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Podcast: A Supply Chain & Transportation Trailblazer – with Supply Chain Executive, Michelle Livingstone

By Published On: October 20, 2023

Hosts: Rodney Apple and Chris Gaffney

In This Episode:

We delve deep with Michelle Livingstone, a transportation enthusiast with a stellar leadership portfolio that includes The Home Depot, C & S Wholesale Grocers, J.C. Penney, and Kraft Foods. Growing up with a father in the trucking industry, Michelle’s calling became clear post her tenure at Indiana University, leading her to embark on a journey as a transportation analyst.

Michelle shares invaluable insights from her journey, emphasizing the art of leading teams effectively. She brings forward an evolved perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusion by introducing ‘Belonging’ into the equation. Michelle also underscores the significance of persistent curiosity by repeatedly asking “why”, and the power of nurturing both internal and external professional networks.

Highlighting the importance of the right attitude and mindful communication, Michelle believes in the magic of broad experiences and diverse disciplines throughout one’s career. Dive in to gather gems from Michelle’s enriching journey in the supply chain world.

Who is Michelle Livingstone?

Michelle Livingstone’s passion is the transportation industry. She gained experience at Kraft Foods, J.C. Penney, and C & S Wholesale Grocers, before joining The Home Depot where she served as Vice President of Transportation, including experience in direct-to-consumer final mile deliveries. While at Home Depot, Michelle served as the founder and champion for Women in Supply Chain and was the Vice President advisor for Women’s Link and the Velvet Hammers. She serves on a variety of public and non-profit boards, including Werner Enterprises, Mastery Logistics Systems, the Transportation & Supply Chain Institute of the University of Denver, and the Transportation Executive Board of Indiana University. Michelle launched a new consulting business, M. D. Livingstone Consulting, LLC, where she strives to provide actionable solutions to supply chain challenges and leadership insights.

[00:02:00] Chris Gaffney: Welcome Michelle Livingstone to the Supply Chain Careers Podcast. We are so excited to have you. In my time at Coke, followed you as you had roles similar to mine.

And I always heard when people said, Who are the best of the best in logistics and specifically transportation in the United States, your name was always on that short list. So it really is an honor for you to join Rodney and I and our audience today. And we look forward to learning from you and with you today.

[00:02:31] Michelle Livingstone: Oh, thank you, Chris. I’m so excited to be here.

[00:02:33] Chris Gaffney: I have heard your origin story, but I would love for you to tell the audience about how you got into the field that we now call supply chain and logistics.

[00:02:47] Michelle Livingstone: Sure. My Background really started with my father who was in the trucking industry for most of my life and his too.

And when I went to Indiana University, I knew I was going to be a business major, but I wasn’t sure what discipline I wanted to focus in. And so I started down the path of accounting and finance and marketing and all that. And frankly, it was fine, but it didn’t really resonate with me too much. And then I started looking at what the seniors who were graduating with a concentration in transportation at the time were making as much money as these other disciplines were. So I said, wow, I wonder what I know about transportation. And it’s amazing how much you learn sitting around the kitchen table. And I started taking the transportation classes and I found that it really excited me.

It was also a time that there were very few women in the program. And then the industry. And so it seemed opportunistic to leverage that as well. And so I graduated from Indiana University with a concentration in transportation. I got a job through the college recruiting and as a transportation analyst.

And as they say, the rest is history.

[00:03:56] Rodney Apple: That’s fascinating, Michelle. And, as Chris said earlier, I’ve always heard really good things about you and your background and especially your leadership. I know we didn’t quite cross paths when we were at Home Depot, but I’ve always heard great things.

And as it relates to leadership, what are some of the most valuable lessons that you’ve learned throughout your career in logistics and transportation?

[00:04:17] Michelle Livingstone: Yeah, definitely. I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. Some were very painful, but those are the ones that you remember most. And I think one of the ones I learned not as early as I would have liked, but certainly was very helpful when I finally did learn it is I thought that because I had been promoted to manager that I was expected to have all of the answers. And when I finally figured out that wasn’t really why I got promoted to manager and that I didn’t have to have all the answers and I could leverage the resources of my team. Life got much better for my team and for myself. So that was definitely one of the lessons that I learned along the way.

