Leading as an Intrapreneur at EILEEN FISHER

Amy HallCourageous Conversations: SVN Interviews Amy Hall, Director of Social Consciousness, Eileen Fisher

Martha Shaw (SVN): Do you consider yourself a pioneer?

Amy Hall: I feel funny saying that about myself but I have heard other people say that about me.

SVN: How have you broken new ground within the setting of a company, as an intrapreneur?

Amy Hall: Well all of my work at EILEEN FISHER has been breaking new ground because this specific work didn’t exist before I got to the company and it’s been growing up with me and all around me, so within the company you could say I am absolutely a pioneer. The core components of my work and my team’s work is how we support women and girls, engage with community partners, our environmental sustainability, our humans right initiatives - those things are all specific programs that didn’t exist before me. In addition there are attitudes I’ve brought to the company. One is the notion of selecting our external business partners through the lens of a values fit. This was not articulated before I started.

It’s been over a year now that I’ve been talking about it within the company and it’s now become a key part of our sourcing strategy and our strategy for engaging with any business partner. There are many different components as to how we live our values within the company, how we interview people for a values fit, and how we partner with others for influence as well. How do we take our values outside the company and use them for positive impact? I feel a great deal of responsibility for that and for bringing that to the company.

SVN: Does this take courage?

Amy Hall: I would say yes for sure. I feel like I really grew up in the company. Even though I had another career before EILEEN FISHER, I really didn’t find my own voice and confidence in my voice until I got to EILEEN FISHER, and until I started to go down this path of social consciousness and working out what that meant to the company and realizing that people were looking toward me, both inside the company and out, for guidance and answers. That’s a funny place to be for me. In the beginning I didn’t believe I deserved that responsibility or that kind of recognition. It took me a long time to feel comfortable. All my life I’ve struggled with intense shyness and fear of public speaking and fear of rejection. It wasn’t until I moved into this role that it started to fall away. It grew up around me as I grew as a person. We evolved together into these values and philosophy.

SVN: What is your worst fear?

Amy Hall: I have now been stepping into to the realm of public policy and going to Washington DC and making statements in front of legislators and representatives. The role of legislation was not a place where I have experience but feel like it’s important for us as a company to have a voice there and to lobby for what is the best ways to do business. This was a real stretch for me. I still have fear that I can’t or will not learn the players or issues quickly or deeply enough and I’ll say something that will sound silly.

But every time I go to Washington and make a statement I have such a good time! It shocks me how easy it is, but I still let the anxiety well up in me in each time.

Another stretch for me was being elected to Chair the advisory board of Social Accountability International two months ago. I’ve been on boards, but I’ve never chaired a board. This one is full of type A personalities and I’m the first woman, so there is a lot of anxiety that goes with this. But, I feel like I contribute a lot and can help to change the dynamics and that has helped me overcome my fear.

SVN: How has Social Venture Network (SVN) helped you to build confidence as an Intrapreneur?

Amy Hall: I’ve been with SVN for about 15 years. Something kept pulling me back to it and I began to feel like these are my people. At first I felt like I wasn’t really worthy. I can remember the very day that changed for me. Joe Sibilia of CSRwire approached me at a conference and asked me to run for the board. I thought, are you kidding me? Why me? He told me that SVN knew that I would bring value to the board. I realized at that moment that people saw me in a way that I did not see myself. That people valued me there. The warmth and the complete non-judgment that comes with associations at SVN are unlike any other organization. Now I’m part of an SVN peer circle, which added another whole layer of friendship and acceptance. I just totally value the SVN experience.

SVN: What advice would offer someone in finding courage in the field of corporate social responsibility?

Amy Hall: I think everyone needs to find their own voice, and feel comfortable in their own skin and with what they want to say and what they believe. It’s because of that personal passion that you bring to this work that your voice will emerge naturally. You really have to dig down deep inside and recognize that passion. It’s your passion that will drive everyone else to action.

Amy Hall is an intrapreneur at Eileen Fisher. She has worked to promote corporate social responsibility together with SVN member Eileen Fisher, whose commitment to her staff and mission has enabled the rise of intrapreneurs in first-generation triple bottom line businesses.

Martha Shaw is a writer for SVN’s Courageous Conversation Interview Series. She is the founder of eFlicks Media productions and Earth Advertising, a pr and media firm that supports environmentally sustainable businesses.

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