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Nestlé Waters CEO Kim Jeffrey spoke with executive MBA students at a luncheon held at the James L. Allen Center.

For the team

Nestlé Waters CEO extols virtues of ‘we’

By Aubrey Henretty

2/6/2007 - Teamwork is not only a pillar of the Kellogg School’s educational philosophy. It is also an indispensable tool for any aspiring executive.

Kim Jeffrey mastered it early.

“When I was six years old,” said Jeffrey during a recent visit to Kellogg, “my teacher wrote at the bottom of my very first report card … ‘Plays well with others.’ Still a pretty good idea.”

Jeffrey, president and chief executive officer of Nestlé Waters North America, spoke on “values-based” leadership with an audience of executive MBA students Feb. 2 in the James L. Allen Center’s Tribune Auditorium. The EMBA Program frequently invites distinguished leaders to share lunch and insights with its students, a gesture that nourishes minds and bodies alike.

According to Jeffrey, executives who collaborate well are in high demand. “I have no doubt that what people are looking for today is a little inspired leadership,” he said.

Central to developing that kind of leadership, added Jeffrey, is a cohesive set of company values — something he admitted that his own company lacked when he joined it years ago. “We had a mission statement at that time that was the most meaningless [document] you’ve ever seen,” he said of the statement he helped draft. Since then, the firm has scrapped the original version and created a meaningful one. Jeffrey says a little honest reflection made all the difference in the new statement. “If you believe you’re a human assets-based company, you have to take a step back … and say, ‘What am I doing to inspire my people to greatness every day?’”

Of course, as good as a mission statement may look, its real strength is in its execution. “It’s not about what’s on this piece of paper,” Jeffrey said. “We have moral obligations to the people we lead and the people we serve.” He suggested that taking the time to build trust and rapport with employees can ease all kinds of professional hardships: “If you do this, it’s much easier to have the tough discussions with people.”

A leader who values the team above all else, said Jeffrey, is setting up everyone for success. “If it’s about ‘we’ instead of ‘me,’ we all have a chance to win.”