By Francesca Fontana 

Annie Young-Scrivner didn't speak any English when she moved with her family to Seattle from Taiwan at age 7, so she spent much of her time watching and listening to others.

"When you can't speak a language, you're much more observant, watching people's emotions and behaviors," Ms. Young-Scrivner says.

That experience helped spark a lifelong interest in consumer behavior for Ms. Young-Scrivner, 51, now chief executive of Godiva.

As a child, she sold ice on the sidewalk, and got a job in retail as soon as she could get a work permit as a teenager.

After college, she spent 20 years at PepsiCo Inc. that included stints as president of the company's China business and as chief marketing officer and head of sales for the Quaker Oats brand.

"I still keep in very close contact with that team, and it taught me to make sure that you dream big, you take calculated risks, and you nurture talent," Ms. Young-Scrivner says.

She returned to her hometown of Seattle in 2009, becoming chief marketing officer for Starbucks. She says advice she got at Starbucks from board director Craig Weatherup continues to guide the way she leads.

"It sounds so simple, but he said, 'Don't assume you understand -- walk in their shoes and really listen,'" Ms. Young-Scrivner says.

The mantra stuck with her, and she began doing "listening tours," meeting with small groups of employees at different levels of the organization and asking for their insight and advice. Now based in New York, she has continued that practice at Godiva.

When you're a great leader, it's like you're an orchestra conductor," she says. "Some instruments are louder than others, some are going at a different tempo, but they're all playing from the same sheet of music. That's like building a team----you want that diversity, but you want everybody to be aligned."

Among Ms. Young-Scrivner's trusted advisers:

Indra Nooyi

Former chief executive, PepsiCo Inc.

When she left PepsiCo in 2009, Ms. Young-Scrivner says the hardest person to leave was then-chief executive Ms. Nooyi.

"She challenges me, she nurtures me, and she expects great things," Ms. Young-Scrivner says. "She really helps me be my best self."

Ms. Young-Scrivner knew Ms. Nooyi throughout her PepsiCo career, and began to spend more time with her around 2006, while Ms. Young-Scrivner was the president of the company's business in China. Ms. Nooyi traveled to China several times a year and invited Ms. Young-Scrivner to meetings that served as valuable learning experiences.

The two have kept in touch since Ms. Young-Scrivner's departure, including spending time at get-togethers that Ms. Nooyi organizes for former female PepsiCo executives.

"There are very few Asian female executives, and she is someone that you see her and you say, 'Wow, maybe that's a possibility for me,'" Ms. Young-Scrivner says.

Frank Blake

Former chief executive, Home Depot

Ms. Young-Scrivner met Mr. Blake in 2015 when he joined her on the Macy's Inc. board of directors after he had retired as head of Home Depot. She had been inspired by his turnaround of the home-improvement chain during his tenure.

"It's a great roadmap on really understanding the consumer, making sure that you treat employees and the customers right, and getting back to the basics," she says.

When Ms. Young-Scrivner was looking for feedback on Godiva's new cafe concept last year, she thought of Mr. Blake. He spent several hours walking with her through the company's New York cafe as a consumer, giving his ideas.

Ms. Young-Scrivner is a big fan of Mr. Blake's podcast, "Crazy Good Turns," which he created with former Home Depot vice president Brad Shaw. The project focuses on sharing inspiring stories and gives $50 to people who are nominated for doing good deeds.

"He's one of the most humble, dynamic leaders," Ms. Young-Scrivner says.

Rose Marie Bravo

Former chief executive, Burberry Group PLC

Ms. Bravo had been on the Godiva board of directors before Ms. Young-Scrivner took over the chief executive role in 2017. When Ms. Young-Scrivner took the helm, another director advised her to meet Ms. Bravo.

"I had a conference call with her via FaceTime and we connected right away," she says. Ms. Bravo invited Ms. Young-Scrivner to interview for the Tiffany & Co. board of directors, where Ms. Bravo had served since 1997; Ms. Young-Scrivner joined the board.

Ms. Bravo has given Ms. Young-Scrivner guidance around Godiva's brand extension. Her advice: "Make sure it's all authentic and expand carefully, and don't forget who your core customers are."

Since the pandemic started earlier this year, Ms. Bravo has reached out to Ms. Young-Scrivner to check in and offer her support.

"She's just such a thoughtful person," Ms. Young-Scrivner says, and she has welcomed their conversations. "It gets lonely when you're the CEO sometimes."

Brian Cornell

Chief executive, Target Corp.

Ms. Young-Scrivner has admired Mr. Cornell since his time at PepsiCo, where he led the global foods division. Now CEO of Target, he is also chairman of the board at Yum! Brands Inc., a board Ms. Young-Scrivner joined earlier this year.

"He has always been such a courageous leader with incredible agility and heart," she says.

Ms. Young-Scrivner praised the big moves that Mr. Cornell has made at Target, citing the decision to shut down the store's Canadian presence in 2015 and the recent announcement that Target would raise its starting wage to $15 an hour for its U.S. workers.

"He is not a follower," she says. "He sees what needs to be done, and he makes some moves."

Write to Francesca Fontana at francesca.fontana@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 25, 2020 00:15 ET (04:15 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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