We Get the Lessons Before the Test

Life Lessons from C-Suite hosted by Paypal and produced by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, with featured speaker Jennifer Risi, Worldwide Chief Communications Officer at Ogilvy. The Paypal offices were the perfect location for this event. The attendees were an attractive crop of people. Everything lined up just perfectly – the anchor and moderator was Hope King, Cheddar.

What is C-Suite? It’s the high-level executives who are in senior positions of management at major worldwide companies. For instance, it’s the 3 positions that start with C in large corporations. Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Chief Communications Officer (CCO). Chief is the operative word it seems. Henceforth, we have the term C-Suite.

Jennifer Risi is not your typical C-Suiter. She’s cool as a cucumber and great to listen to, unlike many C-suiters I’ve heard speak in the past. Jennifer told us upfront that she didn’t have a plan for her career. She got a job in PR, and it seems she ran with it and it worked out swimmingly. All the other C-Suiters I had the pleasure of reading about had a plan or strategy.

Jennifer is confident and authentic; I would go as far as to say, “She’s dope,” as my friend Chad says. My guess is that she‘s probably the first in her family/first generation to have a corporate success story. She’s straightforward and as I listened, I could see that her team, who sat beaming with pride and ready to jump in to support, were really proud of her.

I enjoy attending events produced by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. I always learn a lot. It’s like being a voyeur outside the speaker’s office. Not only do I learn about their ascent and how they got to be successful in their current positions, but I also get to learn about the books they’re reading. Not Jennifer, she gets her reading through her work very straight, not trying to look good at all. I discover if they have a sense of humor and see how they handle stress and deal with failures. Most importantly for me, I get to see how they deal with people and handle challenges.

I learn how C-Suiters crafted their careers, or in Jennifer’s case, how she fell into hers. C-suiters, for me, seem self-aware, honor their word, and are likeable people. They seem like people I would enjoy hanging out with and listening to their stories.

I’m borderline obsessed with the way Jennifer’s staff appeared. I was so intrigued. I asked them a few questions after Jennifer’s talk. It was just what I expected – they love her! The questions I asked were simple, but everything about their answers worked:

Does Jennifer micromanage?

Answer: No

Does she give you space?

Answer: Yes

Does she allow you to fail, learn, and grow?

Answer: Yes.

From Jennifer’s talk and from these one word answers, I learned a lot of information about her management style. Jennifer is who she says she is – an open door. For me, it was a breath of fresh air. She provides her people the work and gives them free range to do it their way. She allows for mistakes because she knows her team and knows that people learn from mistakes. Jennifer, it seems, doesn’t have a typical management style; she does not manage people. She manages agreements which allows them space to learn and grow and fess up when mistakes happen.

In her early career, Jennifer shared that she was described as and told she had hard edges. I thought about this statement for myself and my life. I’ve been told that I can be pushy. I came to the conclusion that if you’re a forward-thinking chick who has the potential for success or to make a difference, you’re a strong woman. You’ve probably heard that statement or experienced a similar description of yourself. And, if you’re a man reading this, you might’ve referred to a woman or two with some negative connotation (not all men, but some); you know who you are. Furthermore, if you’re a woman who does her job and has at least one ounce of passion, I’m sure you’ve heard something distasteful said about you. Maybe you’ve even been called a bitch, if not to your face, definitely behind your back.

Jennifer is hardworking, wise, and knows how to play the game of corporate life. She takes criticism and feedback constructively and uses it as food for her soul and as an opportunity to grow, no matter how challenging or difficult it may seem. She addresses criticism in a way where she finds value in it and allows it to move her forward and not take her out of her game.

My takeaway from Jennifer’s talk was: surround yourself with trusted colleagues and create a strong network of people you trust. Create relationships with human resources; make them your partners.

Jennifer Risi, to me, is passion, creativity, and integrity. She owns her voice, creates her value, speaks her truth and lives life her way.

Love yourself! Until next time!