 I also learned early that I would hear about a decision being made and I would say, oh, that decision doesn’t really make sense based on what I know. But, clearly, I’m new enrolled, the people who are making the decision have so much more knowledge, and they have so much more tenure with the company.

Surely they must know something that I don’t know. And therefore, this decision actually makes sense and you carry along and for a long time I never questioned it. I just accepted it and moved on. And then it started to dawn on me as things have happened, and I went further up the line. That unfortunately just because they may have more experience and more tenure at the company doesn’t necessarily mean that they know as much as I did based on where I was in the process and that it was appropriate to sometimes challenge those decisions and make sure that they had all the information they needed to make the right decision.

 So it’s important to use our voices because a lot of times our top leaders are given filtered information and they think they’re making the right decision without having full knowledge.

[00:05:55] Chris Gaffney: Michelle, you and I have a few things in common.

I had a frontline transportation planning job. Really within six months of leaving college and I ultimately was privileged to lead U. S. transportation logistics for Coke So those same bookends and when you were in that first line job you always said I hope the person at the top is steering us in the right direction. So you ultimately led, a multi billion dollar portfolio for Home Depot and you had to motivate a huge extended team and obviously working with lots of stakeholders. Think about those strategies that you use to make sure effective decision making and team working cascaded all the way back down to that person who had that front line analyst role that you had, out of school.

 What are the things that you found to be most successful? When you got to the big show.

[00:06:47] Michelle Livingstone: Definitely. That’s a really great question. So I think the most important thing right off the bat is you have to make sure that you have the right people sitting in the right seats on the bus.

If you don’t have the right leadership team supporting you, then you’re not going to be as optimal as you should or could be. And then you have to make sure that you have the right data and that everyone is working off the same set of facts. And then one of the things that I learned is I just shared that you really have to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard.

As you’re making decisions, you need to pause and make sure that you understand what the upstream impact is, what the downstream impact is, and that everyone who’s in the room at the table making that decision, that their voices are heard. I found that you can’t let people leave a meeting grumbling under their breath.

You gotta get it all out, the good, the bad, the ugly, and make sure that we really have everything on the table before making those particularly critical decisions. And I like to ask, what would you have to believe? To have this be the best decision and then test your assumptions on that and make sure that withstands the litmus test.

And then once the decision is made, you got to make it clear that everyone is going to have one voice and a consistent message when you leave the room. So that’s really important. And then you do have to make an effort. to debrief afterward so that you know what worked and what didn’t work for the next time.

[00:08:05] Rodney Apple: Michelle, I’d like to switch gears a bit and talk about diversity, equity and inclusion. We know it’s been an important aspect of your career over the years. How do you foster an inclusive culture with your teams and throughout the organizations that you’ve worked at? What are the benefits that you believe diversity brings to leadership and the overall performance of a business?

[00:08:31] Michelle Livingstone: Sure. Yes. D E and I has been very important to me and I would actually add B to that as well for belonging. But as you think about it, if you’re not intentionally inclusive, you’re unintentionally exclusive and others have said that statement long before I just did. But I really agree with that. And as you’re forming teams and organizations and work groups, it’s really important to be intentional on how you staff and resource those teams.

And inherently one must believe that every person is important and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and that they have a story to share. And the business case is always compelling. There have been study after study talking about the importance of having a diverse team, not only for diversity and thoughts and diversity in all aspects of the form, but you also have to make sure that your workforce mirrors the population that you’re serving. So in the case of Home Depot, it was really important that our teams mirror our customer base. That’s what they expect. And that’s what brings the quality of decisions and a different perspective. And I think that’s been really important. So I continue to be passionate.

About D. E. and I. I think it’s particularly important in industries like supply chain where traditionally we have not been as inclusive and that there is a real opportunity for us to attract and retain talent. But we have to go outside what has been traditional and make sure that we are benefiting from those diverse points of view.

[00:010:05] Rodney Apple: Well said.

