Hans Melotte shares leadership lessons from Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, and P&G.

Hans Melotte Shares Leadership Lessons from Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, and P&G.

International business leader Hans Melotte shares the lessons he has learned working with some of the largest brands in the world.

Listen to the podcast

Highlights from our conversation

  • Factors that influenced Hans’s approach to leadership (5:07)
  • CPG experience at P&G and J&J versus retail experience at Starbucks (6:48)
  • Differences between American and European business cultures (11:38)
  • His motivation to change industries and roles (15:09)
  • Assessing and developing the capabilities of teams (18:06)
  • The value of authentic leadership (21:06)
  • Hans’s hiring strategy (22:40)
  • Qualities that Hans looks for in fellow leaders and teammates (24:51)
  • Incorporating stakeholders/partner perspectives into the recruitment process (27:42)
  • Authentic interviewing and talent evaluation (29:02)
  • Essential qualities of a successful supply chain leader (32:26)
  • The importance of being in the moment (38:15)

Show Transcript – Podcast with Hans Melotte

[00:00:00] Roy Notowitz: Hello and welcome to How I Hire, the podcast that taps directly into the best executive hiring advice and insights. I’m Roy Notowitz, founder and CEO of Noto Group Executive Search. You can learn more about us at notogroup.com. As a go-to firm for purpose-driven companies, we’ve been lucky to work with some of the world’s most inspiring leaders as they’ve tackled the challenge of building high performance leadership teams. Now, I’m sitting down with some of these very people to spark a conversation about how to achieve success in hiring and create purposeful leadership for the next generation of companies. Hans Melotte joins me on the podcast today. Hans is a board member, executive advisor, and mentor with over 30 years experience as an international business leader. His background combines global P&L accountability with functional leadership expertise across supply chain, procurement, technology, and sustainability. Hans began his career at Procter & Gamble in Brussels, and he spent the next 20 years at Johnson & Johnson in a variety of roles, ultimately serving as the Chief Procurement Officer. Hans then joined Starbucks in Seattle where he held multiple executive roles and was responsible for overseeing their supply chain. Hans will share his perspective on North American and European business cultures, and we’ll talk about his servant leadership style and how those values have showed up in his hiring approach, as well as what it takes to be a modern supply chain leader. Hans, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today. 

[00:01:46] Hans Melotte: Roy, my pleasure. Thank you for having me. 

[00:01:49] Roy Notowitz: I’ve been looking forward to this conversation, so let’s dive right in. I was thinking about your career, and you’ve had such great success at several of the largest companies and brands in the world. Can you touch on some of your career highlights and how those experiences have led you to where you are today?

[00:02:09] Hans Melotte: Roy, thank you. First, I’m super grateful for my career. I don’t think my younger self could ever have imagined the number and nature of opportunities that I’ve been able to pursue. I graduated many moons ago in Belgium, where I was born and raised, and my first company actually was Coopers & Lybrand. I started as an auditor and quickly realized that was not going to be my thing, so I left relatively early, took an early sabbatical, during which I did many different things, from working in a Pizza Hut restaurant to doing not-for-profit work to travel around the world. 

[00:02:48] Roy Notowitz: Brilliant. 

[00:02:49] Hans Melotte: And then, when I felt ready to get back into the corporate world, I ended up applying and starting at Procter & Gamble, world-renowned CPG company. 

[00:02:58] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:02:58] Hans Melotte: Ended up in their product supply organization by sheer coincidence because my goal, or dream, at that time was to be in their marketing or brand advertising department. So this was one of those defining coincidence moments. 

[00:03:12] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:03:12] Hans Melotte: P&G, amazing company. I really had a great time, was there for a couple of years, and then ended up following a friend of mine to Johnson & Johnson, which, in many ways, I’d say has been the corporate love of my life because I ended up staying at J&J for 20 years. 

[00:03:30] Roy Notowitz: Wow. 

[00:03:30] Hans Melotte: In multiple businesses, multiple countries, and multiple roles. J&J, Johnson & Johnson, has always been the company that brought myself and my family to the US. And we came to the US in 2011 at the world headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and ended up leaving J&J to join another amazing company, Starbucks, back in 2016. And so, Starbucks is the company that brought us to the West coast. Starbucks has been another beautiful experience, has given me so many different opportunities that I’ll be forever grateful for. And, uh, retired from Starbucks about a year ago and am now pursuing my own portfolio of activities. 

