Leadership, Diversity and Healthy Executives
By Rola Tassabehji, Contributor
For most YPO members in London, Amee Chande is a familiar face. She is one of the most active members in her chapter, championing new events, strengthening member and spouse forums, while working tirelessly to increase women membership in YPO.
British-born Chande is managing director of NutriCentre, a health and wellness subsidiary of Tesco. Outside the boardroom, she enjoys outdoor activities, traveling to exotic destinations (as documented in her blog, “The World Through my Lenses”) and is on the world board of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
In January you championed an event on nutrition for YPO executives, what motivated you?
I, personally, have a story. Four years ago I looked at myself and realized that I was never making progress with the same New Year resolution, losing weight. That year I decided to ask for help and started working with a nutritionist. The reality is that as a busy executive I have dinners, friends and business travels. The nutritionist recommended I keep a food journal. I soon realized that at work I would eat whatever was available and ate far worse during travel. So she started giving me tips suitable for my lifestyle.
When planning for the YPO event, I wanted to share some of the health tips for busy executives since our lifestyle makes it difficult to be healthy. Being in the industry, I also know that there are also a lot of trends like juicing or superfoods. With these trends come a lot of misconceptions. If you’re reading what appears to be a fad, you dismiss it. But if you talk about the science behind it, I believed executives would pick up some good habits. The event provided members with the simple science of nutrition and how our bodies process food to make energy. It offered practical advice and was hands-on, everyone made a variety of juices and healthy snacks before enjoying a healthy nutritious meal.
How did you join YPO and become an officer?
I was transferred to the U.K. to lead Staples three years ago. I came to a county as managing director and wanted to meet people to support me professionally and personally. I didn’t know anyone but had heard of YPO. I checked the website and joined two months later. There were so few women in my chapter, but those who were there were super active. That inspired me to get involved. Last year, I was asked to chair an event and the event I organized was called “Creating Companies We Love.” It brought 40 YPO members with their core management teams of three or four members to London Business School. Part two took place March.
Following that, I joined the board and I was asked to become forum officer. I believe forum is a unique asset of YPO. After going to GLC last year, I combined my own objectives and feedback from our chapter survey to define my goals: Increase participation in forum, increase transparency of placement, and improve effectiveness of forums through better training and engagement of moderators. Through regular training sessions for moderators and other support to strengthen existing forums, we have been able to raise the bar. Today, we have 12 active forums in our chapter and one of the highest placement rates in forum, with over 90% of members in forums. I hope by the end of the year, members will report that the take home value of forum has also increased through the year.
You have been active in recruiting women to your chapter and forums. How successful have you been?
I really struggle to be in an organization that is not as diverse as the workspace I’m in and have tried to address this. I have hosted dine-arounds in my home. First, I started by bringing together the women in our chapter so we could connect. Then during the last one held in November, I asked women members to invite other women in their network. I had great support from our membership officer who attended to talked about opportunities for women in YPO. As forum officer, l have also tried to place women in male forums but have difficulty. I have had a couple of women leave forum, so now I try to have two women members in the forum. I think many YPO members still don’t appreciate the benefits of having women in their forums and this saddens me.
What are your top insights or leadership lessons for CEOs?
- Work to be healthy. Your team, your investors and your peers take cues from your physical and emotional well-being.
- Challenge the status quo. We live in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world. The role of the leader is to constantly anticipate and prepare their business and their teams for change.
- Take time to listen. Those around you have a perspective you don’t – and are willing to share if you will take the time to ask and to listen.
What are lessons you have learned about women and leadership?
It’s okay to be different. I believe women often have a different leadership style, and that may not fit the experiences or processes or established organizations. It’s our job to challenge these biases and demonstrate that there are different ways and styles of leadership that can be successful.