A Conversation with Barbara Palmer, Executive Career Coach
A recent study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society has working moms breathing a little easier when it comes to the social and emotional development of their children. Conducted by researchers from Harvard Business School, the study found that working mothers are more likely to raise successful daughters and compassionate sons. Compared with individuals who grew up with a stay-at-home mom, women who grew up with working mothers are more likely to obtain better, higher paying jobs and men are more likely to spend more time engaging in household chores and caring for their children.
As a working mother with two young sons, I’m relieved by these findings, which sure help alleviate my working mom guilt – but I also recognize the challenging job of the stay-at-home parent. My husband has taken on that role since our youngest son, now almost 5 years old, was an infant, and it is certainly as taxing – if not more so – as my work outside the home. He teaches our boys amazing things that feed their curiosity and broaden their horizon. Every. Single. Day.
At a time when so many of us are trying to figure out how we can make all of this work, we recognize that having it all is really hard. Moreover, trying to raise children in an era of total transparency and immediate access to information is frightening. So how do we balance it all successfully? I sat down with Barbara Palmer, founder and president of Broad Perspective Consulting and executive career coach extraordinaire, to get her advice.
Barbara, as a veteran career development coach with a successful practice that focuses primarily on women in the workforce, what are your key takeaways from this study?
I LOVED the stats shared in the study. FINALLY, that silver lining every working parent looks for to help them feel better about their working parent status! What I have found is that parental guilt is an equal opportunity emotion. If you work outside the home, you lament about not being home all day with your child or not being the class mom or not…not…not…it never ends! However, I also know from experience that parents who take on the work of raising small humans all day are also riddled with guilt. They feel they aren’t contributing to the family financially; they demean and downplay their contributions to the home, school and community. We need all members in our village.
The study confirms that working parents are positive role models for their children and are contributing in quantifiable ways to help their children achieve future success. Working parents are showing their kids what work-life integration looks like in a positive way.
Although this new research is interesting fodder for a working parent, the “guilt mentality” is hard to overcome. What is your advice for overcoming working parent guilt?
Guilt is persistent and it’s really unfortunate. Parents need perspective to keep that guilt in check:
Own that you work for a good reason – either because financially it is good for your family and/or because you enjoy and feel fulfilled by your career. It is okay to like your work!
Remember guilt goes both ways – working parents feel guilty for working, and stay-at-home parents feel guilty for not contributing financially or not using their talents to their potential. The grass is not always greener.
Quality matters. When you are with your children, focus on them. Unplug, take an interest, play, be involved – make your kids your priority when you are together. Be present.
In 2017, W2O implemented Your Fourth Trimester™program as part of our benefits package to support employees as they become working parents. Since then, several new parents at W2O have participated in the program – all of whom said it helped them smoothly and successfully transition into the working parent role. What was your impetus for developing this innovative program and what do you hope participants ultimately achieve from the curriculum?
Interestingly, when we first conceived the program, we initially thought of it as a parental leave benefit. However, as more working parents went through the curriculum, it became evident that the coaching and support it provides is actually professional development for employees. It isn’t about the baby. It’s about the employee and supporting them as they navigate this chapter of their career.
Your Fourth Trimester was created to:
Provide a confidential third-party resource to help employees transition to their role as a working parent.
Complement more generous leave packages with an equally generous and supportive transition coaching program.
Lower the attrition of new parents, which can be debilitating to a team that “held space” for the employee’s return.
Thank you for the valuable insight, Barbara. We are thrilled to be working with you on a regular basis within our organization.
At W2O, we employ approximately 125 full-time working moms and dads, and we promote a culture that values both work and life outside of the W2O walls. Through trailblazing programming such as Your Fourth Trimester and other people-first initiatives, we aim to ensure that our staff have a voice in shaping their individual careers and building unfair advantage for themselves, their families and our clients.
If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!