[00:04:15] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, which is how we connected initially. 

[00:04:17] Hans Melotte: That’s right. I don’t think I have one career highlight to share with you because my favorite job has always been the one that I was in at that moment. Now, as I reflect further, I do think there are two things, or two success factors, that have probably contributed the most to my trajectory: first, a servant leadership style with a strong and constant focus on people and teams. And secondly, approaching each of my roles future backwards by upfront answering the question, “What unique mark do I want to bring to this role? And what legacy do I want to leave that’ll truly elevate the impact of this role inside and outside the company?”

[00:05:06] Roy Notowitz: Yes. So are there specific people or experiences that have influenced or inspired your approach to leadership and hiring? 

[00:05:13] Hans Melotte: I’ve never been very intentional about seeking mentors or about curating my own personal board of advisors, but I have made sure to always observe other leaders at various levels and observe other leaders for behaviors or leadership traits that I admired and therefore wanted to emulate, just as well as look for behaviors and leadership traits that I did not want to display or be known for. And that’s helped me to be the leader that I would want to work for myself. And that’s been another key guiding principle of mine throughout my career because think about this: very few people — probably nobody — would wake up in the morning feeling excited, or thrilled, or motivated to be micromanaged at work. Or nobody will probably want to bring their best self to work when their contributions are not being recognized and rewarded. Or when their leader will focus on their blind spots versus encouraging and celebrating their superpowers. So I’ve always wanted to be the leader that I would want to work for myself. That brings me to another key point, and that’s the importance of continuous learning. As an example, one impactful lesson I learned very early on in my career, thank goodness, was to pivot away from being a leader who wanted to be liked, towards a leader who wanted to be respected. 

[00:06:42] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. There’s a big difference between those.

[00:06:44] Hans Melotte: Massive difference. 

[00:06:45] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. That’s huge. There’s so many leadership lessons that we could talk about. I’m interested though, in the difference between your CPG experience at Procter & Gamble and J&J, contrasted to your retail and operations work that you did at Starbucks. Can you speak to what that was like and what you took from each?

[00:07:11] Hans Melotte: Well, first of all, there’s always more similarities across industries than there are differences. And it’s important to think about it that way. And here’s what I mean by that, Roy. Every industry, or every company, in essence, is solving for the same strategic riddles: winning the hearts and minds of consumers, or winning the hearts and minds of customers, growing top line, faster speed to market, growing bottom line — all very common riddles that any company, or any industry, is looking to solve for. And that makes many of the experiences very transferable from one company or one industry to another. That being said, of course there are some differences as well. As an example, the pharmaceutical industry, in which I was for part of my career at J&J, highly regulated. And you know, therefore, heavily impacting or influencing the speed of product development or the speed of market access. Very different versus the go-to market speed in, say food and beverage retail at Starbucks or in CPG companies. And that’s where learning agility is so important. You know, the ability to adapt as a leader to what the cultural or industry norms in any industry are is very important in that regard. 

[00:08:34] Roy Notowitz: I think when you’re talking about those transferable skills, fortunately, it seems like companies are much more open to different profiles and experiences these days, post-Covid, which is fantastic, and I think that’s an important thing to call out in hiring, especially at the leadership level. I think there’s so much in just being a good leader and understanding what those riddles are, and then applying, I guess, common sense to working with the team to solve those problems. And so I think people can transfer those skills across industry sectors more readily than I think a lot of times people give them credit or ability to do. I think that’s a really interesting thing. I’m curious if you have any stories or examples of when you landed at Starbucks that were interesting or funny, or things that happened when you were sort of learning that business. 

[00:09:29] Hans Melotte: Two weeks into Starbucks, we had just announced a partnership arrangement with a company in Italy by the name of Princi, and Princi was going to help us augment and compliment our food offering. And so, one of the senior leaders at Starbucks called me and said, “Hans, I’m going to need your help.” I was leading the global supply chain for Starbucks at the time, and so this leader called me and said, “Hans, I’m going to need your help standing up commissaries so we can integrate and absorb this Princi partnership deal.” English is not my first language and food and beverage English was new to me at the time, and so I interpreted commissary as “commissionnaire,” french word for a legal construct through which you buy and sell– 

[00:10:25] Roy Notowitz: Oh wow. 