[00:010:06] Chris Gaffney: I’m going to build on that, Michelle and I think about it, we probably came into industry in the same general time. And, I was fortunate, my first boss at Frito Lay was a woman, and I had many peers in my kind of early group at Frito who were women, and I probably was naive because I was like, you this is a good, a good equal group of leaders, and I watched them rise, and I didn’t think anything of it, but I came to learn as I led large teams that a lot of those women struggled early on in their professional careers in logistics and supply chain because they were trailblazers, and I suspect you could probably comment to us a little bit about being a trailblazer as a woman in leadership Home Depot, you, like a lot of companies, had some great employee resource groups, and so you’ve been able to advocate for lots of groups, but particularly, women in supply chain and that type of thing.

Can you give your perspective earlier in your career and maybe me? When you got in leadership, why or how you were so fired up to make sure that those who came behind you would have, right path, a fair path to get them where they were capable of in terms of their own, leadership and performance in their career.

[00:11:21] Michelle Livingstone: Sure. Home Depot does have a wonderful associate resource group to support a number of diverse populations and everyone is invited to join any of those teams, and it’s been a really great way to bring cultures together and share information. And women in supply chain was actually a rogue associate resource group.

And I started that shortly after joining Home Depot, because I kept being asked questions in the restroom, I understand men don’t speak to one another in the restroom, but women do. And I would be asked questions because there were not that many women in the industry and folks would be going to a conference or traveling on a business trip where there were primarily men and they were like, “hey”, what, how do I handle this?

What do I do? This seems really odd and awkward. And so we would talk about it in the restroom. And at one point I’m like, wow, I should really start this women in transportation group. So I started off as women in transportation, word traveled, then we expanded it to women in supply chain.

And it was really a great way for us to come together and talk about unique opportunities and experiences that we may have that others in the company may not experience just due to the function of the industry that we’re supporting. And then from there, it has really took off. And I’m so pleased I’ve been gone from Home Depot for 2 years, but has withstood the test of time.

Stephanie Smith, who is the SVP of supply chain has continued on. And I was invited back. A couple of months ago to speak at the women in supply chain group. And it was so exciting to see the number of women now who I believe were directors and above and a group, which was such a difference from when I joined the company in 2007.

So I think the development, the leadership development that. That is an area of focus as well as the camaraderie and the networking and the support all pay off to help women be better prepared for the future.

[00:13:16] Chris Gaffney: So I will ask a follow up on this and my daughter is now a woman in supply chain at Home Depot and speaks very well of the support that she gets.

We’re still on this journey. Okay. And of the overall space of having the right representation across the organization and in where we are from an industry and maybe in particular in supply chain. What is your hope for how things play out over the next 5 to 10 years and us continuing in the right direction from this space?

[00:13:48] Michelle Livingstone: You know what? I really hope we reach parity. I really do. And there’s no reason why we couldn’t. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. But one of the things that we need to do as an industry is to make sure that it is an industry that does support women and diverse individuals and that they feel comfortable being in it.

And one of the things I have also learned is that I should have used my voice much earlier on. As one of the few, if not only females in leadership roles throughout a number of companies and careers, I should have used my voice to make sure that other women had opportunities and were supported. We need to make this an industry that all are comfortable in. And I used to not say anything if an inappropriate comment was said, thinking I am going to take the high road. I know so and so made the comment. They didn’t really mean it the way that it came out. They were trying to be funny, all those things. I would give people passes. And over time, I realized that by not saying something that I was not helping that person to understand the impact that they could be potentially having on others and I certainly wasn’t helping it become a better industry for all going forward. So now I feel compelled to help them normally through humor to make sure that they understood that the comment that they made typically in jest was not perhaps taken the way that they had anticipated. And that, in the future, maybe should be addressed in a different way. So I don’t take the high road anymore. We really, both men and women need to make sure that everyone is inclusive and that we make this an industry because it’s a hard industry.

Without a doubt, it is a hard industry all by itself. And when you start layering on other complexities that make people feel uncomfortable, then we’re not going to be able to attract and retain the very best talent.

