Mindy Grossman – CEO of HSN, Inc.


By Muriel Vega

When Mindy Grossman became CEO of HSN, Inc. in 2006, she immediately established the tone for her leadership style by setting a clear vision and goals for the company, sharing her views through transparent and honest communication and hosting numerous town hall meetings with employees.  And in the end, she changed the corporate culture for the best. “My personal philosophy is that you cannot have a successful company, if you don’t have an engaged culture,” she says.

Grossman oversees a $3 billion portfolio that includes HSN, a leading multichannel retailer available in over 95 million homes with a top e-commerce web site and retailer Cornerstone Brands. Married over 23 years and mother to one daughter, Grossman is a strong advocate for women and while working at Nike, co-chaired its first women’s leadership council before she moved on to HSNi.

Here, she talks to PINK about the best business advice she’s ever received and how you can have it all – just not at the same time.

PINK: How do you engage your employees and keep them motivated?
We are very specific, not only about our strategy and what we’re trying to accomplish.  Senior management is very involved in employee engagement throughout the company. I try to make myself accessible and communicate consistently and constantly across the organization. I do a significant number of town hall meetings a year, where I speak directly to employees. I even do remote access contact with outside employees – and we have an intranet site that updates our employees on our activities.
PINK: How did you deal with the unhealthy work environment when you arrived at the company?
Our employees had seen many CEOs come and go in a short period of time, and they felt demoralized.  I tried to look at this situation and turn it into an opportunity. The first thing you have to do is identify those supporters around you that will help you achieve your goals – and do so with enthusiasm – and then secondly bring in outside talent who shares in the passion.  You also really have to decide who the people are who are not going to be supportive.  I’ve been quoted many times saying that I have specific philosophies about who I will hire and who I won’t hire. The reality is I tell everyone I hire energy-givers, people who are going to be collaborative and work as a team, embrace the vision and become supporters and see HSN as more than a job.

PINK: What would you say to other CEOs who are trying to change their corporate culture?
Number one, you have to articulate a clear vision, communicate constantly what it is that you are looking to accomplish and outline the expectations for everyone around you – no matter what job they have. Number two, you need to be clear about the behavior expectations for those employees and get people who support the change and address those who do not. Number three, you must celebrate small wins. You have to reward small milestones to create momentum. And, definitely, be transparent and accessible – you need to put yourself out there in order to reach your goal.

PINK: Describe your leadership style.
There are two things for me: purpose and passion. I am willing to create change and take risks where others may not. In order to help others believe too, you need to be passionate about what you are doing and have clarity of purpose. Those things are important in a leader. The other thing that I feel strongly about in leadership is the capability to convey a vision and bring that vision to life – being able to bring people on board and execute that vision. It’s a feature that others have considered not as strong in women as in men, but to me it’s very important.

PINK: What do you think are the biggest issues with women today?
The biggest issue today is the constant tug of war between professional and personal life. With women in particular, a lot falls on their shoulders. High level professional woman tend to be perfectionists and they want to be able to do it all – and sometimes they push themselves to the edge. You do have to get to a point and understand that while we have the ability to have it all, we can’t have it all at the same time. You can make different decisions in your career based on where you are in life and your tolerance. That’s still one of the most difficult things facing women – balance.

The second thing is we still live in a world where 15 percent of corporate officers and 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. We, as women, have the power to change so those of us that have achieved success have to take personal responsibility for mentoring and creating opportunities for other women. Take my company for example, 4 out of 5 of our corporate officers are women, and we have a very significant number of women in senior executive positions. That’s what companies need to do. It is not only a social need but diversity drives innovation, which drives success. We have to be proactive.

PINK: What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
The network of people that you associate with can define you. It is very important that you surround yourself with people that share your values and act accordingly. That’s very important to me since I’ve left companies in the past because I felt that they didn’t align with my values. Also, be comfortable with being yourself, define your leadership style according to your values and be authentic.

PINK: How do you balance Work/Life?
I’ll let you know when I figure it out [laughs]. I’m very honest when I talk to other young women – it’s a little bit of a tug of war. I know I can cross over into workaholic sometimes and lose sight of even myself. But one expression that helps me is, “You have to remember to breathe.” This way you’ll be more effective at work, as a wife, as a parent and as a friend. You need to take some time and replenish yourself – it’s not only good for you, but good for everyone else around you, too.

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