[00:10:26] Hans Melotte: –to optimize taxes. So I said, “Cliff, absolutely. I will help you. I will call the lawyers straight away, and I’ll mobilize a team to stand up this commissary construct.” Now, I was new, Cliff wanted to be respectful and polite, so you know, there was silence on the other end of the phone, and I thought I was helping him and doing the best that I could until I shared that story or that phone conversation with my CFO later that day. And he looked at me, he said, “Hans, do you have any idea what a commissary is?” and sure enough, then I realized it was a kitchen. 

[00:11:06] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:11:06] Hans Melotte: And I think it’s fair to say that people you do not want in the kitchen literally speaking– 

[00:11:13] Roy Notowitz: Lawyers. 

[00:11:13] Hans Melotte: –are the lawyers.

[00:11:14] Roy Notowitz: That’s hilarious. Well see, that’s the thing, you know, and actually it’s a good insight into just different cultural experiences, and language barriers, and you know, learning a new organization. So thanks for sharing that story. You spent the first part of your career working in Europe for Procter & Gamble and J&J before coming to the US. So, what are the differences that you’ve observed between the European and American business cultures? 

[00:11:44] Hans Melotte: Yeah. I should point out that I’ve always worked for American corporations, albeit in mostly global or regional roles, and, as a result, clearly my experiences have been heavily influenced by that beautiful cultural mosaic that the world has to offer, blended with a US corporate culture. But I can share two perspectives. First, and with the risk of oversimplifying the matter a little bit here, I do find that Europeans work to live, whereas Americans live to work. And to illustrate my point, when I would ask people in the US about their summer vacation plans, oftentimes they respond with, “I’m taking a couple of long weekends here or there.”

[00:12:35] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:12:36] Hans Melotte: And you would never get that answer in Europe. People take two, three, sometimes even four weeks off, and disconnect, and spend time with family and friends. 

[00:12:46] Roy Notowitz: Absolutely. 

[00:12:47] Hans Melotte: And so here’s an example of a difference: now, fortunately I do sense that there is a positive trend in this regard because you know, when you speak to Millennials or Gen-Z people, they would answer it differently.

[00:12:58] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. I mean, last summer I think people, whether it was pent up demand, or just a rethinking of the construct between the employer/employee relationship, or just thinking through what to prioritize, or maybe it’s the younger generation helping with this as well, but it felt like the last two summers, last summer in particular, a lot more people were on vacation. I think partially also because people can work remotely, which is a good trend I think. But, when you came here, was that hard? When you started working with US companies? 

[00:13:31] Hans Melotte: It was hard, and I almost hate to admit that, over the years, I’ve Americanized in that regard. I’ll give you a second example of that difference, Roy, between Europe and the US, and this one’s more personal and something that, quite frankly, I have always struggled with a little bit. As I mentioned earlier, I was born and raised in Belgium, and one of our cultural traits is that Belgians tend to be very soft spoken, very subdued, modest, don’t speak up easily or naturally. In addition to that, our culture is one where you’re being taught to work hard, keep your head low, go with the crowd, go with the flow, and count on good work being recognized and rewarded. And I think it’s fair to say that that’s very different from the American way of working, which is almost the opposite. The importance of storytelling, the importance of standing above the crowd, the importance of initiative-taking is so deeply embedded–

[00:14:39] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:14:39] Hans Melotte: –and a behavior that is so much encouraged and wanted by many companies or by many leaders, and that has always felt very unnatural to me and something that I’ve always needed to encourage and remind myself of– 

[00:14:54] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:14:54] Hans Melotte: –as I was working in American companies and certainly in American companies in the USA.

[00:15:00] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, well, certainly you must have been super successful at that because you were able to rise and elevate to the levels that you did. 

[00:15:08] Hans Melotte: Thank you. 

[00:15:09] Roy Notowitz: So you’ve made a few bold transitions in your career, moving across different industries and roles. What motivated you to make those changes? Can you share with us the reasoning behind your career path once you got on the track of operations, procurement, logistics, and retail?