[00:15:47] Chris Gaffney: Well, a Michelle, I appreciate you taking my unscripted question and knocking it right out of the park.

That’s really super stuff. And we get always get great insight from our guests. And what you just said, I think, is such great advice for folks, just because people get in the room doesn’t mean they’re comfortable in the room. You’ve got to help them. And I think culture is always what actions and behaviors are accepted.

And if people see things that are viewed as they’re viewed as acceptable, that’s their conclusion. And it really is up to the senior person to say. No, that’s not acceptable here. So that’s wonderful. I appreciate that insight. And

[00:16:26] Rodney Apple: Michelle, you mentioned complexities just a minute ago, and we know there’s a lot of complexity in our field.

We’ve also had a lot of disruptions. I know you were at Home Depot when the pandemic came out. And although you’ve left, I know you’re still sitting, you’re sitting on a couple of boards, right? Yeah, so you’re still in the mix and would love to hear your perspectives You know with all the stuff going on complexities disruptions.

How do you approach problem solving as a leader? And what advice do you have for other leaders that are facing ongoing supply chain complexities today and likely in the future?

[00:17:02] Michelle Livingstone: I think the most important thing to ask is make sure that you know what problem you’re actually solving and the way to do that is to ask why at least five times, why did this happen?

Why? Why? Why? To really get to the real root cause and make sure that you’re solving the right problem. And then I would also say that your network is really critical in times of complexity and crises to be able to reach out to others and to be able to solicit ideas and how they’re handling it and what they’re doing about it is also really helpful.

So being able to leverage your personal network to understand how other companies are dealing with it, and, is this as big of the crisis as we think it is, and unfortunately, all the crisis. So that part is seems to go without saying and most recently with yellow freight filing for bankruptcy, I, that was a one that we could have done without another little crisis that we could have done without.

But it’s real. But that, on the other hand, it’s also what makes the industry so much fun. We are solving Big problems, big challenges, big dollars are often involved. And for me, that’s part of the fun of being in the industry. If it were easy, who needs that? That would just be a boring job, but because of the complexities, it really gives you an opportunity to leverage your brain power and your people power to solve the problems.

[00:18:28] Rodney Apple: You’re 100 percent right. I think about all the searches I’ve worked on over the years and the majority you have to go out and build, optimize, enable growth and all these things, deal with these complexities, but the very few that we work on where it’s managed the status quo or let’s take out some pennies and nickels, that nobody gets excited about those jobs. I think you’re spot on.

[00:18:51] Michelle Livingstone: But that does not mean we need any cyber attacks or anything like that. We don’t have to literally have the pendulum swing ditch to ditch, but somewhere, a little excitement in the middle is okay though.

[00:19:02] Chris Gaffney: Keep it between the lines.

[00:19:04] Michelle Livingstone: Yeah, exactly.

[00:19:45] Chris Gaffney: Michelle, I want to build on your comment about networks. And one thing I want to echo that you said is that There is so much willingness for people out there in industry to talk as peers. There are very few people who are just straight on competitors. I have found, in almost all cases, if I reached out to somebody, I would get positive support.

And then it’s a give and receive. Would you comment a bit more about both informal and formal external networks and your advice to people on how to leverage both of those?

[00:20:20] Michelle Livingstone: Yes. One of the things that I learned at Kraft Foods is there was a expression going around saying compete on the shelf, collaborate in the supply chain.

And that resonated with me. And when you approach people like that that seems to open up the doors and to your point about reciprocity, if you’ve got to be willing to give as well as receive, and that has been very helpful for me over the years and the informal networking is great. It requires work.

You cannot network with people just when you need it. You need to have a regular cadence with them to make sure that they know that you’re still out there and that you’re someone that they can trust and that they can count on you just like you’re counting on them. So it takes effort, which is why more people are better at networking.

But if you make that commitment, it certainly pays off. And the best way to start with the informal network is actually meeting folks through the formal networking opportunities. Over the years, I’ve been very involved with the Retail Industry Leaders Association. I was involved with CSCMP. I have been involved with the, AWESOME.

