Barri Rafferty is a visionary and transformational leader, who was the first woman to run a top-five communications consultancy as CEO of Ketchum and led communications and brand management for Wells Fargo. She is currently serving as the interim CEO for C200, an organization dedicated to advancing women in business. Her superpower is being equal parts right brain and left brain.
Barri is a pioneering, creative thinker who is energized by innovation, and generates and champions big ideas that reshape markets, industries and brands. She always starts by listening, and leaning into analytics and measurement.
Barri is a tested, business builder who embraces and incorporates the newest tools and capabilities available such as digital, influencer and social in order to position businesses to capitalize on trends and engage customer loyalty. She possesses superior relationship-building skills with the ability to distill complex information, manage risk, persevere through challenges and act as a trusted team member to stakeholders while growing and scaling businesses of varied sizes.
As a confident, persuasive communicator with global public relations and brand expertise Barri has overseen internal and external communications, financial communications, government affairs, social impact, digital/social channels; product/service and enterprise brand campaigns, employer brand, corporate affairs, reputation management and change management. She leverages the intersection of storytelling, analytics, technology, and omni-channel campaigns.
Those who work for Barri say she is a motivational manager who marries empathy and accountability to create a learning environment that allows people to reach their full potential. She is recognized as a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion both professionally and through her philanthropic work. She is also an in-demand speaker who enjoys sharing her knowledge on marketing trends, reputation management, and unconscious bias in business having spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, TedExEast, Praxis (India) and the Women’s Leadership Global Forum. Barri is known as a collaborative, problem-solving senior executive who at Wells Fargo modernized their internal function while cutting costs, and simultaneously enhancing brand favorability and trust.
As Ketchum’s CEO, she transformed and repositioned an established agency to be better adapted to meet the needs and challenges of an omni-channel global marketplace. While leading the firm they shined creatively at Cannes winning 29 awards for 10 different clients in 2018. She has counseled clients in a broad range of categories from consumer products to tech, healthcare, retail and finance. She is an accomplished leader who serves on industry and non-profit boards, and who has been awarded for her management results and style.
Recent recognition since 2020 includes being named a Matrix honoree by New York Women in Communications, Outstanding Agency Professional of the Year by PRWeek, and named on Provoke’s Influence 100 List of influential in-house communicators. She is committed to bringing out the best in others and continually demonstrating her ability to successfully communicate findings, win supporters and move people and organizations to action.
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What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- About C200
- How C200 works with business leaders and entrepreneurs in the Atlanta area
- How employees are feeling about workplace well-being right now
- What empathy in the workplace looks like
- Why it’s more important than ever to lead with empathy
- How to build an empathetic workplace
- How to tell if you’re feeling workplace burnout and ways to avoid or combat it
- What companies can do to help people dealing with burnout
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:08] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for workplace wisdom, sharing insight, perspective and best practices for creating the planet’s best workplaces. Now here’s your host.
Stone Payton: [00:00:32] And welcome to another exciting and informative edition of Workplace Wisdom Stone Payton here with you this afternoon. This is going to be such a marvelous conversation. Please join me in welcoming to the broadcast with SI 200 to talk about the exec disconnect. Ms.. Barri Rafferty, how are you?
Barri Rafferty: [00:00:54] I’m doing great today. So nice to be here.
Stone Payton: [00:00:56] Well, it is a delight to have you on the show. I got a thousand questions. We won’t get to all of them, but perhaps it would be a good overview context for both me and the listeners to just learn a little bit about 200 mission purpose. What are you out there trying to do for folks?
Barri Rafferty: [00:01:14] Well, see, 200 is a global organization that’s comprised of successful women in business. And our goal is to help corporate leaders and entrepreneurs excel. And we want women to reach their full potential and to support one another and advance women in leadership. And there’s so much going on today where we all need additional support.
Stone Payton: [00:01:37] Well, it sounds like a noble pursuit to me. Got to know what is the back story? How in the world did you did you land here? Tell us a little bit about that path.
Barri Rafferty: [00:01:47] Well, I just recently became the interim CEO. I actually grew up in Atlanta. The first panel I ran was in Atlanta was for Ketchum, a global public relations firm there. I then became the CEO and then worked at Wells Fargo as head of Brand and Communications. So I’ve been on quite a journey and my passion the entire time has been to help support women reach the top echelons of companies. I was the first female CEO of a top five communications firm and have really always tried to help lift other women up.
Stone Payton: [00:02:24] To change the face of business by advancing women’s leadership in business, which those are not my words. I got that off of a little bit of pre-show research. Wow. What a lofty objective. Tell us a little bit about some of the things you’ve got in motion to to live into that.
