Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Laurel Touby on Leadership

Topic: Leadership

Laurel Touby:  I have to say I’m not known for my leadership. I would say I’m- I want to be a team player and I want to be able to lead a team but I’ve had a hard time with that and I’ve been told that by former employees who say, “Laurel, you have to lead in order to be a leader,” and I’m still learning that every day so I don’t know if I’m the best person. I do know that I just try to create a positive atmosphere and I try to make people feel wanted and loved at the company as well as outside of the company, and if I have any motto it’s that we love our customers, we feel that they’re our friends, so I try to tell people on staff that they have to treat the customer as they would friends. And what I’ve done is I’ve banned the word “crazy” on our staff. I don’t like anybody calling our customers crazy. I don’t care if they’re complaining and if they’re upset about something; they’re never crazy. And so that goes for everybody on staff. We try to treat each other with kindness and I feel like that’s a good way to lead but I don’t know if that’s the answer.

Question: What are the challenges of being a female CEO?

Laurel Touby:  Being a female CEO has been challenging. It’s very subtle though. The sexism is subtle and you can’t always catch people at it. That’s the funny thing. You can think you are and you can hint at it and they’re hinting at other things but you’re never sure if it’s really what’s motivating them. I think that’s what’s so cruel about sexism, racism, any “isms” are everyone’s so PC today that they just kind of sublimate it and it comes out in really weird ways. It oozes out in strange ways and one of those ways is my staff members calling a customer crazy. A lot of our customers are older females and I find that sometimes one of these people will complain and they’ll be vociferous about it and one of my employees will send an e-mail out to the staff saying, “Oh, yeah. I’ve had to deal with this crazy customer.”  And so that’s why I banned the word “crazy” actually was I felt it was being too inappropriately used against older females, and I am particularly sensitive to that as I age and as I’m a female and I went to Smith College.

Question: When did you know it was time to sell the company?

Laurel Touby:  I knew the day that I got investors in March of 2000 that I was going to have to sell one day. The question was what day was that?  And it really became a--  It became a numbers game. As soon as the company got to a certain level and it started to explode, that’s when you start to realize maybe this is worth a lot of money and we should think about selling, and so I didn’t think about that until someone approached me and said, “Hey, have you thought maybe you should sell to us?  And here’s the kind of numbers we’re talking.”  And that kind of got me excited so I had this number off in my mind of what I would sell for. I didn’t get that number but I came close enough that I thought it’s time to do it.

Question: How did you negotiate the sale?

Laurel Touby:  Negotiating is a skill like anything else. You should read up on it. There are books all about negotiating but really it’s all about being on the spot and feeling the other person and sensing them and feeling- and going with the moment. I had my lawyer with me for the negotiation and really you just have to react quickly to the situation on the ground. It’s sort of like war. You have to be prepared to walk away at all times. You can’t get attached to the potential end result. You can’t believe that it’s really going to happen until it does and that was something my lawyer told me. He said, “Don’t think that this is going to end up where you want it to. At any moment they could walk away or you can walk away and you have to really believe that. Otherwise you’ll get attached to the outcome when it’s not even there.”  It’s like counting your chickens before they’re hatched I guess.

Question: How did you choose a buyer?

Laurel Touby:  I knew that I would stay with the company when it was sold but that wasn’t--  I knew that whoever bought the company had to be really smart because it’s a weird little company when you think about it. It’s a community and it’s making money and it’s doing some really phenomenal things that nobody’s ever done before so I knew if someone was smart enough to value the company they’d have to be smart enough to let us continue to do it the way we’re doing it. And so it wasn’t a big concern whether or not they would screw it up. I don’t know why but I just thought you know what. The kind of buyer who wants us isn’t going to screw it up; they can’t. And they haven’t so I’m happy with the outcome.

Recorded on: 06/26/2008

 

Laurel Touby discusses her role as a female CEO and the challenges of executive decisions.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less

How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
Culture & Religion

Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

Keep reading Show less

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less

The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

Videos
  • Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
  • In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast