do that by writing, and he wrote his first screenplay at a cafe just across the street from Spike Lee’s studio in Brooklyn—where he would run into Spike himself. Chad would come to realize that though his experiences related to racial inequity left him with real trauma, they also equipped him and other Black leaders with certain entrepreneurial skills. Chad writes about these skills in the book Black Magic: What Black Leaders Learned from Trauma and Triumph.
No Animals Were Harmed: American Humane CEO Robin Ganzert
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To Win, Tell a Story: Foot Locker w/ Ken Hicks
When Ken Hicks became CEO of Foot Locker in 2009 the company didn’t have a leg to stand on: the economy was in a recession, sales were down almost a billion dollars, and the brand was widely expected to collapse along with indoor shopping malls themselves. How Hicks used a commitment to better storytelling to help Foot Locker get back on the right foot.
Etsy: Josh Silverman
Josh Silverman built Evite and turned around eBay. Then, in 2017, Etsy came calling. The online marketplace for creative goods was in deep trouble. Growth had plateaued and the company was on the verge of being sold. Josh stepped in as CEO and got the team focused on one simple metric that made all the difference. Originally published in 2020.
Cultivating a Culture of Candor: Kim Scott
Since 1992, Kim Scott has worked in almost all levels of management—from a diamond business in Moscow to startups in the Silicon Valley to leading teams at Google. Along the way, she developed a management philosophy called “radical candor” that calls for “caring personally while challenging directly.” Kim has since provided CEO coaching at Dropbox, Qualtrics, and Twitter and is the author of several popular leadership books. Originally published in 2022, this conversation still resonates today.
A New Way to Think: Roger Martin
Over a career spanning four decades, Roger Martin has been a management consultant, an influential business strategy thinker and author, as well as the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto. He advises CEOs of global companies such as Ford, Proctor & Gamble, and Lego. He is well known for developing and exploring the concept of “integrative thinking” in management problem solving and for troubling conventional management wisdom as he does in his newest book, A New Way to Think: Your Guide to Superior Management Effectiveness. In this episode, Martin challenges the relentless drive for efficiency and advocates for a re-think in approach. This conversation was originally published in May of 2022.
Marvel: Peter Cuneo
When Peter Cuneo joined Marvel as CEO in 1999, it was a struggling publishing house teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Ten years later, Disney bought Marvel for $4.5 billion. Cuneo tells his unlikely origin story and how he became the "turnaround superhero."
The Campbell Soup Company: Doug Conant
In 2001, Campbell's Soup was in freefall: the company's value had halved and employee engagement was at an all-time low. Doug Conant knew he could salvage the iconic company, but first, things were going to have to get worse. How he used self-taught leadership, diversity, and inclusion to energize his employees and save Campbell's.
Covey Leadership Center: Stephen M. R. Covey
Back in the 1980s, Stephen R. Covey anticipated a new kind of leadership with his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It wasn't the table-pounding, charismatic kind of leadership, but an empathetic one, which prioritized listening and collaboration. Guy speaks with Covey's son Stephen M.R. Covey, who has played a central role in spreading his father's teachings around the world, and has also written several influential leadership books of his own.
Autodesk: Carl Bass
Carl Bass, a renegade and reluctant executive, took the helm at Autodesk and steered the company out of the global economic crisis. At one point, he was so sure it would fail that he was desperate to find a buyer. Instead, he put his own money at risk to try a whole new business model.
United Talent Agency: Jeremy Zimmer
Jeremy Zimmer was not supposed to be heading one of the "big four" talent agencies in Hollywood. As a child, he struggled in school and eventually dropped out of college to become a parking lot hustler, making money running schemes as a valet and spending nights partying. But that all stopped suddenly one day when he was violently attacked on the job. When he got back on his feet, he found new focus and began his improbable rise to the top of the talent agency world.
Macy's: Terry Lundgren
Terry Lundgren, former CEO of Neiman Marcus and Macy's, has been instrumental in shaping the American retail landscape, but the road to bringing two notoriously competitive retail giants together wasn't easy. How he merged famous department rivals, double-downed on retail, and turned Macy's into the first nationwide department store in the United States.
