The pandemic was a total game-changer. When it started, no one really knew how to deal with it. The uncertainty it brought forced many to unlearn and relearn processes because things were not the way they used to be. Addressing this elephant in the room, Adam Markel invites Andy Clement. Andy is from Kimberly-Clark Professional, where he has held 18 different roles in various departments, ranging from sales, marketing, strategy, innovation, and manufacturing, to general management.
Since 2019, he has been the Chief Customer Officer of the company. In this episode, he shares with us their experience with the pandemic and how his teams have been resilient in the face of so much change and disruption. He then highlights the importance of feedback as a tool and how the company had to learn to sell in the new virtual landscape, developing relations through conversation and creating a more resilient selling system and sales team.
- 03:18 – Kimberly-Clark’s Definition Of Resilience And Growth Mindset
- 07:09 – The Value Of Feedback
- 11:16 – Why Resilience Is Important
- 13:44 – How Uncertainty Impacted The Business
- 18:54 – Rituals To Recovery
How do we leverage continuous uncertainty to thrive in this unprecedented new world?
The answer is to build the resilience we need to power us through the challenges we face so that we become “Change Proof.” Prepare to tackle the future with confidence by reading Adam’s latest book Change Proof: Leveraging the Power of Uncertainty to Build Long-Term Resilience.
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Building Resilience To Pivot Amidst Personal And Global Challenges With Andy Clement
In this episode, I’m joined by Andy Clement. Maybe you don’t recognize him but he has been an executive with an epic company called Kimberly-Clark for many years. He’s had eighteen different roles including sales, marketing strategy, innovation, manufacturing and general management. He is the Chief Customer Officer and has been in that role since 2019. We’re talking with him about the pandemic and how Kimberly-Clark and his teams have been resilient in the face of so much change and disruption. It is something I’m looking forward to. Please give it up in your space for this amazing interview that I feel honored to have with Andy Clement.
Andy, it’s always a strange thing when you hear somebody else read your bio or introduction. I don’t know if I twisted your arm to get on the show because, in all the years that you’ve been with Kimberly-Clark and all the eighteen different roles, I didn’t see speaker or trainer as one of those roles. Maybe this is going to be the beginning of the nineteenth role for you. What’s something that’s not a part of your bio that you would love for people to know about you at the outset?
The bio has lots of information about my career at Kimberly-Clark which is all great, but it’s probably more of the personal stuff that is not in there. My daughter was diagnosed with diabetes on her first birthday. If you want to talk about resilience with what I’ve witnessed her go through over the past years and be with her. My wife and I have been heavily involved in JDRF, Camp Kudzu, which is a diabetes children’s camp, and City of Hope, which does a lot of fundraising and research for Type 1 diabetes. That’s something I’m passionate about.
The other thing that’s not in the bio is what we’ve done at North Point Church over the past years, leading small groups there. That’s Andy Stanley’s church there in Alpharetta, Georgia. You may have heard of Charles Stanley. I’ve always found that that’s a way to get away from it all, get away from the day-to-day at work, and make sure that you’re thinking about things that are bigger and rebuilding yourself for Monday morning when you have to go back to work.
It’s a good segue where you started there in asking yourself if you’ve got your own personal definition of resilience. What does resilience look like to Andy Clement?
It’s quite simply the ability to recover quickly from challenges, day in and day out. They happen at work and home. In simplistic terms, that’s how I think about it.
It was interesting in our work together and my asking that question to your group of leaders that everybody has their own definition. Everybody defines resilience a little differently. I’m curious, does Kimberly-Clark have a definition? Do you see in their culture, value statements or mission statements that resilience is something that an organization that has been around for 150 years have? Do they define resilience?If you are purpose-led, you will be more resilient and have the ability to get through the day-to-day challenges. Click To Tweet
Not that I know of but our culture purpose is purpose-led and performance-driven. That somewhat does tie to resiliency that if you are purpose-led, you are going to be more resilient and have the ability to get through the day-to-day challenges. You talk in your book about the growth mindset. We’ve been promoting that a lot in Kimberly-Clark for the past couple of months, which is accepting challenges, not running away from them, learning from them, and being okay to fail. As I think about the history of Kimberly-Clark and myself, that growth mindset has helped us be around for a while and does tie to our culture.
It has me thinking about the concept of a growth mindset. People get that. They get it on a philosophical level. I want to get a little more granular. What does it look like? What does it mean to have a growth mindset to you?
