Effective leaders possess the ability to acknowledge their own errors and extract valuable lessons from them. That was certainly true for Anne Green, the CEO-Elect of G&S Business Communications.
On the newest Taking the Lead video podcast, she openly discusses a mistake she made during CooperKatz’s acquisition by G&S Business Communications in 2018. Plus, she shares additional valuable leadership insights. Here are excerpts from the full video interview:
You’ve worked for two respected leaders I’ve long admired, Ralph Katz ‘(Go Cuse!) and the late Andy Cooper. What are the most important things you’ve learned about leadership from each of them?
I met Andy and Ralph at 19 during my internship at Burson-Marsteller, New York, in '92. They taught me four valuable qualities: kindness, courage, ethics, and commitment to excellence. They were generous leaders, and I aim to emulate their kindness. In a world that sometimes values cruelty, I stand by kindness. They showed courage in both personal and business aspects, essential in agency work. Their strong ethical framework influenced me, and I prioritize ethical decision-making. Lastly, their commitment to excellence meant late nights perfecting pitches, fostering a culture of dedication without being a sweatshop.
Speaking of colleges, some of your peers studied PR, mass communications, or got an MBA. You have an M. Phil. (A.B.D.) from New York University, with a focus on 19th-century American literature. What did you learn about leadership from studying that?
I completed most of my Ph.D. but left during the dissertation stage, leading to jokes among academic friends about being a "ghost." My undergrad at Vassar College was in English, Women's Studies, and vocal performance. Initially, I aimed to become a professor, which may explain my career path. I left Burson-Marsteller for my Ph.D., freelanced there, and then joined Cooper Katz, eventually realizing that this was my career. I never regretted the shift, valuing intellectual curiosity and a love for learning in our field. Grad school also granted me openness to diverse perspectives and critical thinking skills, particularly in the theory-heavy '90s. It taught me to quickly grasp and communicate complex concepts, which is vital in our fast-paced client-focused field. Whether it's an MBA or liberal arts humanities, advanced learning enriches leadership in PR.
In light of the fact that you’ve been named CEO starting in January 2024, I guess we can say that the acquisition of CooperKatz by G&S Business Communications has gone well. That said, what do you know now that you wish you had known at the time of the acquisition?
Despite the challenges, I consider the acquisition a success, though I wish I had known about the impending pandemic for better real estate and talent decisions. COVID disrupted our integration process, causing some talent movement. However, I value people's paths and think overall it went well. One hindsight insight is that we should have mixed account teams sooner to foster quicker collaboration and friendships. Working in a hybrid environment has made us more intentional, with a mix of office and remote work, and we're continually adapting to the needs of different life stages and office locations. We've even had sessions on managing excellence in a hybrid environment to ensure inclusive leadership.
Now that you’ll be at the helm, what’s your vision for the agency? And how will you manage two of the biggest challenges facing agency leaders today: Salary equity and reaching DE&I goals?
I'll break it down into two parts. Firstly, regarding the vision, it's an intentional, organic evolution driven by our shareholder group and CEO, Luke Lambert. It aims to provide diverse opportunities for our people, clients, and the agency as a whole, unleashing our full potential. This includes deepening our integration across disciplines, fostering diversity and inclusive leadership, enhancing our brand's visibility, and maintaining excellence in our operations.
Secondly, on the pay equity and DE&I front, we've conducted a thorough pay equity analysis and implemented best practices to ensure equitable compensation. However, our DE&I journey is ongoing. We've made progress in talent diversity but recognize the need to diversify senior leadership. Our focus is on inclusive leadership, retention, and creating a sense of belonging. We're committed to intentional recruitment, candidate diversity, and improving the overall experience of our diverse team members. Marjani Williams, our VP of DE&I, plays a crucial role in this effort, integrating DE&I with client service to enhance its impact on the business.
Here’s a question I believe I asked you for my Taking the Lead column in PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics many years ago: You came to leadership rather early in your career. What were the benefits of doing so? What were the downsides?
The upside is that I've gained extensive organizational leadership experience over almost 23 years, being part of crucial business decisions and understanding the intricacies of our operations. This experience provides a deep well to draw from when facing challenges, like the curveball COVID threw at us. I find courage in our past successes and our strong leadership team.
The downside, as you mentioned earlier, is that leadership carries a significant burden. While I embrace this responsibility, I've learned that I must establish boundaries and prioritize self-care to prevent it from overwhelming me. Colleagues like Brian Hall, who will become president, and support from my husband, friends, and therapy have been invaluable in helping me maintain balance and be the best leader I can be.
Ken Jacobs is the principal of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching, which empowers PR and communications leaders and executives to breakthrough results via executive coaching, and helps communications agencies achieve their business development, profitability, and client service goals, via consulting and training. You can find him at www.jacobscomm.com, [email protected] @KensViews, or on LinkedIn.