ORLANDO, FL—Former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy kicked off day two of SAS' Premier Business Leadership Series Thursday with his keynote on leadership, transparency, innovation, and growth. Leahy discussed how Tesco went from being seen as a down-market domestic food retailer to being the number two global giant retailer in the world after Wal-Mart, and shared essential management lessons that emerged from his intensive turnaround of the company as well as his observations of other companies and leaders.
The first lesson Leahy introduced is for business leaders to trust the data. "Find the truth. Allow data to show you valuable information. Often, people look for information to confirm their beliefs, rather than seeing the truth through facts. Many employees see the truth in the data but don't want to convey it the way it is to the CEO," Leahy explained.
Leahy also highlighted the importance of setting "audacious" goals and then ensuring that the company's vision, values, and culture help employees reach those goals. Following the customer is crucial, according to Leahy, and using data to know what's happening in their lives, what's important for them—in addition to knowing more about the community and society—will make a major difference for companies.
Measuring the success of leadership is important, too, as is turning strategy into a reality. Ultimately, Leahy said, one of the key things business leaders should remember is that data is priceless.
"When I started at Tesco, we couldn't even get hold of our data. We developed a wealth of customer information through the Tesco Clubcard loyalty program. This provided tons of data to monitor shopping habits and movements of the customer. The card could even predict insurance purchasing habits just on what items [customers] buy. This created a club of Clubcard holders that increased customer loyalty, giving them a sense of community by shopping at Tesco," he said.
Jason Dorsey, the "Gen Y guy" and best-selling author, delivered the day's second keynote address and provided insight into the mindset of some key players entering the workforce.
With about 80 million Gen Yers in the US alone, this demographic is the fastest-growing segment in both the workforce and customer base for many companies.
From a generational standpoint, the biggest differences are communication, attitude toward work, and shopping patterns, Dorsey explained. For example, millennials prefer texting and IMing over other forms of communications.
"In terms of work attitude, millennials often are labeled as being entitled. We see this attitude in every industry where we speak and consult, but the group actually most offended by millennials acting entitled are not boomers or Gen X, but other millennials who do not act entitled," Dorsey said. "In terms of buying patterns, we see that millennials trust user-generated content more than any other generation and are more likely to rely on the opinions of strangers online more than any other generation," he added.
Dorsey also pointed out that there are two divides between Generation Y and other generations. The first is that millennials are not tech-savvy—they're tech-dependent. "We generally don't know how technology works; we just know that we can't live without it. This fundamentally changes our relationship with technology and above all else has affected our 'learned' communication profile, which we bring to work, shopping, dating, and just about everything else," he said.
The second is that millennials do not think linearly like other generations. Millennials are more "outcome-driven" and likely to challenge the status quo in creating an outcome because they may not know the traditional steps involved or know why they should follow them. They may also think they have a better plan, Dorsey explained.
"This focus on being outcome-driven is great for innovation, but it creates challenges, as millennials don't necessarily want to spend two years working somewhere before getting a promotion. Instead, we want one after two months. Again, this is not true of all millennials, but it is the most common complaint we get from leaders in companies who want to leverage their Gen Y talent but aren't sure how to bridge these generational differences," Dorsey said.