Authentic Leadership: Suzanne Kuhns, Director, HR Business partner for VF Action Sports (Vans, Reef, Eagle Creek) and Ted Devine, CEO of Insureon

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and authentic leadership.  When you bring authentic leadership to the table, prospective and current employees alike are likely to follow and enjoy their employment.

Today’s guests are Suzanne Kuhns, Director, HR Business partner for VF Action Sports (Vans, Reef, Eagle Creek); and Ted Devine, CEO of Insureon.  These two people believe in authentic leadership as a way to grow a company.  To hear the entire show, click here.

SUZANNE KUHNS authentic leadership

Kuhns is Director, HR Business partner for VF Action Sports, namely their marquee brands of Vans, Reef and Eagle Creek. Currently, the biggest challenge is growth. Vans is the largest of the brands, having grown six-fold since being acquired by VF Action Sports a decade ago. In her prior experience, when organizations are growing this quickly, they outgrow their own talent. 

Kuhns believes that in the past, the talent pool was easier to tap into, whether from competitors or within the action sports world. Now that the business has grown, they are looking for a different talent level, and are instituting programs designed to attract their desired talent.

Reflecting on their employment landscape, Kuhns comments, “Candidate experience is very important to us; it’s just really difficult to achieve…We have 37,000 applicants every month… every candidate is a consumer, that’s usually why they’ve come to us…Our Careers page is the 3rd most visited page of all pages.”

And while it is critical to land on the right talent, it’s equally key to retain them. People make the decision on whether to stay at their new job within the first six months of employment, and in some cases in as little as two weeks.

Kuhns believes any senior leader needs to show authentic leadership, have integrity, demonstrate respect, and focus on achievement.  VF is known as being a very healthy organization.  People are drawn to this as well as the health of the bottom line.

What are You Reading?

The book on Kuhns’ radar is “Focus by Daniel Goleman. 

How Can People Connect with You? Via the Careers page on the website, LinkedIn or the company’s Facebook pages.

TED DEVINE authentic leadership

Devine is CEO of Insureon, the largest online platform for small business owners to buy commercial insurance in the United States.  They have more than 50,000 clients, and they were just named on the Inc. 5000 list. You can compare Insureon to the Progressive or Esurance model but with a focus on the small “commercial business space.”

Devine held several senior executive leadership positions at Aon Corporation, the largest insurance brokerage firm in the world. Prior to that, he spent 12 years as Director at McKinsey & Company, helping improve the performance of Fortune 500 companies. He is also the Founder and CEO of 1WORLD Sports, a Chicago-based nonprofit dedicated to inspiring at-risk youth to excel on and off the playing field.

“Besides setting the strategic direction of the firm, there’s no more important role than being the leader in talent development. I view being a leader as kind of a coach.  A coach does three things: They set the goals very clearly for the team so everybody understands what we’re trying to achieve and how we’re going to get there. They identify their best players and their talent within the firm and they try to put those people in positions to get better and win and succeed. Thirdly, they coach individually so that they can make the talent as good as can be.”

Culture of Support

Devine believes the culture of his company is that of a high-performing family, and leading with authentic leadership helps to provide well rounded guidance for maintaining that high performance. “We want to be performance oriented… but if you make a mistake, that’s okay. We’re going to help you, support you.”  To that end, Devine believes it’s important to never take yourself too seriously. 

Stacking Up

The four metrics Devine examines are:

  • “Growth is the most important thing – we’re a growth company, this year we’ll grow about 40%.”
  • The Net Promoter Score, used to measure customer satisfaction. Insureon’s scope is approximately 85 against the industry average of 20.
  • The third is 360 feedback and cultural surveys, used to see how the team feels about the environment and its leadership
  • The fourth is if they are accomplishing the big strategic objectives to reach their full potential.

What are You Reading?

Devine is reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown about rowing, which Devine knows from experiences takes the ultimate in team coordination.

How Can People Connect with You? Via or LinkedIn.

Remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.

Date: September 9, 2014