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.

Thank You Hillary…#ImWithHer

I find myself at a loss of words after this monumental week.

image

Katharine was beyond excited to stay up to watch Hillary Clinton accept the presidential nomination.  As was I.  I found myself moved almost to tears by Chelsea’s introduction (however not comfortable Chelsea looked), by Hilary’s deliberate recognition of the power of the moment, by her humble acknowledgement of both her strengths (work horse) and her weaknesses (show horse), but most notably by Katharine’s excitement about the evening.

For her it was just about the experience, about learning and understanding how this election thing works, about being able to stay up late, about seeing daughter introduce her mother for something exciting, and about the fascination with the role of our President.  And, it was of course cool that it was a girl.  She asked me if I was ever going to have her introduce me for something like that.  She wondered if the whole world was like America.

For me it was about making history, about hard work, about perseverance, about striving for something despite all odds, and about creating opportunity for all of the little girls that  were watching.  And, it was of course because it was a girl.  I had hoped for this day for a long time.  It made me proud of America.

I know that my politics haven’t always lined up with Hillary, and I am certain that I don’t agree with everything that she is advocating for, but #ImWithHer because of the lesson that she can teach America and the world.  She is showing us that hard work, perseverance, dedication to a cause, and belief in equality can change the world.  She is helping all of the little girls see what they can be.

Making Change Happen in Utah

Last night at the Oscars, Patricia Arquette used the stage to speak about an incredibly important issue to me – equality for women. Unfortunately, her memorable Oscar speech was followed with backstage words that didn’t help the cause. You can agree or disagree with her backstage follow up, but I hope that it is hard for any of us to disagree with what she said behind the microphone.

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”             – Patricia Arquette

The issue of equal rights, and equal pay for women has been on my mind a lot lately. Since last fall, I have been spending a lot of thinking time about how I can help the women in my life succeed professionally. Whether it be giving my time to them, or clearing the path for their success, I have become more aware that I have a key role in helping the people around me succeed.   Last nights speech from Patricia renewed my energy, and I decided to write tonight about an experience I had last December. I had intended to blog about it then, but lost momentum. Thank you Patricia for helping me to get pissed off again (the most productive time to channel my inner feminist!).

In December, Jon and I were watching television after our kids were in bed.  He was on his iPad browsing Facebook, and ran across an article from the NY Post that caught his attention.  The headline….”5 places women shouldn’t spend their travel dollars.”  He asked me to guess to see if I could come up with the list of places before reading me the article.  I rattled off Saudi Arabia (on the list), Iran (not on the list), a few countries in Africa (not on the list), and he continued to say no until I couldn’t come up with any more ideas.  Finally, he just started reading me the article.  My jaw dropped with the mention of Utah as #5.  And Turkey for that matter, which when visiting I found a wonderful open place.

The article leads with:

 “It’s a sad fact that in the 21st century, women around the globe continue to encounter rampant discrimination, harassment and inequality. Sad — though not necessarily surprising. Here are five places where women’s rights are being exploited and sexism reaches into the highest echelons of government — reason enough to take your travel dollars elsewhere.”

The state I love to live and work in meets this description?  That sucks.  I found myself a combination of pissed off at the state of affairs for women in Utah, and frustrated with the quality of journalism demonstrated by the NY Post.

Part 1:  As I mentioned in my previous post, we do need to make progress in Utah.  We need to raise young men and women who think about many options for a woman’s career – both going to work and being a mom.  We need to close the pay gap between men and women which is ranked 49th in the United States for equality.  We need more females in our state government.  We need more women in company leadership.  We need more young women to complete post-secondary education.  And, we need companies to lead the way to make this change happen.

Part 2:  Good journalism is dead.  This may be extreme, but so is calling Utah one of the top 5 worse spots for women to put their travel dollars based on discrimination, inequality, sexual exploitation, etc.  There are countries around the world where women cannot show their face, where over half of new brides are under 16, where over 80% of women report domestic abuse, and you put Utah as #5 on this list?  I appreciate the journalist bringing attention to women’s issues, and even the women’s issues of Utah, but do your research.  This article was simply inflammatory (which of course I fell for hook, line and sinker).

I feel lucky to have a support network in my husband, family and friends that help support my desires professionally and personally.  I am grateful for my upbringing where my parents taught me to only see what is possible for me, never the barriers in front of me, and to work hard to achieve what is possible.  I feel proud of my company, CHG Healthcare Services, for creating a culture to work where women in Utah (and around the country) can have the career that they want, while balancing a family at home if they choose.  Our leading brand, CompHealth, has an executive leadership team with 50% women leaders.