A visionary in the digital marketing and healthcare communications space, Jim Weiss is paving the way for what’s next. Jim is the CEO and founder of W2O Group, an integrated marketing and communications agency that he built from the ground up 17 years ago. Today, the company generates $170 million in revenue and spans 12 offices and hundreds of healthcare and technology clients. He built the firm on one platform: to be the best. And on two tenets: focus on the client first and foremost, and never be satisfied with the status quo.
“This requires focus,” he says. “You have to know where you’re going to get there and can’t go to too many places at once and still be the best.”
He has carried this philosophy through the firm’s evolution, resulting in consistent business growth, creation of innovative models, and development of progressive methodologies, such as inclusive programs in diversity, mentorship, and community involvement. Jim is justifiably proud that his efforts have resulted in several industry accolades, including being named Best Large Agency To Work For by the Holmes Report.
Over the years W2O has been agile, pivoting its infrastructure, leadership, offerings, and footprint based on client needs or industry changes. In 2016, Jim partnered with Mountaingate Capital to expand the agency’s reach with the strategic acquisitions of three companies: Sentient, an agency with a focus on data and insights; Marketeching, a market research and social listening consultancy; and Pure Communications, a communications agency focused on start-up life-sciences and med-tech clients. These acquisitions expanded the agency’s portfolio, strengthened its financial position, and enhanced overall capabilities and services.
Jim has more than 30 years of experience in healthcare and corporate communications, and he has been involved in nearly every aspect of brand, product, and organizational communications.
Colleagues admire Jim’s leadership style, which is based on courage, fortitude, constant curiosity, openness, and an ability to pivot.
His objectives remain lofty: to become the best firm in the sector to work at, to continue to disrupt and change the healthcare communications landscape, to stay ahead of the curve, to be the most valued counselors in the biopharma sector, and to work with increasingly larger and more groundbreaking clients to help them impact and/or transform their businesses in a meaningful way.
As a leader, Jim motivates his management team to deliver great results through encouragement, recognition, listening, and allowing them to lead their operating companies in an entrepreneurial, innovative, and collaborative culture.
Jim also invests in career development by supporting W2O University, an internal training program that includes webinars, presentations, and internal team sessions for all employees. The firm also offers one-on-one career and presentation coaching.
“One of the priorities I’ve set for myself is to make time to mentor dozens of my staff across W2O,” he says. “I have learned a tremendous amount over my career and want to share that same knowledge.”
I remember when my social media timelines were filled with #MeToo as friends, family members and acquaintances talked about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. As a communications professional and millennial woman who is active on social media, it was an amazing experience to witness firsthand how women of all backgrounds stood together to raise their voices on such an important issue. Following the #MeToo movement, individuals rallied together to take a stand against issues they face inside and outside of the workplace. Through these movements, conversations around gender disparities in the workplace including assault, the pay gap and diversity in leadership have become part of the public discourse. With these conversations now part of a public dialogue, individuals and companies are taking a stand and perceptions are shifting.
Now that we are now living in a post-#MeToo age, what does that mean for our society and in particular, the workplace? Companies are now implementing changes to make corporate culture more inclusive for women, which is exciting and long-overdue in many industries. Although the biopharma and tech sectors tend to be predominantly male, five of our seven presidents are female, including W2O’s newest President, Jenn Gottlieb. We also are proud to work with clients who support female leadership; in fact, we provided onsite public relations support to seven female CEOs presenting at the 2018 J.P. Morgan conference (30 percent of the total number of female CEOs presenting at the meeting). At a conference with an overwhelmingly male presence – and one that many have criticized for its lack of gender diversity – this demonstrates our commitment to innovation in healthcare, no matter who is leading the company.
As a company that prides itself on its strong female leadership, we should be a leader for those working to make their companies more diverse. Our track record has proven that not only are we leaders in this area, but that having individuals from different backgrounds makes us a stronger company overall. So what can we do to continue to improve and ensure that W2O stays true to this movement? What can we do as a company to continue to foster a sense of belonging where all are welcome at W2O?
