Ep. 170: Alissa Vickery - Purpose Driven Leaders

Alissa Vickery, Chief Accounting Officer and Senior Vice President of Accounting and Controls for FLEETCOR, joins Count Me In to talk about purpose driven leaders. Alissa has oversight of external reporting, technical accounting, and internal audit, and her leadership has helped FLEETCOR join the Fortune 1000 list and the S&P 500 Index. In this episode, she defines purpose driven leadership, the benefits and outcomes of developing purpose driven leaders, and why purpose is so valuable to the accounting and finance team. Download and listen now!

Welcome back to Count Me In,

IMA's podcast about all things affecting
the accounting and finance world.

This is your host, Adam Larson,

and we are now starting
episode 170 of our series.

The guest speaker you will hear
from today is Alissa Vickery.

Alissa is the Chief Accounting
Officer for FLEETCOR,

a leading global provider of
global business payment solutions,

headquartered in Atlanta.

Alissa also serves as senior
vice president of accounting
and controls where she

has oversight over external reporting,
technical accounting and internal audit.

Her leadership has helped FLEETCOR join
the fortune 1000 list and the S&P 500

index. In this episode, she talks
about purpose driven leaders,

Alissa shares,

many of her personal experiences and
growth and development opportunities for

aspiring leaders. So to hear more,
let's head over to the conversation now.

So we were talking very briefly before
we started recording here a little bit

about leadership and there's, you know,

a particular topic that we're going
to focus on in today's conversation.

I first want to start off by asking
you who are purpose driven leaders?

Well, I mean, I think perhaps
everybody has a different opinion here,

but for me,

purpose driven leaders are leaders
who are really interested in

powering productivity,

both for the company as well as
the growth of the employee. So,

you know, everybody has a benefit from it,

but I think if you can execute
as a purpose driven leader,

then you can ultimately transform
some competent employees into

super high performing stars
of your management team and

perhaps warrant their, their
next progression into leadership,

whether it it's at your company
or into their next role.

So as far as what those
individuals need, you know,

I think a lot of people are always
as working on their own leadership

development, those who obviously
want to climb the ladder,

but as far as skills or key activities,

that purpose driven
leaders really partake in,

what are some of the things that
you recommend or you often see?

So, I mean, for me personally, I
think it's been a bit of a journey,

purpose driven leadership
isn't on accident. It,

you have to be the very
conscientious of how the

words that you use and the behaviors
that you exhibit then drive behavior

of your team. And I don't just
mean sending an email, you know,

10 o'clock at night.

I mean truly taking an interest
in those individuals and

their career progression as
well as what's happening with

them personally,

because it is the whole person and
remembering that these individuals,

they are human beings, they have lives.

And I think if the current
environment has taught us anything,

it's that it's

not a one sided story, right?

I think in the time of
the great resignation, we,

as leaders have been pushed
harder than we probably have,

in the history of our careers to try
and make sure we engage at a level

that's meaningful, that's personal,

while not forgetting that individuals
still want the progression,

regardless of whether we're
sitting in the office together,

or we're still sitting,

in our home offices trying to
muddle through and get it done.

You know, that's a great
point because leadership,

and I've had a few of these conversations
over the last, going on two years now,

but leadership itself has changed
right? Based on the work environment,

everything else that we've experienced.
You know, my next question,

it could be a little bit more historical
as far as traditional purpose driven

leadership, as you've said,

getting to know people face to face
maybe a little bit more from the virtual

component now, depending on your
experiences over the last couple years,

but when people are conscious and they
are purpose driven leaders and they're in

these efforts, what are some
of the outcomes, you know,
tangible or intangible,

that, you know,

the organizations that they're working
for can really expect to see as more

leaders are empowered?

Yeah, I mean, I think
from, from my experience,

it drives a culture where you have
excellence, intentionality and discipline,


ultimately those trajectories
will drive better results

and more complimentary outcomes that
support the overall business objectives

that we're hoping to achieve as we try to

execute on strategy as we collectively
consider the projects that

we take on, it's not just what happens
in our department that that matters.

It's, what's happening beyond
that. It's what's happening beyond,

traditional finance and accounting
into the legal and regulatory aspects,

the stocks compliance aspects,

it's bringing it all together so that you
truly understand the bigger picture so

that when we go to execute
as a broader group,

that we truly are much more effective as a

team. You know, I think
you also fundamentally,

if you are quite intentional
with this leadership and

with the cross-functional
and working environments,

both professional and personal,

you end up with a truly
authentic comradery,

which I think ultimately produces
a more loyal and effective

workplace. So, when I say loyal,
I mean, you know, I've been very,

very blessed that I haven't
lost any key members of my team

over the shorter course, which
I'm very, very proud out of.

