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On November 6, YPN welcomed Chris Gheysens, President & CEO of Wawa, to a sold-out crowd of 100 people as part of the Professional Development Committee’s Know the CEO series.  Chris shared several lessons he has learned over the course of his career:

You really have to be passionate about what you do in order to be successful. Chris never imagined becoming the CEO of Wawa but because of his passion, he found himself yearning for more responsibility. In addition, his identity is aligned with Wawa’s culture and values, so he is able to authentically express himself at work. Chris views himself as a servant leader, never putting his agenda first, and always doing the right thing for the people he serves.

It is important to have a personal mission and vision. Once you are clear on that, make sure how you spend your time and the organization you work for is aligned with your mission and vision.

Don’t let setbacks hold you back from pursuing your goals. Chris applied for two jobs at Wawa that he did not get and instead of focusing on what he lacked, he chose to focus on further developing himself and his skills so that he would be in a better position when the next opportunity came up.

Find people to mentor you. As a mentee, your responsibility is to initiate the relationship and meetings and have a clear agenda.

Surround yourself with people who are not like you; people who excel in areas you would like to develop. Chris has a coach who is not afraid to ask him the really tough questions to stretch him. As a CEO, this is especially important to him because oftentimes people want to please him, not challenge him.

At the end of the program, YPN asked Chris what he was currently reading so we could add it to our PD Book Shelf. He recommended The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz.  In this book, you’ll learn not to manage your time, but rather your energy, the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Business, as the authors argue, is a series of sprints and managing your energy in all four areas is crucial to success.