Creatis - Creatis
OK - I'll admit it. I don't know how to 'not work'. When introducing myself at meetings during the 'go around the room and say who you are' part, it takes all of my will power not to shout out, "Hi, my name is Kathy and I'm a workaholic". I tried it at a networking gathering once, but not ONE person in the room shouted back "Hi, Kathy" - so I never did THAT again. (Those of you familiar with 12-step program meetings may appreciate that little attempt at humor). And my recovery has been going so well. On a vacation to Florida earlier this year my team said "now don't you work - just enjoy yourself". And I tried to not work. I really did. But there was a really fast internet connection. And I guess I could just NOT 'not work'.
And you know what?! That's OK.
So I may be the poster child for 'always doing something' and the queen of multi-tasking, but it works for me. I've spent most of my career feeling guilty about 'working to much', about not spending enough time with my family or making others who work with/for me feel guilty because they didn't work as much as I did. But I'm not feeling badly about it anymore, because I've realized that we all define balance in our own way. We all define success in our own way. We all decide how to integrate and align the many complexities and demands in our lives in ways that work for us.
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want
to test a man's character - give him power."
- Abraham Lincoln
Earlier this year we went through the season of honoring our historic presidents - and as we are living in very interesting political times I think it serves us well to look back so we can move forward. I expect I wasn't the only person who googled Abraham Lincoln on that 'not-quite-a-holiday-so-we-still-had-to-work" recognition of his birthday, and found a treasure trove of quotes that are still relevant today.
Over the course of my 30-year career in marketing, I've had the privilege (and pain) of managing many large marketing, CRM, customer database and web projects working with some very talented IT and Project Management professionals. One thing I often heard was, "Well, Kathy, you can have it cheap, you can have it fast, or you can have it good. Which two do you want?"
Client Spotlight: Portico Benefit Services
The word “portico” quite literally comes from the Latin word meaning “porch.” Over the centuries the definition has shifted slightly to mean “a structure with a roof.”
And what does a roof provide? As Bob Dylan might say, a little “shelter from the storm.”
Portico Benefit Services is that roof and shelter for leaders and employees of the ELCA and other faith-based organizations. It provides health benefits and wellness programs that help members live well through retirement and beyond. Their work is not only unique and inspiring, but also requires many unique resources so that their members can take full advantage of the available benefits. And with more than 50,000 people to serve across the U.S., their marketing team needed some extra arms and legs to help spread the word.
Cue Creatis! If Portico is the roof, then that would make Creatis one of the support beams.
Because we’re a one-stop-shop helping companies get marketing work done quickly and with excellence, we offered exactly the type of services they could use.
So for the past five years, Creatis has provided on-site resources and studio services to support Portico’s many marketing needs. Currently, we’re completing around 30 Portico projects per month in our studio, including: e-newsletters, brochures, website content, flyers, trade show booths, video edits and much more. We’ve also placed healthcare writers, project managers and other marketing resources on-site at Portico to bolster their internal team.
As an example of how well our hybrid model works, here’s a fun fact: One of the fantastic project coordinators we placed as a contractor at Portico was recently hired as a full-time employee - and now our studio project coordinators work with him almost everyday! How’s that for full circle?
The partnership has been so effective that Portico utilizes Creatis exclusively for their additional marketing needs. So what’s the secret?
Portico Vice President Kristin Steffen sums it up nicely, “Our partnership with Creatis is effective because of the mutual respect and understanding between our companies. The Creatis Studio functions as an extension of our internal team to quickly and efficiently create and update a variety of digital and offline content for our members. Likewise, the Creatis Staffing team saves us precious time in recruiting and sourcing contract resources as our business needs shift and change.”
Both companies walk the talk when it comes to service. We both understand that a healthy working partnership takes transparency, accountability, and trust. We’ve developed this special rapport by fostering ongoing relationships with individuals, and not just by blindly making demands and requests.
Here’s to 5 more years (and then some!) of being a Portico support beam.
