Barclay Bryan Press promo

Video Quick Take: Whole Foods Market’s Jason Buechel on Servant Leadership and Growing with Purpose


Todd Pruzan, HBR

Welcome to the HBR Video Quick Take. I’m Todd Pruzan, senior editor for Research and Special Projects at Harvard Business Review. The leadership style known as servant leadership is an approach that prioritizes serving the greater good of customers, employees, and partners.

Today we’re talking with Jason Buechel, who is just finishing his first year as the chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market, where he sees servant leadership as the higher purpose of nourishing people and the planet from the store level. He’s been with Whole Foods for a decade, most recently as chief operating officer, overseeing technology, supply chain and distribution, real estate and design, and team member services for more than 500 locations in North America and the U.K. Jason, thank you so much for being with us.

Jason Buechel, Whole Foods Market

Thanks, Todd, happy to be here.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

All right, Jason, you have just officially served your first year as CEO of Whole Foods Market. Congratulations.

Jason Buechel, Whole Foods Market

Thank you.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

How did you prepare for the transition to this role, and what is your leadership philosophy?

Jason Buechel, Whole Foods Market

Yeah. My leadership philosophy is being a servant leader. And for me, that ensures I have a full understanding of all the experiences and needs of our stakeholders for all of Whole Foods Market, and ultimately, that I’m able to walk the talk. And one of the things that I was really fortunate in having to support my transition is I had about a 12-month buffer from the announcement date to when I stepped into the role of CEO.

And over that time I had an opportunity to connect with all of our stakeholders. I did something called the Whole Conversations Tour, which allowed me to visit all of our different regions, be able to connect with suppliers, customers, those representing the environment in the communities that we serve, community partners, and, most importantly, team members. And as part of that process we did a workshop where we collected, across our entire store base, representation of two team members from every store to be part of that experience and identified ways by which we can improve Whole Foods Market, both in the short term and the long term. And I was able to take that feedback and those experiences and help weave them into our future vision, which is growing with purpose.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

It sounds like a great process. Jason, what is your approach to team member growth and happiness? And why does Whole Foods prioritize team members?

Jason Buechel, Whole Foods Market

Well, for us, team members are one of the most important stakeholders within Whole Foods Market. Ultimately, our team members are the secret sauce. It’s the reason why our customers keep coming back to Whole Foods Market. It’s their experience, their expertise, the customer experiences that they’re creating that drive our customers to come back to Whole Foods Market—over our competition.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

OK, about the growing with purpose plan. Why is team member growth and happiness so important to you? How do you see this investment strengthening Whole Foods’ organizational performance?

Jason Buechel, Whole Foods Market

Within growing with purpose, one of our key priorities is investing in team member growth and happiness. And ultimately, if we can make great team member experiences, it supports a great customer experience. And I want to give you an example of that. We’ve created apprentice programs that allow our team members to develop skills and trades that they can use both within Whole Foods and outside, but it’s that skill and expertise that our team members are able to showcase in front of our customers. And our customers are able to interact with our team members and seek that expertise.

And whether it’s a fishmonger or a certified cheese professional or a butcher, those experiences are much richer because of the development we’ve been able to do for our team members. Another big part is making sure that we’re cultivating the right culture, one that will create the best team member and customer experiences. For me, it’s making sure that we’re all store-centric. One of the things that I try to set the example on is making sure I’m spending time in our stores and understanding all the changes that we’re making in the organization. How does a change impact our team member and our customer experience?

So all of us—as store support team members, we’re ultimately focused on what it means as we make changes and improvements to Whole Foods Market, and how we can create the very best experiences for all of our stakeholders.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

OK. Well, it’s clear why you have team membership in mind. Jason, thank you so much for being with us today and thank you for your leadership insights. And best of luck in year two and beyond.

Jason Buechel, Whole Foods Market

Tanks, Todd. Thanks for having me today.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

We’ve been speaking with Jason Buechel from Whole Foods. This is the HBR Video Quick Take.


To learn more, click here.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top