It was a chilly November morning in Manhattan. This was my first visit to the Federated Media NYC office since we executed a pretty significant re-org, and one of the moves we made was the creation of an Art Department. The creatives were in disparate parts of the org, so we moved them together under a new manager, Cara, who had been serving as our Photo Director.
I sat down with Cara and her new manager, another change from the reorg, to discuss the new role. We talked about the vision for the team, key projects, strengths and weaknesses of the staff, and how she would get her current work done while also taking on management responsibility. It was a great conversation, and the best part came when Cara said “I feel like Sheryl Sandberg would be disappointed if I didn’t bring up compensation.”
People had a variety of reactions to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In when it was released, but I think everyone can agree that Sheryl drove conversations around women and the workplace. More than a year later, she’s still driving conversations, in this case around something that is difficult to discuss regardless of gender – compensation.
For Cara, it was not about dropping Sandberg’s name, it was about when and how she did it. She had come to the meeting prepared. She had drafted her ideas on vision for the team, on where to dig in first, and on her new staff. She asked good questions. She took actions. And then she navigated us to compensation, with Sandberg’s name, and also with a smile. She broke the ice on what is typically a difficult conversation, and cut to the chase. I loved it.
So what happened?
Cara got a raise. Not because she invoked Sheryl Sandberg, but because she had performed. Because she was taking on more responsibility. Because she deserved it. But did Cara’s navigation of the conversation give me a nudge to make the move more quickly? Absolutely.
What else did Cara do right?
She was always hungry for more, but never looked past the job that she was in. When we would meet, she would first take me through all of the ass she was kicking in her day-to-day work. The satisfaction from brands, cost savings from photo vendors, more inclusion of independent artists – at higher quality. It was AFTER she made sure she was crushing it in her current duties that she pitched us on more. An idea for a new line of business. A proposal for incremental headcount. Cara hadn’t asked to be put in charge of the Art Department. She distinguished herself as a passionate leader in the organization and when it was time for change, we leaned on her to formalize that leadership role.Singular Beauty, by Cara Phillips
Why is she so passionate?
I believe that people who have passions outside of work bring the most passion to their work. One of the things I loved most about the team we had at Federated Media was that so many of our people worked as content creators outside of the office. Cara is an accomplished photographer and her work has been featured on Business Insider, Huffington Post, and Slate, to name a few. Her portrait project Ultraviolet Beauties was covered globally, and another project, Singular Beauty, was released as a book. Nothing disappointing about that.
How have you navigated a difficult conversation?