In the Next Six Months:
Many women speaking out as part of #MeToo stated their workplaces did not have protocol or channels in place to report harassment. W2O recently held workplace harassment training and has open-door policies in place with HR and other leaders in the company, which provides channels for individuals to speak confidentially and receive guidance on navigating a difficult situation. However, we could take it a step further by conducting an internal survey so that employees to anonymously submit feedback regarding potential areas of improvement regarding culture, and other flag issues we may unconsciously be missing.
In the Next Few Years:
W2O has shown its commitment to diversity, particularly in the healthcare sector. In addition to supporting female leaders, we also have a partnership with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF), in which W2O Group is funding the Future Leaders in Healthcare Fellowship Program – a $50,000, three-year commitment. The goal of this partnership is to support those from ethnic minorities seeking a career in health communications, resulting in a more diverse workforce, activities with client partners to increase diversity in their communications functions, and provide more robust insights and results to clients.
As a leader in this area, we need to continue build on our efforts to support diversity and continue to foster a diverse and inclusive environment. Taking that mentality one step further, as this company continues to grow, we can look into making sure our strong pool of talent is diverse, not just in terms of race or gender, but also in terms of professional background and strengths that individuals can bring to their teams.
While it is important for us to work to maintain our leadership in diversity as well as continually develop an inclusive environment, there are things that every one of us can do today to foster inclusivity and belonging, such as:
Actively seeking out the opinions and ideas of others on the team, from the intern to the senior manager. Additionally, find ways for those of all levels to contribute to a project.
Not interrupting someone when you are having a conversation can foster an environment where everyone’s opinions and input are valued, and can provide an opportunity to really listen to the input from others. You can learn something new or get a different perspective through listening.
Encouraging meetings between those in junior positions and those in leadership positions to discuss accounts and where things can be improved
When building teams, if possible, playing to everyone’s strengths. If someone has an analytic mindset, they can be an asset to a team that is very creatively driven (and vice versa) in order to make a project stronger overall
I hope that W2O can continue to be a leader in inclusivity and push for diversity at all levels. I truly believe that pushing for these initiatives will make us a better and stronger company overall. Ensuring that there is a place for those of all backgrounds at W2O falls directly in line with our belief that we are #BetterTogether.
If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!
By 2025, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the U.S. workforce. At W2O, those born between 1980 and 2000 represent 70% percent of our staff today, a figure that will continue to rise sharply over the next decade. I have worked alongside many members of this most studied and scrutinized generation for the last 16 years and can honestly say that, collectively, they are among the most intelligent, engaged, purpose-driven leaders of our time. The value they place on innovation, teamwork, corporate social responsibility and workplace culture is inspiring to say the least – pushing those of us who are Generation Xers to be better, more open-minded and agile managers.
Last week, I was invited to participate in W2O’s Committee of Millennials (COM) monthly meeting. The committee includes 85 interns, associates and managers across our “long hallway” (i.e., across geographies and time zones) whose purpose is to share, collaborate, integrate and become empowered as young professionals. Cool, huh?! I was eager to ask them questions about influencer engagement as they’ve grown up in this “always on” world and query them about the growing trend to create more branded content.
AdWeek recently published a GIF depicting the ins and outs of influencer behavior. The most interesting stats, which didn’t come as a surprise to any of the COM members, included:
93.2% of influencers are between the ages of 24 to 44
95% are female
More than 50% have produced branded content over the last two years
79% stated that they plan to create more branded posts than they currently do
Given the digital inclinations of the COM members, who better to look to for insight regarding how influencer engagement can be further harnessed and improved. They literally grew up with social media. In fact, a recent study showed that 47 percent of millennials affirm that the Internet is the one thing they cannot live without. They look to social media for information about specific brands to and, more importantly, who is endorsing and recommending those brands.
Here’s what I learned from the COM members:
1. You can’t escape interacting with influencers…they’re ever-present: As marketing and communications professionals, we must understand how important it is to utilize influencers in a meaningful and transparent way. Millennials don’t want to feel like they are being “sold to” or duped. They are motivated to follow influencers who have an intrinsic desire to genuinely connect with their followers.
