Cheryl Isberner SNA Member Since 2007 » White Bear Lake, Minnesota A 30+-year veteran at Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods, with stints in both the retail and foodservice sides of the business, Cheryl Isberner combines a fierce devotion to the mission of K-12 foodservice with consumer-oriented marketing savvy. “Sometimes I hear people say, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to work in K-12; it’s not as exciting.’ But that couldn’t be further from the truth! People come to work in this business segment and they don’t want to leave. It’s the best segment ever.” Here, Isberner shares more thoughts on school nutrition, leadership growth and facing your fears. On Leadership People come to leadership in different ways. Some are very analytical and data-driven—and I admire that! But I’ve learned that, for me, it’s about applying a higher emotional quotient. When I treat people fairly and ethically, that can drive them and help them to achieve success. Since this is my strong suit, I like to be paired with analytical people. That makes for a strong team, so that we can accomplish what we need to accomplish. No matter what your particular strengths are, demonstrating trust is one of the most important aspects of leadership. I always believe that my team is going to do what they say they are going to do, to the best of their abilities. If you’ve established a clear vision and articulated it well, the greatest contribution you can make as a leader is to trust the team to rise and meet that goal. On Goals I have a simple approach for my team: We create a plan, and then we work the plan. I need a matrix showing what we will accomplish and when we will accomplish it—I need to have a sense that I will get something done. I find that a written plan, based on the school calendar, keeps me on track. Otherwise I keep adding things that we could do, and we would get lost trying to address all the additional things. It wouldn’t be as productive. This is so important in the K-12 segment! Everything is cyclical in school foodservice. As a team, we have to think that way and plan ahead. On Service I have loved every experience I’ve had as a volunteer leader. Service allows you to do so many new and varied things. When you are at a more junior point in your career, it gives you exposure to other people and different ways of thinking outside of your organization. Volunteering lets you spread your wings a little bit. I always come to SNA activities and meetings excited to see what other vendors are doing in the industry! That isn’t to say that volunteer leadership can’t be scary at times. When I was asked to serve on SNA’s Industry Advisory Council, I thought I didn’t have the needed skills or knowledge. I was afraid to be embarrassed! But I made myself step up, and it’s been an awesome experience. It’s also been really helpful for my career development. I’ve met new people and my circle of mentors and contacts has grown another ring. Now, if I have a problem or a question about something going on in the industry, I have many more people that I can reach out to. At Land O’Lakes, I serve as the company’s ambassador to Women’s Foodservice Forum, an organization whose mission is to elevate women in the foodservice industry and get more women into C-suite positions. At the time of the organization’s founding, there were very few women leaders in this business; a group came together to promote the development of leadership skills for women. I also organize an internal Land O’Lakes initiative with this goal. I believe that women need to work to support each other in our journey to develop our skills and leverage the unique assets that we bring to the world that allow our organizations to grow to their full potential. By networking, connecting, sharing and learning from each other, we become stronger and more able to solve challenges in the workplace and the world. On Challenges One of my biggest challenges is insecurity. I started out always assuming I couldn’t do the job, couldn’t learn the industry, couldn’t work with data and couldn’t manage others with different skill sets. But you know what? I found out that I can. As long as we are learning something, it will be okay. Learning is essential, because I have a fundamental belief that what’s here today won’t be here six months from now. I learned that lesson from childbirth and parenting. Everything changes so quickly. Nothing lasts forever, not even difficult times. Quiet time is extremely important to my staying sane and centered. I do a lot of thinking on my drive to work. I don’t turn on the radio in my car, even if my kids complain. And I always keep pen and paper handy, so that once I arrive at my destination, I can write down the ideas that arose. On Looking Forward I’m really looking forward to creating some adventures with my husband. After all, there are 52 weekends in the year! My husband can’t stand all the emails I send him with travel ideas. But life is pretty darn short, and so to me it’s all about making time for fun, travel and being together. Career-wise, I’d like to duplicate my K-12 successes in other channels, such as colleges/universities and healthcare. I’d like to see those investments come to fruition. That doesn’t mean that all my career dreams will come true! I wanted to run the Dairy Foods division. I’d hoped to rise and be at a much higher level, but that’s okay—I love what I’m doing. At some point it’s not about what’s next, but what I’m doing now. I can’t use someone else’s model—I have to do what’s right for me. The fact that people think I have some K-12 expertise, that I’ve contributed to the industry and the company, well that makes me pretty damn proud. 30-SECOND BIO CHILDHOOD HOMETOWN Stetsonville, Wisconsin EDUCATION Masters of Business Administration, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota TITLE Senior Marketing Manager, Strategic Channels Foodservice, Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods, responsible for leading channel development and growth for the company’s non-commercial foodservice business COMPANY AT A GLANCE Land O’Lakes’ K-12 channel includes cheeses, puddings and macaroni and cheese. SNA LEADERSHIP Currently serving on the Industry Advisory Council; member of SNA Governance Taskforce (2015); co-chair of School Nutrition Heroes Awards Committee and co-Master of Ceremonies FAMILY Husband David, children Taylor (22) and Julia (20)
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