Working at Advantage
Not only do we welcome diversity of thought, opinion and experience, we need it."

June is my New Year.

While many people take time to reflect, reset and outline personal goals when the calendar turns on January 1, I look to the halfway point in the year to reassess my personal attitude and my professional growth opportunities. And, sometimes, holding a mirror to myself can get a bit uncomfortable.

It’s my first summer as CEO of Advantage, and I’m just beginning to wrap my arms around how wonderfully diverse our 70,000-strong workforce is. Not just diverse in the color of our skin, our birthplace or our religion, but in our gender, sexual identity, lived experiences and perspectives.

Not only do we welcome diversity of thought, opinion and experience, we need it.

A workplace that values diversity, that operates with equity and is inclusive to all, is not just good for its culture and its people, it’s good for business. Study after study has shown that having diverse talent at the decision-making table not only improves employee morale, it enhances companies’ bottom lines. And most importantly, it’s simply the right thing to do as it ensures that people are seen and see themselves in positions of influence.

Welcoming new ideas, doing things differently and seeing the world through a different lens are all things that can cause discomfort. But I view that as critical to an organization that is both learning and growing. Openness to change is not only necessary for growth, but it’s also the spirit on which this company was founded. Our founder, Sonny King, famously used to say, “There’s always a better solution.” To me, this means that we need to be open to the “other” idea, the thought or perspective we don’t understand or expect. And finding that better solution — a new and better way forward — requires us all to embrace discomfort and allow it to be our greatest teacher.

There is no better time to reflect on this topic than June. It’s Pride Month, a time when many Americans celebrate their friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers who identify as LGBTQIA+. Companies like ours celebrate Pride Month by colorfully highlighting our increasingly inclusive policies and benefits, our own LGBTQIA+ teammates, and ensuring safer workplaces where our teammates feel a sense of community and have an equitable opportunity to grow.

June also marks the Juneteenth holiday, a day to reflect on Black Americans’ difficult journey from slavery to the challenges the community still faces today. In 2021, Juneteenth was designated a federal holiday, offering all of us an additional and visible moment to consider the history and experience of Black Americans. Also, June 12 was Womens Veteran’s Day, a day when we honor the millions of women who have served and supported our country.

Whether we acknowledge it openly or not, there are people who are marginalized every day. There are people who feel their voices are not heard, or who feel that the deck is stacked against them. Understanding these perspectives, truly endeavoring to try to feel even some of what they feel, is the right, human thing to do when we’re interacting with each other. Getting there will require all of us to operate with empathy. And, in some cases, outside of our personal comfort zones.

In the past several years, I’ve taken on several professional and personal roles that have pushed me out of my comfort zone: working in retail after 20 years in consumer packaged goods; working for an investment firm; joining my local Urban League board and helping mobilize a COVID response for the most marginalized in my community; joining the board of Pink Ribbon Good, an organization providing gap services for women fighting cancer. Each of these endeavors have challenged me. Some new personal roles have been part of the evolution of life that we all face, like becoming an empty-nester, caring for my aging parents or parenting through a pandemic. These, too, have been sources of challenge and growth. So, my message is simple: We all must get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.

I’ve been energized by the courageous conversations our employee resource groups have been leading, including events PRISM and BAND have held this month. Our teammates have been sharing deeply personal stories and asking tough questions, inspiring all of us to confront hard truths about the inequities in our world. Sharing those stories is the quickest way to transform discomfort into enlightenment and trust.

The transformation journey we’re embarking upon here at Advantage requires us to grow from our discomfort. It requires us to find new strengths through uncertainty and change. This is how we unlock personal and professional growth together — but only if we commit to learning through our discomfort.

In my personal journey, I’ve found these three steps help me learn and grow from my discomfort:

Step back

If I can take a moment to self-assess in a time of discomfort, it acts as a mirror, reflecting my fears, insecurities and areas for growth. It pushes me to confront biases, blind spots and weaknesses, enabling me to uncover valuable insights about myself and my impact on others. This attempt at a heightened self-awareness paves the way for more informed decisions and stronger relationships. I believe in trying not to live in my thoughts and emotions but to live in the awareness of them.

Tap in

We can grow together by exploring how we relate to our teammates. Now that we’re midway through the year, it’s a great opportunity to check in with each other, to solicit honest feedback and take action on it with an open mind. And this goes both ways: Managers should be sharing feedback with their direct reports, and direct reports should be sharing feedback with their managers. And we should offer candid feedback — free of blame, free of drama, free of recrimination and coming from a position of curiosity rather than confrontation.

Yes, it is uncomfortable to receive and to give honest feedback. And frankly, it’s hard to do well. But if we commit to tap into the network of experienced professionals around us and our own empathy, this feedback can be our best teacher.

Push on

By pushing through the discomfort — by embracing it — we discover our capacity for resilience and perseverance. Personally, every time I work through discomfort, it reminds me that I’m capable of surpassing my own perceived limitations. The future of our reality is seldom as bad as the future of our own fear.

We are all going to feel discomfort in our lives at home and at work, even distress at times. But it is in these very moments that our eyes are open to what is possible when we push through — together. This June, let’s commit to make this our New Year at Advantage and let the discomfort that we may face spark a renewed energy to understand, to grow and to realize our potential — together.

Dave Peacock
Advantage Solutions

Dave Peacock became chief executive officer of Advantage Solutions in February 2023. His 30-plus-year career in the consumer packaged goods and retail industry includes four years as president and chief operating officer of Schnuck Markets, Inc., and two decades at Anheuser-Busch, where he served three years as the company’s president. Prior to joining Advantage, Peacock was chief operating officer and on the board of directors of Continental Grain Company, a global investor, owner and operator of companies across the food and agribusiness spectrum.