Over the past year, appliance company executives have faced a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of unique and pressing leadership challenges. From COVID-19 to significant economic and political uncertainty, the trends of 2020 have touched every aspect of appliance manufacturing. 
This special HomeWork series features interviews with top executives from AHAM member companies to share what they have learned from the unprecedented events of the past year, as well as their insights on important leadership issues like mentorship, diversity and inclusion, and recent consumer trends. 
The second installment of AHAM’s HomeWork Executive Leadership Series features Mark Bissell, Chairman and CEO, BISSELL Inc.

1. What lessons about leadership will you take away from 2020?
This has been a challenging time for our associates, communities and the world at large. From a leadership perspective, the need to communicate has never been greater. This comes in many forms and has included emails, video recordings, collaborative apps such as Microsoft Teams, and of course, the ever-present Zoom meeting. In an environment where things are being done differently than ever before, the need to be agile is critical. Leading by example is also important. I limit my visits to the office because I do not want others to have the expectation that they need to be there as well. Another is the continuation of our summer hours with a shortened day on Friday, which gives our associates some downtime for themselves or to spend with their families. Lastly, the planning horizon has shifted and the need to respond to changes, some daily, has never been greater. Freeing the organization of some processes has been critical to empowerment, speed and decision making. I talk a lot about our core values and the impact they have on our culture. It has been gratifying to see how well this is working within our virtual workplace today. 
2. What is the most significant consumer trend that you have seen accelerated by COVID?
Unquestionably the acceleration of e-commerce. All online businesses are thriving in this environment. 
3. How important is it for leaders to foster a culture of mentorship in their organizations? What makes an effective mentor?
With the inability to come to the office, mentoring, particularly with new associates, has never been more important. An effective mentor is genuinely interested in the mentee, has a high degree of empathy and works to an agreed set of deliverables. 
4. Many companies have large numbers of staff working remotely. Has this presented any challenges or opportunities for your company?
Like many companies, we have been pleasantly surprised by how well remote work has gone. From technology to associate accountability, it has been a success. It has allowed us to expand our candidate pool and opened positions to a more diverse and geographically dispersed work force. 
The downsides are also well known and include a blurred line between work and home life, personal isolation and general burnout. 
5. What is the best advice about leadership you have ever received?
Walk the talk.
6. What does your company gain from its involvement in AHAM, and how do you encourage your employees to stay involved?
AHAM has leveraged our staff across several critical dimensions including government advocacy, product safety and standards, as well as providing important industry updates and various forums for deeper learning and networking. 
7. How has a diverse and inclusive workforce helped your company to meet its objectives?
Undoubtedly, this is central to every company today. The short answer is we want our workforce to mirror that of our customer. There is proven research on the value of diversity in decision-making. This is also a topic that is deeply important to our associates and they want to know what management is doing to promulgate D&I. 
8. If you could go back in time 20 years, what would you tell your younger self?
Don’t wait, do it now from personal to business actions. Dream bigger, it won’t happen if you can’t visualize it. 
9. What would be your dream job outside of your current industry?
Food and wine critic living in Italy.


Looking for past issues of HomeWork?

Melanie Cook
Rick Roth
Lenore Kaplan
Andy Chinmulgund
John Taylor
Steve Nackers
Paulo da Silva
Pat Bassett
Tom Siwek
Dan Query
Dochul Choi
Steve Ver Strat
Manfred Staebler 
Elena Breda
Debbie Mudway 

Julie Wood 
Elena Breda
Darryl McCartney
Viren Shah

Mark Bissell 
Chairman and CEO