For more information on Portico Benefit Services, please visit:
It is a privilege to be in the business of matching great people with great jobs as we support our clients across the Twin Cities. Our success - and that of our clients - is dependent upon having a deep pool of well trained, diverse, experienced and AVAILABLE job seekers ready to join our teams.
And - as an employer in Minnesota - I have to say that I'm worried.
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to do a lot of lunches with people to talk about Creatis. Not only does this energize me (my 'off-the-chart' E of my Myers Briggs profile loves this)but it also gives me a wonderful excuse to reconnect with some of my favorite people from previous jobs.
"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." Winston Churchill
As we celebrate our 20 years of being in business helping marketing and creative leaders across the Twin Cities get more work done, it is the perfect time us to express our gratitude to those who have been on this journey with us, and to 'give back' to the community in a meaningful way.
As an employer of more than 120 people across the Twin Cities, we take seriously our commitment to being a best-in-class business to ensure our employees can make a successful living with us. We also take seriously our obligation as a successful company to share that success with others, which is why we developed our CreatisCares program.
Through CreatisCares, we focus on being a caring and contributing member of the Twin Cities professional community. While we support many non-profit organizations across the Twin Cities, we place special emphasis on those that, like Creatis, are dedicated to helping people improve job skills, get training and prepare for interviews so they can find great jobs and live better lives!
To bring this commitment to being Of Service to life this year, we have launched our 20for20 volunteering campaign where the Creatis leadership team has committed to completing at least 20 hours of community engagement through skills-based volunteering or monetary commitments in honor of our 20th anniversary. Beth Bitney and I were pleased to be participate in the practice interviewing sessions with Step-Up Achieve, which places Minneapolis youth in paid internships each year. It's just feels good to take a moment to give back, and we take the maxim of 'to whom much is given, much is required' to heart!
We hope you will join us in this effort to give back sometime during 2018. Look for more information in an upcoming Creatis eNews and on the CreatisCares section of our website.
I have created a fictional business executive named Grace. She's seasoned. She's smart. She's worked for great companies. She's steadily risen through the ranks. She goes 'all in' and is 110% committed to the company. And she's been given the chance to "pursue other opportunities" several times.
As you probably have already figured out, Grace is not a totally made up person as she is based on personal experiences from transitions I did over the course of my 30+ year career. I know first-hand that exiting a company will be the most terrifying and the most liberating experience you have (get) to face in your professional career. But there is life after (insert company name here).
I've read a lot of leadership books. Well - OK - I actually have BOUGHT quite a few books on leadership and have even read some of them. Which is why I found the new book by Paul Batz with Paul Hillen entitled "How Goodness Pays" so compelling. It's a small but powerful book jam packed with ideas on how leading with goodness helps a business engage more customers, retain more employees and make more money. Amazing - and how can one argue with Goodness?!?
Starting with their definition of Goodness in business which is: when people thrive together in a culture of encouragement, accountabilty and positive teamwork. Their research quantified the impact of leading with Goodness, and they identify the Five Goodness Pays Factors that, when present in a business, consistently lead to positive financial results. These Five Factors are:
- Compelling business plan - having a business plan that creates genuine employee engagement and followership.
- Belief that profits are healthy for all - building commitment to the idea that profits are beneficial for everyone including employees, executives and owners.
- Team-based culture- creating a culture that rewards a 'we is greater than me' approach (which dovetails perfectly with how Creatis define our value of Teamwork).
- Timely and transparent decision-making - gain employee respect by making decisions in a timely fashion and being accountable for the behaviors and results that come from these decisions.
- Magnetic ethics - attracting good people by role modelling what is and what is not acceptable (which parellels the Creatis Doing What's Right value).
I know a business executive named Grace. She's seasoned. She's smart. She does yoga. She calls herself an 'intrapreneur'. She only knows how to be 'all in' and is always 110% committed to anything she takes on. And she's been given the chance to "pursue other opportunities" more than once.