If you’re going to have challenges, it’s how you act when you get them. You view them as opportunities for business improvement or self-improvement versus shutting down and saying, “I’ve been successful. We’re just going to do it my way.” There are lots of examples of this growth mindset through Kimberly-Clark’s history and even in the past couple of years through the pandemic of how we’ve got to adapt and overcome challenges.
Let’s take a common scenario. There’s somebody in the sales area. Often, salespeople are getting yeses and they’re getting noes. I love winning business. I am a huge fan of that. There’s nothing more fun than that. When you lose a business, a client, a customer, or when you just don’t get one that you think you can, ought to, want to, etc. At that moment, it can be depleting. People can get caught up in the emotion of rejection. If you’re applying a growth mindset, looking at what Kimberly-Clark has no doubt been able to do over many decades, what do you say to somebody who’s in sales and they lose a client?
Salespeople hate to lose. We’re very passionate. It’s figuring out what you’re going to do differently and how you’re going to approach that similar type of customer in the future so you don’t lose. We have a process here at KC where we look at the big deals we’ve lost. We step back and say, “What happened? How could we have done this differently?” Sometimes it was the relationship that our national account manager didn’t have with that end-user. Sometimes it was the selling methods. Sometimes it was maybe a product we didn’t have that we could then build into our R&D funnel to make sure that our team is developing that.
These types of losses or problems can be gold if they’re not ignored. It also means, “You missed your quota. You didn’t get these 4 or 5 sales that we expected you to. That’s okay, but how do we make sure that we make you better in the future?” That’s a growth mindset from a sales manager’s perspective versus, “I’m going to have to put you in a plan.”
The worst words you can hear are, “I’m going to have to put you on the plan.” There are worse words. We know what comes after that.
That shouldn’t be how we try to handle it.
The value of feedback cannot be overstated, in my experience. Often feedback was valuable on the one hand. I’ve worked with a lot of organizations. I’ve been running a part of senior leadership in organizations where I was more integral when it’s getting started. We say feedback is great, yet often there aren’t systems for giving and receiving valuable feedback. As you said, there’s a golden nugget. Are we looking to find it? Do we have the capacity to find it?
There are three things that we came up with some years ago that I’ll share for folks that haven’t heard this. These are the three questions that we will often ask, and I’m curious if KC does something similar to this. One is, “What’s working for me? What worked in this situation?” It’s followed by the question, “What didn’t work in this situation that we’re talking about?” Finally, “What could be done differently?” What’s been valuable in having to use this for a long time now is starting with what did go right. What are the things that you would say, “That did work?” It’s starting in a positive place for one thing.
When we’re talking about criticism, critique or feedback, you immediately go, “This is why this should never happen again,” or whatever it might be. It’s starting in that place of what didn’t work and getting very direct and specific about that, and then ultimately, what’s the growth opportunity? What could be done differently? We don’t know if it’s going to be done better or worse. That’s the thing. We never know who’s got a crystal ball, but we know one thing. We could do it differently and get a different result. Do you guys have a formalized system to provide that?
It’s a great point. In general, KC does a good job of asking for and providing feedback across the company. It was a big cultural change many years ago that we trained everybody on. It felt uncomfortable at first, but we’ve gotten pretty good at it, specifically in sales, and that three questions you talked about. We have a structured process around pipeline reviews that starts with me to my leaders, the middle managers, the sales managers, and then our reps. You look at all the accounts that are in the pipeline.Great salespeople hate to lose. Click To Tweet
You look at the ones that have been closed and say, “What can we learn from that? What did we do right?” You look at the ones that maybe we lost and fell out of the pipeline. That’s back to, “What happened? What can we do differently?” That happens at a senior level and at a junior level. When you get into that routine of doing it, you begin to build that growth mindset that we talked about.
One thing too that we’ve heard in doing this in a formalized way is to try not to have it be mechanical because people are like, “We’re going through the motions on that thing.” What we found is that when they see that the feedback is a thing that fills them up, I like to say that feedback should be additive and not subtractive. You can steal somebody’s dignity very easily. You can steal their self-esteem. You can steal a win from somebody.
It’s still so much with the way that you provide that feedback or you can plus them in some way. That’s what I’ve heard a lot. It’s that being so open to getting it and giving feedback in an environment like that. You feel like people have your back. It’s something that we talked about with your group. You ultimately want to know that people are there and they got your back.
A lot of that ties to why Kimberly-Clark has been around for 150 years. A lot of it is a very supportive culture. I’m not out to get you and backstabbing. It’s just, “We want to win together. How can I lift you up? How can I give you the feedback to help you grow?” That’s why people like myself stay at Kimberly-Clark for many years. It’s because of the culture, whether it’s bosses, mentors, peers or people that are able to work with me. I felt like they had done that to me. As you said, it’s how you give the feedback, whether it’s a pipeline review or somewhere else to pass it along.
