Robert McDonald Visits Class

Earlier this month, Fuqua’s Board of Visitors arrived on campus for its semi-annual meeting. The event boasted a star-studded roster, but perhaps one of the most notable members was Procter & Gamble CEO and Chairman Robert McDonald. Mr. McDonald leads a company that, aside from being a frequent employer of Fuqua grads, shares the sense of ethics, teamwork, and personal development that have distinguished Fuqua.

Graciously, Mr. McDonald volunteered a few minutes of his time following the BOV meeting to chat about his experiences in Prof. Joe Leboeuf’s Managing Human Assets course. A man who shepherds 129,000 employees is certainly credentialed to speak on such matters, and he offered answers to a wide variety of questions. Two of us were present in the class, and have our own opinions about the session.

Mike’s Thoughts

What struck me most about Mr. McDonald was his highly personable manner. I suppose this shouldn’t have been surprising. Most CEOs probably have this trait in mass quantities. But there was something about the dialogue between this high-powered CEO and a classroom full of students that suggested the learning was going in both directions. Mr. McDonald showed legitimate interest in what we were saying. I reasoned that this was important for him. After all, it’s a changing business world, with today’s employees shackled with more and more concerns to complement their ever-increasing skill sets. We, at Fuqua, are supposed to embody that change.

Mr. McDonald depicted a unique culture within his enterprise, one whose upper ranks were populated exclusively from within. A main tenet of the class, to date, has been that culture can be directly responsible for the success of the firm, and that the lack of an identity can be a cause of failure. The CEO’s words certainly echoed that notion. He cited the emphasis on individual initiative as a driver of new, successful products, and that the indoctrination of culture, from an early age, promoted tranquility within the firm that most employees appreciate. But as he reminded us, not every culture is for everyone, and recruiting is of the utmost importance in finding employees who will fit, and make P&G’s concerns their own concerns.

Diana’s Thoughts

Business school has exposed me to a wide range of incredible people and opportunities and hearing Bob McDonald speak was no exception. As Mike mentioned above, when Mr. McDonald spoke to our class, he seemed genuinely interested in hearing our questions and providing us with honest responses. He worked his way to the top during his 30 years at P&G, held many different roles and responsibilities and partook in a 2-year training process to become CEO. In my shoes, I am a first-year student who is about to reenter the workforce for my summer internship. A C-level role is a faraway thought now, but Mr. McDonald highlighted the important parts of leadership and showed us how we can use them at Fuqua and in our future careers.

Mr. McDonald’s Words of Wisdom:

  • Prepare yourself to be the best leaders possible to help transform the world
  • The scarcest resources are good leaders
  • Be open to learning from different cultures
  • When you promote from within create tools and training programs to make that process successful
  • Find people who want to make a difference and have impacts on other people’s lives
  • Manage your relationships
  • Don’t let somebody else define success for you