Get Off The Sidelines

I haven’t been posting for quite some time with the excuse that life (work and family) has gotten in my way. What I realized after some reflection this week is that I miss writing about things that matter to me. This blog has been an outlet to make that happen, so here we go again. No promises of my frequency, but you will know, if I am writing here I am probably a bit more balanced than if I am not as it means I am creating the time to reflect (and write). So, I am getting off the sidelines and back in the game.

Over the last week, I have had the fortunate opportunity to attend two separate events that are motivating me to get off the sidelines in a number of ways. The first event was the first ever Utah Wonder Women Summit. The Utah Wonder Women is a group of influential women leaders in Utah working to help each other succeed. The day long summit was an opportunity to convene with a focus on building the visibility of female leadership in Utah. This event was followed by SUREFIRE girls, an event for teenage girls in Utah to help them see the magnitude of opportunities available to them. A big shout out to Jacki Zehner, the original Utah Wonder Women, for her relentless dedication, drive and initiative to make these two events happen.

So much inspiration at these events. This photo is a picture of the SUREFIRE ambassadors, ranging from junior high through seniors in high school, on stage talking about what they are hoping to learn from the SUREFIRE event. I was struck how powerful it was for these teenagers to see a room of 100+ female leaders in the audience focused on helping each other, developing our skills, aspiring to help Utah be a better place for female leadership tomorrow than it is today. But, what made me even more amazed was the energy that I took from these ladies reminding me of my role to get of the sidelines and dedicate even more time and energy to making the community, the state, our business environment and the country a better place for these ladies than it is today.

In case I wasn’t inspired enough leaving the UWW Summit, I headed this week to FORTUNE magazine’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation conference. It was an honor to be able to attend this. I guess you can call it part two of a reinforcement to get off the sidelines. With all of the stories recently about sexual harassment and assault, much of the event had a theme of being vocal. Stories of both a pursuit for gender and race equality as well as the recent #MeToo social movement came from all sides of the room. Business leaders, athletes and entertainers spoke of their own experiences with a call to action to be vocal and through our voices ensure that equality and respect are what we expect. Hope Solo, former goalie of the US Women’s National Soccer team, spoke candidly of her pursuit for pay equality in US Soccer, and her own personal experience with harassment. She also shared her clear belief that she was fired for being vocal.

One of my favorite speakers across these two events was Pat Mitchell. Pat is known for her leadership in the media industry as a CEO, producer and curator. She has used her position of influence and leadership as a force for social change. Among other great accomplishments, she is the host and curator of the global TEDWomen conference. Her talk was on power, and how we need to own it and use it to lead and drive change. Her eloquent speech was calm, reassuring and enabled me to center myself. We often perceive power to be masculine, but it isn’t. The definition of power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. Nothing masculine about that. One of the quotes she shared was from Bella Abzug, a lawyer, member of the US House of Representatives, and social activist and leader of the Women’s movement.

“Women will change the nature of power, rather than power changing the nature of women.” – Bella Abzug

Both of these events came at a great time for me. I have been working very hard lately and am probably off balance with how I am spending my time. I am still home for my family in the evenings at a reasonable time, working out a few times a week and trying my best to be a great spouse. So, it isn’t about work-life balance. That said, I am relentlessly moving when I am gone, pushing myself to always keep taking a step forward on the issues that matter every day in my work. There is a lot of good in this (especially for our business).

What I recognized after this week is that by dedicating so much energy here, I may be missing some of the things that I need to be doing to fulfill my purpose. I need to get off the sidelines, but not in a way that drives more “movement” at the office, or more stress. Instead, getting off the sidelines is about choosing to channel my “movement” to more effectively influence positive change for women in business, media and policy. So, thanks Pat for the advice. I am planning on owning my power and using it to drive change.

Commitments: Drive (Live) at a Safe and Healthy Speed

Life moves at a constant 80 mph in my world.  Occasionally, I ramp to 110 mph for a two to three day period (like the last week).  Sometimes, if I am lucky, there is a deceleration to 65, but it is for certain a temporary slowing just to get around an obstacle.  As soon as I clear the obstacle, back on the accelerator to get up to driving 80 in a 65 mph speed limit zone.