As you may have guessed, Grace looks a lot like me and how to "Go With Grace" is based on my transition experiences over the course of my 30+ year professional career. I know first-hand that exiting a company will be the most terrifying and liberating experience you have (get) to face. But have hope... because I guarantee that there is life after (insert company name here).
I love Halloween - always have. My 'go-to' costumes growing up were a gypsy or princess - largely because my sister and I could just raid our mother's scarf and jewelry drawers and whip something up. We'd head out the door with our pillow cases in hand ready to fill them with candy. Growing up in St. Cloud meant we had blocks and blocks of middle-class houses just like ours to stop at - everyone had their light on - and we'd wander home hours later with sack full of goodies and big smiles on our faces.
And Halloween still makes me smile, but these days my 'go-to' costume is Snow White - primarily because I got a really nice one when at Caribou Coffee - and I DO have the hair for it, So during my long commute home on Halloween in my full Snow White gear (which yielded a few friendly honks and waves) - I took time to ponder what all of us as employees and leaders might learn from this beloved princess from long ago which includes:
- You may not ever be the fairest of them all - but you can still be darn fair. No matter how hard you work, there may be someone on the team who appears to be more talented or well-connected or experienced than you are. Nothing you can do about that. The key is to keep yourself as 'fair' as possible - keep your skills sharp, volunteer for that extra project to get exposure to other teams, ask for feedback on how you can get better or take some additional training classes in the evenings or on weekends. Because often 'fairness' has nothing to do with promotions - but hard work, being highly skilled and excellent at what you do sure does.
- Be Happy - no one wants to work with Grumpy, Sleepy or Dopey. Everyone can have a bad day, except maybe Snow White. But stay as positive, energetic and, well, happy as you can. Be a problem-solver not a problem-stater. Make good things better. Be that person that others want to be around.
- Routinely look in your own magic mirror which doesn't lie. You know the story - the evil queen looks in the magic mirror and hear's some hard truth that Snow White is now the fairest in the land. Know your strengths but, more importantly, know your weaknesses and where you get stuck. Find that 'magic mirror' in a boss or co-worker that you trust and ask him/her to help you know your blindspots. Not easy - but so necessary.
- Watch out for those poison apples. Some people build you up and some drag you down. Stay away from the gossipers and the complainers. Align yourself with those that share your drive for excellence and that want you to succeed. Be smart enough to be able to tell the difference.
- Always do the right thing - even when it's hard. Even the huntsman figured it out and did the right thing in the end. Be clear on your personal values. Set and always honor what lines you will never cross. Strive to always do what's right not just for yourself but also for your company. Do this even when it isn't the easy thing to do.
- One quality can set you apart from others - take advantage of it.Each of the dwarfs had a trait that made him special and set him apart from everyone else. Maximize those top one or two things that make you special - surround yourself with people that are different than you and who complement your strengths. Remember to respect and accept your other dwarfs and honor their special skills. After all - it did take all seven to save Snow White.
I've been called many things during the course of my career - but generally not a princess (which is probably good I guess??). So it is such great fun for me to pretend I am a princess each year on Halloween because it reminds me of these key lessons and helps me not take myself too seriously. And - by the way - it is REALLY hard to be taken seriously while conducting a meeting in a princess costume. But I do recommend you try it sometime - you may not get any work done but I guarantee you'll get some laughs.
So today is National Boy Scout Day. How cool. Unfortunately, I was never a Boy Scout because in my day they didn't let girls join the troop. Which always bugged me because even back then girls could certainly hunt, camp and survive in the woods. Oh well, at least we had our cookies.
It's hard to live in Minnesota lately. Really hard! Closed schools, 3+-hour commutes, 20 degrees below zero and freezing cold offices have challenged even the heartiest of us Minnesotans. But we do choose to live here. Free will and all that. But with more snow storms heading our way, it kinda makes you wonder why we made this choice, doesn't it?
I live in Becker and have a 60-mile drive to Minneapolis - so a 2 to 3 hour commute is not that uncommon for me. I just tell myself "Suck it up, Buttercup" because it is MY choice to live in the cornfields so far away from our office. We all make choices in our personal and professional lives - some intentional and some accidental - but either way we have to live with these choices. Or do we?