[00:15:28] Hans Melotte: Well, as I mentioned earlier, little planning has gone into my career, so, very few — and perhaps none of the moves that I’ve made were planned well in advance and were more adventurous in nature than otherwise. That being said, I’ve obviously always used a certain set of filters or a certain set of criteria to determine whether or not I would want to apply for a role or accept a role when offered to me. And one first filter, one first criteria has definitely been what I had mentioned earlier: the ability to shape and influence a role. The ability to bring it to a new, heightened level of impact. I’ve never been interested in a role where the expectation was to simply continue the trajectory of the incumbent. Secondly, I’ve always looked at the learning and growth that I would get from this role. The greater the distance between my comfort zone and this new role, the more interested I would be.

[00:16:30] Hans Melotte: I’ve been at my best when I, at first, would freak out by the thought of what this role or the responsibilities would entail. 

[00:16:38] Roy Notowitz: It’s like fear of failure. It’s very motivating. 

[00:16:41] Hans Melotte: Exactly, but if you turn that fear into positive adrenaline– 

[00:16:45] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:16:46] Hans Melotte: –that’s where you outperform yourself and that’s where you then have growth and have fun. 

[00:16:51] Roy Notowitz: I’m curious because thinking about the generation coming up through the ranks now and thinking about their career paths, you know, you made the most of the path you went and you obviously had a passion for it and found it engaging. Do you think marketing would’ve been more so? 

[00:17:06] Hans Melotte: No, I have no regrets. I also believe that I’ve always lived and positioned myself in the various roles as an all-around business leader. Not a functional leader who happens to be in business, but a broad spectrum business leader who happens to be in a function. And there’s a big difference between those two framings, and I believe that has helped me not only be successful in what I was doing at that point in time, but has also helped me pursue the opportunities that I was able to create or was given. Case in point, my last role at Starbucks, I was leading an end-to-end business, and so marketing was part of my responsibilities, and I do believe that it felt natural to me because of how I had been looking at myself or conducting myself in any prior role.

[00:18:03] Roy Notowitz: Interesting. That’s a great insight. So, being a business generalist, or coming into different roles and different organizations, how did you go about learning about the capabilities of your team and coming to understand what their potential was as you were developing or bringing them along with your vision for that division, or department, or business unit? 

[00:18:26] Hans Melotte: This is where I believe servant leadership is both so beautiful and so powerful. because if you approach your role or look at your own contribution to a business or to a team through the lens of servant leadership, you’re almost entirely focused on bringing out the best in others. I completely agree when others would say, “Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room,” and so therefore focus on asking the right questions. Focus on connecting the dots. Focus on driving collaboration, either within your team, or between your team and the rest of the business, or between your company and anybody else in that company’s ecosystem. And think of yourself as that conductor of the orchestra almost. That mindset, those behaviors transform yourself from a rate-limiting leader to a rate-determining leader. Along the way, to the other point of your question, the superpowers of your team, or the superpowers of your team members, their strengths will naturally surface. And, by being very observant, by being very encouraging, or by being very emotionally intelligent, you’ll then be able to leverage those superpowers to the betterment of the entire team.

[00:19:53] Roy Notowitz: That’s fantastic. You know, how did you keep improving or, or enhancing your leadership capability over time? 

[00:20:01] Hans Melotte: I’ll reference Johnson & Johnson and Starbucks because those are the two companies where I’ve spent the majority of my career. Even though the companies operate in distinctly different industries and are different in operating model, different in size, different in complexity and what have you, they do share a couple of really important things in common. Both companies are incredibly purpose-driven. That combined with a culture that is very people-centric, very team-focused, very collaboration-focused, has given me, I think, with hindsight, very fertile ground to nurture and grow what you were describing as that servant leadership style. I do believe some of it is innate. Some of it is part of who you are, part of your leadership DNA, but obviously, the more fertile the ground and the more welcoming, or encouraging, or supporting your environment is, the more you can let those innate traits flourish, and grow, and come to life. 

[00:21:06] Roy Notowitz: How did those values come into play during the hiring process? How did you reinforce those values or leverage those values within individuals or your team? 

[00:21:17] Hans Melotte: As a leader, you’re always on an IMAX screen. 