This recent speech by Patricia Arquette and the preceding NY Post article has elevated my commitment and my desire to utilize my experiences, and the experiences at CHG Healthcare to lead Utah out of inequality, to show other companies, and women living in our state, that change can happen if we all put our energy, our money and our time towards making it happen.  In doing so, we will not only create a better culture in Utah for females, but equality for others who are underrepresented.

So what, you may ask, am I going to do about it?  No answers yet, but stay tuned.  Today it begins with telling you that change can happen.  We are doing it at CHG Healthcare….why aren’t you?

Commitments: Leading Change Within My Organization

So often in my career, I have seen the best ideas get sidelined, smart risks not taken, and current organizational inertia stop the momentum of truly important business initiatives.  I sit here wondering what makes this happen, in hopes to prevent it in my current organization.

A story tells way more than me pontificating on the philosophy of change.  When I worked at Procter & Gamble, in our Cosmetics division, being a brand manager required a heavy dose of analytics and core business strength.  I had recently moved over from a finance background, so this played to my strengths.  Several months into the job, as I was learning more about the business, and felt more comfortable about understanding my new job, I realized that the sales trend in one of our product lines was dismal.  Given the complexity of our business, this wasn’t an obvious conclusion.  We had been shipping in product to our retailers, and sell-thru was horrible.  The product had been on the market for about a year, and we needed an intervention, and quickly.  The great thing about being a marketer is that it is my job was to figure out and recommend how to fix it, in partnership with my sales peers.  I knew it would be an uphill battle to invest more behind the product, but despite that we came up with a strong marketing plan with general advertising, retail promotion and a sampling plan.  And, after proposing a relative affordable and conservative plan to our executive leadership, we got the fastest no that I had ever experienced.

Why?  I am sure there was a lot to the “no” that I couldn’t see, but as I reflect on it, much of it had to do with organizational inertia.  We did not make investment decisions lightly as a company.  The degree of analytical rigor needed to gain alignment, and proof in return-on-investment, made most initiatives get stopped in their tracks.  Our then president, had built a number of systems and process stage-gates that decisions must move through.  In the process, needed change didn’t often happen.  The organization was brilliant at change management, but in an effort to “manage” the change, great decisions were getting left behind.

It is so easy to fall in this trap as a leader.  Sometimes we want to control things versus empowering ideas.  The more I am in my current job, the more I find myself spending my free time thinking about how to unleash ideas.  My organization is built to deliver results, and sometimes we hold ourselves a little too accountable, with a little too much rigor, and thus miss the creativity and the idea flow needed to drive future success.

At this stage in my career and my job, I recognize both the strength in the “change management” skill but also the need for “change leadership.”  John Kotter, the resident expert in the topic, describes the difference in these two skills in an article that i read years ago.  One of my favorite quotes in the article is about change leadership as an engine.

“Change leadership is much more associated with putting an engine on the whole change process, and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently.”   – John Kotter

As leaders, if we think of our role in change leadership as finding the right change, and adding the engine through our people, we will accomplish so much for our teams and our companies.  With this will come failure, and lots of learning, but hopefully a lot more success.  So, my commitment for this evening is to lead change within my organization.

My Top 10 Lessons in Making Organizational Change Succeed

This week at work I heard the phrase “just because you didn’t plan well, that doesn’t make it my emergency.”  It brought me back to my last job where seemingly everything was an emergency due to lack of planning. We were launching 300-400 different products every year and most of them got out the door only with sheer grit and determination at the 11th hour.  There was no plan on what to launch, why to launch a particular product and how to launch the products successfully.  They had been amazingly successful despite this based on some amazing products and an amazing team who was committed to putting in the effort required to make it happen despite the barriers in their way.  This approach brought a lot of good:  a camaraderie within the team, a commitment level within the people to succeed, and an amazing creative spirit to solve what seemed to be unsurmountable problems.  With those good things, came many bad: higher costs of manufacturing, excess inventory costs, incomplete retail launch plans due to insufficient time, ineffective marketing plans given limited lead time for planning and perhaps most importantly – organizational stress and pain.

So, the senior leadership team set on a journey to introduce business and marketing plans to this team.  And, when I say journey, I mean journey…an ever-winding journey.  Our goal was to evolve to a company with a plan so that our launches would be more successful and our business more successful.  We talked a lot about doing this while maintaining the strengths that the organization demonstrated throughout its history.  It sounded good, and per all of the business school lessons and the experience our management team had in prior companies, it should’ve worked.