I got a chance to speak at the Executive Forum for Career Partners Twin Cities (www.cpitwincities.com), which is an executive coaching and transition services firm that has been instrumental in my career. During our forum discussion, we used my career as a backdrop and talked through some of the key pivots - choices - that I have made during my career and the good/bads that went along with each.
Here are some of those key pivots:
- Grad School or Bust. -After getting an undergrad in business I started working in St. Cloud as an HR assistant for $13,800 a year (seemed like a lot back then). I made the intentional choice to go back for an MBA after two years of working as I wanted to move into the 'big city' and get into marketing. Today I get asked often if an MBA or some type of advanced certification is a good idea. My very helpful answer to this is, "It depends." If you want to shift functional disciplines or gain new skills that add to what you already have - I do recommend it. But evaluate if the time and money you need to invest is worth it - as just getting more of the same training with some additional fancy letters may not make sense.
- But Won't I Miss the Winters? - I had a great opportunity to move to Atlanta for a job early on in my career - although it meant moving away from my family here in Minnesota. Was I willing to take the leap for a job that could set up my career - or would I play it safe and comfortable? I did take the job which led to 5 years of leading global marketing programs and travel to more than 20 countries. Fortunately, I got lucky in that my husband and I found a way to make the commute work (although we never got a chance to have children which is one of my biggest regrets.) Career choices aren't always easy, but when a great opportunity presents itself that seems like the perfect fit - I say grab it. It may be awhile before it comes along again and definitely is worth a try.
- Getting Fired Can Mean Opportunity - I was blessed to lead marketing and product development at Caribou Coffee for a few years - one of my absolute favorite jobs to this day. When a new CEO was brought in during my tenure I was given the chance to work out a transition to onboard my replacement and then stay on as a consultant for another 6 months. This lead me to the accidental choice of starting my own consulting business, Blackline Marketing, with my first client being Caribou. But I will say, I had to check my ego at the door each morning as it wasn't easy to onboard the guy who was replacing me or go sit in a cube - but it was worth it. It is devasting to lose a job you love, but try to stay positive and look for the opportunity that may come along with it. It may just set up your next great career step.
- Helps to be Lucky AND Good. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Creatis board over ten years ago, which put me in a great place to join Creatis as President in 2014. Are you putting yourself in enough of the right places that can lead to opportunities? If not - make the choice now to focus on building out your network, get engaged with a non-profit or actively seek to join the board of a small to medium-sized company. Good things can follow, but you have to get yourself out there as being in the 'right place at the right time' doesn't just happen by itself.
According to Wikipedia, “my two cents” is a United States idiomatic expression taken from the original English expression ‘to put in my two pennies worth’ or ‘my two-penn’orth’. It is used to preface the tentative stating of one’s opinion, because by deprecating the opinion to follow (suggesting its value is only two cents), the user of the phrase hopes to lessen the impact of a possibly contentious statement, showing politeness and humility.
How interesting! (But, of course, that’s just my two cents.)
As I begin sharing personal and professional comments via this Creatis blog, I certainly hope you find my opinions and content useful. Those that know me well might suggest that I am not one typically afraid of sharing my point of view. But what I have shared in the past was often more carefully ‘managed’ then they might have realized.
One, if not the first, piece of advice when starting an investment portfolio is to diversify. It's a way to help reduce the volatility of your portfolio over time, and essentially balance the risk and reward for your investments. A simple concept that puts the investor in a good position. However, many marketers aren't taking the same approach with their staffing and resourcing models causing them to deplete their budgets too fast, put their current employees at risk and simply not get as much done in their organization. Let me explain.
As you may have guessed – I am an avid golfer. So much so that many of my colleagues have encouraged me over the years to go find a marketing job in the golf industry. “You’d be perfect!” was a common thing I’d hear. “You love marketing. You love golf. You fancy yourself above average in both. It’s a real no-brainer.”
