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Positive virtual office culture in the times of COVID


INTERVIEW with Amy McDonald, CEO & President ALTWELL

We had the pleasure of speaking with Amy McDonald, CEO & President, Altwell. Amy is a relationship and results centric leader, substantiated by national awards and third-party recognitions for growth, culture and diversity. Known for powerful strategic development skills, people excellence, and action orientation.

Amy uniquely “challenges the status quo” to accelerate growth and profit while driving accountability through inspirational and values-based leadership. where she has led the brand and marketing efforts.

Through this interaction we try to understand Amy’s style of leadership and how Altwell faces up to the challenges posed by the pandemic, how it empowers its employees to do their best and builds a positive virtual work culture.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation.

How have you had to adjust your strategies to maintain positive sales/product integrity during Covid?

We have had to really adapt to a virtual world. We’ve have had to go virtual with customers to maintain consistent interface. We’ve pivoted to direct to consumer since retail and distribution had become challenged during the lockdown/with COVID. In this modern wellness space, it feels like a very strong way to connect with our consumer.

How do you promote & empower employees to do their best?

I believe that a company culture that empowers people to do their best starts with two important foundations:  1) creating an environment of trust and 2) recognizing that there is no “one size fits all” – that each person is different.

On trust, it can be tough to create and easy to lose. It takes work. When it exists across a team, it is magic; when it is absent it makes things a lot tougher and inefficient. As a leader I have found that it requires a combination of constant communication, great listening skills, an ability to set the tone that it’s ok to be vulnerable, and a clear understanding that failure is not to be feared but is actually how we learn and get to excellence.

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On empowering people to do their best, it comes from a recognition that each and every team member is different.  From what motivates them, to how they learn, to how goals and checkpoints are designed, even down to how they best receive feedback…there is no one formula or standard that works for all. It is key for a leader to recognize this and to lead their managers in a way that brings the best out of each individual in a highly customized way. I love to tell the story of how Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors changed the company’s dress code after a 10-page policy was put in place. She narrowed it down to simply two words “dress appropriately” and changed the organization for the better.


Changing role of Leadership in the times of COVID

Interview with: Arnold Titus : Director – Human Resources India and Commercial Excellence APAC, Medtronic

While remote working may be the new normal, it has allowed leaders to be creative and innovate constantly. COVID-19 has proven that while technology can augment and supplement work, it does not replace what is needed from humans.


What kind of leader are you? 

Passionate and driven. I aspire to be two things for my teams: One, a driver of vision and results, constantly working to challenge the status quo. And two, a trusted colleague they can count on – whether they need a push, or an ear to listen. I have been described by my team members as tough but fair. My purpose as a leader is to bring out the best in each of them. Growing people is my #1 job.

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How do you promote/create a positive virtual office culture in the world of COVID?

Flexibility has been the name of the game. Being in regular touch and “seeing each other’s faces”, whether we are in the office, or working virtually is key to keeping the positive vibes going. Lots of video team meetings with cameras “on”.  We were driven to find new tools and convert some group projects to shared technology workspaces, which has been an improvement over traditional email.  Now, even our workout boot camp is conducted via Zoom so team members can participate virtually. During this time, some roles were office critical, while others allowed the flexibility for remote work. We made a point to talk regularly about how each role is different yet important, and how we need to support each other and trust each other to execute their job with excellence no matter where they were physically. Our team has been amazing, and we have not only adapted, but we have found better ways of working – always challenging the status quo.

About Amy McDonald:
Amy McDonald is an accomplished business leader with 25+ years of experience in the flavor, food ingredient and pharma/biotech industries. For more than 20 years, she has led multi-million-dollar global companies at the executive level. Before joining ALTWELL, Amy held leadership roles in various food, flavor and food/pharma ingredient companies including Quest International (now Kerry Bio-Sciences), Kerry, and FONA International. Upon graduation with a B.S. in Microbiology and a minor in Chemistry, she was recruited by Unilever/Quest and grew there through roles with increasing responsibility for 17 years. In her capstone role at Quest, she led overall P&L for the ingredients business in North and South American in seven product areas, as well as the global pharma business in proteins and pharmaceutical grade excipients. She was a lead member of the small team responsible for divesting the business from Quest to Kerry.


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