Which is achieving women’s excellence in supply chain operations, management, and education. Awesome. And it’s been also a great way to connect with female executives and supply chain. And then of course, through that, then you start forging your informal networks as well. And being able to draw on a number of people with different perspectives when something comes up and frankly, I would say that a good chunk of my position at Home Depot was more externally facing than it was internally facing and part of that is just the nature of the job because you’re dealing with third party service providers.

And so that automatically puts you in a different network than most of the folks within the company. But it’s been really critical. Yeah. And important to me to have those relationships and to maintain those and make sure that they are all treated with respect. And I really tried to protect them over the years and not to misuse those relationships that I’ve been fortunate enough to form.

[00:22:32] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, you said it, Michelle. And I think the other thing is you never know. In our industry, when someone you interact with is going to become a future customer a future potential employee, a future boss, a future supplier. And so I think, I have been coached well, as I think you probably would agree.

You just treat everybody with regard and respect because things come around. This is not a, even though it’s a big industry, it’s a pretty small group of people who work in it.

[00:23:04] Rodney Apple: And don’t make the number one networking mistake that at least I see from my seat, which is start networking as soon as you find yourself in need of a new job.

I think so many people make that mistake when if they would have been doing that ongoing, they’d have that network to lean right into to help open up some doors and referrals and things like that. So.

[00:23:27] Michelle Livingstone: One of the best networking. Tips that I have been the recipient of is I have had folks in the industry understand that I’m interested in a certain topic.

And then as they come across an article or something on that topic, they’ll just send me a quick little email saying, Hey, I was reading the Wall Street Journal. I don’t know if you had a chance to read this article, but based on our last conversation, I thought this might be of interest to you. Hope all’s going well.

Reach out if you need anything. And I always responded to those. It’s so great to hear from you. So sorry. It’s been so long since we last connected. Thank you for remembering. Yes, this is great. Thank you. And I don’t know that it took very many minutes for them to send it. Certainly didn’t take me very many minutes to respond, but it was a great way to keep the door open for people that you only see a couple of times a year.


[00:24:10] Rodney Apple: Just out of curiosity. Just I’m imagining being in your seat with, that level of transportation spend and you have the volume of three pills and carriers and technology providers and so forth reaching out to you, the key decision maker.

How do you manage that inbox with so many people trying to sell you products and services?

[00:24:30] Michelle Livingstone: It is a challenge and I never wanted anyone to know how many emails actually I were in my inbox at Home Depot and I still don’t want people to know now, even in my Gmail account, how many emails I have.

I seem to be a magnet for them. But and I would also say that. That, we’re very fortunate that folks do want to do business. If you, if your inbox is not full, you might be wanting to ask yourself, why is it that I am not a company that folks want to do business with? Because that brings a whole nother set of challenges that should be addressed within your organization.

Because being a shipper of choice. In my opinion, it’s still as important today, even in a market that has clearly switched from a couple of years ago, and what goes around will come around. And we, it’s really important that you maintain those strong relationship with your service providers. If you want them to be there when that market shifts again.

So I would. I don’t know that I have the key to success and how to manage all that. Having a great team to be able to respond is certainly helpful too, because that, that is probably the best advice I can have is to have a very effective team. But you also have to take time to be selective as you go through and think outside the box because it’s very easy just to stay within a very tight knit group, which certainly has its benefits, but then sometimes if you’re not careful, you’ll miss out on some really innovative thinking out there.

That’s occurring outside of your normal service providers.

[00:25:23] Rodney Apple: Thank you for that perspective. It brings back memories of sitting in that logistics floor And I popped by the, the LTL manager truckload and their phones just don’t stop ringing. And I’m like, are you going to pick that up?

They’re like, no

[00:25:38] Michelle Livingstone: it’s always a challenge when you’re preparing to go to a conference and when conferences provide the attendee list, it’s oh, I see you’re going to be, can we have an appointment? And then after the conference, it’s, oh, we missed, it’s still like to follow up with you. Those were always the most challenging time periods.

And you. Probably felt the same.

[00:26:36] Rodney Apple: Yep. Yep. Only so many hours in the day when you go to those events, especially when you’re in a role like yours, everybody wants to have coffee.