What do you think gets in the way of resilience? You’ve bought into the idea of a world of constant and never-ending change. I wrote this book Change Proof of how to leverage uncertainty to build our long-term growth. Resilience is this unsung hero in that. If we’re resilient, we’re going to figure stuff out. You’re going to make a bunch of mistakes along the way, but if you’ve been around 150 years, you figure it out more than you didn’t figure out. What gets in the way of resilience? How important is resilience, in your opinion?
It’s important. You talk in the Change Proof book about deposits and withdrawals. If you’re pulling too much out, we all have a breaking point where we withdraw, get stressed and burn out. You’ve got to make those deposits. You’ve got to find the time to exercise, get away, have breakfast with your wife, meditate, whatever it is that helps you. If you take too much on, eventually you will break.
For example, we had a guy that works for me that is a top-notch leader that was burning out. It was a Thursday night. He called me and I said, “Take the weekend off.” I didn’t tell him that this was about deposit and withdrawal. That’s basically what it was in looking back. He called me the following Monday and said, “I feel so much better. Thank you for letting me do that.” Sometimes it’s on us as leaders to recognize when people are at that breaking point.
The idea of this bank account is like a resilience bank account. It’s like any other bank account. If you withdraw more than you put in, you get a love letter from the bank. I was an attorney for a bunch of years. That’s the way we used to refer to those nice little letters you send out. It’s a love letter. You then get $25 or whatever it might be.
When we’re withdrawing from our resilience bank account mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually more than we’re depositing, that overdraft or that state of being overdrawn shows up in other ways. It sounds like you met a key person in your team that was showing those signs of being overdrawn.
That was it exactly. Luckily, he made some deposits over the weekend and didn’t have to get any more of that nasty letters of the penalties from the bank.
I want to talk about uncertainty. Can you give us an idea of how uncertainty has impacted the business?
It’s been a challenge. There has been a lot of uncertainty in the past years since the pandemic hit. We took for granted a much more certain world before 2020. Thinking about selling, it was very easy and certain in the model that all of us had grown up in KC and our industry like face-to-face selling, leveraging pretty good relationships, and strong negotiating.Feedback should be something that's additive, not subtractive. Click To Tweet
All of a sudden, everybody had to do it digitally or virtually. You had to have a camera on you versus doing it in person. A lot of it had to be done using digital assets for the first time, which was very different. That was a lot of uncertainty and a big pivot that we had to make. It’s not just my sales organization. It’s all sales organizations. It was hard but I was proud of how the team adapted over a couple of years.
I’ll say this without naming any companies. I get this privilege of getting embedded on some level in organizations because they bring me in to speak on resilience and some other strategies for developing individual and organizational resilience. I get to ask the question, “What are your challenges? What are the things that are exhausting your people?” That’s when it becomes a very interesting moment of transparency. I get a lot of quite real information and one of those things has to do with the sales teams and the challenge that you brought up, the uncertainty about how we do this in a world that we used to do it differently.
I’ll say this. Tell me if this is the case. Things have not gone back. I don’t know that they’ll ever go back to the way they were. The customers are also pretty okay with it that instead of face-to-face, eye-to-eye over lunch or a handshake or something, they’re doing it virtually. Those same salespeople thought that the pandemic was going to end and things would go back to something more familiar to them. It has not happened. How have your salespeople continued to pivot? What does that look like for you?
You’re selling organization starts with your buyers. You have to build your selling organization around the buyers. It was slowly changing this way between 2015 and 2020. It accelerated significantly when all the buyers were sitting in their basements instead of an office. They started experiencing the fact that I can get most of my information on B2B products like I do my at-home products digitally. I can buy them this way. I need to interact with the salesperson, but it can be done virtually or it can be done occasionally in person, but not 3 or 4 times for purchase. It was a big transition.
Some people that were more resilient had a growth mindset like, “I got it.” Others struggle at times. Part of the reason why we wanted to speak to our team in those years is to build that resiliency muscle up. Within our team, we have trained everybody on this idea of hybrid selling. You have to look at your buyer, their stage, and where they are. If they want to have a digital or face-to-face interaction, great. Think about your selling method and model based on what the buyers want.