[00:21:21] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:21:21] Hans Melotte: People look at you in a magnified way. They look for clues, whether it’s verbal clues or nonverbal clues. They look at your body language. They look at whether you’re leaning into a conversation, they’re looking at your facial expression. They analyze your words more than you realize, and so you’re always on an IMAX screen, and what that means is that you always have to be on, or, better yet, you always have to be on in the most authentic possible fashion. Because, make no mistake, when you’re non-authentic, when you’re acting a leadership role, people will see through that in a nanosecond. And so if you come to work in an authentic way, if you’re your authentic self as a leader, I believe, Roy, it has a multiplying effect. Positive leadership is incredibly contagious, and people will emulate your behavior, your philosophy, your style, more than you might realize because, again, they see it on an IMAX screen. I do believe that the best way to set the right tone within your organization or within your team, and certainly within your leadership team, is to be as authentic as you possibly can be. Anything else will just work against you and work against the team. 

[00:22:40] Roy Notowitz: Across the different industries and roles that you’ve had, what were some of the essential through lines in terms of the strategy as it relates to talent development and hiring specifically?

[00:22:53] Hans Melotte: I’ve had the great fortune of being able to work at companies that were very focused with patients and consumers, in the case of J&J, and customers and store partners, in the case of Starbucks. And that right there gave all of us, myself included, that navigational waypoint, or that navigational destination, or that guiding light against which all actions, all resource allocations, all strategies, all financial decisions were guided by. And that, in so many ways, makes it easy, or easier, to not only pursue strategies, but also to attract, retain, motivate, and grow talent and leadership because, when you can be bonded by, or unified by a common mission and purpose, it makes it so much easier to accomplish the task at hand. 

[00:23:50] Roy Notowitz: Can you compare and contrast the hiring strategies and approach from company to company given those values and connection to purpose?

[00:23:59] Hans Melotte: The constant definitely has been looking for people who are very purpose-driven, and I start there because that is more important, perhaps, even than someone’s specific expertise or specific experience. If you truly want to hire and retain people for the long term, then they need to feel that emotional connection. Beyond that, I think my former companies, as well as any other large, reputable company, is probably recruiting or looking for people with high EQ, people with good learning agility, and therefore people who can be versatile and equally successful in many different situations or environments — times with tailwind, just as much as times with headwind.

[00:24:50] Roy Notowitz: Mm-Hmm. So, Hans, what have you looked for in leaders when hiring for your own leadership team? 

[00:24:57] Hans Melotte: I’ve always only been looking for people or leaders who want to serve and who are supporting their teams and their people to be the very best version of themselves. 

[00:25:09] Roy Notowitz: So it’s more of a team mindset, team player, team leadership philosophy.

[00:25:14] Hans Melotte: Exactly. 

[00:25:14] Roy Notowitz: Where– 

[00:25:14] Hans Melotte: Exactly. 

[00:25:15] Roy Notowitz: Where they’re about “we,” and their success is tied to the success of the team. 

[00:25:18] Hans Melotte: Absolutely. And that almost goes hand in hand with something else that I want to call out here, and that is humility. Never take yourself too serious, and never let your own ego get in the way. So that humility is and has been very important as well. Something else that I’ve been looking for is intellectual curiosity. I really want to surround myself with people who are eager to learn from others, other industries, and people who are, I’d say, positively fascinated by what’s around the corner. So intellectual curiosity is very important, which then leads, in turn, to a natural inclination to connect the dots. Whether it’s connecting the dots intellectually, or whether it’s connecting the dots with regards to forging collaboration between individuals, teams, or companies, or all of the above. I’ve also always been looking for people who want to be empowered. I am not good at telling someone what to do or what not to do. I just cannot be prescriptive, no matter how much I try or have tried in the past. And so I work best with people who are comfortable with a broad stroke direction. 

[00:26:33] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:26:33] Hans Melotte: And full autonomy, full empowerment to then operationalize the strategic framework. 

[00:26:39] Roy Notowitz: I think that’s important. So they identify themselves as a leader and want to take on roles of significant responsibility.

[00:26:46] Hans Melotte: Yes. 

[00:26:47] Roy Notowitz: And that you see that as a pattern over time, that they’re looking for increased responsibility and autonomy. 

[00:26:53] Hans Melotte: Exactly. 