Carnival Corporation: Arnold Donald
How a New Orleans native turned around a cruise company sinking from a public relations disaster... to one of the most valuable brands in its industry. When Arnold Donald took over Carnival Corporation and the nine cruise lines it operates, one of the biggest things he did was build a new leadership team. Seven of the cruise lines got new heads, including more women and minorities. He says that "diversity of thinking is a business imperative and a powerful advantage," and that you get better ideas and new growth opportunities when your leadership is diverse.
PayPal: Dan Schulman
Mixing business and social justice isn't a strategy most companies are willing to adopt, which is why Dan Schulman's actions as CEO of PayPal have garnered so much attention. In 2016, he canceled a plan for an operations center in North Carolina after the state passed its infamous "bathroom bill." Schulman champions his "employee first" strategy and has raised wages and benefits for PayPal's workforce. His leadership has proved that activism doesn't have to come at the cost of PayPal's bottom line.
GE: Beth Comstock
Beth Comstock is comfortable with change. In college, she wanted to be a doctor, but organic chemistry wasn't her strong suit, so she shifted to journalism. When journalism didn't work out, she started working in publicity. So, when GE bought NBC in 1986 right as Beth was starting her career in advertising, she was ready to adapt again. She worked her way to becoming CMO of GE and then, the company's first female Vice Chair of Business Innovations.
Lego: Jørgen Vig Knudstorp
For years, it was a secret: the family that owned Lego was actually losing money on the company. The man who built the company back up into one of the biggest toymakers in the world, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, reveals his controversial plan that led Lego back to profitability. It leaned on something that has always been Lego's strength: the creativity and passion of the children and adults who love to play with Lego.
General Stanley McChrystal
General Stanley McChrystal was born into a military family: three generations of men in his family were officers in the armed forces. He followed the family tradition and eventually rose up the ranks to become a General in the Army. While serving as the commander of Allied Forces in Afghanistan in 2010, he was forced to resign after he was quoted making disparaging remarks about President Obama. It was in the wake of this moment that General McChrystal learned the value of leadership.
NASA: Ellen Ochoa
After one of the most deadly disasters in the history of space flight, Ellen Ochoa was a leader in NASA's recovery. She fixed the technical things that went wrong, but the most critical changes, she says, were human. Why she thinks it's important to make sure that naysayers always have a voice, and how to encourage employees to do something very difficult: disagree with the boss.
Avon: Andrea Jung
For over a decade as CEO of direct-sales giant Avon, Andrea Jung was one of the most powerful women in the cosmetics industry. During her tenure, Jung saw striking success, but also faced daunting challenges with a failed product rollout and massive restructuring. Since 2014, Andrea has brought her passion for supporting female entrepreneurs to her job as CEO of Grameen America, a non-profit focused on micro-lending.
Built to Last: Jim Collins
It's not an understatement to say that Jim Collins is one of the most influential business writers in modern history. Collins, however, thinks of himself more as a researcher than an author. Each of his books, which includes Good to Great, Built to Last, and his newest, BE 2.0, requires five or six years of crunching data before the writing can begin. But what's even more remarkable about Collins is his own background, and how he built a career out of making unorthodox choices.
PepsiCo: Indra Nooyi
After becoming the CEO of PepsiCo in 2006, Indra Nooyi became the first woman and immigrant to run a Fortune 50 company. From Chennai, India, to Yale's School of Management, Nooyi worked her way up from The Boston Consulting Group, Motorola, and ASEA Brown Boveri before eventually landing at PepsiCo, overseeing the global operation of its countless drinks, snacks, and restaurants. Nooyi's memoir, My Life in Full, details her legendary career, exploring her extraordinary personal journey and the demands of being one of the most powerful women on the planet.
Best Buy: Hubert Joly
In 2012, to say there was a crisis at Best Buy — is an understatement. In January, Forbes published an article with the headline: WHY BEST BUY IS GOING OUT OF BUSINESS. And then, in March, the company reported a loss of $1.7 billion. In April, the CEO resigned because of an "inappropriate relationship" with an employee. Hubert Joly stepped in, determined to fix Best Buy, and he started by valuing the people who work there.