Barri Rafferty: [00:02:43] Well, there’s some great programs. One actually is kicking off right now is what we call see ahead where this fall we’re taking women that are in operational roles but close to or have the potential to be at a C-suite in a company and creating an ongoing facilitation with them. We are going to have two days in person. They get to be mentored by a lot of our senior leaders. So if you go on and see 200 dot org a great chance to to join. And then we also have other programs called champion and Protege to support entrepreneurial businesses and help them. And we’ve done a lot of work in grants during COVID to help businesses continue to sustain and grow and scale.
Stone Payton: [00:03:28] Are you finding that people are embracing the idea of rallying around this, this set of purposes and trying to help you? Or do you find that it’s a sales and marketing job?
Barri Rafferty: [00:03:39] Well, the truth is there’s not a lot to sell because there’s so much need in the community. But we have a great roster of members. About 50% of our members are from the corporate side. Many are on corporate boards as well, and 50% are entrepreneurs. And so we leverage their networks. And also as a member network, we support each other. So we have a lot of programs for our members. And during the last two years, it’s really been a great time for us to support each other through a lot of the transitions, through some of the tough times and isolation. During COVID, we had our 200 sisters to rely on for advice, both professionally and personally.
Stone Payton: [00:04:21] So let’s talk a little bit about this topic. The disconnect and I think the assertion is that employees and leaders are not necessarily on the same page regarding well-being in the workplace. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Barri Rafferty: [00:04:35] Well, there’s a lot of research out there. When I’ll reference today is Deloitte that says 50% of employees right now are not feeling like executives care enough about their well-being. Yet, if you ask C-suite leaders, 90% of them feel they’re doing a lot of things to make employees happy. So there’s this real disconnect there of what does well being mean today, what is creating a culture of belonging. And as you can see in the time of the great quit, there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure that people want to not only come work for you, but want to stay and retained and be retained by companies.
Stone Payton: [00:05:16] As a leader, if I find this conversation, I attend a workshop or I just come across this topic and I think to myself, You know what? I need to pay attention to this. I’m trying to run this organization. I need to to learn more about it. Where do I start? Like, what do I do first?
Barri Rafferty: [00:05:34] Well, there’s so many great resources out there today, and there’s been a lot of studies for the past two years that have been done. But I would say, you know, a lot of work has to go in today to building an empathetic workplace. And that is changing in a lot of ways, right? I mean, when did we ever have terms like Return to work, which is a term I truthfully banned when I was working last year because the office. Right. We’ve all been working we’ve just been working differently. And from home, you know, there’s a lot of discussion. A lot of employees don’t necessarily want to go back to the office. And so what does it mean as you’re communicating what’s flexible, you know, and are people really able to be flexible? Are you creating something hybrid where you want them in certain times and certain days a week? So communication, understanding your employees needs and points of views is critical today. But also one of the things we’re seeing and one of the number one reasons people stay is because they really believe their manager cares. Their managers asking workers, how are you doing? What can we do to better create an environment that supports you both physically from where you want to work? But with all the mental health and mental wellbeing needs today to how do we fulfill that whole you right and create something that works for you both from a work and personal? And to be honest, I don’t know about you, but when I joined the course, no one really cared about my personal life to personal work life integration. I call it not even balance. Work life integration is a reality for people in terms of how they want to work and how they feel and how they deliver for you. And if we can figure that out, and companies can allow people to bring their full selves. To work and have that flexibility, then you see a huge difference in engagement.
Stone Payton: [00:07:29] What a practical, almost operational definition of empathy or illustration of empathy that you described. It seems so simple in retrospect after hearing you say it, but you mentioned asking the people, asking the person.
Barri Rafferty: [00:07:44] Yeah, why not? You know, it’s interesting. Empathy in many ways is a soft skill. And I remember as a female leader, sometimes it used to be seen as a negative. Right. And now it’s such a positive. Because empathy means you’re really listening to their feelings and their emotions and understanding the circumstances of people and all of that that encompasses them as a person. Right. So allowing them to bring their authentic self to work means having a better understanding of what leads to their productivity, what is going to make them feel more satisfied in the workplace, what’s going to help with their wellbeing and what’s going to make them want to stay? And I think that oftentimes we might ask the question, but we haven’t been willing to change the way we work or change our policies or even create more opportunities for supporting mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing in the workplace.
Stone Payton: [00:08:39] I have no doubt that a great deal of this was true when Matthew was collecting taxes and Paul was making tents and Jesus was doing keynotes. And in the same breath I got to ask is, is it even more important today because of it’s even more of an issue, you think, in today’s time?
