In the early months of 2016 Reebok started a full-scale business transformation project called ‘Muscle Up’. The transformation project was aimed at improving the profitability of the Reebok brand around the world.

It was a massive undertaking: we poked holes in our business, reassessed our traditional ways of working, questioned why we did things the way we did, and ultimately refocused our energy on those things that brought the most value to the company.

In early work during the transformation, we identified the most critical value creation drivers for the Reebok business around the world. This led us to focus on 10 initiatives which we believed would drive the future value creation for the brand.

Business transformations of this size require massive dedication from the organization and a tremendous amount of tough leadership to drive such change in a short period of time.

The challenge

During the summer and early fall of 2016, we were searching for an individual to lead the transformation activities. Despite considering people both in and outside of the current organization, it seemed that many roads pointed in my direction. One day in early fall, I received a request as I like to say it and was ‘volun-told’ that I would continue to lead the project and that they would find someone to cover my then-current role leading the company’s finance division.

Guy walking on concrete in casual clothes after workout, urban environment, urban athlete, style, fashion, Reebok, GamePlan A
Don't walk away from a challenge. Take the time to create your unique approach to it.

At the time I remember thinking the about how high the stakes were? Was the future of the company at stake; what about the livelihood of my colleagues around the world? I knew it would mean making unpopular decisions and challenging the status quo, and that made me uncomfortable.

What does it take to be a leader?

Tap into the unlimited power of collaboration, confidence, and creativity.

Read more

The approach

The transformation processes we used called for a detailed, fast moving, disciplined approach. Our approach drove immediate decision making and prevented procrastination as we drove everyone into a weekly meeting. These meetings were not built to be regular update meetings; they were there to drive quick decision making, remove roadblocks and solve problems.

Right away I felt uncomfortable with the highly structured process, with the pressure I was having to apply to colleagues, and most notably, why as the VP of Finance I was responsible for driving changes in product creation and marketing among other topics. As a whole, this way of working was outside our normal work culture, and I questioned my ability to conform to the demands of the role.

Along the way we had external help, most notably from one gentleman whose professional expertise is in business transformations. I sought counsel in him. He was my sparring partner, my confidant, the person who during our marathon sessions on Wednesdays I would quickly pull aside and ask; What can I change? What can I do better? How can I be more efficient?

I reached out to my peers externally to learn from other successes – what worked, what didn’t – and internalized them as best I could to make a series of informed decisions.

Guy wearing sports clothes sitting on concrete ramp with bridge in the backgruond, urban, urban athlete, workout, after workout, recovering, overview, take a breath, Reebok, GamePlan A
Conducting a solid self-reflection will set you up for the challenge ahead.

The outcome

The coaching I sought helped immensely and not only drove a highly successful transformation of the business but for myself as well.

I am a different person than I was 24 months ago: I’m more confident, and I’ve learned how to work cross-functionally in ways I had never done before.

Two of my biggest takeaways are:

1. People make the change

There’s a difference between leading and coaching. In some instances, it was more powerful for me to ask questions that helped my colleagues ultimately come to a business decision themselves. This empowered them to be agents of change: they made the decisions and were engaged in the transformation.

2. Comfort zones should be avoided

Putting myself in a position of vulnerability ultimately led me to approach my career with an expanded, open mind. Before I thought I was ‘just a finance guy’ and today I feel like the sky is the limit. I went from running finance to informing the product design process, marketing more smartly and be more digitally savvy. And I know there’s so much more in store for me!

Group of sporty people laughing after workout in urban environment, urban athletes, athleisure, workout mood, friends, relaxing, Reebok, GamePlan A
Asking for help from my team and coaches ultimately made me more confident in this role.

I’m proud of the work the Reebok team has done, and I’m proud of my personal growth. I’m not afraid to admit that I don’t know all the answers; no one does. I’ve been successful so far because I have embraced this and sought support from a variety of sources who have given me honest feedback and impactful coaching.

My recommendation to anyone who’s concerned that a new role will make them uncomfortable? Good. Embrace the change and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation and learned to lead on the job? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.


Please take note of the commenting guidelines.
You will receive an email to approve your comment.
Please take note of the commenting guidelines.
You will receive an email to approve your comment.

Thanks for your comment

You will receive an email to approve your comment. It will only appear after your confirmation.


Oh no! An unexpected error occurred.

Try again
by Kevin Quinn 17.10.2018
Great work Craig on an incredible challenge. Inspiring!
by Liz Stewart 18.10.2018
Your vulnerability and willingness to ask for help is inspiring! Thanks for sharing your story!
by Serap ozcan 19.10.2018
Inspiring and truly authentic..thanks for sharing!
by Inga Stenta Serap ozcan 22.10.2018
Craig -- Thank you for sharing this perspective with us. Having participated in MU and experienced your leadership through this initiative, it is fantastic to hear your first hand side of the story. Very inspiring.
by Elisa 12.02.2019
What an inspiring article! Loved how you weren't afraid to show vulnerability and invited others to figure things out together with you. So confident!
by Barry Byrne 03.06.2019
I started in February 2018 having been approached and accepting the Global role to lead Marketing Procurement. I grew up in FMCG having worked at Diageo, Carlsberg, Sabmiller and Ab-InBev! Never worked in retail, didn’t know where to start! It became very clear early on Marketing Procurement in the past had simply cut budgets without bringing real value, there was no partnership with our Marketing Colleagues. I needed to change that fast if we were to bring real value to the organization, I started by reorganizing the team, making sure they had strong marketing capability, that we were a diverse team, bringing the outside in but at the same time retaining top talent and promoting where appropriate. It was a full rebuild and at times led to difficult conversations with Senior Stakeholders as well as team members. We began to challenge ways of working and table ideas to improve and optimize our marketing investment. Scary! but looking back, totally worth it! The relationship with marketing has changed, the team is complete and we are well on the way to achieving our ambition to bring to adidas “The Best Marketing Procurement Team in the World” and the reason for this is this organization understands value! The value of making our investment go further, the value of speed to market, the value of bringing the outside in. We have a long journey ahead, it’s still a little scary, at times maybe even daunting but I’m convinced I’m stronger for the challenge of jumping out of my comfort zone and in to Retail, into adidas! I’m growing every day mostly due to the great people in the Marketing Procurement team who push me to become a better leader, as I see it, I work for them! our team along with Marketing are in fact becoming One team killing waste and driving for sales and growth. Great to work, in fact inspiring to work with Craig and his team and the best marketing people in the world. let’s keep pushing! Change is always uncomfortable but ultimately rewarding, I guess I’ve become comfortably uncomfortable, that’s was a performance culture is all about!