2. Authenticity reigns: Influencers need to be personally passionate about what they are promoting, period. It’s easy to spot the influencers who truly support a brand versus those who are simply looking for a paycheck. The experience, whether branded or unbranded, should be real.
3. Cause-based marketing helps: If an influencer can also speak to the brand or company’s social responsibility or support for a worthy cause, it’s a win. It makes the experience as a whole more palatable.
4. Digital creators are considered more believable than traditional celebrities: This goes back to authenticity and the importance of truly believing in what you’re selling. A traditional celebrity is more likely to use his or her influencer status to garner the big bucks, while digital creators have worked long and hard to develop their voice, follower-base and overall influence.
Anna Hodge, Account Manager at W2O and chair of COM said it best: “Influencers have an overwhelming digital footprint and tend to overtake my social media feeds on a daily basis, but what attracts my attention most is not an endorsement with a catchy lingo or a trending hashtag, but rather something authentic. To me, the most compelling content draws on an influencer’s lived experiences and reflects emotions to which I can easily connect. Successful influencers empower their audience and elicit a response, whether it’s as simple as leaving a comment or as complex as mobilizing on behalf of a particular cause. That is true influence.”
Thanks Anna and company for allowing this Gen Xer to take a spot at your meeting! I hope to get the chance to engage with this vibrant group of young professionals again soon.
If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!
Intelligence can mean many things. It can be just raw intellect or it can be the methodical gathering of insights or it can be an accumulation of knowledge by an individual that results in a perspective that is unique to our world.
The books I read this quarter focused on clandestine intelligence, our universe and the laws of physics and the individual minds of Dr. Henry Kissinger and our past Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia.
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews – Jason is a 33-year veteran of the CIA. His book, now a movie, is a highly interesting page-turner. I put it in the Tom Clancy category for his combination of fiction and technical accuracy. Will be reading his other books.
Agents of Innocence by David Ignatius – I was told that David Ignatius of The Washington Post is one of the best writers of fiction related to the Middle East. The book is exceptional. Will be reading all of his other books.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli – this is a brief book that explores quantum mechanics, black holes, gravity and more. It is not a “simple” book to read, but it does help you think about our universe. As an example, I had not really thought of black holes as a sort of Rosetta stone to uncover what has occurred before us. Thought provoking.
World Order by Henry Kissinger – this is Dr. Kissinger’s book that, essentially, takes us for a tour of the world and his brain as it relates to how he sees our world evolving, how world order could be achieved (or not) and why it is just not that easy to achieve harmony anywhere in the world for a sustained period of time. We humans sure are complicated. No one better to give this guided tour.
Scalia Speaks by Christopher J. Scalia – Antonin’s son collected the speeches of his father and organized them into a flow that illustrates the thinking of this important US Supreme Court Justice over time. I found it illuminating to understand his deep respect for the constitution. Anytime we can understand the mindset of an important figure, it becomes so much easier to see how they think, why they view certain topics as sacrosanct and how we can better view those who are pro or con in the future. The foreword from his dear friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, is a great touch.
This summer I am continuing on the “Intelligence” path. Current read is the Leonardo da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson followed by First In about how we entered Afghanistan after 9/11.
Thanks, as always, for sharing your ideas on what to read. Enjoy the summer!
I grew up hearing stories about our great uncle Alexander Didur, who died as a prisoner of war in Korea. In our hometown, some of our best friends grew up without a brother killed in the Vietnam war. Years later, terrorism has ended the lives of several friends from our hometown. These are the moments that can only be endured, but not fixed.
In our day to day world, that is not true. We have a major opportunity to unite together and utilize our “soft power” to counter the bias, hate and extremism that exists in our world. We greatly outnumber the bad actors and we can decide to use our collective soft power in many ways.
We can volunteer to help youth in our communities. Even one day makes a difference.
We can support our military veterans, who have put their lives on the line to protect our freedom, when they return home. As an example, at VETTED, we help our returning military leaders pursue an educational and networking path that will help the transition from the battle field to the board room.