[00:26:53] Roy Notowitz: That’s a good one. 

[00:26:54] Hans Melotte: Something else that I think is, is really important as well, Roy, is people who are almost genetically dissatisfied with the status quo. 

[00:27:04] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. Continuous improvement or– 

[00:27:06] Hans Melotte: Yeah, exactly, and have the leadership courage to challenge and change the status quo. Because, too often, people may be inclined to follow the path of least resistance, which rarely is the right one. And then, of course, and I’m sure you hear this all the time in this podcast, it’s also important to actively seek diversity of thought. People who can augment, supplement, elevate the team who make me better or who make the team better by just bringing that extra diversity of thought. 

[00:27:41] Roy Notowitz: I’m curious, how do you incorporate stakeholders and partner perspectives in the talent recruitment and selection process? 

[00:27:49] Hans Melotte: You have to bring stakeholders along your journey with regards to the candidate selection. They have to agree and support the ultimate hiring decision that you’re making, but it’s also important to bring stakeholders along the journey of where you want the role to be because, oftentimes, they might look at the role that you’re looking to fill through the lens of the role today or the role they’ve seen it thus far. But, what’s really important is to bring them along how you want this role to be in the future. Any interview process, especially with external candidates, or candidates from another region, or another division in the company — it’s very important to give these candidates the opportunity to see as many leaders and executives as possible so they can ask questions, they can look at those meetings or those interviews as further data points on their due diligence and really get a good feel for what the company’s like, what the culture’s like, and what the leadership is like. Because, you know, we have to remind ourselves that we’re not just interviewing candidates. 

[00:28:55] Roy Notowitz: Yes. 

[00:28:56] Hans Melotte: Candidates are also interviewing companies. 

[00:28:58] Roy Notowitz: Right. 

[00:28:58] Hans Melotte: And that’s where stakeholders can help. 

[00:29:00] Roy Notowitz: Exactly. That’s a 

[00:29:00] Roy Notowitz: great 

[00:29:01] Roy Notowitz: call out. So Hans, tell me about your approach to interviewing and what you look for when recruiting and evaluating talent.

[00:29:12] Hans Melotte: What I seek for the most is people’s experiences as opposed to their expertise. Obviously, you want to probe somebody’s expertise because it gives you a good view of their technical competencies in say digital marketing, or logistics, or cybersecurity, et cetera, but probing their experiences gets to the core of how they inspire the team, how they’ve been able to align an organization, how they overcame obstacles along the way, or whether they’ve primarily operated in turnaround situations versus, you know, environments that were all about sustaining success. And so those questions, I think, tend to be more industry, or function, or job agnostic and give you a much better forward view of how somebody will or might act in new company or new role, or, better yet, their longer term potential. I’ve also talked about learning, and intellectual curiosity, and one’s inclination to connect the dots as something that I have valued or do value quite a bit. So questions around learning and people agility are probably always going to be a part of my interview. I also always ask about how they learn and what they have learned because one’s ability to learn is critically important. And then finally, Roy, it’s also important to turn the table and to leave room for candidates to ask questions because the questions they ask I find give you a really good insight or a really good glimpse into how they’re wired and what they find important or what their philosophy is. Because it’ll give you clues on what they’re truly looking for in a role, what they’re truly looking for in a company, in the team, what they’re looking for in their leader. 

[00:31:04] Roy Notowitz: Exactly. So let’s talk about that, Hans. How do you get through that interviewing veneer and get to the point where you’re letting the candidate ask questions and you’re evaluating them based on a dialogue so that you can really understand their authentic self?

[00:31:21] Hans Melotte: I think the best interviews are conversations, and if you set a conversational tone right from the start, as opposed to an interview that feels more like an interrogation or a quiz that you have to take, if you set that right tone from the start, assuming the right candidate or the right candidate profile, of course, they’ll feel very open and honest when it comes to asking questions themselves. 

[00:31:47] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, no, I think there’s an element of, like you said, authenticity and they might share information, strengths and weaknesses, around how they’re going to show up as a leader if you can sort of cut through that interview question/answer format to more of a conversation. I definitely agree with that. Now you’ve spent a good portion of your career leading large scale supply chain operations, sustainability type functions. So what does it take to be successful as a supply chain leader today? We talked a lot about these ideas of learning, and servant leadership, and adaptability. 