You guys pivoted like a lot of folks did in that time. Since I wrote a book called Pivot a few years back, I wish I got a dime for every time people have used that word in the last few years. I was a little ahead of the curve with Pivot. Change Proof more met the moment, timing-wise. I’ll use the word now. It is a broad question, so anything in particular. What have you learned from the pivoting? What has that been like for you personally or within the teams you’ve seen?
I learned the whole idea of looking at your buyer and adjusting your selling method in the organization accordingly. Don’t think about one selling method. It’s going to be continuous improvement based on your buyers. I’ve been amazed at how certain people in our organization have been able to pivot and be successful with it.
Quite frankly, they are certain people that I would not have thought of initially, then other people that were outstanding sellers that our previous model had taken more time to get there. They weren’t as change-proof. They thought that they would all go back to the way it was. As you said, it’s not going back to the way it is. It’s hard to predict necessarily how people are going to react to that and whether they’ve got that growth mindset or not.
One of the things that we did talk about was if resilience is something that we have to have, and the time to create it is now before you’ll need it next, that was the first level. The second level was developing resilience is about ritualizing your recovery. It’s not about trying to outrun the pandemic or outsmart or somehow see the future like you got a crystal ball. Maybe you could do it, but probability-wise, it’s not likely. Ritualizing our recovery means that we’re not depleted.
When we’re not depleted, we have the resources mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually to deal with almost anything. That’s the one truism about not just Kimberly-Clark but about the human species. We are incredibly adaptive. We can deal with a lot more than we often think that we can, and do it even elegantly and in a positive and productive way. I would be curious to know some of the rituals that you have for your own recovery, if you could share a couple of those personally with us. What are some things you worked on that maybe didn’t pan out, that you stopped doing because they didn’t work, or the things you’re even experimenting with at this moment?
It’s making sure that you take time for yourself, exercise, sleep and eat right. Those are very obvious. It’s still easier said than done sometimes. I’m spending time with my family and my wife. The nice thing about the last couple of years is I haven’t had to travel as much. We can have breakfast every day, connect away from work before the phones start ringing, and spend time spiritually at the beginning and end of the day are important. One of the things I got from your book was writing down your code of conduct each day, which I have done.
I keep it by my home office and work office. I’m at my work office now. I’m looking at that every day. There are 6 or 7 things on here. One of them is making sure that as the Chief Customer Officer, I am doing all I can to put the customer first every day within Kimberly-Clark. That’s a sales-type thing that I try to do. You said in your book that if you don’t do that and look at it every day, certain things start to fall off. Thank you for that. I have swiped it with gratitude.If you take too much on, eventually, you will break. Click To Tweet
They’re for you to take. That’s one of the things we will talk about and what the specifics around that are. Maybe it’s a little teaser for people to get the book or what have you. The code of conduct is a way to start your day with the end in mind. It’s like reverse engineering. At the end of this day, we’re blessed. We’ll get to the end of the day, safe and sound and all that. How did you want to experience the day? What would you have liked to have experienced during the day, or even experienced how you were being or the way you experienced yourself during the day?
My theory is that if you start with that in mind, there’s a greater likelihood that that’s what you end up with. That’s proven out. I only have anecdotal of what people say about having used it and my own personal use of it to go on there. It’s great to know that’s something that you’ve adopted and it’s clearly paying a dividend of sorts.
It works. It really does. I thought it was a little corny to print it out and read it every morning and night but I was like, “Let’s give it a shot.” Sure enough, it keeps you focused. I can be my own harshest critic at times. Sometimes I’m like, “Andy, you did not do all the things here. What are you going to do differently tomorrow?”
The other thing too is we got this resilience assessment that we’ve been using for a bunch of years with a lot of hundreds of organizations now and thousands of leaders. I don’t remember what your score was or the rank in those four different resilience zones. I should have said this to you even before we started our show. If you’ve not yet taken it, it would be cool to have you do it again.
For our audience, you will not take the same exact one as Andy because we did something specifically for the Kimberly-Clark folks. You can go to RankMyResilience.com or ResilienceRank.com and get your own. It takes about 3 minutes with 16 questions. It would be cool if you did that if you haven’t already and see what the before and after scores look like.
I need to do that. I took it the first time. I haven’t printed it out at home. I don’t remember off the top of my head what the scores were. I had room for improvement and a lot of the KC people did. As you may recall, we had even done a sales test even before we engaged you in 2021. We’re looking at where the Kimberly-Clark sales team was strong and where we had room for improvement.
We were good at negotiating and selling with the insights and closing deals, but it was this idea of resiliency, especially in certain functions where we were not as good, me included, as we would like to be. That was what prompted us to head down this path with you. It would be good for everybody to retake the test as I think about it in KC.
