One of my greatest joys is the opportunity to meet face-to-face with great luminaries, ordinary people who have succeeded at extraordinary efforts. Recently, I had a chance to sit down and talk with a true visionary CEO, Susan Neely. I met with Susan toward the end of her tenure as CEO with the American Beverage Association (ABA) and just before she started her work as the CEO the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI).

During her time with the ABA. Susan addressed a retractable problem by bringing together her most esteemed members. Susan was able to get Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper to work together to measurably reduce the amount of sugar dispensed through vending machines in elementary schools.

How did Susan convince competitors, and members of their supply chain to work toward this common goal? She held focus groups of moms, the gatekeepers of soda. The results she delivered to the soda manufacturers were unexpected. Susan learned that moms don’t want to ban sugar, but wanted more control over how much sugar their kids consumed, preferring to give it in smaller doses, as a reward.

With data in hand, Susan convinced the three soda giants to make changes in the way soda is marketed and sold to children, resulting in a 90% reduction in the amount of sugar available to children at school. The impact did not stop there. Susan’s work is also exhibited in the plethora of smaller soda cans hitting supermarket shelves.

To learn more about Susan Neely and her visionary work download my research, Visionary CEO, here.