During SUMMIT 2018, Ulta Beauty’s CEO Mary Dillon (2017 HRMAC Leader of the Year) and CHRO Jeff Childs joined us for an insightful and practical keynote on the importance of the CEO/CHRO relationship in driving business results and building a winning culture.
Together, they discussed the importance of clearly defined expectations, the culture journey at the heart of Ulta Beauty’s success and how the company has built its HR team. We asked the dynamic duo to bring some of their insight to those who may have missed the session.
HR Leader: When did your partnership as CEO and CHRO of Ulta Beauty begin, and how would you describe your relationship today?
Mary Dillon (MD): Upon becoming CEO of Ulta Beauty, my first C-level hire was Jeff. For me, it was clearly the right first step as we placed the utmost importance on culture and talent at the center of business performance. I believe our relationship is based on mutual respect, candor and commitment. Jeff is a business leader first, HR professional second, and sets the same expectations for his HR team. He shares my leadership point of view and serves as an extension of myself in that way.
Jeff Childs (JC): Mary and I also have total alignment on outcomes as it relates to strategy, performance, people and culture. I am not driving an HR agenda. I, along with my peers on Mary’s Executive Team, are collectively driving strategy and execution on behalf of Ulta Beauty, not our respective functions.
HR Leader: For those who missed your discussion, can you share a main takeaway that you hope to leave HRMAC members with?
MD: We hope the audience walked away with insight into what guides Jeff and I as it relates to people and culture. We believe talent and culture are truly the enablement of strategy which when well-executed, delivers business performance. We also aimed to emphasize our experience that the road to improving-or sustaining-a company culture is a journey and not a race. It requires constant diligence with a sense of urgency. At Ulta Beauty, we have a number of mechanisms in place to drive emotional engagement through culture building. These include selecting leadership talent that demonstrates functional expertise, enterprise-thinking and a collaborative mindset; having clear alignment on our common purpose-our mission, vision and values; harnessing the power of open and honest communications; investing in our leaders and associates; and, holding ourselves accountable to strengthening and protecting the culture we have built.
HR Leader: Culture is key to Ulta Beauty’s success to date. What is one change you’ve helped drive that you are most proud of?
JC: There are many, but if narrowing it to one it would be the selection of leadership.
You can choose to hire top talent or you can choose to hire top talent that loves to win together-leaders who believe deeply in the importance of effective collaboration to drive enterprise-wide success.
These two are not the same, and we chose the latter.
HR Leader: Coming out of SUMMIT 2018, what is an impression of the event you’d like to leave with HR Leader readers?
JC: Summit is an energizing, valuable event that brings the great HR leaders across Chicago together. Through its thoughtful agenda, the event underscores why it is so important to invest time in your development and growth as business leaders and HR professionals-just as we do for the businesses we support. HR is a field that is constantly presenting new challenges and we need to be fully engaged to stay at the top of our game.
HR Leader: As longtime business professionals, what is the best tip you have for aspiring leaders?
MD: My advice to aspiring leaders is to embrace your ambition, constantly be curious and demonstrate initiative to operate at a level above where you currently are. Don’t just get the work done, or just do what’s expected-do what is unexpected, too. Show that you can think and operate at a level above where you currently are, and always do so with humility. Then, see what you can do next.
JC: Regardless of function, I’d encourage any aspiring leader to develop deep business acumen and strategic thinking and to lead with humility and authenticity. Define your values, hold yourself accountable to those values, and always have courage, commitment and vulnerability.