Ann-Marie Campbell’s story reads like a corporate fairytale. She started at The Home Depot over 30 years ago as a cashier. And now she’s the executive vice president of U.S. stores, overseeing the retailer’s 2,000 stores across the country and the bulk of its 400,000 associates.
When Campbell started, she had no idea where her career would take her, or even where she wanted it to go.
“When you think about being 18 or 19, there’s not really a grand definition—especially in my world—about what I want to be,” she says. “However, I think my career here helped define what I actually enjoy every single day.”
She credits The Home Depot for creating an environment that fosters the kind of career growth she has experienced, one where advancement is based on merit and where “you can come in and perform extremely well and independent of your background or anything else, you get the opportunity to be the best you can be.”
“When you look at the leaders within our company, we have three U.S. presidents and they all started in the store. We have 90% of our store managers that started on the hourly floor. When you think about a merit system, I’m an example of that, but beyond me, there’s so many others that are true examples of that.”
Aside from the supportive company culture, Campbell points to a few other things that have made her successful along the way. In her own words, here’s how she did it:
Never stop learning
I have a thirst for knowledge, but beyond knowledge, it’s about learning. If you stop learning, you stop growing. You don’t get wisdom by just knowing something from 10 years ago or 15 years ago. You get wisdom by when you have that knowledge and you apply it.
I also spend time on self-development. You get to this level within an organization, and you can get very focused and very insular. We always have to have a learning orientation. I spend time benchmarking other companies; like I’ll go and meet with the CEO of Publix or operations leaders at T.J. Maxx. I spend time in other businesses as well, so I can get a sense of what’s going on there.
Focus on we, not me
When you are at different levels of the organization, like when I was in the store or a store manager, you were more focused on your own personal performance. I will call it more like a performance brand. You’re all about making sure that you are excellent at what you do and bringing your best self to the table, but it was all about you.
As you grow with any organization, you have to transition from building a performance brand to building a performance culture. It is no longer about you. It’s about how do you inspire and motivate others to be the best they can be, and how do you harness the collective value of your team to make it the best team.
That’s what I’ve learned as I’ve moved up through different roles, is think about the bigger organization, the broader purpose of the organization, the broader things that you’re trying to get accomplished, and focus on that and not just on individual performance.