What comes to mind when you hear the name PepsiCo.?
Most likely, you are thinking of their namesake, Pepsi – the sweet cola beverage sold in stores all over the world. But if you are a fan of the brand, you may be familiar with some of their other products as well: chips like Doritos and Ruffles, cereals like Cap’n Crunch, and Grandma’s brand cookies.
It goes without saying that healthy nutrition is not a big selling point of their products!
The organization has been selling one kind or another of carbonated drink since 1902 and has owned many restaurant chains since then.
That said, Pepsi does actually have a line of healthier products. These include veggie crisps, sparkling waters, and dried fruits.
And what does all this have to do with leadership?
Well, you see, there was a time when Pepsi didn’t have many healthy options available for consumers. But Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, saw a shift happening in the marketplace. More and more, customers were setting aside the salty in favor of more wholesome snacks. She wanted to make a shift in PepsiCo’s products to meet this increasing demand. She called this new health initiative, “performance with purpose.”
Many at PepsiCo hesitated to accept the change – and many outright resisted it. After all, the organization had been doing just fine selling their current lineup of products. They were a snack and pleasure food company. They had been for a long time. That’s how they were known and that’s how they made their billions.
But Nooyi could see the market trends. She knew a change would be necessary soon if PepsiCo wanted to stay relevant, let alone maintain its revenue!
She had a decision to make – and an unpopular one at that.
And in this critical moment of her leadership career, Nooyi did just what a good leader should: she relied on her emotional intelligence (EQ).
1. She utilized her empathy and social skills.
Nooyi’s experience as a strategist for companies like Motorola had honed her instincts. She knew a change was necessary – of that she was sure. But she also knew that dismissing her team’s concerns would not help.
When her people spoke up, she listened. She allowed them to share their worries and the challenges they anticipated. She made them feel heard and validated, and sharing made them feel like they were part of the process of change.
2. She practiced self-awareness and self-regulation.
Leaders can become too invested in their initiatives. Nooyi made sure to maintain awareness of her own emotions and motivations as her people shared their concerns. She remained objective, but confident in her ability to lead the organization through the shift. Her strong self-awareness helped inspire her team even further.
3. She communicated clearly and effectively.
Many people, if not most, might consider change a threat. Whether or not they will admit it, change represents a danger to what we are familiar with – what we are comfortable with. There are few fears as universal as the unknown.
So when Nooyi presented change to her people, resistance was their natural response. Nooyi had to be careful about how she presented this change to them. Instead of doubling down and demanding cooperation, she worked to earn the buy-in of her teams.
The CEO framed this shift as a necessary adjustment to keep up with consumer trends. Instead of pushing away the past, she showed them the change as a new expression of the company’s core values.
When Indra Nooyi stepped down as PepsiCo’s CEO in 2018, her initiative had proved successful. She had earned the support of her people, expanded the organization’s selection of healthier products, and improved the company’s bottom line because of it.
Her story serves as a reminder that a leader’s IQ can only get them as far as their EQ will go.
Is your EQ helping you or hurting your team’s performance?
Consider how you would handle a company-wide shift like the one that Indra Nooyi initiated – and how you would best connect with your people over it.
That’s all for now. :)
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