Recap: A No BS Interview with Renetta McCann

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Last Tuesday, we were fortunate to host Renetta McCann, the Chief Inclusion Experience Officer of Publicis Groupe, for a “Candid Conversation” experience as part of the Ignite Community. Recognized as one of the leading innovators and most influential executives in the advertising, marketing, and media industries, Renetta provided an honest look at what we can all do to learn, change, and grow on our personal and professional journey.

Over the course of an hour, Renetta discussed a broad range of topics, from her upbringing in the South Side of Chicago to her rise (and then departure) as CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Worldwide. She provided context for the growing expectation of finding “meaning and purpose” in the workplace, and discussed the challenges companies face engaging the current generation of employees. She shared mistakes and failures she’s made along the way, and gave a contrarian and thoughtful point of view on the popular saying “bring your whole self to work.” Here are a few of the highlights of our candid conversation (paraphrased for easier reading):

  • The Evolving Workplace: As you look at the evolution of the workplace, companies have not been set up to support the needs of the individual. They are designed to maximize business outcomes. Today workers have more power and influence than ever - they have a voice that is amplified by social media and our digitally connected society - so there is a reckoning happening as the corporate world seeks to balance the individual desires for meaning, purpose, and social consciousness with the needs of the business. I believe company leaders want to get this right, but it’s a slow process. You need to continue to use your voice and influence to move things forward.

  • “Bringing Your Full Self to Work”: I’m one of the very few people who believe that the maxim “bring your whole self to work” doesn’t quite hit the mark. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t bring to the workplace...like the fight you just got into with your dog, cat, or spouse. What people need to do instead is be situationally self-aware and match what you can provide in a specific situation to what is most appropriate in that circumstance.  People come to me and say, “I want to move up, I want to advance in my career,” but then they aren’t thoughtful about when and where to bring certain strengths or parts of themselves to the table. Be strategic! Match what you do well and what you are most passionate about with the opportunities and needs of the company.

  • My Philosophy On Mistakes: Own it. Don’t cover it up. Don’t run and hide, make excuses or try to blame someone else. This is especially true if you are a leader - take responsibility and then use it as a teachable moment for yourself and others.

  • Does Culture Eat Strategy For Breakfast?: Yes, culture eats strategy for breakfast. But power eats anything and everything whenever it wants. We still have a long way to go in changing the systems of power at work in our companies and the world, so that there’s more inclusion and equity.

Our Favorite Quote: “Being a CEO is hard. It’s like climbing Everest - you can die going up and you can die doing down.”