We can donate to NGOs and non-profits who are completely centered on building a safer world. Donate can mean your time, not just money. Your knowledge and network is more of an asset than you may realize.
And we can be a check on each other by toning down the bias and the shouting and the grand standing that all too often leads to more anger, bias and hate. If we understand how our brain works, we realize how futile counter protesting really is.
Back to TEDx Austin……..I was invited to speak by Cassaundra Melgar-C’De Baca, CEO of VETTED, of which I am a board member. The goal of this TEDx talk was to reflect on what we (Haroon K. Ullah) and myself learned in co-writing Countering Hate and what it could mean for all of us.
I’m looking forward to your insights as you watch the talk below. Please share so we can all learn from each other.
Interested in learning more about Countering Hate, click here.
As a kid, business mogul Richard Branson was deemed “stupid and lazy” by his teachers, only to find out he suffered from dyslexia, which, in turn, helped drive him to succeed.
J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter series, was a single mom living on welfare when she began writing her first book.
Vincent Van Gogh trained relentlessly as an artist, yet failed to sell a single painting during his lifetime, despite producing more than 200 works that now reside in renowned museums across the globe and sell for hundreds of millions of dollars.
It literally took Thomas Edison 1,000 tries before he finally invented the light bulb.
Do you see the common thread here? What do these incredibly successful people from varying backgrounds have in common? They all demonstrate mental toughness – or grit – the ability to harness passion, perseverance and resilience to achieve long-term goals.
I just finished reading best-selling author Angela Duckworth’s book Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance. In addition to being an impressive author and speaker, Angela is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit that aims to advance the science of character development. In her book, Angela describes how she studied the theory of mental toughness in a variety of settings – the boardroom, the classroom, the military and the football field. I found her research fascinating, as she finds, time and time again, that grit trumps I.Q., physical fitness, straight A’s, street smarts and a host of other measures in determining success. If you don’t have time for the book – watch her TED Talk on the topic – it’s a great 6 minutes!
So, if it’s not the innate, natural ability to run the fastest, hit the hardest, think the most abstractly, or compute the most accurately, what are the behavioral characteristics of peak performers? According to Angela’s findings, these individuals:
Carefully plan, focusing on the long term by setting and achieving small goals along the way.
Thrive on pressure, adapting and excelling in high-stress situations.
Remain optimistic, not letting setbacks or failures derail them.
Are driven by curiosity – thriving on reinvention, innovation and learning new things while asking themselves “why” or “how” along the way.
Celebrate their triumphs, no matter how big or small, giving themselves encouragement and momentum to accomplish that next goal.
Have passions outside of their career, giving them an outlet to reboot and rejuvenate to avoid burnout.
In today’s swirling world of change, the only thing you can truly control is your reaction to the ups and downs of daily life and work. For me, staying mentally strong is all about being grounded in my human truth as a woman, wife, mother and leader. It isn’t ever just one of these roles that defines me – it is ALL of them all wrapped up together that give me the strength to persevere through the worst of times and to experience the elation of the great successes in work and life.
My top tips for becoming mentally stronger?
Work really hard. Success doesn’t come easy. You have to W-O-R-K at it. This may mean burning the midnight oil, working smarter by divvying up responsibility, looking for new and improved ways to do things, and seeing the proverbial forest through the trees. Remember that the road to that enduring success is paved with many small wins along the way.
Enjoy what you do. If you are truly passionate about your work, you have more energy to put into success. You are more confident in your decision-making. You are more creative when it comes to strategy development and problem-solving. You are better able to inspire others who work with you. And, I truly believe it is that passion that drives you forward when the going gets tough – and at some point the going will get tough!
Learn from your mistakes. It’s inevitable. You are going to make mistakes in your career. But don’t fixate on the blunder, as it will end up hampering your performance. Accept it, learn from it, and move forward.
Celebrate the success of others. Everyone has something beneficial to offer. Instead of wasting time comparing yourself to others or sizing people up, appreciate what they bring to the table. Surround yourself with smart, driven people and find ways to work together to achieve success.