Barri Rafferty: [00:09:00] Well, we’re seeing a huge amount of burnout today. I mean, 42% in a global study Qualtrics conducted said that people have experienced declines in mental health. There’s more anxiety, more stress, there’s new challenges working from home, right? These home and work lives intertwined. In some ways it’s easier, but in some ways it’s harder, right? It’s harder to leave the stress of work at work. And for many women in particular, it’s been even harder because they’ve been navigating, working from home, all the chores and things that they’ve had to keep and maintain the home and also supporting their children. I mean, whoever thought we’d have to be home educating our children in the last two years. Right. So so many things have put a lot more pressure on women that we’ve just seen. Also, a huge amount of women leave the workforce. And part of what I think executives and companies are going to have to do to really figure out how to fill all these roles is make it more compelling for them to come back. And that includes everything from pay equity to providing more flexibility to looking at women holistically and how do we support them.
Stone Payton: [00:10:12] This. This must be incredibly rewarding work. Very.
Barri Rafferty: [00:10:19] It is. You know, it’s I’ve always enjoyed leading profit centers and working as a CEO and as a senior executive. But I don’t think until the last couple years, I really realized how much work we still have to do in this area. I mean, pay equity for women is so not where it needs to be. The senior ranks are shifting very slowly. We see the numbers not really there creeping up, but not much. And, you know, the challenge of the last two years and the burnout is putting more pressure on women. So how do we help them and help leaders to really make shifts? And I think, you know, see, 200 is a group of members that really are committed to helping change the complexion of corporate America and the entrepreneurial companies and make it a better place for women to thrive as leaders.
Stone Payton: [00:11:16] So you’re speaking of C 200. I’m trying to envision and I am kind of painting a picture in my own head about what maybe happens. But groups of women who aspire to get better at this, groups of women who want to mentor others and grow themselves. You get together on a regular basis or you have events or some sort of platform for communication. Tell us a little bit about those aspects, if you would.
Barri Rafferty: [00:11:42] Yeah. So for those interested, you can go to see 200 dot org. But one of my favorite parts is actually regionally and by topic area. We have what we call councils and a council could be made of people that own family businesses or people that are entrepreneurs or people that work in New York City and want to connect in that way. But what I love about the councils is it really is a chance for us as leaders to be able to share challenges with each other, get support for some of our women that might want to get on boards or other things. There’s a lot of networking and opportunity, so it’s great for members to really support and help each other thrive. And then we have our mission programs that we talked about before, like see a hat and champion and protege that allow us to help the next generation of leaders really build their companies into large companies and become large owners within their companies. And our members are running $250 Million panels in a public company or $100 Million in a private company, or $25 million entrepreneurial built companies. So there’s so qualified to not only help each other, but help that next generation of senior women.
Stone Payton: [00:13:03] In just a moment, I have some questions around another topic that I know that you dive into in your work, that being burnout out. But before we go there, I wonder if we could leave our listeners with, you know, maybe like a I’ll call them pro tips, but just a few kind of tactical actionable things. So when I go home this afternoon and I and I tell Holly, my wife, Hey, I’m going to get a lot better at this empathy thing. And she’s of she goes like, Well, yeah, what are you going to do? I’d love to be able to say, Well, I’m going to do this, this and this starting now.
Barri Rafferty: [00:13:35] Well, I think one is prioritizing employee well-being and mental health. Right. We’ve got to do things that are going to make a difference. We talked about before really listening and showing you care, but it’s also creating true flexible schedules, know policies that support work life integration. But the other piece I tell everyone is to take care of yourself and put your own oxygen mask on first. And all of us as leaders, too, are combating burnout and trying to navigate the world that we live in today. And so really trying to for me, it’s morning rituals, you know, getting outside, taking short walks, some calendaring time for things that really energize me and managing your schedule in a way that does that. And I also think we’re talking about earlier the great quit or the great reshuffle, whatever you want to call it. And I also say to people, you know, really think about are you surrounding yourself in your current role or a new role with a supportive team in the workplace and with a corporate culture that allows you to thrive in a culture that creates belonging and brings out the best in you. So hopefully all of those tips you can take home and think about today.
Stone Payton: [00:14:50] Yeah, I think it’s a fantastic illustration, great imagery for me though, because I’ve spent some time on on an airplane in my career. Put put the oxygen mask on yourself first. That’s what they tell you, right?
Barri Rafferty: [00:15:04] Right. None of us are very good in day to day life and doing that. Right. We’re running and trying to keep up with that calendar and do a million things and, you know, our own energy. And physically we get tired and mentally get tired. And sometimes that’s when it’s harder to really listen and be empathetic and create that sense of culture and purpose that we need. So I often say every day, if you start with yourself as a leader and make that a priority, a lot of the other things will fall into place.
Stone Payton: [00:15:33] Oh, very well said. Okay. If you’re up for shifting gears just a little bit, I would love to talk a little bit about this this topic of of burnout.
