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The CEO Sessions - Ben Fanning EPISODE 37, 23rd March 2021
Barbara Melvin, COO of the South Carolina Ports Authority - Discipline, Decisiveness, and Being in It for the Long Haul
00:00:00 00:44:49

Barbara Melvin, COO of the South Carolina Ports Authority - Discipline, Decisiveness, and Being in It for the Long Haul

Barbara Melvin is Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the South Carolina Ports Authority.  

She leads a team of over 650 employees including those in terminal operations, carrier sales, information technology and support services, crane and equipment maintenance, engineering, environmental, Port Police, procurement, the logistics solution center, and cruise operations. 

She is leading the most transformative port project on the Southeast Coast in the last 100 years with the opening of the Leatherman Terminal that’s been 20 years in the making.  It opens in Spring 2021.

Ms. Melvin also serves as the SCPA’s lead staff person on the Charleston Harbor Post 45 Project.

She sits on numerous Boards and has been recognized with many awards. She is a highly influential leader in Charleston, South Carolina and across the Southeast. 

She holds a degree in political science from Georgia Southern University and an MBA in Global Supply Chain from the University of Tennessee.

Barbara’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbara-melvin-69393b13/ 


  • How her background in politics has helped her the C-Suite.
  • The importance of knowing your talking points
  • What you can learn about someone from their Twitter Profile.
  • How to successfully lead a 20-year project.  
  • Her interesting path to COO over a 22-year span.
  • Work-life balance strategies. 
  • How the word “discipline” emerged as a defining word throughout her career.
  • Her perspective on gender and the C-Suite.
  • Why she’d like to instill the trait of decisiveness in all employees.
  • A failure in her career that led to her success down the road.
  • How to present your idea to the C-Suite.
  • Insights on the catastrophic cost of turnover.
  • On approaching an employee who is burned out and might quit.
  • A moment of inspiration from her father.
  • Helpful advice on what to read for those on a mission to get to the C-Suite.
  • Barbara’s interesting twist on Parkinson’s Law.


How Barbara's political background relates to business:

  • Know your issues
  • Be straightforward
  • Know how to compromise
  • Know your audience
  • Increase your emotional intelligence

How would Barbara approach someone who's burned out and might quit:

  • Try to notice any changes before it becomes an issue.
  • Have an honest conversation as you notice some signs that a person is unhappy.


On managing a long-term project “You need to have staying power” and “Talk to your customers”.

You must be able to formulate a story, believe it and sell it.

“Keep your eyes on the end of the race know matter how many ‘cramps’ you may get along the way.

“Make your teammates define victory for themselves, rather than defining it for them.” 

Ask your team, “What victory looks like?”

“Just when you think failure might define you, you realize it actually just makes you tougher.”

“You learn as much, if not more, from your failures.”

“People are our investments.”

“There is no doubt organizations should track the cost of turnover.”

“It’s a devastating impact when an employee leaves after you’ve invested in them.”

“We invest in our leadership so they understand the #1 reason employees leave a company is because of their boss.”

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good.”


The Economist 



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