But for some reason I didn’t want my personal passion to be my work passion – if that makes any sense. Probably because if my golf game went to hell and I began to hate the game I now love, I’d also start to hate my job and then I’d be left with nothing!
I love change, always have. Which is why I think Fall is my favorite time of year. Changing colors. Changing temperatures. Changing wardrobes. But too much change in a career is a bad thing, right? We all know that staying in a job for a least two years is GOOD and that being branded a 'job jumper' is BAD. But for me, career changes have been a blessing (even though I expect I looked more like this picture during that time than I care to admit). But in life and in business, the real truth is that the more things change the more things DON'T stay the same. And thank God for that - or life would be very, very dull.
I have the privilege of connecting with many highly talented business professionals who are in the midst of changing jobs. Some by choice - some not - but all in the same state of uncertainty about what will come next that can truly be debilitating. In my previous blog about How To "Go With Grace" During Life's Transitions, I shared what I have learned during my four job transitions:
- What you DO is not who you ARE as a person.
- Build your network before you need it.
- Finding a job IS a job.
- Take full advantage of experts and resources available to you.
- Take time for YOU.
So with all of this change happening around me I have been pondering - what makes some people more successful in managing change than others? Why do some people thrive when facing a job transition and land on their feet so successfully while others become stymied with no plan for moving forward? One of our team members did a little digging for me about how people who successfully handle change are wired, and he found an interesting post on forbes.com that identified the top things that make someone adaptable which include:
- Adaptable people see opportunity where others see failure.
- Adaptable people experiment.
- Adaptable people stay current.
- Adaptable people don't whine.
- Adaptable people don't blame.
- Adaptable people are curious.
- Adaptable people know what they stand for.
The good news for me is that I see myself in all of these traits (well - except maybe the 'don't whine' part on occassion), which I know has helped me successfully navigate the job changes I've faced. How much do they describe you?
"If you are not listening, you are not learning."
- Lyndon B. Johnson
"Leadership means duty, honor, country. It means character and even listening from time to time."
- George W. Bush
"Being President is like running a cemetery; you've got a lot of people under you but nobody's listening."
- Bill Clinton
I consider it a privilege to be President at Creatis. I wasn't elected into the role. My team didn't necessarily get to "vote me in" or choose that I was going to be their boss. But I had worked hard over the years and then got a bit lucky by being in the right place at the right time. And I take my 'presidency' role very seriously because with privilege comes obligation. The obligation to work hard to be a great boss. To know when to speak and, more importantly, to know when to keep my mouth shut. And yes, I am still working on that last part.
So I'm an extrovert - pretty much always have been. For those of you who are also extroverts, I bet you immediately thought of me as engaging, energetic and talkative gal who might be fun to meet for a glass of wine. For all you introverts out there (including the one I married), I heard your loud groan from here and bet you were thinking - 'Ah geez - here comes another Chatty Kathy who is going to talk my ear off and sap all of the energy right out of me'. But even us Chatty Kathy's know when to keep our mouths shut. Or - at least we are working on it.
So before we get to the debate around who makes a better leader - extroverts or introverts - let's talk Chatty Cathy as I am sure you are dying to know her history. Chatty Cathy was a pull string 'talkative' doll manufactured by the Mattel toy company from 1959 to 1965. The doll was first released in stores and then appeared in TV commercials starting in 1960. Chatty Cathy was the most popular doll of the 1960's after Barbie, and "spoke" phrases at random when the "chatty ring" protruding from her upper back was pulled. Chatty Cathy's original repertoire included 11 phrases like, "I love you", and an additional 7 phrases were added in 1963 to include such compelling asks as "May I have a cookie?" Hmmmm....wouldn't it be interesting if all off-the-chart extroverts were restricted to just 18 phrases during any meeting. Wonder how that might change the flow of discussions.
