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Altria CEO: How our women’s ERG is helping us transform

Group from Altria

Altria Group Distribution Company’s Women in Sales Network employee resource group is celebrating its five-year anniversary. The group’s executive sponsor, President and CEO of Altria Group Distribution Company (AGDC) Craig Johnson, recently reflected on the value the group brings to the company and its partnership with NEW.

When I think about where we were as a company and the journey we’ve been on, some of the things that make me most proud is the impact that Women in Sales has had across our organization.

WSN embraces the fact that people are different, acknowledges the value of those differences and encourages dialogue. WSN gives us an opportunity to open this discussion; for people to “hold up a mirror” and realize they are who they are, and to appreciate how we are all unique. These conversations are so intriguing, and they impact me both on a professional and personal level. I continue these conversations after work and at home with my wife, and it generates some amazing discussions.

On a personal level, I enjoy decision-making and have always carried with me my own point of view. What I can truly credit WSN with is opening my eyes to different points of view. I may have my own personal point of view, but that’s all it is — my opinion.

Others may have different or better points of view, and I am now able to appreciate them and listen. Now, at the end of the day when I come home and I’m having a conversation with my wife, I don’t always try to “solve the problem.” Old me would try to solve the problem, but the new me is here to listen to her point of view.

A new approach 

Utilizing this in my professional life has been so impactful. My new approach is to foster better conversations when faced with challenges, solicit other people’s points of view and then sit back and allow the ideas to flow. It’s made me a better leader. Allow the story to come out, get more perspectives, and don’t immediately solve the problem. Remember, none of us is smarter than all of us.

The opportunity going forward for WSN is to go even deeper and for all of us to have a real appreciation for one another. When I think about all the things that we’ve done as individuals, and how as a company we are continually striving to do the right thing, we all become more real and our achievements that much stronger. The way in which our company used to operate is changing.

We are a diverse group of individuals with different thoughts and opinions and we have a wide range of talents. When we acknowledge that and put our energy together, we all succeed. WSN and all of our ERGs have played a huge role in that evolution of thought.

We are a successful company, and we are evolving our leadership, our organization and our portfolio in a significant way. When I look at the future, I see less fluff, less process, less checking up and more trust to do the right thing for our company and for our people. With this shift, everyone’s behavior will need to transform and WSN can help us do this. We need to clarify what really matters: engagement, inclusion, discipline and bringing people along on the journey with the commitment for change.

I cannot imagine how we could have achieved everything with Women in Sales without our partnership with NEW. We are an organization spread across the United States and NEW has a similar geography within their business structure.

Combined with NEW’s high level of expertise in the understanding and thought around gender dynamics and diversity in the workplace, we align perfectly in our partnership and mission within Women in Sales. As partners, we have evolved and challenged each other over the last 5 years, and collaborating with NEW at the top level was a great decision — our road would have been much more challenging without them.

Members: Post your comments in our NEW Member Community.

Craig Johnson is president and CEO of Altria Group Distribution Company (AGDC).

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.