I am always keeping tabs on just how much faster I can go than the speed limit before I get a speeding ticket.  In my almost 39 years of life, and 23 years of driving it seems like 10 mph over the limit is an easy “no ticket”, I think of it as a safe 75 mph.  When I drive by a sitting police officer on the highway at 80 mph, I am wondering, “will he pull out and ticket me” or “did I make it through this time.”

As I sit here today, after running at about 90-110 mph all week with work and life both on overdrive, I think of the irony of this analogy.  Maybe instead of worrying about whether I am going to get a speeding ticket, I should be thinking about what speed to drive (live) and not as much about whether “I made it through this time.”

Deep thoughts always lead to a commitment post.  Today, I am committing to choosing a more healthy speed for my life and not just letting life keep pushing the accelerator down for me.

Becoming a Great Place to Work

What does it take to become a great place to work?  Over my career, I have worked at some amazing companies.  Each place taught me something about what makes a company great (or not so great).  But, where I have learned the most about being a great place to work is at my current company, CHG Healthcare Services.  This week is one of my favorites every year.  We celebrated our sixth consecutive year on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, ringing it in at #16 for the second year in a row with the last four years in the top twenty.  Although this award isn’t why we focus on building a great place to work, it is certainly an accolade we are proud of achieving. So, what have I learned in my close to five years at CHG about creating a great place to work?


1.  Trust is at the core of cultural success.  In fact, Fortune’s evaluation to achieve a spot on their Best Companies list requires that you have a culture of trust (as measured by an employee survey) that measures “management credibility, the respect with which employees feel like they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly.”  Take aside the theory on this…my personal experience aligns with this.  An environment that is steeped in trust accelerates the degree to which people want the organization to succeed and thus drives their contributions.  Plus, it is just a better place to spend your days.

2.  Transparency and vulnerability builds trust.  In order to achieve this level of trust, employees and leaders must be transparent with each other as to both the current reality of the business as well as our individual engagement in the organization’s cause.  Some of my most powerful moments as a leader have been moments when I share the real person I am with my team, or when I share explicitly that I don’t know the answer to the problem or issue at hand.  Through these moments, my team realizes that it is both okay to be who they are, as well as to admit when they don’t know the answer.  By doing this, we resolve the challenges faster and to come up with better solutions than any of us could ever do on our own.

3.  Accountability builds trust.  As with all businesses, at CHG, we are aiming to grow our company’s bottom line results.  Sometimes, I read about companies building a great culture through adding high-end benefits, sabbatical programs, super cool workout facilities, etc.  Although all of these are great, and do with certainty make a work environment better, they aren’t by any means the only thing that makes a great culture.  Delivering on the results we set out to achieve, through personal and team accountability, creates wins for the organization and for individuals.  If we are accountable and deliver what we say we will deliver, we build a culture of trust.

4.  We need to have fun, and be proud of what we do.  Work is work, but the more my team members and others around me at CHG can enjoy what they do, the people that we do it with, and be proud of the work that we do, the better our culture becomes.  In order to be proud of what you do, it may take something different for every single person within the company.  As individuals, we need to find our way to be proud and make it happen.

5.  Building a great place to work never stops.  I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people make when working to build a great culture is that they see it as a project or an initiative as versus a sustainable organizational commitment.  There is no big bang, no silver bullet to building a great culture.  Instead, it is a series of steps, both small and large, that get harder the better you get.

‘Femvertising’: Authenticity Sells? Let’s Hope So.

I was interested to see at the AdWeek 2014 conference this week that they had a panel on ‘Femvertising’ moderated by Samantha Skey, the Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows.  A few definitions if you haven’t hear about this.

Feminism – the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Advertising – the act of producing an advertisement which is something that is shown or presented to the public to help sell a product or make an announcement.

Femvertising – defined by Samantha during that panel as pro-female messaging within advertising.

Although conceptually I get it, and support the rise of advertising that shows women and girls in authentic ways, I sit here feeling frustrated about this new term.  For some reason it gets me asking why we need a ‘slogan’ to simply communicate what seems like what should be common sense?  Shouldn’t pro-female messaging sell without needing a movement?  Shouldn’t this be what marketers bring out of the gates in our work?  Okay – insert idealistic groan.  This just isn’t how it works no matter how much my idealist wants it to be that way.