I don't know if it's anything
specific individually that we,

that we do as a group,

but I have to believe that acknowledging
that we spend a lot of time together

at the office. Right?

And having things that we do as
a group, sometimes silly perhaps,

like dressing up for Halloween.

So every year certainly pre COVID we had,

we put together a slide deck actually,

and come up with a theme
for the entire group.

And then we would encourage or coax or
force individuals to participate outside

of our team who were sort of like our
immediate surrounding so that we could

produce a really neat theme
in terms of our dress up.

So my favorite one was we all
did Harry Potter and it's a great

group ensemble, right? And then
another year we did the wizard of Oz,

another great group ensemble. And of
course, I always dress up as the villain,

like I'm the wicked witch of the
west, I'm Bellatrix Lestrange.

And I embrace my role fully.
And I think that human aspect,

bringing that to the workplace and
truly having fun with it and walking

around the corridors here in downtown
Atlanta or Midtown Atlanta and people

seeing us dressed up as a group be
like, oh my gosh, that's amazing. And,

you know, I would tell you, it doesn't
happen right across every group here.

It's a handful of teams.
And, quite frankly,

it's something I look forward to
every year. I think the team too,

because this year we're like,
do we dress up it's COVID year,

it's sort of hybrid. I said,
well, if you guys want to come in,

we're all for it.

And so we kind of put it together
that a little bit at the last minute.

And you know, it's something we sort
of all sort of enjoy doing as a group.

You know, I would say that's one
example and obviously, you know,

doing holiday parties and being very
purposeful about choosing times to be

around each other, obviously,

to the extent that we're comfortable
doing so in the current environment,

but having those meaningful
opportunities to be around

one another's, spouses or partners,
because again, you know, I'm sure,

my husband hears about my teammates
and coworkers all the time.

And so it's really meaningful, I
think, to bring him into the fold.

And I have to believe for my team
members and our broader finance group,

they feel a bit of the same way.

So it's really nice to be able to
bring everybody together and, you know,

have a festive beverage and celebrate.

Thank you for sharing that.
Those are great examples.

And you know,

it's funny because our team here at
IMA specifically the education team,

Halloween's a big thing for us as well.
You know, it's, I have young kids,

so the last couple years I
haven't participated, I've
been home with the kids,

but I know our team, they dressed up as,

everybody on the team
was Flo from progressive.

Ah, so good.

Men and women alike. So, you can
imagine the fun that they had with that.

And there have been a couple
other things in the past, as well,

but I appreciate you sharing
that because you know,

I posed the question from an
organizational perspective,
as far as the benefits,

I did want to follow up with taking a
step down and taking a look at the team

function, you know, so you
certainly address that.

I do want to just get your
opinion on purpose driven leaders,

getting to know their team,

but also empowering them to
become leaders of their own.

Maybe it's succession planning
within the organization, you know,

maybe it's for their own personal
development as a purpose driven leader.

You know, like I said, just a quick follow
up. How do you kind of balance that,

you know,

understanding that empowering
others and creating new

leaders? It actually, I
don't want to say hurt you,

but you know puts you in a
tough spot, down the road.

Yeah. It's not untrue, right? Your

objective is to help people grow,
whether that's professionally,


truly understanding what their goals are
and their objectives and understanding

how all the pieces come together.

I think having a sincere level
of empathy for where they are,

because everybody's at a different
season in their life. You know,

some have grown kids, some have no kids,

some have young babies and where you are
personally oftentimes drives the level

to which you can press the pedal.

I have a team of all women, which I
kind of love, that wasn't on purpose.

It was just, you know, it is
who was the best fit for the

role. But I think it's created
this really unique environment in

which we're sort of all there for
each other, certainly professionally,

but on a personal level, you know,

since everyone is in a
bit of a different season,

we're there to support each
other in a very unique way. But

back to professionally,

it's having that empathy and truly
understanding what people's objectives are

and understanding that those
objectives may change over time.

And so when we're setting,
our professional bonus
objectives for the year,

which are often times project
and initiative driven,

the first question I ask
is, what is it you want to

accomplish professionally over the next
one to three and then three to five

years? Is there something you want to
go work on as part of setting this,

these objectives that
would help you get to that,

those ultimate longer term or midterm
objectives and what can I do to

help you? And you know,

it's funny if you don't ask that question
very often and then you ask it out of

the blue, like people are
almost taken aback sometimes.

It's something I will be honest. Like
I've not always been great at it.

I've had to work on it.

I have my own professional
coaching that I go,

that I work on and go through and to
try and ensure that I'm focused on the

right things that I identify my own blind
spots so that when I bring that to the

group, as a leader, that
I'm helping them to,

I'm almost like, what do you call it?
Sharing and passing it down. Right.

