What America's First Female CEO Teaches Us About Alignment

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Anna Bissell, The Bissell Company. Delivering Happiness.


Anna Bissell was America's first female CEO and a true pioneer. Her husband Melville invented the carpet sweeper. When he died tragically from pneumonia in 1889, Anna took over their Bissell Company, and turned their small business into a mega-brand. You might have a Bissell vacuum tucked away in your closet right now. Here's what we can learn from Anna's leadership.


Anna played an active role in every part of the company, from sales and marketing, to manufacturing. She traveled across the country negotiating with retailers, and she fought aggressively for patents. She also fought aggressively for her employees. She wanted to make sure they had pension plans, paid sick leave and worker's compensation, which was progressive for that era. She eventually took the brand international. 


We can learn a lot about cultural alignment from Anna's story and success.


Establishing An Organizational Identity


We've heard of businesses struggling with low morale, declining profits, and high turnover. Maybe your company is one of them. Many organizations suffer from mis-alignment which affects its ability to thrive. 


Align your strategy with your purpose. - Delivering Happiness


Every single person in your business, no matter how big or small a role they play, should have a clear understanding of who you are as a company, what you deliver to the customer, and your vision of how you collectively aim to get there. Every cog in the wheel must be aware of, and understand these key elements. However, for some companies, this is where it stops. Business continues with some of these in mind sometimes, but there is no tie back to the individual, which is where success truly begins.


Every leader and employee needs to feel ownership and alignment with the organization's values and business goals. Very few people understand how their individual job relates to the overall strategy. 


At Delivering Happiness we call this the Me-We-Community model. It starts with ME and my individual purpose and values, which extends to WE, our collective values, and then out to the COMMUNITY, which is where profits come in. Establishing an organizational identity and knowing how each of us play an integral part in getting to that shared goal is an important first step.


Me-We-Community model at Delivering Happiness


Alignment & Communication


Anna was responsible for overseeing one of the largest organizations of its kind, yet she was a great communicator and she made sure to stay very close to the operations of her business. She knew every job and function. By staying in constant communication with her team, she was able to help her employees on their individual journeys. Her sincere consideration for them inspired great results

Anna had an ability to get along with people and to aid them to understand their duties, the whys and wherefores of their posts and their relationships to other posts and the communication lines which connect them.L. Ron Hubbard, Author & Philosopher


Strategy & Execution


Once you have a business strategy in place and its aligned with your culture, you have to focus on execution. It's critical to bridge the knowing with the doing. It's important to establish actionable steps for your team that lead back to the company's mission. It's okay to course correct as needed.


Rewarding and recognizing your employees as they hit milestones, keeps your team inspired. Inspiration breeds innovation, and innovation sets your business apart from the competition, just as the Bissell Company did. 

In organizations where culture is aligned with business strategy, 44% more employees were engaged, and 2x as many employees said they would stay, according to Aon Hewitt.

For big change to happen, leaders and employees need to have their individual values aligned with the company's goals and mission. This is critical for a business to thrive and see an improvement in employee engagement, productivity, profits, sustained growth and overall success.

It takes courage to step into the unknown. Pioneers like Anna led the way. Where would you like to lead your organization?


Let us help you lay the groundwork for success.



About the Author

Karissa Barcelo

Karissa was born in New York City, raised in Miami Beach, and she currently resides in Las Vegas. For 10+ years she worked as a script supervisor, producer and copywriter for various commercials, TV shows, films and more. She helped produce buzz-worthy content for the entertainment news show Dish Nation and interviewed celebrities at major award shows such as the Oscars and the MTV Video Music Awards. She also managed marketing campaigns for high-end luxury brands. Producing compelling content with a killer marketing strategy behind it is her passion.

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