A Conversation with Mindy Grossman, CEO of WW International

Mindy Grossman is the CEO of WW International (formerly Weight Watchers). The Financial Times has listed her in the top 50 women in world business, and she has been ranked among Forbes‘ 100 most powerful women in the world. Mindy is a mother and a transformational change agent. Amy spoke with Mindy for iHeartMedia’s What’s Her Story with Sam and Amy podcast. We share a few gems here, but be sure to download the episode for the full discussion! 

You’re the CEO of an iconic brand, and yet you always make time to make real connections with people across the country; how?

One of the greatest attributes of leadership is innate curiosity. I establish a certain amount of time every week to either connect with someone new, meet someone new, or have a new experience. I’m a voracious reader, and I think that’s very important.

I think too many people make a very serious mistake that they go into an industry or they go into the business and they stay in their lane. If you’re in the beauty business, you’re just with beauty people. And no, you should also be going to the consumer electronics show because technology is going to change things and you should be understanding what’s happening.

If I read something or if I see something and I want to learn more, the funny thing is that I’ve literally been known to stalk people. My feeling is, what is the worst thing that can happen? Someone can say no. 

You talk often about your “purpose filter.” What is this? 

I joined WW after my tenure leading HSN. I knew I wanted to do one more thing, but also know that this time I needed a return on both financial and human equity. I wrote a manifesto to the board before I took the role and told them what I thought the business could be. I knew we needed to redefine our purpose, our impact, and the overall impact we wanted to have on the world.

So we worked as a team to create what ultimately became known as our impact manifesto. We redefined our purpose. We inspire healthy habits for real life. We democratize wellness. And at the same time made the decision to evolve the brand forward in all aspects of everything we did. In doing this, we created a purpose filter. There’s a pad with our purpose filter on every single person in the company’s desk. And before you make a decision, you go through the purpose filter and ask: does this fit our new purpose? Does it fit our brand? Does it fit a healthy living company? Will we be proud of this decision?

I think not only businesses, but individuals need a purpose filter as well. 

You’re a mother. How did you talk about work with your daughter?

I can’t bifurcate my personal and my business life. I have one life and it’s complicated enough without trying to be two different people. So I would take my daughter to the tour de France, for example, when I worked at Nike. And I think that’s really important for women. 

My family is the most important thing to me in my life, but my work and my passion for work is also very important and fulfilling to me. And it’s part of who I am. I believed – and still do – thatI’m actually going to be a better person and a better mother because I’m also doing what I love around people that I also love. 

Did you and your husband – who also works – talk about how you’d manage careers and children before your wedding?

We met right before I turned 30. I was very, very much on a career trajectory and he worked in banking. It wasn’t really spoken, but we both knew that this was going to be important to me. We also knew we wanted children, so we were just going to support one another and work it out.  

And I think that’s what people have to figure out: what works for you?  What support mechanisms do you need ? How is this going to fit into your lives? The one thing that you can’t have is resentment. You need to have the conversation. I’ve seen relationships falter because of that.

Are you motivated by making money?

It’s really interesting that you said that because I’ve never done anything just for financial purposes. In fact,  I’ve actually taken roles where I went backwards financially because I thought they were roles that gave me a whole new spectrum of experience that ultimately was going to be positive in my career. I have never taken a role for the dollar value. Now having said that though, I want to recognize my worth and I want to be able to be compensated for that impact.

I’ve always felt that the reason I’ve been successful is I have focused my entire career on making other people successful. And if you do that and you surround yourself with talent and you foster that talent and you empower that talent. Ultimately the business, and you, are going to have greater success.