Tom Juliano thought his mom was working too hard last Christmas when he was home from college. She kept going over a project, trying to make it perfect before a deadline. A video script for work. Something about leadership.

Six months later, Tom, 19, started his summer job as a Coca-Cola merchandiser in North Metro Atlanta. During a team meeting, he and his new colleagues were told by managers that "Everyone at Coca-Cola is a leader" and that they should think of the company as their own. A video followed. Something about leadership… and it sounded familiar.

“I texted my mom and asked, ‘Did you have anything to do with this?’” Tom recalls. “She got all excited and said, ‘Yeah, I was on the team for that!’”

Tom’s mother, Sylva Juliano, couldn’t have been more excited. As group director of executive and leadership development for Coke's Bottling Investments Group (BIG), she helped develop communications materials on the company's five leadership behaviors: 1) Act like an owner; 2) Inspire others; 3) Develop yourself and others; 4) Collaborate with the Coke system, customers and key stakeholders; and 5) Drive innovation

Her work not only made its way to front-line employees; it had reached her own son.

“This was fantastic!” she recalls. “It was just an amazing moment.”

‘It’s My Store’

The leadership behaviors lessons resonated with Tom's business classes at the University of Redlands in California. They also humanized the important concepts of taking responsibility for yourself, your work and your company.

Tom with supervisor, Maurice Heyliger
Tom with his supervisor, Maurice Heyliger.

“I hadn’t thought of it as being a self-leader or an owner before,” he says. “I had been thinking of it as selling Coke, as working for Coke. Now I think of it as if it’s my store where I’m stocking shelves with our products.”

Tom’s supervisor, Maurice Heyliger, is a seven-year company veteran who believes in the authenticity of the leadership behaviors.

“When you start to tell merchandisers to act like an owner, those are powerful words,” he says. “I look at the name of the company as a badge of honor... nobody wants to buy any products that are displayed badly on store shelves.”

Tom agrees it’s a great way to motivate workers, and the enthusiasm spills over at home with his mom, too. “We have a lot of dinners when I just ask her everything about how the company is structured,” he says. “We talk for hours.”