LOS ANGELES — Business leaders need to be able to step away from their jobs for brief periods to spend more time with family, Brian Cornell, chief executive officer of PepsiCo Americas Foods, said here this week.
Speaking to the 2013 Leadership Summit sponsored by the Network of Executive Women, Cornell said, “When people say they have challenges at home and need to step away, it requires a plateau of trust with their boss. “I’ve probably made all the mistakes others have made — thinking only about work in my career and how fast I could move forward while taking advantage of the support my family provided and not always being there for them.
“I could have balanced family and career differently if someone had told me early on I could step away. But I’ve learned that it’s OK to do that — to spend time with your kids and to be part of being in the moment with them.
“In today’s environment, with smartphones and iPads and other devices, everyone is always connected and within reach, and that makes it easier to step away because you’re still available if you are needed.”
Cornell also encouraged executives to show more of their human vulnerabilities in the workplace.
He was interviewed onstage by Michelle Gloeckler, senior vice president and general merchandise manager, home, for Walmart U.S., Bentonville, Ark., who offered similar thoughts.
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“It’s OK to bring caring into the workplace and share what’s going on in your life with your colleagues because that makes for a happier work life," she said.
“When we hire people who have to move to Bentonville, we tell them to make sure their spouses are happy because your home life is important.”
It was family considerations that prompted Cornell to leave his job as CEO of Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club operation to take the job with PepsiCo, based in Somers, N.Y., he said.
“The job at Sam’s was great for me, but it was not right for my family,” he explained, “and deciding whether to stay or leave my job was the most stressful part of my career. But I realized I had to put family ahead of career and that I had to give up something I loved to put my family in a better situation where they would be happier.
“It was an agonizing decision, but the right one for me personally, and I now realize it was the best decision I could have made now that we are back in the Northeast.”
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