ATLANTA – Five times a year, Teresa Wynn Roseborough dons an orange apron, leaves her legal team behind, and spends the day assisting customers at a nearby Home Depot store. Customer service may seem removed from the usual routine of the home improvement retailer’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. But it’s a mandate from the CEO that all corporate officers spend time at the top of the inverted pyramid – where customers and front line associates take priority over the corporate office.

The inverted pyramid is the
foundation of The Home
Depot's values-based culture. 

Because this exercise is such a critical part of how Home Depot does business, LCLD Fellows were invited to tag along on an early-morning store walk to kick off the August 4 Learning Experience. 

With 2,275 retail stores and about 1.5 billon customer transactions in 2015, it’s not surprising that customer satisfaction is The Home Depot’s top priority. Innovative products, online offerings, marketing strategies, and in-store experiences are tailored to meet customers’ ever-changing needs, as Fellows learned from Home Depot executives throughout the day. 

But customer service is just one of the tenets of what company leadership calls a “values-based business.”

“We’re really a talent development organization that sells hardware – we’re here to develop families and careers,” Roseborough told Fellows in her welcome remarks.

“Eighty percent of promotion is internal,” explained Arlette Guthrie, Vice President of Human Resources, during a panel on paths to career success. “It’s not uncommon to find senior leaders who started working here while they were in school or right out of the military – if you capture the values, we will help you succeed.” Home Depot also has an “open-door policy” regarding mentoring, she said, and mentoring circles that connect associates with varying levels of experience.

“We’re really a talent development organization that sells hardware." 
– Teresa Roseborough

Diversity is also a crucial piece of talent development at The Home Depot. In the legal department alone, 60 percent of attorneys are women, and 42 percent are diverse, and other executives understand the importance of developing diverse talent. 

Michael Hogenmiller, Vice President of Merchandising, told Fellows about his reaction to learning that boards of directors comprised of more women performed better: “I wanted to figure out how to leverage that for my own business – so now the majority of my team is female or diverse in some way,” he said. And, as Guthrie added, since women make 90 percent of buying decisions, “wouldn’t you want more women in Merchandising?”

After Fellows heard from several Home Depot executives, Roseborough interviewed a panel of local general counsel, who discussed unconscious bias, gave leadership advice, and shared strategies for encouraging law firms to create more diverse teams. 

Three Atlanta-based general counsel share
thoughts on promoting diversity from the top. 

“Getting people into leadership development programs like this one, where they learn to manage diversity, is critical,” concluded Peter Carter, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, and Corporate Secretary of Delta Air Lines.

Fellows finished off the day with a Language of Leadership Q&A between Roseborough and LCLD President Robert Grey. Roseborough talked about her upbringing (by parents who were first-generation college graduates), her extensive academic and public service experience, and the challenges of motivating outside counsel to improve their diversity.

But some of her most powerful advice – which resonated strongly with Fellows who spent the previous day at a civil rights museum – came as she described her time clerking for Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.

“When you walk into that building, you’re walking into a responsibility greater than yourself,” Roseborough said. “In the heat of D.C. everything seems so fragile – everything is make or break, do or die. But this country is extremely resilient – this country has held together through all these battles.”

LCLD Fellows gather in The Home Depot's headquarters after a successful Learning Experience. 

Prior to the Learning Experience, King & Spalding LLP invited Fellows on a tour of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, followed by a reception at the firm’s Atlanta office. 

LCLD would like to thank Teresa Roseborough, Komal Patel, Meredith Shaughnessy, Kristin Ray, Joel Rogers, Mike Canaras, Mercedes Caravello, and Lionel Legagneur at The Home Depot, and Merritt McAlister and Sam Matchett at King & Spalding LLP. 

Photo Gallery 

Photos by Jay Haas