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Leadership secrets that transformed Chipotle with Marissa Andrada

September 21, 2021 - 6 min read

Marisa Andrada

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Break the uniform

Lock into your purpose

Inclusive leadership is personal

The business impact is real

In early 2018 Marissa Andrada joined Chipotle as the Chief Human Resources Officer. Since then, she has completely transformed the role.  As Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and People Officer, she led an initiative to reimagine the values of Chipotle, bringing them to life through programs designed and owned by the people. During her time as the chief people leader, the company has achieved amazing financial results – impacting the lives of millions.

Recently, Marissa sat down with Elaine Welteroth, Co-host of CBS “The Talk,” during a BetterUp live event to discuss the leadership secrets that made it all possible.

Break the uniform

A lot of companies talk about whole-person leadership but what does it look like to live that out? Marissa was one of the first women of color on the executive team at Chipotle and the last thing she ever wants to be is corporate, so she dresses exactly as she wants to dress. This is just one of the ways she encourages others to feel comfortable being who they are and bringing their whole selves to work.

As a leader, it starts with showing up as yourself. Dressing how you want to dress and setting the tone that you are going to show up as your full self, but it goes beyond that. Marisa also shares the constructive feedback that she receives from her peers with her team and asks for their help in improving. She tackles perfectionism as a leader by sharing with her team how she is working on improving.

When you make a mistake and you share it with your team you show courage. Leadership is not about perfection, leadership is about trust. If you want people to follow your lead you have to show them first who you are.

Elaine Welteroth agrees – especially as women and minorities in leadership, we feel like we are walking a tightrope and the standard is excellence only. That pressure to be perfect can not only wear on us but also hinders our relationships. When you show up authentically you inspire people to be fearless and you inspire collaboration. You don’t get to good ideas without vulnerability, courage, and collaboration.

Don’t disguise what makes you unique and that includes your fashion sense. We each have an individual calling and when we try to model ourselves to be like everyone else we miss our calling. “Get comfortable making people uncomfortable,” Elaine says. To make a difference you have to ruffle a couple of feathers.

Lock into your purpose

Every single person has a purpose, your business should too. When you align your personal purpose with your company's purpose, you become a more inclusive leader because you can help others do that too. When you find meaning and purpose in work it allows both you and your team to thrive.

Chipotle’s mission is to cultivate a better world. Andrada feels her role in this is to help employees flourish. Empowering people to thrive and bring their whole selves to work is what motivates her. This has led not only to employees becoming fans of the brand but also to incredible business growth.

When redefining Chiptole’s values and mission, Andrada went on a listening tour to gain input from people across the business. Many of her teams’ initiatives come from suggestions that employees have shared. To ensure employees see themselves in the mission and values of the company, they need to have a say in how they come to life.

Welteroth reflected on conversations she had with her coach that helped her define her purpose, and discover what she calls her “zone of genius.” She defines this as the sweet spot at the intersection of her values, skills, talents, and passions. When you take time to meditate on these, it helps you zero in on your unique purpose within your family, friendships, and ecosystems at work. Oftentimes, our lack of happiness at work derives from us not living into our values and zone of genius in our role.

Inclusive leadership is personal

You can’t become an inclusive leader unless you have a deep understanding of who you are. Marissa often hears from leaders how their BetterUp Coach is helping them organize their personal lives and work on themselves so they can show up more fully at work. Marissa’s main goal is to increase the diversity of thought at Chipotle and create a culture of belonging where employees can thrive as people. She believes this is possible when people do the personal work to gain the self-awareness and skills needed to advocate for themselves.

“If you aren’t clear on what you stand for you, really can’t show up for others.” 

 Marissa Andrada, Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and People Officer at Chipotle 

When she was starting out as a leader, Elaine's coach would always bring her back to self-care even when she tried to focus strictly on business. It finally started to click when her coach shared this analogy. Every day you come to work with a bucket of joy. You fill it by practicing self-care, rest, and introspection. You have to show up to work full so that you can operate out of abundance and not scarcity. We have to care for ourselves so that we have the capacity to show up at work and be our best selves.

The business impact is real

When people feel seen, valued, and represented by inclusive leaders, it translates to business growth. Since instituting new people initiatives and bringing Marissa onboard Chipotle’s market cap went from 8.16 B in 2017 to over 50 billion in 2021. When people can fully bring their best selves that enable companies to grow and flourish. Mic drop.


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Published September 21, 2021

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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