[00:26:45] Chris Gaffney: Yes, exactly.

 So Michelle, if you think about your journey as a leader from a frontline logistics associate to really run in the show, what do you think are the few key leadership qualities that have made the most impact on your success?

And then what advice do you have for Aspiring leaders as they are making that same climb up the ladder.

[00:27:10] Michelle Livingstone: Yeah, I have a few thoughts on this. First of all, one of the things I had learned early on is obviously you have to know your job, but success is 80 percent attitude and 20 percent know how. And you could argue whether or not that’s really the right percentage.

But what I do know is that maintaining a positive attitude. Even during times of crisis has been one of my internal qualities that has afforded me, I think, a positive review from some. So maintaining a positive attitude. I think it’s important to aim high. I don’t know that I always did that. I can assure you that when I was a transportation analyst right out of college, it never occurred to me that I was someday going to have the good fortune of being a VP of Transportation for a fortune 50 company.

And, luckily I made it, but I could only imagine what more I could have accomplished if I had actually aimed high from the get go and really did a. Better job of managing my career along the way, I have absolutely no regrets. I’m feel very fortunate and blessed that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done. But certainly, one can only imagine what more could have happened.

Aim high. I think it’s also. When we’ve talked about it a couple of times is the importance of treating everyone you encounter with dignity and respect and being kind and remembering everyone has a story to tell. I think sometimes people think you have to be rough and tough in the business world, and that’s not necessarily the case.

How you deliver the message is as important as or how you do, how you achieve a goal is just how you achieve the goal is just as important as the goal that you achieve. I always try to remember that and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and we’ve talked about the importance of Using your voice and I think that is certainly a an important trait. And I always tell folks that you have to remember that life is short. Family and friends are precious. You have to take good care of yourself and take good care of others. And hopefully the rest will take care of itself. That is certainly something I tried to remember along the way.

[00:29:03] Rodney Apple: Michelle, you’ve shared some great insights and perspectives and advice today. Looking back where you started your career, unlike most, you went into college and went down the path early on.

But looking back at your younger self is, all that you’ve seen and done throughout your career. Is there anything that you may offer in terms of advice back to your younger self when you were first starting out?

[00:29:26] Michelle Livingstone: Sure, I think the one thing that if I knew then what I know now, I stayed in transportation.

I am very deep in transportation and it has certainly served me well and I’m very pleased with what I was able to accomplish and I have no regrets. However, I think that if I had been willing to take that risk of moving more cross functional in the supply chain, going into distribution or going into inventory planning at some point in time, that would have prepared me for positions above my VP of transportation role.

So I stayed in transportation. They’d ask me every year, do you want to do something else? I’m like no. I love transportation. You want to give me something more. I’m happy to take on more, but I want to keep, I want to keep transportation and, if I knew then what I know now, I probably would have taken a few more risks and moved out and gotten more experience across the supply chain and had more breadth instead of depth in one particular discipline.

[00:30:30] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I think that’s a great perspective. I will ask you a follow up on that. Michelle, if you give that advice to a younger person now, is there a when that you think that’s important in somebody’s career? Get that done in the first five years or build a base in one area and then move across? What’s your point of view on that?

[00:30:50] Michelle Livingstone: Yeah. When to do it is tricky because if you switch too much, then people will say, Oh that associate really hasn’t made a commitment. They don’t know what they want to do when they grow up deal. And so if you do it too often, too soon, then you gain the reputation of not being serious about any one particular discipline.

So I would say it’s somewhere in that three to five is when you. Take a step into something else and give that a whirl and make sure that you are able to accomplish that. And it normally takes two years, in my opinion, to be able to understand what the role is, be successful in the role and be able to make improvements.

Once you understand what that role is all about. And so you have to be in there long enough. And then at some point in time, you do have to decide on a discipline, I think, but having that breadth of experience, I think helps you make better decisions. One of the other things that I have also learned, one of the reasons I have always been on the shipper side is my father being in the transportation industry told me very early on that it’s always more fun to be the customer and stay on the shipper side because that’s a better life for you than on the carrier side. And now that I have the privilege of serving on a public trucking company board. And I really have seen a very different side and I do wonder what would have happened if I had actually been a shipper for a while, moved into the carrier world for a while and come back to the shipper world, would my perspective been different and what I have made different decisions and what would have changed if I had taking that step, which is even a bigger step, in my opinion, than just moving into a different discipline within supply chain.

