The International Association of Interviewers teamed with General Dynamics for their annual recognition of remarkable women in loss prevention. Lauren Bridgeo, vice president of operations for The Zellman Group, is one of the 2017 honorees.
As you reflect upon your career, to what do you attribute your high level of success?
First, I would have to say that my parents ingrained in me that I should never shy away from anything because someone thought I shouldn’t or couldn’t do it. From a very young age my parents challenged me to work hard, but to find something that interested and challenged me. Their encouragement is with me every day.
In relation to my career, I have had tremendous support and encouragement from a wide variety of people throughout my 33 years in Loss Prevention. I have had mentors from all aspects of business, which ensured I never pigeon-holed myself in one particular position. I have been empowered by many people to learn cross-functionally and build relationships throughout organizations. Having strong relationships has provided me with the opportunity to seek advice and assistance on how to be a well-rounded businesswoman.
What has been one of your greatest career achievements over the last two or three years?
About three years ago, I took on a new challenge at The Zellman Group, LLC. It was my first time to work for a private company and my first time to be on the vendor/service provider side of a business. Learning about how a business runs from the core is an amazing opportunity.
In retail loss prevention, we know our stores are our “customers.” Well, that is tenfold more true in my current role. There is a whole world of medium-sized and small retailers, restaurants, stadiums and hotels that need loss prevention leadership. I hadn’t considered this before I made the move. I love having a key role in an organization that provides Loss Prevention as a service to such a wide variety of “customers.”
What are the most important characteristics you believe every leader should possess?
The cornerstones of leadership are integrity, honesty, accountability, and credibility. I also believe that being open-minded and having vision, energy, and courage are exceptionally important. The best leaders are open to new ideas, including risky ideas, as long as they are consistent with the vision. I believe if a leader lacks vision the team won’t know where they are going. Without energy, there is no one to drive to the vision. Without courage, risks won’t be taken. Without risk, there is no opportunity for improvement.
What types of leaders do you think make mistakes more frequently than others?
I view most mistakes as learning experiences. A problem arises, however, when someone doesn’t learn or change from the experience. Failure to learn from one’s mistakes is usually worse than making the mistake itself. You have to own the mistake, but you must be able to move on from it. A good leader acknowledges this growth.
What are you doing to continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I look for feedback from my team, my colleagues, my CEO, and my mentors. Honesty can be painful, but I look for opinions about what I say or do as critical feedback to help me work on change. I also have two documents on my desk that I use to keep me grounded, one addresses improving after a failure and the other is about leadership. Ultimately, they both are about taking responsibility.
When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
One of my mentors taught me to never be afraid to hire people who may be smarter than I or who might challenge the norm. It was scary at first, but over time I found this to be great advice. As a result, I always lean towards hiring the person I think will spark the team to think in different ways. I have had great teams over the years and you can find many of them in leadership positions throughout the industry today.
What will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?
I have an optimistic viewpoint for the next generation of women, though I do think there are hurdles the next generation will need to overcome. The face of loss prevention, as my generation knows it, is fading, and the future will be vastly different as the industry continues to evolve. The next generation needs to ensure a thorough knowledge of technology. CCTV systems, merchandise protection systems, data analytics, and cybersecurity are changing at lightning speed. Theft is big business, but the internet has changed the game completely. I don’t think anyone will be successful in the future if they don’t have a keen understanding and vision about how technology will impact the security landscape.
Can you name a person who has had tremendous impact on you as a leader?
I have always been lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent, hardworking, and opinionated people. Jim O’Connor took a chance with me when I was 22 and set me on the path of being more than a store detective in a department store in Bala Cynwyd, PA. The opportunity he gave me exposed me to a corporate environment and multi-store responsibilities. He taught me to think broadly and be a student of the business. Without Jim, I might have taken my newly acquired college degree and gone in another direction. Stuart Levine took a chance with me several years ago. He continues to play a huge role in my current development. With his counsel, I am leading a business at a completely different level than I ever imagined I would.
It would be a disservice to my other mentors, colleagues, and teams not recognize what they did to mold my career. Some set examples for me regarding loss prevention, others educated me about cross-functional relationships and partnerships, general business, the power of networking, the importance of staying relevant, and others showed me how to be courageous and positive.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Check out the other IAI Remarkable Women honorees.