… Energy matters! The personal energy you bring with you — whether it’s positive or negative –greatly influences everyone around you. Positive energy often comes from giving helpful feedback in a manner that builds people up. That kind of energy is fuel for the team to succeed. No one draws inspiration from a leader who yells or makes negative comments. On the other hand, who doesn’t want to work in a positive environment where everybody feels valued, and where they are encouraged to grow? Think about the kind of energy you bring to your team. Everyone is taking their cues from you, every day. Your facial expression, your actions and your words — they all matter. I try to be cognizant of that and provide the most positive energy I can. Of course, it’s not always easy to project positivity. If I’m not having a great day, I consciously try to limit my visibility so I don’t project negative energy onto the rest of the team.
I had the pleasure to interview Kim Dixon, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of FedEx Office and Print Services, Inc. She leads and oversees the company’s global retail and print operations. In her role at FedEx Office, she directs retail strategy, merchandising, sourcing, operations planning, transportation operations, real estate, and field operations for over 1,800 retail stores, 600 same-day city couriers, and 19 commercial print production facilities.
Dixon began her distinguished career in sales and marketing with GTE (now Verizon) and then held various positions at Sprint Nextel before joining FedEx in June 2010. She rose through the ranks during her 14-year tenure with Sprint Nextel, gaining extensive experience in retail operations, sales and marketing, and holding positions as senior vice president of retail stores and region president of the Midwest. As a senior vice president of consumer sales and distribution, Dixon was responsible for the development and execution of the company’s consumer channel strategy and operations.
Dixon currently serves on the board of directors for James Avery Jewelry and the Board of Visitors for the Smeal College of Business at The Pennsylvania State University, and has served on numerous non-profit boards in her community. She was recognized by the Dallas Business Journal in 2013 as one of the top women in business in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Kim! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have been with FedEx Office for more than eight years. Prior to that, I spent 20+ years in telecommunications, in roles that evolved from marketing and sales to operations and retail management. Ultimately, I assumed responsibility for Sprint’s consumer sales, which was all about retail. In addition to partner channels like Best Buy and Walmart, I managed Sprint’s national network of retail stores. My work included channel strategy, operations, store design and merchandising, advertising/promotional strategies and large-scale store expansions — which was great fun. Then one day an opportunity at FedEx Office popped up. The company happened to be looking for someone with experience in multi-unit retail on a large-scale, service-focused environment, and luckily I fit the description exactly. I say “luckily” because I can’t imagine a more exciting place to be, given the incredible growth of this company.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I have lots of interesting stories — but the best stories are the ones I hear from customers. Almost every time I visit one of our retail stores, a customer comes up to me to say how much they love FedEx Office. Amazingly, they know their store’s team members by name! We have many regular customers who have great relationships with our teams, and it shows. A customer once opened my car door as I was leaving the parking lot to tell me how her FedEx Office team helped her grow her business. She was so passionate about it that she had to stop my car! It’s those kind of moments that make me really proud of my team and the impact they have.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I wish they were funny! In truth, most of my mistakes have been painful — but all are lessons learned. When I first came to FedEx Office, I thought things would be relatively easy because I had previously managed a national network of retail stores. However, just because you understand the fundamentals of multiunit retail doesn’t mean you understand the complexities of a business model. I was inclined to “plug and play” from my previous experience, but I learned quickly that I needed to fully understand FedEx Office’s business model and culture to truly be successful.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The one thing that stands out most is the Purple Promise, which is our company’s promise to make every customer’s experience outstanding. Anyone who works at FedEx or FedEx Office knows we built our company on this promise, and every Team Member works hard to deliver it. One example that comes to mind is a business customer in Chicago, where bad snowstorms had closed roads. One of our team members actually walked through the snow to deliver an urgent print job to the customer. I also recently read a letter from a customer who said a FedEx Office team member went the extra mile on materials for a family member’s funeral. Not only did our team member help them quickly create and print the materials, but she also gave the customer condolences and even offered a hug. Our team knows their work is impactful — it’s important to people in different ways. Our team members take the time to really understand what customers need, and that’s what makes us stand out.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have a phenomenal project right now, which is our Walmart expansion. We’re putting 500 new FedEx Office stores in Walmart locations over the next two years. It’s an awesome opportunity to give people convenient access to printing, packing and shipping while they’re doing their regular Walmart shopping. We first tested this concept in 47 stores, and customer satisfaction scores were through the roof. For people who multi-task (who doesn’t?!), it’s a huge advantage to be able to do your grocery shopping while also dropping off packages to be shipped, or printing up flyers for your small business. It’s so convenient and easy — and that’s what everyone wants in today’s busy world.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
