BY Alicia Smith

Tom Coughlin, Former President of Walmart and Sam’s Club, was full of lessons. Most memorable is him joining us in meeting with the Executive Team, reviewing results of a year-long study of customer behavior and now purchase patterns are influenced my time of year. (Yes, obvious around the holidays, but what about the difference between June and July or September and October.)

We had two hours, 60 slides and four presenters. We began as expected, recapping the study parameters. Or at least we tried to begin that way. Because within the first two minutes Tom said, “I don’t want to know what you did, how you did it, even what you found. I’ve got 15 minutes and I want to walk out of here and tell people what they need to do now that we have our results.”

Unwisely, I interrupted, explaining that we could move to the Learnings portion of the presentation, and began clicking forward in the slides. Tom was a big man, former football player, and when he stood up, you noticed. And when he walked to the computer, and calmly shut it down, you really noticed.

“Don’t tell me what you know. Tell me what we need to do with what you know.”, he said. A few guys from his team pushed slightly back from the table. In case they needed to make a quick escape I guess. Luckily, we’d spent the plane flight discussing “If I were CEO I’d…” so I just let it rip. He sat down with his yellow pad of paper and started taking notes, as did every other person in the room. A few times he’d stop, look at one of his team members and say, “Does this make sense to you? Why don’t you take this one.”

A little more than 15 minutes in he said, he recapped the three key actions he wanted to have happen based on the insights we shared. As he was walking down the hall he said, “Let them know the results they have on sales,” to no one in particular. Yet we all got the message.

Lesson Learned: The only insights worth anything are ones you can act on. It doesn’t matter if we are smart. What matters is if we bring smart ideas, business building solutions to the marketplace.