[00:32:25] Hans Melotte: Yeah. 

[00:32:26] Roy Notowitz: Things like that. If you take it a layer deeper, if I’m a CEO hiring a supply chain leader, what are the things that I should be thinking about? 

[00:32:34] Hans Melotte: The best way to answer that question, I believe, is to start from what do I think, or what do we believe, the supply chain of the future ought to look like? No matter how important automation, generative AI, or any other technology is and will be, I deeply believe supply chain, like any other part of business, is and will always be all about people and managing relationships. So that backdrop, I think, offers you the profile of the modern and future supply chain leader. They must be, first and foremost, well-grounded, broad spectrum business leaders who happen to be in supply chain. And so, tech savviness, the ability to be the conductor of an orchestra, a focus on win-win relationships with suppliers or business partners are becoming the true differentiators that any CEO, or any leader, should look for when it comes to hiring or promoting their next supply chain leader. 

[00:33:37] Roy Notowitz: Can you bring that to life a little bit for us and talk about how technical maybe a supply chain leader needs to be these days, if at all?

[00:33:44] Hans Melotte: Yeah, I don’t think you have to be very technical, but what I do believe is incredibly critical is you have to be curious. You want to learn, you want to understand. 

[00:33:56] Roy Notowitz: How things work. 

[00:33:57] Hans Melotte: Or better yet, curious about what could be. 

[00:34:00] Roy Notowitz: Mm-Hmm. 

[00:34:01] Hans Melotte: Curious with regards to looking around the corner, asking the right questions, not just in general, but certainly as it relates to the use cases, or the benefits, or the disruption that generative AI or anything else can bring to your network, to your ways of working, to the longevity of jobs, or to how roles might evolve and what have you. You don’t need to be deeply steeped in any of these matters, but you certainly need to be curious, know which questions to ask, and be very driven towards driving positive change. And perhaps maybe the better description is, has to be tech curious as opposed to tech savvy. 

[00:34:44] Roy Notowitz: hopefully somebody who’s hiring a supply chain leader will listen to this and maybe it’ll help them think about what they might be listening for or looking for in a top candidate. Is there anything that you wish that you had known earlier in your career that might benefit young leaders today?

[00:35:02] Hans Melotte: So Roy, I already mentioned earlier that I’ve not been very deliberate in seeking mentors, let alone in curating my own personal board of advisors. And this is something I would definitely recommend young leaders to seek advice, coaching, and mentorship. Now, that said, one of my most trusted mentors has always been my older self. And my older self has definitely helped me in making those choices that I’ve made and avoided many regrets of not doing something. A couple of years ago, I was in a leadership fireside chat at Starbucks, and one person asked me what had been the biggest obstacle that I ever had to overcome in my career, and my response was that the biggest obstacle has been myself and my inner voice. As a perfectionist and somebody who tends to overthink, I cannot count the hours, Roy, or the days or the weekends where I overanalyzed an email, over-replayed a meeting or a situation with a coworker or a leader. And of course, as inner voices tend to do, they talk you down. They are your worst critic, and, oftentimes, turn a complete non-issue– 

[00:36:20] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:36:20] Hans Melotte: –into a major issue in your own head. 

[00:36:24] Roy Notowitz: Yeah.

[00:36:25] Hans Melotte: And so learn how to manage yourself and how to manage your inner voice, and so many things will become so much easier and so much more positive at work and at home. 

[00:36:39] Roy Notowitz: Yeah, I think that’s a huge thing, and a lot of people talk about this idea of imposter syndrome these days, and how to recognize it, and how you have a place in that room as a leader, and just really being able to recognize that. You’ve said in this podcast at least once, maybe twice, that you haven’t been very deliberate in seeking mentors or curating a personal board of advisors; however, my guess, and I’m just wondering if you can elaborate on this, would be that you probably had lots of people as colleagues, or peers, or superiors who were giving you guidance or advice along the way. 

[00:37:20] Hans Melotte: I think you’re right. I’ve had many conversations over a cup of coffee and otherwise with other leaders at various levels about leadership, and that has helped me tremendously in so many different ways. But, at the same time, I think I’ve actually learned at least as much, perhaps more, from observing people. When people would be on stage, when people would be participating in a meeting or leading a meeting, or when watching how leaders would walk through the hallway, or would roam the building. And so that constant observing of leaders has given me a masterclass in leadership with the value at least as much as formal mentorship. 

