With a rare glimpse inside General Mills’ Legal department—and its test kitchens—LCLD Founder Rick Palmore and other top executives served the LCLD Fellows a full menu of practical advice and inspiration.
Describing the Fellows Program as “the heart and soul of LCLD,” Rick Palmore, General Counsel of General Mills, welcomed several dozen visiting Fellows into his “home” on April 25, as he and a dozen other top executives hosted a high-energy Learning Experience (view agenda) at corporate headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“Making an impact on the careers of talented, diverse attorneys is why I got into this in the first place. Bringing the Fellows to General Mills makes it personal.” —Rick Palmore, Founding Chair Emeritus, LCLD Board
Palmore, who also serves as the company’s Executive Vice President, Secretary, and Chief Compliance and Risk Management Officer, kicked off the event by reflecting on what led the founding Members to create LCLD five years ago. “To improve the talent in this profession, we decided to come together—both general counsel and managing partners—to make a change. And oh, by the way, we didn’t want to make a minor change.”
Making a major change through professional development: This was the theme for a full day of meetings and panel discussions in which the Fellows engaged with General Mills executives, including Palmore. They focused on the how-to’s of lawyering and leadership, personal branding, building strong relationships with clients and colleagues, and achieving the combination of self-awareness, adaptability, and creativity that it takes to become an authentic leader.
“Lawyers think that the people on the letterhead, or the person in the walnut office, are the leaders,” said Richard Allendorf, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, International. “I need you to toss all of that aside. Being a leader is based on how you behave and how you think. Every time you show up, you have to add value.”
At General Mills, lawyers need to be both smart and bold. “We depend on our lawyers to problem-solve for us, to help us assess risks such as entering emerging markets,” said Mary Jo Ekman, Vice President of International Finance and Information Systems. “If I think my lawyer is too risk-averse, I see that as a lack of credibility.”
Anton Vincent, President of the Frozen Division, weighed in on the importance of in-house lawyers taking ownership of the company. “Don’t say, ‘I’m just the lawyer.’ If you do, you’re pretty much dead on arrival,” Vincent said. “We expect you to be a full part of the team and to think holistically about our products and strategy. Be in the business and understand the business.”
Mark Addicks, Chief Marketing Officer at General Mills, found similarities between a successful personal brand and a successful commercial brand. “One of the first principles of branding is that a brand should be for someone, but not for everyone,” he said, noting that an individual’s diversity can be an asset. “You can make your differences a strength, but the first shift is in your mindset.”
In a session on building executive presence, Tim Gluszak, Learning and Development Manager of Global Diversity and Inclusion, led Fellows in small group discussions on personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as how their diverse backgrounds affect executive presence.
“There’s a cultural component to executive presence, whether it’s ethnicity-wise or company culture-wise,” said Gluszak. “You have to balance the IQ with the EQ [emotional intelligence] to have executive presence.”
Between sessions, Fellows reacted to what they were hearing. 2014 Fellow Erica Brown of McDonald’s noted how “open and engaged” the General Mills executives were in “sharing ‘real life’ experiences and offering concrete examples on how in-house attorneys can make themselves invaluable as business partners.”
Jahmal Davis, a 2014 Fellow from Hanson Bridgett, found it “inspiring” to hear directly from Rick Palmore, calling it “imperative that we achieve the Call to Action.”
“I enjoyed the presentation describing the qualities of a good leader,” said Caryn Boisen, a 2013 Fellow and Partner at Larson King, LLP. “It helps to hear that an established company like General Mills values lawyers who think beyond their legal responsibilities.”
Palmore challenged the Fellows to take control of their own professional development and career. “I’ll be disappointed if you come away from the Fellows Program with only the pearls of wisdom that we offer you,” said Palmore. “Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from each other—and to go out and create your own opportunities.”
“At the end of the day, it’s about winning and it’s about talent.”
The evening before the Learning Experience, Fellows toured the Mill City Museum, where they learned about Minneapolis’ rich history in the flour industry. Then, at a welcome reception and dinner sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels, Littler Mendelson P.C., and Blackwell Burke P.A., the Fellows heard remarks from Jerry Blackwell, LCLD Member, and Founder and Chairman of Blackwell Burke; Marko Mrkonich, Shareholder at Littler Mendelson; and Lica Tomizuka, 2013 LCLD Fellow, and Partner at Faegre Baker Daniels.
Click here to read about the Learning Experience from 2013 Fellow Lori Baggett's perspective.