Leanna Meiser is the Sr. Manager of Marketing and Training Capabilities for The Hershey Company. Beyond that though, she is someone who embodies presence – when I sit with Leanna, I can feel her focus on the moment. She really listens when you talk, which is so rare. Leanna asks such thoughtful questions, so it was great to have a chance to ask her the questions.
Q: You work in such an interesting environment. Tell me about it.
LM: I am the Dean of The Hershey Marketing Academy! That’s right, chocolate college. I am the Sr. Manager of Marketing and Training Capabilities for The Hershey Company. I am responsible for the capability building and training of our 350 global marketers. I have a background and a master’s degree in education (I even taught high school math). I also have an MBA and a love affair career at The Hershey Company for the past 12 years. So, when I took this role in 2013, I considered it… and still do… my dream job: educating marketers of a company that brings goodness to the world through great tasting products and philanthropy. I am a lucky woman.
Q: What is something that everyone should know?
LM: Be present! I never understood why my Poppy always used to say, ‘the idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ Now I know. I’ve been tortured in the noise of my own mind simply because I wasn’t ‘present’ in what I needed to be/do/listen/hear/need. A few years ago, a yoga instructor had me repeat the mantra ‘be present’ during a practice. The next day at work was particularly stressful (you know, the days when your calendar is hijacked, unread email reaches triple digits, and every project falls apart by noon) and I repeated ‘be present’ when I started to feel overwhelmed. Now, I choose to be present in everything I am doing at the moment I am doing it. That means, when your partner is talking to you, listen, hear and acknowledge the words. When you are working on a project, give it your attention, not fantasize about the accolades you’ll receive if it comes to a successful fruition. If you are driving, put down your mobile phone. If your friend is crying, offer your undivided eye contact (and tissues!). Be present. If you are, all you do will have your best talents given to it, and success will come with the added bonus of content.
And here are three practical things everyone should know:
1) How to do 10 consecutive push-ups (the knees down kind don’t count). If you are physically and mentally able to do 10 push-ups in a row, chances are you are keeping yourself in a good physical and mental condition to enjoy a reasonably healthy life.
2) When to wear a business suit. Sure, there’s the interview and the big presentations to the Board, but putting on a great suit does wonders for your posture and attitude. I wear a business suit at least once a week, just for the feeling of confidence it gives me.
3) That you are important to the universe. You have been placed within it not for a reason but reasons boarding infinity. You have work to do here. Find joy in that fact and contentment in making your mark.
Q: Describe what inspires you.
LM: I have and always will be forever inspired by the arts and humanities. A simple a capella song has brought me to tears, a short story has made me roar out loud with laughter, a sculpture as fixed my gaze for minutes on end, a single note of a quiet piano takes my breath away, a speech to just three people in a church social hall has made me take to my feet in applause. People who use their talents for arts and humanities just inspire me to no end.
Yoga inspires me. I began practicing in 2010 to help me shed a remaining 5 lbs that I now consider vanity weight. I had no idea that I would gain so much. I feel mentally tougher, I am physically more fit, and I have not lost pounds but gained them in muscle mass. My fellow yogis inspire me, too. There’s nothing like practicing and looking to your left and seeing a classmate make it into his first ever unassisted inversion; or look to your right and see another yogi close her eyes and just be present in a balancing posture. It’s physical work and mental release all at the same time. A true inspiration.
Finally, I know this column is about women, and I’ve been very blessed to know exceptional women in my personal and professional lives. I wanted to also use this forum to urge women to recognize the benefit of knowing and building relationships with exceptional men. In my professional career, it was a male manager that sat me down during a performance review and led a tough constructive criticism conversation that I needed to hear. He cared enough about me to say, ‘these are the behaviors that you need to stop, or you will not advance.’ A man served as my career sponsor for two promotions and it was a man that advocated for me obtaining my current role… a position I consider my ‘dream job’. Personally, I have made exceptional friendships with men who have demonstrated so much care and concern for humanity, it is truly inspiring. And my husband… the greatest man alive today. He has always carried my dreams when I’ve been too exhausted to carry them myself. He makes me fearless. He inspires me to be a better human being, always.