[00:38:07] Roy Notowitz: Is there anything specific that you’ve learned, for example, from Howard Schultz or leaders like that, that are so iconic?

[00:38:14] Hans Melotte: Yeah. One very important lesson, Roy, that I’ve learned is to always be in the moment. You know, make sure that anybody you’re meeting with as a leader feels very important and feels seen and heard. 

[00:38:31] Roy Notowitz: That you’re present with. 

[00:38:33] Hans Melotte: Absolutely. 

[00:38:34] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:38:34] Hans Melotte: The reality is that the more senior you are in a company, the more likely you may be that other person’s most important meeting of the day.

[00:38:44] Roy Notowitz: Yeah. 

[00:38:46] Hans Melotte: A meeting that they’ve been prepping for, a meeting where they’ve worked long on putting their slides or their storyboard together, and that right there deserves your attention. And that right there almost obligates you to give them that respect and attention that they have been looking for. Not only because they deserve it, because also they will then pay it forward. They will emulate your behavior or your leadership style because it is very contagious. 

[00:39:16] Roy Notowitz: I love that. So you’ve retired from Starbucks in 2022. I’m interested if you could just share what you’ve been up to since then and what’s next for you? What are you excited about as you think about the future? 

[00:39:28] Hans Melotte: So my personal strategic plan contains three hashtags: #personalreinvention, #giveback, and #yolo, you only live once. And so I let myself be guided by those three hashtags in that I deliberately seek new experiences. This includes, but is not limited to, serving on boards in distinctly different industries or stages of maturity. It includes to learn about the venture capital and private equity world. Working with startups, including making select investments myself, and then of course I want to give back. Life has been incredibly good to me, and I feel very lucky and privileged for the companies, teams, and people that I’ve been able to work with. And as a result, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to share my experience, and hopefully some wisdom along the way, with other executives, or individuals, or companies. And then, of course, as, as far as Y.O.L.O., you only live once, is concerned, time and life is finite. So I just want to make sure that I infuse sufficient quality time with family, friends, create the time to take care of myself, and then see and enjoy the world. So that’s what I’m up to. 

[00:40:50] Roy Notowitz: Thank you for sharing that. You know, there’s that author, I think we’ve talked about him in the past, Arthur C. Brooks or Arthur Brooks. 

[00:40:56] Hans Melotte: Yep. 

[00:40:57] Roy Notowitz: And he talks about happiness, and he’s done a lot of research on it. And he talks about family, friendships, love, doing the things that you enjoy, and, like you said, living life. And I think something that, as people who are on that treadmill of working, and crushing goals, and hitting numbers, and things like that as business leaders, I think taking some time to take care of yourself and do the things you enjoy and to be present, not just with your team, but with family, as well, and friends. That’s huge. So thank you for sharing that. It’s been so fantastic getting to know you– 

[00:41:31] Hans Melotte: Yeah. 

[00:41:32] Roy Notowitz: –over the last year and a half or so, and I always feel like you treated me the same way you must have treated your team, like, that our time together is really important and meaningful, and I appreciate that about you so much and your positive energy always.

[00:41:46] Hans Melotte: Thank you so much, Roy. Thank you. The pleasure has always been mine. 

[00:41:50] Roy Notowitz: From the standpoint of give back, I think this podcast will actually go a long way towards that hashtag or that goal, because I feel like there’s lots of great things that you shared, and, again, I appreciate you coming to be on the podcast today and everything that you were able to share with us.

[00:42:07] Hans Melotte: Yeah, you’re more than welcome. Thank you so much for having me.

[00:42:14] Roy Notowitz: Thanks for tuning in to How I Hire. Visit howihire.com for details about the show. How I Hire is created by Noto Group Executive Search. To find out more about Noto Group, visit us at notogroup.com. You can also sign up for our monthly email job alert newsletter there, as well as find additional resources on our blog and podcast for job search strategy and other related hiring and leadership team topics. This podcast was produced by Anna McClain. To learn more about her work, visit aomcclain.com.