What I underestimated, and can only see clearly in arrears, is how the culture of this company impacted the degree of change that would be accepted.  The culture was built as an entrepreneurial startup team – doing anything needed to make things successful.  It was built for variety, unpredictability and wacky, late stage brilliant ideas winning the day.  Even the slightest move toward an annual operating plan felt so imposing to this team.  Their skills were not set up to succeed in this environment and it not only felt overwhelming, but it did the exact opposite of what we desired.  We simply doubled the pain.  Now, there was a fair amount of organizational stress and strife about the product planning process in addition to the stress (and cost) we incurred for late-stage changes that put our shipment dates at risk.  So – double the pain, no gain.

Ultimately this journey was one of the factors that made me leave this job.  Sitting here 5 years later, after hearing someone refer this week to a lack of planning driving unnecessary organizational stress and cost, I wonder out loud (is that possible on a blog?) what lessons I have learned (mostly through mistakes) in the last five years about introducing change into a team or company.  Nothing like a list to make you think about it.

My top 10 lessons in Change Management:

  1. Don’t underestimate the story of an organization. This story often time helps you uncover the culture, the values that the team lives by and the strengths the organization has to help you succeed.
  2. That said, don’t be scared of change.
  3. If people don’t understand the reason for the change, the context as to why it is important, and they don’t buy-in, the change will not be broadly successful.
  4. Just because something is written in a textbook or theoretically the right thing to do, doesn’t mean it will work.
  5. Having a plan is important….being willing to adjust the plan as it meets barriers is essential.
  6. Creating allies in your change, particularly those with high organizational influence, is critical for your success.
  7. Don’t just change for change’s sake. You don’t have to make your impact through large change and innovation. Strength is often found in accepting what already is and making minor improvements that drive high value.
  8. Be inquisitive in everything that you do.  There is most often a great rationale for why things are as they are, and understanding this rationale will help necessary change be adopted more smoothly.
  9. Every person accepts change through the lens of their personality. Identifying an individual’s state of mind and meeting each where they enter a conversation on change will help reduce fear of change.
  10. There isn’t one way things should happen. Your way is often wrong, and can be made better through leveraging the strengths of the people around you.

‘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.

Change in My Job

This week at work I had a few meetings centered around technology choices to set up our company (and our marketing team) up for success.  It dawned on me how much being a marketer and a marketing leader has changed.  When I started my marketing career in brand management at Procter & Gamble I thought a lot about brands and products, offline marketing, and connecting with consumers.  Occasionally, I would think about websites but at that point it wasn’t a big focus for me.  My leaders and I reviewed marketing plans, revenue results and return on investment of our programs.  We were traditional marketers at a best-in-class marketing company.

There was a marketing manager on our team called the “interactive marketing manager.” It seemed so novel at the time.  We staffed this role to begin to test programs that included web microsites, social marketing ideas and email communication plans.  We were trying to figure out if investing human resources and money in this digital marketing thing was worth it.  Irony.  Today, my team builds marketing programs with digital tools at the center of what they do.  In my job, I think and discuss technology options daily.  Based on this difference, you would think that my P&G experience was decades ago and not just the 10 years that it has been.

Beyond the shift toward digital and social, another massive change in the job of the marketer today is the ability to leverage data in our marketing planning process.  There is more data available than most marketers know how to use.  My experience is that often too much data is worse than none at all.  With too much data, many of my team members get stuck in analysis paralysis versus idea generation and marketing planning.  Often times my team members don’t have the experience and skills to be effective at drawing conclusions from data fast enough to build great marketing.

As a marketing leader, these two shifts amongst others have caused me to change how I approach my job.  I believe that my core functional objective is the same.  What has become different is how I do my job, how my teams bring our marketing to consumers and how I lead my people.  I have had to become more connected both in my own life (social marketing, blogging, reading business and marketing news) as well as in my work life (listening more actively to the consumers of our companies services, being online and available more often to my team).  I have had to put myself in a frame of mind to constantly learn and ask questions.  With the technology changes and the willingness of consumers to go with the change, marketing teams have to be change agents and risk takers within their companies.  As a marketing leader, I have learned to encourage and teach this behavior to my team many of whom don’t come to this naturally.

P&G’s cosmetics interactive marketing manager was the tip of the iceberg in terms of the evolution I have experienced in my marketing career.  I am counting on the next decade to be even more filled with change.  It makes me excited about what I can learn, teach and contribute.