Barri Rafferty: [00:15:44] Yeah. So I mean, we see it everywhere. And I mentioned before, you know, that it’s there is a huge amount of stress and fatigue. We are working from home, but we’re working different. We’re sitting a lot. There’s a heavy workload, there’s long hours and sometimes I don’t know about you, but you know, you wake up, your computer is right there if you’re working from home and your bedroom or your office nearby. So people are getting more attached to their computers. So I think part of this burnout is really thinking about prioritizing and compartmentalizing your responsibilities, you know, at home and at work. I’m really thinking about how do you keep those things as separate as you can, create buffers between them and be cognizant that a lot of people are experiencing. Still, even though we’re getting back out post COVID, we’re not in that same environment where there still is more social isolation and people need more support. So making sure that we are supporting them, connecting if you’re not in the office at all, trying to find ways to connect virtually and show people that sense of camaraderie and that that team is supporting them. And if you can, I think getting back into the workplace somewhat or collecting and connecting with colleagues is also really helping with some of that burnout to re-energize us and show a sense of forward purpose.
Stone Payton: [00:17:10] Well, and I can see right now, I believe I can see as a leader these two topics that we’ve been we’ve been touching on empathy and burnout. They can be so intertwined because, again, it’s incumbent upon the leader. I’m thinking, based on on hearing you talk to create an environment where it’s not only okay, but almost like a job critical responsibility to be willing to communicate to to the people around you. Hey, I think I’m feeling burnout or I’m feeling this way or you’ve got to you’ve got to make it safe enough to do that, right?
Barri Rafferty: [00:17:43] You’ve got to show your own vulnerability. That is part of empathy, is being honest with your people and yourself and authentic. I also often say to my leadership teams, you set the weather every day, and if you’re tired and stressed, people see it, they feel it, whether you’re on the phone or you’re on Zoom or you’re in person. So really making sure that you’re cognizant of the weather that you’re setting, of the culture that you’re creating and how you’re communicating with your people and how you’re giving them confidence in the future of the company and supporting them in their day to day routine all have a huge impact on who wants to work for you or are you somebody that’s going to be a talent magnet and are you somebody that people are going to want to work for and stay with and have high employee satisfaction? And those employee satisfaction scores can’t be undervalued today in terms of what it means to be effective as a leader in driving a company forward.
Stone Payton: [00:18:43] So I’m almost certain that part of this answer is your work because it just your your eyes light up and your voice lights up when you’re talking about it. It’s just a I think part of the answer to this question is doing your your work. And I’d love to know when you are beginning to feel a little bit drained or a little bit burned out, is there a where do you go for inspiration? And I don’t necessarily mean a physical place, you know, do you read do you do you talk to other people? Do you go kayaking? What do you do?
Barri Rafferty: [00:19:20] All of the above, to be honest with you, a lot of my female and male friends and colleagues and C200 sisters are a great part sometimes of lifting me up when I need that insertion of energy or advice. But I also love to go outside. That’s been a savior for me. Always is going on a little hike or a walk. My luckily I live near the sound and get out and see the water. So getting out into fresh air and moving and exercising a little bit always helps lift me up and I will say I’ve become a yoga kind of yogi. I don’t know how good I am at it, but I do that a lot in the morning. Now get up and kind of stretch and try to meditate. I’m not great at that at all either, but just giving some self my own time and quiet time sometimes to start the day and create a morning ritual has really helped me stay a little bit more grounded during all this.
Stone Payton: [00:20:12] Okay, I want to make sure that we leave our listeners with some ways to pick up this conversation, learn more, begin their journey, communicate what they’ve heard to, to other people. So I’d like to leave them with some points of contact, whatever you think is appropriate, whether it’s website, email, LinkedIn. But I just want to make sure that they can continue this conversation for themselves.
Barri Rafferty: [00:20:35] Yeah, so we’d love to have you come to see 200 dot org. Follow us on LinkedIn or on Instagram. We definitely are always providing tips and articles, have a blog and other things and get involved. Nominate someone for our C Ahead program. If you know someone or yourself, that’s an up and coming leader in a corporation. Learn more about our champion or protege or become a member of C 200 if you’re a senior executive because we’d love to bring you into the fold and help you continue to thrive and reach your goals in the workplace.
Stone Payton: [00:21:08] Well, Barry, it has been an absolute delight having you on the show. You’re doing such important work. I appreciate you. I know our listeners appreciate you. Please keep up the good work and let’s don’t be a stranger. I mean, I think it might be fun to as we continue to follow the work that you and the C200 are doing, it might be fun to maybe talk to some of your members, maybe, you know, some of the mentors in the system or when you’re doing a big event. But this has been informing, inspiring and just a marvelous way to invest a Thursday afternoon. Thanks so much for joining us.
Barri Rafferty: [00:21:45] Well, thanks so much. And I know we have a lot of members in the Atlanta area that would love to join. So let’s do.
Stone Payton: [00:21:51] That. All right. This is Stone Payton for our guest today, Barry Rafferty and everyone here at the Business RadioX family saying we’ll see you next time on workplace wisdom.