Because extroverts tend to be outgoing, charismatic, socially confident and communicative - we fit right into the Chatty Cathy persona. Introverts, on the other hand, are typically deemed as shy, quiet, modest and cautious - someone who needs time alone at the end of a long day to recharge and who is less likely to dominate a conversation or have to be the center of attention. As I expect you know, there is a ton of research out there on who makes a better leader between extroverts and introverts which I find just fascinating (although sometimes contradictory). And of course the answer is neither.....or both.
Extroverts tend to command the center of attention and be the head of a discussion, which makes leaders with that profile very effective at invigorating others around them and managing people who like to follow. Introverts, on the other hand, have a predisposition to listen to and consider the suggestions of others which makes them great at leading highly proactive employees who wish to have a say in what gets done and how. Extroverts are great at providing vision. Introverts are calm in a crisis. Extroverts typically have a huge network of friends and colleagues that a business can access. Introverts are typically excellent written communicators and highly effective in building one-on-one relationships both inside and outside your organization.
So which is better? Guess you'll have to pull my Chatty Kathy string to hear my answer this time. But I know we all agree that diversity yields better results and to be effective as a leader you must surround yourself with people who bring different skills and competencies to your team. But for all of us extroverts who naturally tend to dominate a room and who JUST WON'T STOP talking, some words of advice: two ears, one mouth, use proportionately.
I never had the chance to have kids. So I never went through the stage where my two-year old son questioned everything by asking 'why' over and over (and over) - or the teenage years when my daughter did EXACTLY the opposite of what I asked her to do. I never got a chance to use the "Just do it because I say so" or "I'm the mom, that's why" lines - a skill which quite honestly may have come in handy during my business career. But employees aren't children of course, and using the "just do as I say" directive is not very effective leadership. Even if at times one gets awfully frustrated when things aren't getting done.
Whether baby boomer or millennial or gen z, it strikes me that no one likes to be told what to do. Or at least the highly productive business professionals I've worked with don't. We all want to feel empowered. We all want to control our own destiny. We all want to have expectations of us clearly stated so we can do great work. I doubt that any of us show up to work with a goal of NOT meeting our boss' expectations of what is needed from us that day.
So why is it, then, that people don't always do what they say they are going to do?
I was talking recently with my friend and colleague, Kurt Theriault, who is the President of Allied Executives, about how to effectively run our business and he shared this model with me. As an aside - Allied Executives is a great resource for business leaders and sponsors the CEO Peer group that I participate in monthly. Check 'em out at www.alliedexecutives.com.
We were discussing why seemingly talented and engaged business people sometimes just aren't cutting it. Even with crystal clear direction on what is expected of them, they can not or will not do what is needed. He shared the following reasons why this might be happening:
- Don't Know Was Supposed To -This is the scenario where an employee has the right attitude and skills, but is working from unclear direction. He/she probably has not had great engagement from a boss who has clearly stated what is expected of them. The fix here is easy - review his/her seat, seek understanding of what they believe the deliverables of that seat are, and then clarify expectations and help prioritize actions.
- Doesn't Know How - Similar to the scenario above, this situation has a fairly easy solve. Most of us aren't keen to admit we don't know how to do something, and often times this can get in our way of doing a job well. The solve here is to fully engage with your employee and be honest. Let him/her know that something isn't getting done and ask them why this is happening - ask them what is getting in their way of doing that particular task or achieving an expected outcome. If you've created a caring and trusting work environment where it is OK to admit a gap in skills or knowledge - this will come out and together you can focus on the right training or coaching needed to fill this gap.
- Don't Have Capacity- Gaps in capacity comes in many forms and some are solvable (and some not). Again the solve is open and honest communication with employees about where they are getting stuck or what is getting in their way. If they say they don't have 'time' - them help them re-prioritize their focus. If it is a work/life balance issue, that will require a little more conversation. Bottom line - as the leader you need to probe for understanding of what the real issue is - and coach 'em up or move 'em out depending on what you hear.
- Don't Want To or Don't Like To - The solve here is easy, this person has to go away. There is very little we can do as leaders to MAKE someone do something they fundamental don't wish to do. Don't waste your energy and cut your losses.