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“If you have a fear of public speaking, do it until you don’t” with Taylor Guglielmo and Chaya Weiner

If you have a fear of public speaking, do it until you don’t. Seriously. The inability to give a good presentation is the single most crippling hindrance in the growth of your career. Think of every good leader you’ve ever worked with. They could do this. If you hate it, good! The adrenalin rush is much better that way, and you will eventually become addicted to the feeling you get before and after.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Taylor Guglielmo, EVP, Business Development at Chemistry. A true “ad guy”, Taylor’s inherent passion for the business has fueled her trajectory. She started her career in New York, spending the better part of a decade at Fallon NY and McCann Erickson NY, where she quickly rose in the ranks, managing L’Oreal Cosmetics and Wendy’s International brands. She then returned to her southern roots with a jump to Grey Worldwide Atlanta, and was quickly recruited by TGM, where she built the Marriott business from a small project to the agency’s 2nd-largest account, and became the agency’s youngest EVP in its 20-year history. Having found a taste for new business, Taylor went on the run business development for Chemistry, where she helped the agency win accounts like Red Bull, YouTube, Atlanta United and Turner, and become a two-time Ad Age Small Agency of the Year.

Thank you for joining us! Tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path.

When I was 10, I stayed on the 15th floor of a hotel in Times Square and fell in love with billboards, of all things. After years of exploring my passion, it turns out, I’m a terrible creative but a campaign strategy addict, so I got my degree in Advertising, and started hitting the pavement. I’m a Memphis girl, so when it was time to find a job after college, I shipped a box of ribs with my resume to every agency with an open slot. I ended up landing a job at Fallon, NY, despite the fact that the CEO was “not carnivorous.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was a marketing intern at the Pentagon the summer before I graduated. Around 9PM each night, as we were wrapping up, my cohorts and I would walk the halls, hoping to run into the power players. One night we did. Just as I’d taken my shoes off for some heel relief, all 12 of the senior-most officers of the Department of Defense passed us, including the former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who asked what I was doing roaming the halls. The interaction went something like this:

Rumsfeld: “Young lady, where are you headed?”

Me: “Ummm, to see if we could run into you…”

Rumsfeld: “Well you found me!”

Me: “Welp, have a good night!”

Uncoincidentally, the next day there was an internal “snowball” memo released about wearing shoes in the office.

What I learned?

1: Always know what you want to get out of every meeting and be able to say it in a sentence.

2: Always have at least one pair of back-up flats under your desk. Obviously. Rookie mistake on my part.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We know who we are, and more importantly, who we aren’t. We are not a fit for everyone, and that saves us a lot of time. We like to say we’re a good offense agency and a terrible defense agency. Clients who are looking to keep up in their category don’t find a home here. Clients looking to set their categories on fire settle in and stick around. We live to question, to challenge, to make ourselves uncomfortable, to blow sh*t up. Formulas are un-welcome here. We have consciously created a culture that values brain power, using technology and data as a tool, not a crutch.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have just entered into an agreement to create a new human focused, technology-driven company out of a merger of two successful, but very different companies. The work we do will globally define how hourly workers are valued and utilized by assisting them at work and in life with digital tools. A stated goal of the company is to put one million people to work.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Teach the art of managing up, and managing down. Young hustlers tend to think they have to do everything themselves and that saying “no” means they can’t handle the juggling act. The truth is, the only mistake is calling out a problem without bringing a solution. Managing down shows me you know how and when to delegate, and support growth. Managing up shows me that you know when to sound the alarm and bring in bigger guns.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

We’re in the business of reading people, without exception. As I’ve climbed the ladder, I’m amazed at how quickly I find myself judging a person’s potential, and how rare it is for me to change my mind. Almost out of necessity, you find yourself evaluating team members on their first project. They don’t have to kill it. They don’t have to be right. But if they don’t show hustle, and a desire to over-deliver, they won’t become a rock star. Ever.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

