By  on June 15, 2007

Jack Stahl is endlessly curious. While at the helm of Revlon Inc., he could frequently be spotted at industry events earnestly asking retailers and the financial press about their take on the beauty firm and issues shaping the business.

Earlier in his career, while a young executive at Coca-Cola, Stahl got into the habit of tucking index cards in his pocket, which he would use to jot down what he deemed effective business techniques. For instance, once during an important negotiation, an executive suggested that the two sides take a break, recalled Stahl, adding that after the brief intermission the parties returned to the table refreshed and confident about their progress. He scribbled the tactic on an index card.

When Stahl left Coke as president of the firm's North America group, after a 22-year career at the beverage company, he had a stack of roughly 200 cards. He sorted the lessons into seven piles, which served as the framework for his upcoming book, "Lessons on Leadership: The Seven Fundamental Management Skills for Leaders at All Levels" (Kaplan Publishing).

Several themes — including communicating a clear vision and taking bold action — are woven throughout the lessons on leadership, organizational structure, people development, brand positioning, customer relationships, financial strategy and influencing people.

Stahl said he nurtured his impulse to ask questions by watching successful colleagues at Coke press their customers about the direction of their businesses, which in turn allowed the beverage company to better help them.

While at Revlon, where he served as chief executive officer from 2002 until he was pushed out in a management shake-up in the fall, he sought out informal conversations with employees in the halls, elevators and over lunch. He writes, "…people need to understand that you are open to talking to them. Only then will they be forthright in communicating with you." In his book, he also challenges readers to be bold and aggressive in pursuing their vision for their organization. It's an effort that requires constant communication.

At Revlon, Stahl's growth plan included expanding the beauty firm's brand portfolio with two ambitious initiatives: namely a department store fragrance called Flair and a mass market cosmetics line for older women called Vital Radiance. After Stahl's unexpected departure, both efforts were abandoned by the new management team, as the company worked to cut costs and return its focus to the flagship Revlon brand. Stahl is credited with mending the beauty firm's relationships with retailers, which, prior to his arrival, had soured due to late shipments and a flood of promotional merchandise. He refreshed the Revlon brand by establishing its "confident sexiness" positioning and reignited growth of its Almay brand."All of the actions we took were designed to accelerate Revlon's performance," said Stahl, referring to his tenure at Revlon. "We were doing the things necessary and appropriate to grow the business."

Stahl still thinks of his time in the beauty industry fondly: "It's a great industry and it's a very emotional industry. People are connected to the products and brands in a way that is unique. So as a marketer, you have a lot to tap into because people are very engaged with the products and brands. And, for me, that was very exciting."

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