When you’re leading a team, it’s important to be crystal clear about your vision and expectations. That’s something you can’t reiterate enough — you need to say it over and over. And then, of course, be sure to celebrate your team’s success when they meet those expectations. It’s pretty simple: communicate and celebrate.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
While having a clear vision and expectations is important, I’ve found the most important element is people. It’s important to understand your team members’ strengths and ensure the job they’re doing plays to those strengths. If you optimize all of your talent, you’ll have a successful team. It can be easy to overlook, but the best leaders are good about coaching and developing their team, and making sure the right people are in the right roles.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have two: the first one is Ron Grawert, former president of GTE Mobilnet. I had a staff job in corporate and big dreams of becoming a senior leader. Ron advised me to get out of corporate and into the field, where I could manage a P&L and drive results. In his words, “no one can argue with results.” Needless to say, I followed Ron’s advice and learned the basics of how to drive a business, and those skills helped lead me where I am today. The other person who influenced me greatly is John Garcia, a former senior vice president at Sprint. Many times, John encouraged me to put my name in the hat for new roles. Through his encouragement, I took on temporary assignments and special projects that gave me experience and exposure — which ultimately gave me more confidence to raise my hand when promotional opportunities arose. Telecom was largely a male-dominated industry during my time there, and I was fortunate to have two male sponsors who helped position me for a successful career.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m a big believer that if we are fortunate to be given much, we have a responsibility to pay it forward. For me that means a lot of things, from simply being kind and helpful to giving financial contributions and engaging in local community organizations. I’ve had the honor to participate in the Dallas community through several non-profits, including serving on the Board of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. Working at FedEx Office provides wonderful opportunities for community engagement. Most recently, I participated in an event at My Possibilities, which is a nonprofit that provides adults with Down Syndrome, autism and other cognitive disabilities the opportunity to continue their education. Next month, a group of us will head to the North Texas Food Bank for a day of volunteering.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
OK, I’ll start at the top. Leadership lesson #1 is that it’s not all about you! Going from individual contributor to leader requires you to focus on the entire team’s success, not just your own. Early in my career, it took a few thumps on the head for me to figure this out. Once I did, I saw that when I focused on helping each person on my team succeed, we all had better results. Each individual performed better and the entire team performed better, which of course means I delivered stronger overall results.
Lesson #2 — Putting the right people in the right positions is critical. As the leader, your job is to get the weak player to perform at a higher level — or find a new player. I think we’ve all seen a leader wait way too long to address weak performances. This drags down everyone and people lose confidence in their leader. Move quickly.
Lesson #3 is Know your Numbers. No matter what department or organization you’re in, knowing your numbers is important. Market trends, impact of programs, revenue results, cost savings… whatever is relevant to your function. You need to be able to decipher what the numbers mean for your company, and then drive actions to constantly improve them. That doesn’t mean memorizing all of the numbers, but you do need to know how to access the data, spot key trends and recognize what matters most to your organization — and to the company.
Lesson #4: don’t be afraid of change. Change means growth — personally and professionally. If you change jobs or simply take on a special assignment, you’re going to learn something new. From my experience, changing it up in the workplace is like trying new foods — you’re going to find things you enjoy that you would never have imagined. Have the courage to embrace change.
Last, energy matters! The personal energy you bring with you — whether it’s positive or negative –greatly influences everyone around you. Positive energy often comes from giving helpful feedback in a manner that builds people up. That kind of energy is fuel for the team to succeed. No one draws inspiration from a leader who yells or makes negative comments. On the other hand, who doesn’t want to work in a positive environment where everybody feels valued, and where they are encouraged to grow? Think about the kind of energy you bring to your team. Everyone is taking their cues from you, every day. Your facial expression, your actions and your words — they all matter. I try to be cognizant of that and provide the most positive energy I can. Of course, it’s not always easy to project positivity. If I’m not having a great day, I consciously try to limit my visibility so I don’t project negative energy onto the rest of the team.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Borrowing from Ellen DeGeneres, I would say it’s just being kind to others. We need more kindness, more generosity and greater empathy in this world. Maybe if we had more of that, we’d have less crime, more prosperity, fewer wars. OK, I guess this sounds like world peace, doesn’t it? Honestly, I believe it all starts with treating others with kindness and compassion.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m not big on quotes but as a general theme, I’d say “have fun every day.” Find a job that’s interesting to you and rewarding. Make time for your family and friends. Enjoy your life! If you’re not having fun, it’s probably time to make a change.
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