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Walgreens Diversity Officer Delivers Pep Talk at WKU

March 8, 2013

Chuck Mason, Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky.

Western Kentucky University. (Bbadgett, Creative Commons)  

Western Kentucky University. (Bbadgett, Creative Commons)

A motivational speaker told students at Western Kentucky University on Thursday to seize upon their personal vision and then make plans to accomplish it.

"Nobody can be more concerned about your career than you," said Steve Pemberton, diversity officer for Walgreens and a Chicago resident.

Pemberton said Walgreens employs a quarter of a million people, and that will jump to 330,000 people once an international push is completed.

His talk at the Dero Downing University Center auditorium was sponsored by the WKU Office of Diversity.

Pemberton said he took an unconventional career path, deciding at 14 while living in a foster home that he would attend college even if it made his life more difficult.

He brought home college paperwork and his foster mother tossed it aside, telling him, "You're not going to college." He had spent 11 years in the foster home and decided if he lost his life doing it, he would pursue a college education.

"It would be the first decision that I would make on my own terms," he said.

He told students that everyone thinks they know what your vision is, but it's your vision and "no one has the right to judge that."

With that vision comes personal style. "You have to have a standard of how you are going to act, the way that you are going to carry yourself," he said.

He told students that the book he wrote wasn't supposed to have his name on it, but rather the name of a ghost writer. However, the ghost writer wanted to write Pemberton's story in a way that wasn't acceptable to the Walgreens vice president.

"The ghost writer tells me that I have to do it his way -- I fire him," Pemberton said.

Pemberton told the students that they need to "swallow the chain."

"When someone wraps a chain of predictability around you -- you are enslaved. You are already doing it to yourself," he said, of the self-doubts that creep in.

"Adversity makes you better," he said.

While it is important to surround yourself with people who will push you toward your vision, it is equally important to take out of your personal circle those people who will take you away from your vision. He told students not to make excuses when they fail to accomplish a goal.

"Call it what it is," he said.

Pemberton said he doesn't have any room in his life for "what ifs," and he embraces what he called "discretionary effort."

"Go beyond what's asked," he added.

He said there are people at Walgreens who don't use discretionary effort and then wonder why they are never looked at for a promotion. He said those people are the first to leave when the work day is essentially done. Those people who stay longer and work on projects are the ones who are looked upon favorably by management.

Pemberton also said it is important to do what you say you are going to do. "Follow up and follow through," he said.

Successful people have to be able to accept constructive feedback, and it's critical to be in an environment that provides constructive feedback.

"Start out right now and write down your vision and then schedule a time to check out how you are doing," he said.

Source: (c)2013 the Daily News (Bowling Green, Ky.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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