Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Winter 2005Kellogg School of Management
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  Blythe McGarvie '78
  Blythe McGarvie '78

Alumni Profile: Blythe McGarvie '78

Part of the club, or alone above the fray?
Leadership demands seemingly contradictory skills, says Kellogg author

By Michelle Bryant

Do you want to know the secret to being an effective leader in business and life? Blythe McGarvie says the answer is simple: "Pay attention."

This is just one of the tidbits that McGarvie, a 1978 Kellogg School graduate and finance expert, reveals in her new book, Fit In, Stand Out: Mastering the FISO Factor for Success in Business and Life (McGraw-Hill). By sharing her observations from working with some of the most successful people in business, McGarvie offers a distinctive approach to leadership, which she believes can help companies and individuals achieve their objectives and dreams.

 "It's amazing how much you can learn just by paying attention and discerning, paradoxically, how to fit in and stand out," says McGarvie. "One of the things that I wanted to do was to tell stories but also understand the results in a conceptual framework."

McGarvie, founder and president of Leadership for International Finance, has a wealth of knowledge from which to draw. Over the span of her 25-year career, she has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of BIC Group, one of the world's leading manufacturers of convenient disposable products; senior vice-president and chief financial officer of Hannaford Bros. Co., a Fortune 500 supermarket retailer; and chief administrative officer of Sara Lee Corp. (Pacific Rim).

But in 2002, McGarvie, along with most of America, watched in shock as the Enron scandal unfolded. For her, it hit too close to home. Arthur Andersen LLP, one of the accounting firms charged with obstruction of justice, was also her first employer.

"I know Arthur Andersen spent a high percentage of revenues on training and had a lot of terrific, bright people at the company. It made me wonder how the company could have lost some of the things I know they once had," says McGarvie. "I wanted to share my thoughts and research about what a leader must do to keep his North Star and have sustainable success."

It was then she decided that being a company CFO wasn't enough. McGarvie made it her personal mission to "restore trust in business" by showing people it was possible to make money in business legally and maintain personal integrity, while still having fun.

After extensive research, the Kellogg alum developed the FISO Factor. Emphasizing the concepts of integration (fitting in) and transformation (standing out), the FISO Factor is composed of six catalytic agents: financial acuity, integrity, linkages, learning, perspective and global citizenship. For each section, McGarvie offers the ABC's — Attitude, Behavior and Characteristics — giving practical measures on how to apply these concepts and develop one's personal style. Although the FISO Factor accents the importance of integration and transformation, McGarvie insists that managing these elements is not simply a balancing act; rather, it's about making a choice.

"I think that this is excellent advice and a very insightful way of thinking about leadership," says Kellogg School Professor Mohan Sawhney. "Interestingly, the book itself follows the FISO factor — it 'fits in' with the well-known principles of leadership, yet it 'stands out' by offering very personal and fresh insights from Blythe's own career."

One of the business leaders featured in the book is fellow Kellogg School alum Harry Kraemer. McGarvie notes that even when he was CEO of Baxter International, Kraemer made a point every day to walk past his very first cubicle at the company to remind him of where he started.

 "Understanding the history of a company or your own beginnings really helps you keep your perspective," says McGarvie. "I think that is one of the things this book has done for me."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University