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Leader of the Year Sharon's formula for success: listening, respect ... and fun

July 05, 2018 12:30 PM

Sharon Hammond, Senior Director of Food North for Asda Logistics Services, was awarded Warehouse Leader of the Year for driving innovation to improve warehouse operations. She's the first woman to achieve operational Senior Director level at ALS and blogs about how mentoring has helped her career – and why she wants to “pay it forward”…

I was absolutely amazed and obviously delighted to win the award. It’s very humbling to have that award and for people to think I deserve to be Warehouse Leader of the year. It tells me I’m doing the right things, and treating people the right way, not just going after the numbers.

I love nothing more than going into sites and meeting the teams, seeing the buzz and seeing what they’re developing. It really makes my day! You can see the passion we’ve got across the network for people wanting to do the right thing and do a great job for customers. That’s amazing to see and really heartwarming.

I’ve been with Asda for 16 years and I’ve always had roles within warehousing. I started in Asda’s Lymedale clothing depot, I’ve been a line manager, worked in stocking systems, I was Operations Manager at Wigan depot, I’ve had a central role in Asda House where I was part of the project team that opened Heston Home shopping site for Retail and now I’m Senior Director for Food North looking after 11 depots and 4,300 colleagues. I’m 16 weeks into the role and I feel like I’m into the flow of it now!

We all spend a lot of time in the workplace and, as well hitting the numbers, it’s important to appreciate that we’re human beings in a place of work. We spend a lot of time there together so we have to have respect for each other and have a bit of fun and make sure it’s a nice place to work. I’m very approachable in that way. I’ll say to people “How are things? How’s the site? How are the managers treating you?” They’re surprised when I want them to be honest – I want to know the truth so we can improve things.

I’m the first woman to reach operational senior director level in ALS and when I was appointed it was really good to hear from lots of women in our business who were inspired by that. I always say there’s no glass ceiling – it’s only about the limits we put on ourselves. Winning the award I want to pay it forward. I really want to continue to inspire both men and women. There should be no glass ceilings – sometimes it’s yourself that can be the limiter: you think “Should I be having a go – can I really do that job?”

There isn’t any one person that inspires me, but I meet many people that have honest conversations and share their individual stories and that inspires me. I like to “steal with pride” what really resonates with me and make sure I put that tool in my toolbox and take it with me. Over the years if I think back, self-belief has been a limiting factor and it’s really only been the past two or three years I’ve felt confident to see that. It’s about smashing through those self-limiting beliefs – and realising it’s ok to talk about that.

I’m known for striking a fair balance between operational management and cultural fit and developing talent. I make sure I’m always mentoring groups and doing the same for my own personal development. We all learn from experience. I have a very open working style. In the years I’ve worked for Asda I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the operation and I share that knowledge and experience to make sure people are fit for the future.

I’m also an International Women in Leadership mentor – one of three ladies handpicked from across the business – and every month we have a conference call with all the other ladies across Walmart to share what we’ve been doing and to listen to inspirational speakers.

A good mentor will actively listen and will absolutely challenge your thinking. They will bring their stories and experience and share very openly their knowledge. For me it’s been about having that reflective time to think. It’s always good to be challenged and have someone say “Have you thought about this?” or “Why don’t you spend some time in that area?”. They’ve broadened my thinking. You can be quite siloed in your day-to-day role so a mentor gives you a broader way of looking at the world and gets you involved in new things.

I had a mentor for a while at Kellogg’s and although I only met him a few times it was really useful looking at different technologies and how other companies run from a process and cultural point of view. With all technology it never tends to go to plan and you have to learn about it and learn what it can give us. When people share their experiences openly it makes us all future fit. The more sharing and learning from each other we can do the more we’ll step on. It’s in everybody’s interests because innovation and new technology is driving businesses so fast at the minute.

Within Asda we partner with some pioneering companies. We’re already seeing what automation can give us at sites like Warrington depot. It’s about smarter working – in my experience that automation allows us to grow with the growth of the business and unlocks us, as a business, to do more volume and throughput. It’s about us driving a more efficient and better network to help us do more volumes.