We talk about “female leadership” quite a bit in the current business culture. The irony to me is that when I was coming up, that’s all I knew. The heads of both Account and Creative were female, and that was never a noteworthy point — It just, was. Joan Deni, former SVP Group Director at McCann was a perfect example. She taught me the value of relationships and the art of seeing the forest through the trees. She had a way of distilling in-the-weeds details into seemingly simple, succinct, actionable takeaways that were beyond reproach. She had a sincerity matched with a brutal honesty that earned the trust of even the most impetuous clients — Titles and raises be damned. Earning Joan’s praise was the goal, and the most rewarding payoff. She taught me the power of cultivating that kind of relationship. She taught me that if you don’t work for and with people that bring that sense of loyalty and inspiration out of you, you would be exponentially less happy in your work world.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The agency world is a creative place. When you intersect that with a NextGen and Millennial workforce who want to start-up, get rich and sell young, you have a bunch of smart kids with big aspirations and a ton of pent-up creative energy. As an agency, we’re trying to power that, instead of repress it. We’ve created “REACTION,” a cultural incubator where we fund and support our people’s side-hustles.

REACTION is us walking the walk. We knew that to impact culture, we had to invest in those actually moving the needle, and we started with those closest to us. To date, we’ve invested in 3 of our employees’ side hustles, giving them a financial launching pad, business consulting and a rich network.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1: Never Pass the Buck. Scratch that… Always take the buck. When things go wrong, no one is 100% to blame, and chances are, there’s something you could have done better. Find what it is, raise your hand and own it. Identifying the problem is crucial, but identifying the source of the problem is a futile waste of time that leaves people defensive and disheartened. Accepting at least some part of the blame will create a culture of respect and trust, and teaches your people to do the same as they rise in the ranks.

2: Do favors. If you are physically able to help, help. In the ad business, you will need to call in a lot of favors to make things happen fast. It’s much easier to call in favors if you’re doing so with a solid “you owe me.” Plus, it’s a “family” business. Don’t fight it, lean in. I did, and 15 years later, I’m married to my former art director partner with 2 crazy-creative kids.

3: Know how to do everyone else’s job (at least to some degree). You can’t do favors (see above) if you don’t know how to do a little bit of everything. Plus, if you don’t get how it all works, you are just a glorified secretary taking notes and asking other people questions.

4: Always have a solution. You don’t have to be right, just do the work to think it through. You’ve got to remember; your boss is not in the weeds like you. They can’t solve your problems without all the pieces. Not effectively, anyway. Trust me, you will gain tremendous favoritism by bringing a proposed solution whenever you bring a problem.

5: If you have a fear of public speaking, do it until you don’t. Seriously. The inability to give a good presentation is the single most crippling hindrance in the growth of your career. Think of every good leader you’ve ever worked with. They could do this. If you hate it, good! The adrenalin rush is much better that way, and you will eventually become addicted to the feeling you get before and after.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I’m going to have to be selfish on this one. My son has Marfan Syndrome, a connective disorder that affects the heart, among other things. Marfan’s is primarily a genetic disorder. Having been through this journey, I’ve realized how difficult it is to raise money for a disorder that is perceived to be “incurable.” But in fact, that’s not the case. There are affordable treatments that can protect the heart and improve the quality of life. Awareness is our problem. Marfan’s is easy to diagnose, but often overlooked as an obscure lost cause. My long-term goal is to raise its profile and support.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My mentor, Tim Smith, says, “Fun is the best thing to have.” When it stops being fun, leave. Don’t wait for it to turn, it won’t. When you find a job you love, lean in. Congratulations, you’ve found the golden goose. “Fun” is much harder to find and have than “success.” For me, “fun” in the ad world is new business — it’s like corporate sports. It’s the rush of competition with the deep, immediate satisfaction of the “win” call. There’s no better high.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

My business answer is Claire Bennett, CMO at IHG. I’m a hospitality girl, and IHG is in our backyard. I’m a big fan of what she’s doing to shape and future-proof the brand.

My personal answer is John Calipari or Peyton Manning, because I am equal parts UK basketball fan and UT football fan, and no, that doesn’t make me fair-weather. It makes me smart J

Thank you for all of these great insights!

— -

About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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