Because I don't want to be the only one
that benefits from the fact that I've

had this leadership development training.

I want them to participate in it and go
the next level or, pass it on. Right.

And encourage them to think
about what incremental

credentials you may want to gather or
what additional classes that you may

want to participate in that will help
you along your path to ultimately being,

I don't know the best
technical accountant or, Hey,

I want to become a certified stock comp

expert. So what, what are those
incremental things that I can do to help

support your career? And
then also gauging, you know,

what is your satisfaction
level right now? And again,

the answer changes every time you
ask. So I ask you about once a month,


where are you professionally
and personally right now
on a scale of one to 10,

10 being a, I'm so excited that I'm
doing cartwheels down the hallway,

one being I'm crying in the
fetal position. Right. And,

you'd be shocked how
those answers one shift,

but two how much one will impact
the other. Right. And so I think it

makes the personal aspect,
that much more vivid,

but I think where your question started,

and I apologize if I've gone on a
tangent is how can I end up ultimately

it's obviously a benefit,

but it can produce an outcome where
you lose an individual. Right.

so I had this one woman

who worked in my group for the past
seven years, an excellent employee.

She was

someone I could always lean on and
look to, if I had an issue, I would

pose it to her. She would break it
down and then she would go execute.

And then she would come back to me with
all the things that she had discovered

and work through. And
then she would, you know,

she asked me yeah. To provide her
feedback along the way, obviously,

but she was just someone
you could count on.

I knew from, I would call it halfway
through our first year, working together,

performing this kind of project
work was perhaps not her passion.

Her passion really was
around fraud examination.

She was a CFE by trade, had
done this in her past life.

I had the benefit of picking her up as
a team member through an acquisition.

And so we sort of shifted her role,

but ultimately her career
objective was to get back into

something more attuned to fraud,
examinations, underwriting,

credit risk.

And ultimately there was a

position internally that opened up,

where she was obviously the
right person for this role.

And she

brought it to my attention said, Hey,

I would like to consider
this opportunity. And I said,

I think that's great. Why don't
you tell me more about it?

Tell me about the leader.

Tell me about what it is you're
hoping to achieve with this. And

when she explained it all I said,
I think you should go for it.

And so she interviewed,

she talked to the process and then she
came back to me and she was genuinely,

I said, has mixed emotions, right?

Because I think she truly
enjoyed working with our team.

She truly enjoyed the opportunity.
She had to grow in FLEETCOR.

After she had talked to the
executive, hiring for the role,

she came back to me with
extremely mixed emotions,

because I think she has genuinely
enjoyed working with our team,

the growth opportunities
it provided for her.

And I would say the amount
of institutional knowledge
that this woman has over

how things work.

And this is something that I cannot
stress enough and is so hard to

replace like seven years in
an environment with, you know,

a highly decentralized business model
with leaders all over the world and

knowing who to go to for
whatever they ask is.

And I just told her, I was like, I
think that you're gonna regret this.

If you don't take it. I think that this
is the one you've been waiting for.

And she goes, but I'm going to leave
you in a little bit of alert. I'm like,

it doesn't matter. I was
like, we'll work it out.

And so a little bit behind
the scenes, you know,

I'm talking to the other
executive, obviously I'm like,

there are certain things that
can't drop, and you know,

working through the
transition, but, you know,

I'm so proud of her and I'm so
proud of the story for our company,

because I think building a culture
where you help people achieve their

ultimate career objectives, or at least
their next career objective, right.

I could have lost her to any
other company outside of FLEETCOR,

but finding a place for her here,

where she's able to use the value and
the institutional knowledge she's built.

And quite frankly,

the rapport she's built throughout the
organization and taking it to this new

role where I know she's gonna be a
superstar and already is, I'm just,

I'm so proud of us for, for
making it happen. I really am.

Good for you, you know, personally.
And from my perspective,

and I was going to say, you beat
me to it. It's a great story,

because oftentimes you
hear things like this,

or maybe you read about it and you
can't make that personal connection.

So how true is it really does
that kind of leader really exist,

who is going to give me that opportunity,
but to hear that it happens, you know,

it gives people an idea of, you know,
there's the old saying, people don't,

you know, just leave jobs,

they leave managers or they
leave leaders or whatever it is.

So it gives you an opportunity
to really, you know,

aspire if you are in a situation to
find somebody who supports you like that

along the way. So great story. I
appreciate you sharing that with us. And,

you know, I think, like I
said, we going back a minute,

we started at the organizational
level, then the team level,

now we're kind of talking about the
individuals really breaking it down.

So as far as from the
individual now moving forward,

what does an individual, you know,

really need to do in order to become
these purpose driven leaders? And,

you know, I know you mentioned some
leadership coaching and development.