I’m thinking about it too. That’s cool. Andy, I’ve enjoyed the conversation and the insights. Congratulations to not only the company being around so long, but you’ve been with the company for many years which these days is unheard of. In part, it’s because companies aren’t around that long. That’s obvious, but then there’s also this other thing where the culture of those organizations doesn’t support the longevity of someone like yourself.
It’s a pat on the back to KC that they’ve got a culture that would nurture someone like you so that you could be around and continue your growth. I saw it in your eyes and heard it in your voice and everything. There’s no end in sight at the moment. You’re being able to influence in a positive way all these young and new leaders, and helping them to have even some of the resilience that you’ve had and the career with a great company. It’s remarkable. Thank you so much.
Thank you, Adam. I enjoyed the conversation. Congratulations on the book. It seems to be great.
Folks, we love that you provide us with your feedback. Please feel free to do that. You can subscribe to the show on any of the formats that you dig. Go to AdamMarkel.com/podcast if you’d like to leave a comment there. You can leave a review on iTunes. If you’ve not yet taken the resilience assessment, you can do that at ResilienceRank.com. That’s simple. If you want to find out more about Change Proof, get the book. You can get the assessment there as well. You can go to ChangeProof.com. It’s a very simple place to get more of what we’ve been talking about with Andy Clement. We’ll see you soon and thank you so much.
I thoroughly enjoyed that conversation with Andy Clement. Working in a company that has been around for 150 years like Kimberly-Clark is special. To be with that organization for many years in eighteen different roles, and talk about serial pivoting is amazing. I love the conversation, especially since we were able to get into the nitty-gritty and the detailed conversation around things like feedback and how it is that feedback is such an important tool to be able to make those pivots, to see where it has been working, what’s not been working, and what could be done differently.
I love the fact that we got to dig into Andy’s personal definition of resilience, as well as how resilience is operationalized within an organization such as Kimberly-Clark. Even big companies like that, not only do they have to be resilient but they also have to deal with this ever-present uncertainty that all of us deal with. Within a company that has got so many thousands of people that are performing so many different roles where things are uncertain could have a devastating ripple effect across many different channels.
I love the fact that we got to talk specifically about this uncertainty, especially in the arena of sales. In so many ways, when the pandemic hit, people had to relearn how to sell. This is a function that you can’t do without in a business. There are some things that are a bit optional. Every business has to be able to sell if there’s no money.
If there’s nothing being sold, there is no business. We get that. It’s so vitally important when your boots on the ground sales team don’t know how to sell because the standard operating procedure for selling is no longer operative or relevant, and when all the in-person meetings to discuss and enroll have disappeared and stopped entirely. To this point, even two years beyond the beginning of the pandemic, much of that has not been restored.
People had to learn how to sell virtually, be online or be on Zoom or some other face-to-face digital meetings. They have to create digital assets to present the story of the product. They have to be able to continue to develop that relationship and enrollment conversation in ways that had never been done for most of these sales folks before. That was quite interesting to hear Andy talk about where his team was at the beginning, the struggles and challenges that they had along the way, the pivots they made, and where they are now with a more resilient organization, selling system and sales team.
That’s also powerful and has lessons for all of us, whether we’re a solopreneur or we are running or a part of a larger organization. Being change-proof is the name of the game now. We’ve got to learn how to navigate constant and never-ending change. The way that we do that is by creating resilient systems, individuals and organizations. We don’t have to worry about weathering the storm. We utilize the storm, whatever the storm might be, as a catalyst for our growth. Something that Andy and I talked about as well as how it is that we more and more are able to model and produce a greater growth mindset within the groups that we find ourselves a part of.
Change is constant. Change is not going anywhere anytime soon. None of us has a crystal ball. The uncertainty is going to be there. What we can count on is being resilient. We do not know what the unknowns or the uncertainty will be, but we know that we can plan for how we perform in that state of unknown or uncertainty. If we’re performing in a resilient way and are growth-centered, then the change is net positive to us regardless of what it might be. That’s what we’re looking for personally and professionally. I love the interview and the conversation with Andy Clement.
- Camp Kudzu
- City of Hope
- North Point Church
- Change Proof
- iTunes – Change Proof
About Andy Clement
Andy joined Kimberly-Clark 30 years ago, and has held 18 different roles in various departments including sales, marketing, strategy, innovation, manufacturing, and general management. He is currently the Chief Customer Officer for Kimberly-Clark Professional since April 2019 where he leads the North America Sales Organization and has responsibility for global accounts, global channel partners, and global sales capabilities.