So, how does it actually work?  As marketers we are accountable for advertising within an organization.  Per above, this means we are responsible for producing advertisements that sell a product or service or help to make an announcement.  Generally, in organizations we are considered ‘spenders’ of money.  We work long and hard to come up with ideas that sell, and then to sell our ideas internally to our organizations so that they can get funded to be produced and distributed via a media buy which is again a part of funding we must secure on the inside of an organization.

As we do these marketing plans and work on aligning the leaders of our organization, especially in a world where digital marketing is a predominant force in the spend wars of advertising, we talk about measurement.  How are we going to measure if our advertising is working?  What are our expectations for return on investment from the money we invest both in the production of the idea and the media buy?  In order to answer this, we look to historical performance as a benchmark.  How has our audience responded to our advertising in the past, and how much has it helped to sell our products or services?  Often times this gets us back to applying what has worked in the past to sell stuff.  Generally, this is the retouched image removing some inches around a waistline, the aspirational (read that as unrealistically beautiful) model flipping her hair over her shoulder and other unattainable visualizations of what being a woman/girl (and a man for that matter) is supposed to be.

So, as marketers (and advertisers) we have generally been either creating the problem, or are simply doing our jobs which is to sell stuff.  The less progressive position is to assume the latter…to assume that the only way to sell things is to present these ‘aspirational’ images assuming that is what sells.  The more progressive position is to change things.  To not look back at history to direct the choices we make in our current advertising.  Instead, to take on ‘femvertising’ as presented in the panel despite the potential difficulty this brings in making your case in the internal sale for funding of your advertising.  This may require a shift away from a direct sales link of our advertising (like television advertising had a direct link!) and cause us to think differently about how positive reputation of our brands will drive sales over time.  The work from Always in the #LikeAGirl video gives us measurable hope (48 millions YouTube views and counting) that this idealistic view of success is achievable.  But, does it sell product?  Let’s hope so.

So instead of being frustrated that we need a new term like ‘femvertising’ to bring authenticity in advertising out, I am channeling that frustration into action within my marketing team.  Let’s hope other marketers out there are on board.

Commitments: Connect Marketing to Sales Growth

One of the things that has been bothering me a lot lately is the perception that our job as a marketer is to “make things look good” or to “come up with a name for catchy name or slogan for something.”  Not to say that we don’t and can’t do that, but I hate the fact that often times this is the perception people have of what we do.  Counter to this, my view of marketing is as simple as the definition:

  1. the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

Our job at its core is to sell things.  It has a lot more to do with making money through driving profitable revenue than it does with making things look pretty (unless of course making it pretty is what makes it sell).  To be good at what we do, you have to think and research what makes people buy something – considering the process, or decision journey, that our consumers use when considering our goods or services within the industry in which we operate.  From here, a marketer works hard to come up with marketing tactics to help get our brands, products or services at the top of the consideration set for the buyer and ultimately get them to buy. 

So why does the perception exist that we make things look pretty?  Why isn’t it common understanding that our goal is to drive sales?   We do it to ourselves.  I believe that most times this perception exists because we don’t do a good job articulating the goals of our work and being accountable link the ideas we execute to revenue (or admit that they didn’t work if the link doesn’t exist).   We as marketers get caught up in the craft, the pure idea, the way it looks, without staying focused on the business impact of these ideas we execute.   

Don’t hear me say that the idea and the craft isn’t important.  It is the most important thing that we do – produce ideas that drive sales.  The best marketing I have seen has been built from a great idea.  It has been executed in a way that is compelling visually and in words.  It has been executed in a way that drives action from the consumer in a way that drives revenue for the business both in the short-term and the long-term.  This intersection of the idea and the result is the craft.   

We must commit as marketers to get better at linking what we do to driving sales for our companies.  We must talk the language of business growth and link our decisions as much as possible to driving that growth.  We must be transparent when things aren’t measurable – and there are many that aren’t.  And where they are measurable, we must connect the dots for the teams around us.  If we do this well, we will enable creativity within our marketing teams and allow ourselves the time, money and thinking space to come up with the next idea that will build our businesses.  And, we will have a lot of fun doing so.