[00:32:35] Rodney Apple: Yeah, that’s great perspective. And I think a lot of people too, Michelle, they they think they need to move up when they move out. And I think the most important thing is to try to be open minded take those risks, but know that sometimes you may have to do that on a lateral basis. I’ve even seen people take a step down to broaden out their experience.

What have you seen on that note?

[00:32:58] Michelle Livingstone: Yeah, Rodney, I think that’s a really important point. Absolutely. You have to be willing to take cross functional moves as well. And to your point, sometimes it makes sense to go back so that you can go forward and that upward trajectory is not realistic, and it’s frankly not always healthy either, because sometimes that puts one in a position of taking on more responsibility than what you’re actually prepared to do, and that can certainly backfire as well.

So it’s really good to be able to have that experience and earn it, so to speak, before you move to the next level, so that way you can be assured success in that role as you go up the ladder.

[00:33:38] Rodney Apple: Amen.

[00:33:40] Chris Gaffney: . Michelle, having managed a big transportation budget through the cycles that exist in our economy, it’s a reality, the market goes up and the market goes down. With the best strategies, you could still have a challenging year. And I recall, and I’ve spoken in some of our other podcasts of delivering some big challenging changes to the financial plan that were tough.

And, I recall what that felt like. What is your advice as you went through that type of thing over your career and how to How to provide the right feedback, both to your teams and to leadership as things, things progress through a given year for the better or worse.

[00:34:18] Michelle Livingstone: Yes, unfortunately, with the transportation cycles that we’ve experienced over the decades, you can easily become a zero after having been a hero and delivering that news can be really challenging.

There are a couple of things that I have learned along the way. First of all, it’s best to deliver good news fast and bad news faster. So if something isn’t going as planned, it Has proven beneficial to deliver that bad news, but you can’t just deliver the bad news by itself. You have to deliver the bad news along with the action plan and the timeframe to be able to make sure that the executive leadership team is comfortable with what’s being said.

For all the shippers who are currently experiencing record low rates in the industry I really hope that they’re holding on and delivering the message that those low rates may not be sustainable for as long as they had hoped for and providing the message for their executive leadership team that yes, we have great news right now.


[00:35:18] Chris Gaffney: That’s great. Michelle, this has been Wonderful. As always, I’ve learned a few things that I’ve jotted down. On my list, and I know our audience will do and say the same if people want to keep up with you or hear what you’re doing. Are there some ways that you would suggest they follow you based on some of the things you’re doing these days?

[00:35:40] Michelle Livingstone: Yes, one of the comments I was going to make when we were talking about women in the supply chain and the associate resource groups was if your company doesn’t have a women’s supply chain group or an associate resource group that’s meeting the needs and you want help in learning how to launch that type of program within your own company to reach out to me on LinkedIn.

And I’m happy to provide at least the steps that I took to launch Women in the Supply Chain at the Home Depot. And I’m happy to answer questions on how to potentially make that a reality within their world. And I would also add that you will find me on all of your social media platforms through Transportation Talks, where I have an opportunity to channel my inner Oprah and interview some of our leaders in the industry across multiple modes. And it’s been a great experience for me. And you’ll hear wonderful nuggets of wisdom from. People like Shelly Simpson, president of J. B. Hunt, the CEO of CSX Railroad, Joe Hendricks, who was most recent and was fascinating because he’s new to the industry. So it’s been really fun to get his perspective being having come from Ford now into the transportation industry and specifically the rail industry, which is certainly long established.

So there’s some definitely good content out there.

[00:37:08] Chris Gaffney: Wonderful. Again, thank you so much. It’s been a fabulous time to spend with you, and we look forward to our audience enjoying the session.

[00:37:17] Michelle Livingstone: Well, Thank you.

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