By  on February 11, 2011

Gina Drosos may have one of the mostengaging manners in the beauty business,but make no mistake—this is a womanwho plays to win. As group president,global female beauty, of P&G Beauty& Grooming, she oversees a brand portfolio of almost$20 billion. Here, Drosos reveals her strategic vision forthe beauty business, and how she fires up her team toconsistently deliver a peak performance.

How do you see the beauty industry evolving in the next twoto five years? Which opportunities excite you the most?

One big trend has to do with the aging of the population,particularly combined with the blurring of health andbeauty. Antiaging medicine. Biomedical gerontology.Scientists trying to biologically slow down aging. It’s ahugely interesting area because it ranges all the way fromreally synthetic interventions that stimulate nerves or newbody parts or new organs to how we can leverage topicalproducts through genomics and gain a better understandingof high and low responders to different active ingredients.

Take Olay Pro-X. Our scientists did rocket sciencekind of research to identify biochemical pathways thatare active in younger skin, and then which ingredientswe can put into it that cause older skin to behave in thesame way. The advances that we’re already beginningto bring are really exciting, but it can go quite far. Stemcell research. Therapeutic cloning as a way to regeneratecells or even body parts. Some of the new approaches ourscientists are using with free radicals and looking at howantioxidants, insulin, oxytocin, even minerals can reversethe effects of damage.

Another area is consumers wanting more. There is a lasting impact from theglobal recession, and that is that consumers are now in the habit of scrutinizingtheir purchases and the value embedded in those products and services more thanever before. Over the next several years, it’s going to be incumbent on us to bringhigh value–added products that provide professional quality benefits at home andthat provide not only physically but also emotionally uplifting benefits. Productsthat last longer are another. We’re seeing more multiday products, longer lasting,24-hour or 48-hour protection for deodorant, where historically, eight hours mighthave been enough. We all need to be pushing the limits for newer, better benefits.

What does the industry need to pay attention to in the year ahead?
Being leaders in sustainability and social responsibility. I’m encouraging mybrands to step up as leaders. We are big supporters of safe drinking water forchildren, for example. This is a women’s issue—on average, women walk sixkilometers a day to get clean water for their family. We’re also working on ourpackaging. People are very conscious of waste. We look end to end across thewhole supply system and design products that are high performance and userenewable and recycled materials with zero waste to landfills. For consumers,especially younger, it’s about the total end-to-end social responsibility.

You often say that change is the key to growth. What needs changing?
The beauty industry does a great job delighting women with beautifulexperiences and consistent innovation, but we’ve made our industryvery complex, and that’s probably most true at the shelf, whenshe is trying to make purchase decisions. We have researchthat indicates reducing the number of stockkeeping units 20to 30 percent actually helps shoppers think there is moreavailability. The environment is so cluttered it’s hard for her todeselect products that aren’t relevant.

It’s true with innovation, as well. If you look at the numberof new products that come to market, it’s overwhelming and upsignificantly from a decade ago. We could all make bigger advancesand help simplify by focusing on fewer but bigger breakthroughinnovations.

How do you implement change in a culture that can be resistant?
We have to communicate a compelling reason why change is needed,but what we sometimes miss is that culture is really the key to makingthe change stick. You also have to identify the sacred cows. They neverget debated because people just assume them as facts. As a leader,you have to uncover those and call them out. We call it putting themoose on the table.

Can you give me an example of a moose on a table?
One dramatic change is changing our focus to the consumer as boss andlooking at women’s and men’s regimens holistically. That is a very big changefrom how we operated in the past, where we were organized by category andwe thought of cosmetics as separate from skin care as separate from hair. Soone person was thinking about shaving her legs and another was thinkingabout moisturizing them, but for the consumer, it’s all about smooth legs.

What shifting consumer patterns are you seeing globally?
We’re continuing to see geographic shifts to developing markets. The BRIC[Brazil, Russia, India, China] markets are still growing rapidly, but we are alsoseeing the emergence of a new set of developing markets, like Indonesia, Vietnam,the Pan-Arab-speaking world and Sub-Sahara Africa. These new consumers havemany attributes similar to consumers in developed markets, but also differences.

You’ve got global oversight of a $20 billion business. How do you decide where tospend your time?
I am very consumer centric. I was in Nigeria and Kenya a few months ago. I was inthe Middle East. I travel every month of the year pretty much and I’m always tryingto get to a variety of different environments. When I was in India last, I went intorural India to see that emerging growth space; when I was in Brazil last, I was inthe cities. I vary it, and I think a lot about where the emerging beauty needs are.

How would you describe your leadership style, and how has it evolved?

My style is rooted in collaboration, support and listening. I try to effectivelycommunicate my vision. I work to listen to my organization and to study theindustry and the market and to leverage creativity to come up with what I think isa very exciting vision for the business, and then I try to enroll the organization. It’stheir vision in the end because I’ve created it with their help, and I try to give it backand encourage and enable and energize them to deliver it. I like to see things earlyin the development cycle so I can share a lot of ideas, and I let my organization pickand choose. They’re closer to the details than I am so I let them leverage that input.I try to ask questions that help people think different—bigger—than they mighthave otherwise. I love to engage people in dialogue. I love to challenge the statusquo, but in a positive way. I love to cut through the junk, get rid of unnecessarycomplexity, and you can only do that if you can roll up your sleeves and workwith a team as opposed to having them bring you some beautiful signed,sealed and delivered project. It involves trust so that my team wants to bringme in. They see me as a builder, not just an approver.

You are an avid basketball player and fan. How is basketball like beauty?
Both are incredibly fast paced and require versatility and agility. In basketball,you have to be versatile and agile and adjust to the competitive situation you’rein. The beauty industry is very much the same way.

What do you look for when you’re hiring?
A demonstrated track record of leadership. A leader is a leader is a leader,be it through school organizations or philanthropy or the community or inother jobs. Strategic analytical thinking. People who are smart and creative andintuitive and feel comfortable leveraging all of those skills. And curiosity. We allhave to be continual learners, always open to what’s new and what’s different.I really believe change is key to success. We can not sit still. People who arecurious and value differences and respect different ways of doing things aremore apt to lead change.

Do you believe in mentors?
Absolutely. They have a tremendous role to play by being great advisersand by helping you to navigate a corporate environment soyou can find a way to use your skills to the fullest. Theyalways have your best interests at heart.

Who is your mentor?
I’ve had a number of great ones. Right now I’ve developeda great mentoring relationship with Ed Shirley [vice chair ofglobal beauty and grooming]. He is fantastic because he is willingto engage at the very early stages of my thinking and help me buildmy ideas and is also very helpful in helping me navigate my career inthinking about what collection of skills I need to grow and develop.

How did you rise to the top of P&G? What advice do you have forsomeone who hopes to follow in your footsteps?

Identify and lead change. It is the key to personal growth and to drivinga business ahead. People who seek out change see opportunities that other people don't see. You have to be open to possibilities. Sometimes it fiseems like every hour of every day is planned, but some of the most wonderfulopportunities present themselves unexpectedly. You have to be open to embracingthose opportunities.

Make a difference in everything you do. Sometimes it makes people feelimportant to be part of everything, but I would give the opposite point of view.Know where you add unique value and focus on that and excuse yourself fromthe things you don’t need to be part of. For example, I’ve never volunteered tobe the room mother at my kids’ school because I’m terrible at finding the time tocall people, but for six years, I volunteered to be the basketball coach.

How was your record as a coach? As successful as your beauty record?
I went to the city championship twice. That’s pretty good! [Laughs.] Not quiteas good as growing Olay from $200 million [in sales] to $2.5 billion, butpretty good!

 

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