Pursue growth.Continue to get better and better. Read, investigate, experiment, absorb, reflect. View both your successes and failures as growth opportunities and NEVER stop learning.
To ensure Relevance, organizations must employ new and different marketing in a fast moving and interconnected digital world
To be courageous does not have to be foolhardy. Rather, being courageous is an act of confidence particularly in the face of fear.
For marketers today, it’s easy to be overwhelmed in a world of constant change, information overload, and shifting purchase patterns. Just upholding the status quo and staying within the boundaries of what’s already been done get you nowhere. Yet, many brands and organizations are uneasy about stepping out of the norm for fear of failure. These are terrifying prospects for a true marketer.
However, the situation is not getting any easier. Social channels have removed the wall between you and your customer, anyone with a good story can tip the media landscape, consumers have more information about you and your products than ever before. Prior to any purchase, consumers are more interested in how you think and what you sell, and choice comes down to convenience.
All of this has refocused marketing around purpose.
The good news is that any successful marketers’ archetype has always been that of a rule breaker, an early adopter, and often times a gambler. Because all successful marketers like you, know that there is always a point in time where you take the leap of faith. You don’t really know what will happen when you launch your program to the real world, but you go for it anyway. When others zig, you zag, when the latest trend has been embraced by the masses, you offer a different story and point of view. You create a brand that is wildly differentiating while remaining concretely relevant. You’ve been here before, but the stakes are higher, and things happen so much faster. Taking that leap can seem more daunting. Being courageous can be that much more difficult.
But actually, the very thing that we fear can actually give us more courage.
The proliferation of voices and fast-moving communications is scary only if we do not understand it and we do not know the consequences. By measuring, understanding and even predicting through the use of analytics, we can leverage this landscape to turn down the volume of fear and turn up courage to make bigger leaps than ever before.
Starting with the right insights and armed with the right approach and tools, today’s marketer can absolutely thrive, led by a renewed courage to push the envelope at launch and learn along the way.
There are seven main steps:
1. Begin with Insight
Observe market and audience behaviors to garner foundational insights you can leverage for creative, messaging and marketing channels. There is so much you can do through publicly available digital data in today’s world.
2. Align with an Authentic Brand
Live and breathe by your brands’ values and core purpose. Continue to be relentless when deciding how you engage.
3. Lead with a Creative Bang
The most compelling message will fail to find an audience if you don’t find a quick and smart way to tell your story.
4. Architect Non-Linear Storytelling with Different Channels
Today’s proliferation of media channels means you can no longer count on a linear approach. Seed various levels of content fine-tuned for each channel, informed by your insights.
5. Enable and Plan for Pivots
Put in place measurement and key performance indicators to optimize and pivot against. If your main goal is to build a qualified customer list, build your metrics around that and optimize your marketing spend against it.
6. Prepare for Possible Crisis
Know who you should care about and plan for all the known knowns and known unknowns. When unwanted conversations start to happen, measure their impact through analytics (Who is talking? Is this person relevant? Who is engaging downstream? Do they matter?) before engaging.
7. Reinvent – Begin with Insight
And when the dust settles, it’s time to make another ruckus!
Just like anything else, it all begins with preparation. Resist and plan for fear by going through these critical steps, infusing courage into your marketing.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not the absence of fear” – Mark Twain
If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page! Want to chat with us? Drop us a line.
Simply put, W2O is a marketing-communications firm driven by insight integration to give brands an unfair advantage. But, how do we deliver on our promise? We follow the right data and truly integrate across all services our firm offers.
First, we start with our analytics. With over 100 analysts working in 20 of the most spoken languages, we’re the most analytics-driven agency on the planet. Whether it’s audience discovery, social listening, or customer insight mapping – every engagement starts with data.
But it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about the story they tell, and how that informs your strategy. Whether this requires support in digital efforts, ad campaigns, content strategy, PR, corporate communications, or anything in between, we offer services across analytics, strategy, creative, and engagement. No matter your needs, we have the necessary capabilities to be your agency of record.
Forward thinking brands work with us, are you ready to join them?
Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About page.