I don't need your personal specifics
or anything like that, but you know,

some things that maybe people should
be aware of that they could, you know,

take a look in the mirror and focus on.

Right. Well, and so may, maybe I'll
take a minute to rewind and just

kind of give a little bit of my background
and perspective, just so that it,

because I'm sure there are leaders out
there who rationalize and work through

things in a similar way.

But I spent almost 10 years
in public accounting at,

two of the largest accounting firms
in the world and the amount of

professional growth opportunity.

And I would just call it forced training
and forced personal improvement that

those firms encourage you to go
through if you plan to progress.

And I would say having
natural progression,

it's funny how when you leave that
environment and come to the private side,

trying to replicate that
is quite difficult and,

kudos to the professional services
firms for the programs that they've


But I came from those big firms and
effectively was a department of one

when I joined FLEETCOR in charge of quite
a bit. And just trying to get it done.

And so I think sometimes
we as professionals go

through seasons where we sort of
forget all of that mentorship and

training that we received along
the way and it's good, bad,

and different, we've become a
product of our environments.

And so for me as FLEETCOR
has grown into this S&P

500 company and inherently has grown
our groups and departments and teams,

to reflect the risk and

size appropriately pivoting back to sort
of where we came from. And remember,

you didn't get here alone. You

didn't achieve the level of success nor
the level of executive presence and the

ability to execute on really
hard stuff, quite frankly.

And so making sure that we're building
teams up and mentoring those individuals

and finding their niche,

because when you go from a departmental
one is something much larger and trying

to identify the right resources. Like
I'm always trying to hire my weakness,

because I know fundamentally that
person brings something to the table.

That's more than I can offer.

And so they have something to
teach me was I certainly have,

I'll call it the executive level
mentorship that and bring to the table and

hopefully help them to grow as
well. And I think fundamentally,

if you're able to do this effectively,
you're likely to retain your employees.

You're likely to organically help identify

what those opportunities
are for their growth.

And then fundamentally I just
produce an output that is that much

more meaningful that people feel like
they actually were part of something and

they did some really solid
work and it wasn't just for,

you know, the big company, but it was,
it helped them grow as well. Right.

So always looking for those
opportunities for growth.

Yeah. You know, it's a great point.
And I just want to, you know,

kind of jump ahead and wrap things up
a little bit, by tying it all together,

really for our listeners and everything
you just talked about as far as,

you know, identifying gaps
and, and trying to, you know,

coach people along the way, particularly,

or specifically to accounting and finance,

the profession itself has
evolved so drastically, you know,

over the last few years and everything
that's really impacting individual roles

and the need for training and coaching
and upskilling and reskilling as

far as purpose again, and going
back to purpose driven leadership,

you know,

what is specifically about purpose
that's so valuable to accounting and

finance professionals, you know,

what is it that purpose driven
leadership can really prove to be

possibly the difference as the profession
continues to adapt and identifies

new needs and skills along the way?

Yeah. I mean, I think we're all
forced to constantly evolve,

as you said.

And I think being purposeful
with how you approach those

changes and providing individuals, the
opportunities to really soar, and grow,

and quite frankly, provide them
the opportunity to share new ideas,

voice concerns when something
doesn't feel or smell right.

Ultimately an enhances our
company culture and the business

strategy for driving growth.

I think if we learned anything
over the last couple of years,

it's the more things change the


the ability to pivot and the
skillset of being able to pivot

is super valuable. And you know,
you fundamentally grow a group,

with incremental heads, but,

being able to create growth opportunities
for those individuals with those

new requirements. And I
have to say, you know,

having an open door policy
in terms of being available

and just giving individuals
the opportunity to speak,

because I do think that we become
a product of our calendars,

whether we like it or not,
especially in the Zoom driven world,

which is necessary because we're hybrid,

but it's created a back clog in terms of,

availability is what I would say.

We're all trying to get
certain things done every day.

Sometimes meetings are
part of getting it done.

Sometimes meetings are
just meetings, right.

But I do intentionally
try to make sure that

if it is not immediately a big
need, that if somebody need,

if one of my team members needs me,

I will step away from the meeting and
have the discussion around whatever

it is. Whether it's, you know,

helping them to move to the
next phase of a project address,

some bigger concern that they may
have. Right. And just trying to,

to be the leader that I would wanna
have, or that I do have now. And so

being cognizant that we all need that.

This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast,

providing you with the latest
perspectives of thought leaders from the

accounting and finance profession.
If you like what you heard,

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Creators and Guests

Adam Larson
Adam Larson
Producer and co-host of the Count Me In podcast
Alissa Vickery
Alissa Vickery
Chief Accounting Officer, SVP Accounting and Control at FLEETCOR
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