Terry Rasmussen is the President and CEO of Thrivent, and was the speaker at the Good Leadership Breakfast last Friday morning. We heard how she became a dental hygienist at the suggestion of her father, then had a career as a trial lawyer, then General Counsel, on her way to the CEO role. We mused about the idea: there’s no straight line from where we were to where we are today.
So who is Thrivent? Thrivent is a diversified financial services company that helps people discover their purpose so that they can lead lives of meaning and gratitude. Terry and her team guide the growth and prosperity of the #369 ranked company on the Fortune 500 list – and she’s one of only 41 female CEOs of the 500. The name of her company and her gracious leadership perspective were a fitting match for the Good Leadership point of view: goodness is when people thrive together in a culture of encouragement, accountability, and positive teamwork.
One of the reasons the breakfast has been thriving over 12 years, is the focus on providing specific Success Habits from good leaders like Terry. A success habit is something leaders have learned to repeat over and over again, because it really works. Here’s a snapshot of what we learned from Terry:
#1: Articulate and repeat One Big Goal for the entire organization. Thrivent stands out in the sea of financial services firms by focusing on helping people discover their purpose, so they can lead lives of meaning and gratitude. Especially during the work-from-home mandate caused by the pandemic, having a single goal with metrics that are tracked and shared with the entire company created a sense of unity. During our interview, I found myself asking the question: What’s our One Big Goal for Good Leadership? I recommend you ask yourself the same question.
#2: Executive leaders are a plural concept for any company – in other words, it’s not about Terry (or any CEO for that matter). Terry provides “Time without Terry” for her team once a week to work through the business issues and relationship challenges without her in the room. Within one day of first hearing this concept from one of her direct reports, I offered that same advice to another CEO we are coaching. Terry’s explanation: “I often ask the team to protect me from myself!” The stronger they become as a unit without her, the better.
#3: Intensely personal check-ins. “One thing I really learned as a trial lawyer was how to read people,” Terry explained. She noted how over Zoom calls, she could see and feel how the pressure of holding together a huge company from home was taking a toll on the team. She noted how the question: how are you really doing? Was an essential part of her regular one-on-one meetings with her direct reports. It’s a practice the Good Leadership coaches have encouraged for more than a decade.
Next month we’ll begin our transition back to in-person events at our new home, the Metropolitan Ballroom in Minneapolis. We’ll feature Allison Brown, CEO of the Science Museum of Minnesota as the speaker. She will share how her team is intent on using STEM to reduce racial inequity in our society. And we’ll record it and send it out on November 23.