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Get to Know P&G President Geraldine Huse, CB’s Inaugural Leader-in-Residence

Canadian Business is relaunching in fall 2021, building on its platform as a trusted media brand and social network for the country’s fastest growing companies and their innovative leaders, who are changing Canada for the better.

Canadian Business gives these leaders — and those who want to learn from them — the resources, networking opportunities and inspiration to innovate, connect and continue to challenge the status quo. One of the ways we are doing this is through launching the Canadian Business Leadership Circle, CB’s leader-in-residence program where each month we engage a different C suite-level executive making an impact in their field. As part of the program, readers will have the chance to connect with these progressive-minded business execs for mentorship and professional development through exclusive content, virtual fireside chats and more.

This March, we are kicking off the program with Geraldine Huse, the newly minted president of Procter & Gamble Canada. Here, she chats with writer Caroline Aksich about Covid-19’s impact on workplace culture, the importance of diverse leadership and the role of mentorship in building an outstanding career.

Welcome to Toronto — I know you haven’t been here for a full year yet, but what are your initial impressions of Canada?

Because of travel restrictions, I was running the company from the U.K. for the first four months. I finally made it to Toronto toward the end of the summer, which turned out to be great timing because the city was slightly open. It was lovely to get a sense of Toronto’s culture and vibrancy — what I was initially struck by was how diverse Canada seems.

Being an avid marathon runner, you must be a master at energy management. With this year making it more difficult than ever to navigate the boundaries between home and work, how are you managing?

Since last March, we have stressed the importance of prioritizing physical and mental health with our employees. Establishing boundaries between work and home is essential. For me, that means switching off in the evenings and working out in the mornings. Although, I haven’t been running much lately — I can be a bit of a wimp when it comes to the cold. Luckily, P&G has a company trainer, so I’ve been doing the virtual workouts.

What do you think the pandemic’s legacy will be in terms of how it will impact workplace culture?

In terms of P&G’s office culture, the pandemic has driven more inclusion. When we have a meeting, we’re now all equal squares on the screen. Everyone is asked to give their input. This has reinforced the power of the whole team. Having said that, we see the value of the [physical] office and are missing it. The office is a centre for community and creativity — ad hoc conversations that spawn creative ideas don’t happen as often when you’re working virtually.

You’re known to be a champion of diversity and inclusion — why do you believe inclusive leadership yields better results?

No one person has all the answers. By promoting diversity (and diverse perspectives) you get a much broader range of ideas, and ultimately you get better results. At P&G, we strive for our employees to represent the diversity of the Canadian population. Internally, when you make people feel more included, they can bring their full selves to work. And externally, we can serve our consumers better because we represent them and understand their needs.

You’ve benefited from great mentors, and have mentored many people yourself. Now that you’re in one of P&G’s top positions, who do you look to for advice and guidance?

Reverse mentors — that is, people more junior and different from me — have helped me become a better leader. Since we all have blind spots, and we can’t know what we don’t know, feedback from reverse mentors can help you improve as a leader.

P&G is on a mission to be “the leading force for growth and good.” Can you elaborate on this company objective?

As the leading force for growth, we’re working to raise the bar on what we call the five vectors of superiority. These are: superior products, packaging, consumer communication, retail execution and consumer value. This strategy is working for us as we are leading growth in many of our categories. As the leading force for good, we want to step up to make a positive impact in the community and environment.

We are doing this by giving back during the pandemic — we donated over $4 million in cash, hygiene products and PPE to frontline health care workers and Canadians in need through organizations like GlobalMedic — addressing systemic racism and inequality internally and externally, and setting ambitious sustainability goals, including being carbon neutral by 2030.

With this mission in mind, how is P&G adding to the leadership conversation in Canada?

As a leader in our industry, we must lead constructive disruption in all areas of our business in order to deliver on our mission and create value for everyone. Ultimately, we want to create a virtuous cycle and be the leading force for growth and good in Canada.

What advice would you give to your younger self if you were starting out in your career today?

Be yourself. When I was young I thought I had to emulate others who were successful. That was a waste of energy. If you believe in yourself, you’ll deliver the best results.

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