ASA’s Women in Industry group recently hosted an “Ask an Executive” webinar with Kohler President and CEO David Kohler. The webinar was moderated by American Pipe & Supply’s Diane Early.

Kohler discussed the company’s formula for success. “We focus on global growth and continuous improvement,” he said. “We build strong, aligned distribution and attract and retain the best people in the industry.”

Kohler also listed what the company looks for in leaders — self-awareness, results orientation, team builders, business knowledge, inspirational leadership, innovation and strategic focus. “What I look for personally are: ethics and integrity; passion, energy and drive; the ability to deliver results; and people who can attract and build teams,” he said.

He added the areas to focus on in developing leaders, depends on the level of the leader. In the case of emerging leaders, the focus should be on helping them effectively deliver results and demonstrate self-knowledge. People leaders should engage and inspire, know the business and build strong, diverse teams. Executive leaders should demonstrate strategic focus and develop a culture of innovation and creativity.

To further development, Kohler Co. has an individual development plan that uses a 70-20-10 model — 70% learning from experience; 20% learning from others, coaches and mentors; and 10% learning from formal classes, e-learning and books.

“Individuals will work with a manager to understand where they want to go with their career — what are their dreams and aspirations — and how can we as a company help move them through a series of steps to achieve that career goal,” Kohler explained. “It's also about the manager being honest and candid about the individual's ability to achieve that goal and figuring out how they can work together to achieve it. This starts with figuring out what critical skill or experience gaps that person has. Then once we start to identify the goal, we can move into the individual development plan.”

In the Q&A portion of the presentation, Kohler offered advice to women looking to break into the field. “The No. 1 thing is to find a mentor or set of mentors that are experienced in your field,” he said. “No. 2, get involved. Start to learn, grow and move forward.”

When asked what rules and mottos he tries to live by, Kohler responded: “Ethics, integrity and equality are at the foundation of not only the company, but who I am. I also think believing in yourself is important. You have to be your biggest fan in life. Try your best, have a will to succeed and build a network of support.”

Kohler’s advice to women working in a male-dominated environment is to think of it as an advantage. “It’s about what you bring to the table,” he said. “If you can be confident and assertive in yourselves, that is the most important thing and it will get noticed.”

A recording of the webinar is available exclusively to ASA members at