THE BLOG
01/19/2015 09:52 am ET Updated Mar 21, 2015

Women in Business Q&A: Stephanie Streeter, CEO and Director of Libbey Inc

Stephanie Streeter is chief executive officer and a director of Libbey Inc. (NYSE MKT: LBY) in Toledo, Ohio.

Streeter joined Libbey on August 1, 2011, and is a member of the board of directors for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (since 2008); Kohl's Corporation (since 2007); Catalyst, a leading non-profit organization with a mission to expand opportunities for women in business (since 2005), and the Toledo Museum of Art (since 2013).

Prior to joining Libbey, she was interim chief executive officer of the United States Olympic Committee from March 2009 to March 2010 and served on its board of directors from 2004 to 2009.

In 2001, Streeter joined Banta Corporation, a publicly held (NYSE:BN) printing and supply-chain company as president and was appointed CEO in 2002. She was a member of the Banta board of directors from 2001 to 2007 and was elected chairman in 2004. The company was acquired by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company in 2007.

Prior to joining Banta, Streeter was chief operating officer at Idealab. She also spent 14 years at Avery Dennison Corporation in various product and business management positions with her final assignment there as group vice president of Worldwide Office Products from 1996 to 2000.

Streeter holds a B.A. from Stanford University and is a former four-year-starter on Stanford University's women's basketball team serving as captain her junior and senior years. She is married and lives with her husband and twins (born in 2007) in the Toledo area.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up in a family of six children and a virtually lifelong involvement in team sports at pretty high levels has taught me the value of competition and team. Add to that a heavy dose of intuition and curiosity: I've always been focused on learning and doing what it takes to win in an environment where it is both about your own performance but also those around you.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Libbey?
Every experience has been a learning opportunity from the discipline and intrapreneurial environment at Xerox and Avery Dennison to the entrepreneurial spirit at IdeaLab and the Automation Consultants to the rigor of the printing industry to the broad scope at the US Olympic Committee. I've taken bits and pieces from each organization to learn and grow as a leader. I have worked for and with great people. My lifelong involvement in sports also defined and influenced my leadership style.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Libbey?
When I arrived at Libbey, I spent the first four or five months listening to our associates, learning the business, visiting the facilities and talking to as many people as I could, internally and externally. I was fascinated by the history, the rich heritage and the level of expertise and commitment inside the company. That was certainly a highlight. I was inheriting a gem, a crown jewel in the tabletop world.

Other than typical challenges of running a business, I'd say there has been some hesitancy by some to embrace change. The company had decades of success; our new strategy and leadership approach were a departure from how people were accustomed to operating. We are making progress every day, but I'll be truthful, I'd like to be moving faster.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
The glass making industry has been around for thousands of years - my advice is try new things as there are many opportunities to be more relevant. This may sound a bit flip - it's not meant to be - but I encourage people to fail fast. I want to try new ideas, pilot them and learn quickly.

I played the guard position when on the basketball at Stanford and throughout all the sports I played, I learned that if you're trying new things, if you're "leaving it all out on the field" you're going to turn the ball over. You're going to make mistakes. If you are going to be disruptive in the industry, my advice is to effectively and quickly recover from your mistakes and don't internalize them. Learn from them; move on to be better the next time.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Most important lesson - respect the people who are on your team. Learn from them. Understand them. Engage them.

Talent is one of the most powerful levers that exist in an organization. An effective leader must know how to attract, develop and motivate their team. I believe that the most successful organizations are a blend of experienced professionals and new hires with fresh perspectives. The key is to inspire teamwork and collaboration at all levels of the organization.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This issue is more than just striking a balance. It's more about being present in all aspects of your life. My approach is similar to our company's strategy: Own the Moment. Our products play a central role in life's moments; we help people shape and define memories. At every occasion from a quiet dinner at home to a wedding celebration, there are special moments that can be cherished and celebrated.

I've taken the same approach. When I'm with my children, they are my focus and we have special moments every day. If we are visiting family, taking a vacation or just heading to karate practice, I try hard to be in the moment.

I enjoy every day, whether it's the joy of being a mom or the positive feeling I get when I see our associates who "get it." I get energized from both my personal and professional life. As an early childhood friend once said, "Enjoy life, you could have been a barnacle."

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
From my perspective, I never felt limited because I was a female. If there was a "boys' club," I looked beyond it; didn't acknowledge it. My parents instilled in me at a young age to be the best at whatever I wanted to be or chose to pursue.

However, in some work cultures, I have seen that women can face penalties for doing things that lead to success. As an example, a man may be considered "effective" at doing what it takes to get the job done, while a woman may be considered "bossy." I never let that realm of thinking hinder me nor do I ever judge my team that way.

At the end of the day, I really believe an individual's success - male or female - depends on their ability to perform successfully in their environment and culture. A leader has to be able to deliver results, motivate and inspire.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
There hasn't been a "single" outstanding mentor; instead there have been dozens of mentors who have influenced me. Based on their advice and guidance as well as insights that I have absorbed over the years, I've developed my personal list of four Cs. Here are the key traits that I believe have made a difference in my personal and professional life.

Any leader must have character. I'm very direct in how I approach things. I'm straightforward - no politics, no drama. I've had mentors who excelled because they were straightforward; I saw how powerful it worked. And nobody really wants to work for a jerk.

Confidence. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." This requires confidence. Not arrogance but trust, belief, faith and conviction that a chosen path or course of action is the best. Without that, leaders don't lead, they manage.

Creativity is essential. Even those of us who aren't in explicitly creative fields must come up with new ideas and insights. And leaders especially must be able to connect the dots in ways that others may not be able to.

Finally, courage. I'm not sure if this is a quality of mind or spirit, but leaders need courage to address issues, to handle conflict and to challenge the status quo. Maybe this behavior was inspired or honed through sports; it's always been a strength for me, and I think it's a strength of all good leaders.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I've always admired Madeleine Albright. I actually had the opportunity to meet her last year at a Bloomberg Conference. She's incredibly bright, has been extremely effective in every aspect of her career; she's influential and confident. I admire how she's dealt with sensitive and controversial issues - she's direct and thoughtful. A tough negotiator for sure, but always confident of who she was and comfortable in her own skin.

What do you want Libbey to accomplish in the next year?
It's an exciting time to be at Libbey. I want us to continue our transformation and enable every associate to Own Their Moment. We have an aggressive growth agenda in the years ahead.

If we can be bold, work collaboratively and focus on our goals, every day will be a celebration.