…Be you. Not a version of yourself. By bringing your whole self and embracing what makes you unique as a female leader, you will connect with your team on a more holistic level that can lift everyone up. And don’t forget to have fun! We all spend too much time at work to not enjoy it.
I had the distinct pleasure to interview Denise Lauer. Denise Lauer is Chief Marketing Officer of Morton Salt, Inc., a leader in the North American salt market since 1848. She was appointed to the CMO role in November of 2017 and is responsible for shaping the future of the company’s brands in the marketplace and workplace. She is the company’s first CMO. Since joining Morton Salt in 2011, Denise has played a pivotal role in the company’s modernization and transformation efforts. Under her leadership, Morton Salt has been recognized with numerous marketing honors and awards, including 6 Cannes Lions. Prior to Morton Salt, she held positions at Quaker Food & Snacks, FedEx and Eaton Corporation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Some might say the path I took to the role of CMO was not the traditional one. They’re right.
I don’t have a traditional background in marketing. So how did I get here? Looking back, the path was forged early on. As a child, I had an insatiable love of reading. In fact, I would stay up late reading books in bed with a flashlight so my parents wouldn’t know I was awake. I had planned to parlay my love of reading into a career in journalism when a college internship at a Fortune 500 company took me in a slightly different direction. From that point on, I was able to gain invaluable experience in all facets of communications with some of the most well-known companies and brands in the world. This experience shaped my career and enabled me to make the transition to marketing.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading at your company?
Within the first month of joining Morton Salt, I had the privilege of traveling nearly 2,000 feet below ground to tour one of our salt mines. This remains one of the most fascinating experiences in my career. After all, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to explore an underground world of salt forged more than 400 million years ago!
Salt may seem like a fairly straightforward ingredient, but it is an essential mineral with thousands of different uses. Salt enhances flavor, improves water quality, and melts ice and snow. It’s used in life-saving medicines and therapies. It even helps power business and industry. Needless to say, the possibilities for Morton Salt are vast.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our people, hands down. Morton is made up of incredible people — from miners to marketers. We truly have salt of the earth people all across our network who are ready to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to get the job done right. I truly believe that the people who have been a part of Morton throughout its 170-year history are its greatest legacy. Here’s just one of many shining examples:
In 2016, we were gearing up to film a music video with rock band OK Go. The production company asked if we could produce our iconic round canisters of table salt for a set backdrop — but without the salt or the classic label. They needed a few thousand of these specially-produced packages delivered in a few days. We couldn’t imagine that it would be possible but we called one of our production sites anyway. The team assured us they could figure out a way to fulfill the request. The next day, we were shipping the canisters to the studio!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! At Morton Salt, we play a leading role in enhancing the flavors in food and helping consumers make the most out of every meal. So, we believe good food should be treasured, not trashed. Yet studies show that about 40% of all food produced in the U.S. goes to waste.
This staggering statistic is just one of the many reasons Morton Salt decided to launch the Erase Food Waste campaign last year. Our goal is to raise awareness and inspire action so that we are all more mindful about reducing food waste — whether at home, at work, at restaurants, or at the store. Through initiatives like Erase Food Waste, we can help address the societal, economic and environmental issues that are connected to food waste. For example, you might be surprised to learn that there is more than enough food in America to feed everyone. Yet, 40 million people face hunger in the U.S. today. We can — and we should — work together to bridge this gap.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be you. Not a version of yourself. By bringing your whole self and embracing what makes you unique as a female leader, you will connect with your team on a more holistic level that can lift everyone up. And don’t forget to have fun! We all spend too much time at work to not enjoy it.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
No matter if your team is large or small, I believe a few core principles apply. Treat everyone with respect. Communicate early and often. Give your team the tools they need to do good work. Empower team members to lead. And get out of the way.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In one’s life, there is rarely just one person who helped pave your path to success. In my life, there are so many people who deserve credit. My family, for one. Still today, my parents and husband remain my biggest champions. Of course, managers, mentors and colleagues throughout the course of my career have been instrumental to my development and growth.
Ultimately, I am forever grateful to my parents for instilling in me the importance of hard work, the power of perseverance and the belief that anything is possible. As immigrants who came to the U.S. to chase the American dream, I saw first-hand how they were able to fulfill it by applying these principles in their daily life. They continue to inspire me to dream big and create my own destiny.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Over the past few years, we’ve shifted Morton Salt’s marketing efforts to be more purpose-driven than ever before. It started in 2016 with the launch of a new brand platform — Walk Her Walk. Inspired by our iconic Morton Salt Girl, Walk Her Walk serves as a call-to-action to step up and make a meaningful impact in the world. Erase Food Waste is a prime example of an action campaign that supports our Walk Her Walk platform.
Since we launched Walk Her Walk, Morton has partnered with a number of difference-makers and founders to help address issues ranging from food and nutrition to the global water crisis. These emerging organizations are making incredible strides in their respective arenas and we’re humbled by the opportunity to help them scale and reach their goals.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Stay curious. Learning next stops.
- Trust your gut. Your instinct is a powerful resource. Don’t ignore it.
- Never settle. This isn’t about the pursuit of perfectionism. It’s about setting a standard that you uphold without compromise. That commitment can take you to extraordinary places.
- Be impatient. We’ve all heard that patience is a virtue. But don’t waste time waiting for life to happen to you. Play an active role in the change you desire.
- Recognize others. Chances are, you didn’t make it this far in life alone. So celebrate those who have supported you along the way.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Let’s Erase Food Waste! We want to create a movement to tackle the issue so we encourage anyone interested in joining us to reach out to Morton Salt and share ideas with #EraseFoodWaste.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A colleague of mine once said, “Be your own CEO.” What he meant by that statement was to imagine your career as a corporation. So you need to take the reins and serve as the CEO of your career. In this capacity, you are responsible for steering your career, nurturing it and ensuring it grows. That always stuck with me and I share this lesson with others in hopes that it gives them the confidence to lead their work and life in the same way as if they were the CEO of a corporation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow me on Twitter @tweetsbydlauer or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/deniselauer