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TARA SCOTT

LEADERS ON LEADERSHIP
Chief Commercial Officer, Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd.
An image of TARA SCOTT

What values or principles do you bring to your leadership role?

I have a growth mindset and a strong desire to win. When I see problems, I’m naturally curious and need to ask a lot of questions to truly understand the problem. It’s the only way to find new, innovative solutions. With a spirit of being regularly constructively discontent, I’m an entrepreneur at heart and, given we’re a family-owned business, that has really materialized in my current position. Over time, I’ve learned the true accelerators to transformational growth are collaboration and empowerment. It’s why I’m fiercely loyal to my teams and committed to investing in mentorship and development.

Describe your approach to cultivating future leaders

It starts with creating an environment built on trust. Trust as a team and trust in our direct relationships. That is how you best ensure your high potential employees can accept and act on feedback while having meaningful and authentic development discussions. Trust is a two-way street though. I demonstrate my own vulnerability and humility to build that trust. If trust is established and the employee is genuinely open to development, I help them identify their natural strengths and career paths of interests with consistent and frequent feedback. I also strongly encourage exploration of technical and skill-based leadership opportunities as well as general management. Each person comes with a unique background, as well as unique skills and goals, and I work with them to find opportunities where they can continuously learn and be their best.

What qualities do you look for when hiring?

It starts with finding people who are passionate and curious at all points of their career journey. I make a point of getting involved in university guest lecture opportunities, panels, and mentorship programs. I am always looking for people who demonstrate that curious nature – my advice is to ask good questions, follow-up, and start a conversation. When you have a pipeline of identified talent, the hiring part becomes a formality. For those further in their career, it still centres around passion and curiosity but it comes out in personal ownership of their role and how they use each opportunity to their benefit. These individuals stand out (as they should!) at conferences, networking events, and through personal references. In a 1:1 interview, I look for caring, innovative, and reliable individuals who will fit into the collaborative culture of Coke Canada. I also look for a spark of entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for developing themselves and others. We are, at heart, a people business serving the communities we operate in.

How do you foster strong partnerships and collaborations with brand partners, customers, and other stakeholders?

Relationships are critical enablers of our growth and we often talk about how we’re growing together. Everyone needs to feel value out of our partnerships, and we need to work hard to ensure we’re operating in collaborative and inclusive ways to advance our shared interests. Being inclusive, tapping into superpower of DEI, and enabling effective collaboration takes focus and prioritization. It also takes people who lead with honesty, integrity, and strive for excellence consistently. When you combine that with end-to-end support, innovation in all functions, and service centric communication with a “consumer-first and customer-back” mentality, as we say at Coke Canada, all parties experience exceptional growth. When everyone wins, the momentum is contagious!

What life lesson has helped you most in your leadership journey?

It’s a bit of a two-part answer: 1) Encourage yourself and others to ask the tough questions; and 2) Have an ally or BE the ally in the room for the brave person who asks the tough question. It sparks an idea and other colleagues jump in, the conversation changes, and we see a final decision that looks substantially different (and better) than the original. I’ll always be the one who goes for that better solution. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have allies along the way, and it made the difference knowing someone would have the patience to listen and respect my perspective, supporting me in the room and in my preparation. It allowed me to push the envelope more than I would have alone and has allowed the organization and me to keep growing.

What advice would you give your younger self starting your career?

Get comfortable failing fast and often, because you need to push the boundaries and risks come with the territory. Enjoy understanding where the missteps were and what was out of your control. Those failures will become some of your best training. Ignore the people who tell you to be tougher and colder saying “you care too much.” Passion drives you and people fuel that passion. Caring about them is caring about the business – you don’t have to have the same leadership style as those giving you the advice.

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