Remote Work: Wendy Glavin On How To Successfully Navigate The Opportunities & Challenges Of Working Remotely Or From Home

An Interview With David Liu

David Liu
Authority Magazine

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Remote Collaboration. Globally, many people are working from home, are remote or are hybrid. With teams scattered across the world in pre-existing silos, unfocused strategies, and functional specialization, communication and collaboration are more difficult. With siloed teams, people don’t have access to the full organizational picture.

Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wendy Glavin.

Wendy Glavin is a 30-year marketing veteran, a full-service agency owner, a published writer, a technology columnist, and a global speaker.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I dreamed of being an actress or attorney, but things didn’t quite work out that way. From acting school at ten-years old to Julia R. Masterman, a Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia for middle school, I pursued acting despite my parents’ lack of support. Finally, in-college after majoring in Acting for two years, my professors said I was too dramatic, so I switched to Communications.

As for the law, during my senior year at Penn State, I took the LSAT’s and was accepted into a low-ranking law school in Philadelphia, my hometown. My father, a prosecutor said, “You’ll never be a good lawyer until you can see the other side; you’re an advocate, like Norma Rae,” which is what I became.

After college, I worked in-house at General Electric. Surrounded by engineers, software analysts, project managers and other technologists, I learned how to decipher complex technical terms to give presentations to new hires and employees.

Unbeknownst to me, I was perceived as a technical communications specialist. I went on to work for a mid-size agency supervising a division of Du Pont, managed a division of IBM at Burson-Marsteller (now, Burson Cohn & Wolfe) and worked for other small-to-mid-size agencies across a wide variety of business-to-business (B2B) industry sectors.

Decades later, I founded my agency, specializing in financial technology (FinTech), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, financial services and more. When the pandemic hit and millions of people lost their jobs and income, I wanted to find a way to help and created the Decode Your Value process. It involves looking back instead of forward to uncover your life skills. Since no one has the same background, experiences, relationships and interests, your life skills are your competitive advantage.

As for my childhood dreams, I use the methods I learned in acting as a marketer to understand my audience and deliver an experience. Regarding the law, I love to watch Law & Order, legal movies, and use the skills I learned from my dad to negotiate, problem-solve, and understand the other person’s point-of-view.

A Philadelphia native, I lived in New York City for 30-years and moved to Southampton in 2021. I have three grown sons and a puppy.

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.

We can make the best or worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My family had the incredible opportunity of living in Southern France for eight summers in July. While there, I split the time doing what interested my sons and what I wanted to do. We spent time exploring towns, villages, fairs, and markets. I particularly loved the costume jewelry and bought necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Each fall, when we returned to New York City, I wore the pieces I bought in France. Friends always asked where they could buy the jewelry. Since this type of jewelry didn’t exist in the states, I realized it was an untapped niche. One of my friends and I decided to form a business importing jewelry from France to the U.S. With no experience, we had our first trunk show at community venue in a suburb of Boston where my business partner lived.

We displayed the jewelry on mirrors and at the end of the day we sold out. From that point on, I met with small designers in France and at the Paris wholesale shows. Throughout the years, we amassed a large collection and did shows at Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour and at many other venues, including the Grand Ole Opera.

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?

After working at GE for some four years, I wanted to be surrounded by my communications peers and decided to work at an agency. I gave myself a year. Since I worked on classified government contracts and had a Top-Secret Security Clearance, I wasn’t allowed to say what I did. Clearly using vague terms like writing and giving presentations didn’t do the trick.

After nearly a year of interviewing, I realized that I wasn’t going to get hired unless people perceived me as someone who could do the work. Prior to interviewing at Elkman Advertising and Public Relations, I studied the account executive description. During my interview, I emphasized how what I did and who I was, fit the job description. I was hired. Looking back, it was my favorite job.

When I founded my agency in 2016, I needed recommendations for my website. I contacted people with whom I’d worked like my former supervisor at Elkman. She said, you have come up in conversation many times over the years in this context: I am at work and someone wants me to sit in an interview with a job candidate. They know of my sixth sense about hiring because they have heard the story of when I hired you. People were coming in with these amazing portfolios, but nobody felt right.

Then you came in with nothing to show… You said everything you worked on at GE was confidential. But you definitely had something the others didn’t. I told Janet I wanted to hire you. You ended up being fantastic and went on to work for one of the biggest pr firms in the world, Burson-Marsteller. That’s the story I tell. I’m still good at hiring.

This story illustrates the importance of soft skills. While hard skills are important, they ‘re often learned and perfected over time. Soft skills consist of your life skills like your values, personality, people, social and communication skills, your mindset, and other traits which are unique to you and set you apart from other candidates.

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

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.

We can make the best or worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?

Throughout the pandemic, the separation between people’s professional and personal lives has merged. This provides an opportunity for business leaders to better understand the needs of their employees. Beyond better pay and benefits, people want to work for companies that share their values, are purpose-driven, promote diversity and inclusion, and offer flexibility.

With the Great Resignation, people are quitting their jobs because they feel undervalued and are looking for fulfillment. Knowing what employees care about helps leaders look beyond specific responsibilities to manage employees’ experiences and career goals. Here are ten tips to show your employees that you care about them:

  1. Speak to them about their feelings, not just their work.
  2. Be cognizant of their work-life balance.
  3. Encourage employees to be open about their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
  4. Implement career development and training programs.
  5. Provide flexibility for when, where and how long they work.
  6. Eliminate cultural biases.
  7. Implement employee feedback programs.
  8. Be committed to safety.
  9. Encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work.
  10. Be an active listener.

Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?

  1. Isolation
  2. Catastrophizing
  3. Work-life balance
  4. Remote collaboration
  5. Career advancement and mentorship

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?

Isolation

These are difficult times. Millions of people have been vaccinated and boosted but now with the new Omicron variant, people are dying at alarming rates. Many people compartmentalize and continue to live their lives, while others fear going outside. There’s even a meme for it, FOMO.

When people feel a lack of control, they find things they can control like staying away from people. In New York City, I have friends who get up early on the weekends to go food shopping or do their laundry. They make doctors’ appointments when they think the offices will be less full. Refuse to go to out for meals with friends for fear of being around someone who could be a carrier. They work but with little distractions, they feel alone and isolated.

Catastrophizing

The world is entering the third year of the global pandemic. Millions of people have been vaccinated and boosted but with the Omicron variant there’s with no end in sight. Since there’s so much uncertainty, people look for ways to maintain some control over their lives. Activities like hyper focusing on the news, continuously scrolling on social media, and frequently searching the internet for answers, only makes things worse.

Examples of catastrophizing, or thinking the worst, are I have a tickle in my throat, maybe it’s COVID? My colleague had to be hospitalized for a dental infection, what if he dies? My daughter is vaccinated but refuses to get the booster shot. I’m afraid she’ll infect my mother, so she’s not allowed to come home. These are just a few examples of the extent to which people are fearful.

Work-Life Balance

For many, working from home has its advantages, particularly if you’ve had experience doing so, prior to the pandemic. But, if you’re juggling children, pets, managing a home, taking personal calls, trying to do chores and have other distractions, it can be challenging.

Others who have always worked in-house, enjoy the exchange of ideas with their colleagues, miss the change of venue, commuting, having immediate access to the IT department and feel they were more productive in the office.

A friend of mine has worked at a television network for 30-years. She loved going to work. At some point during the pandemic, she was told to work from home. When the company delivered the equipment to her apartment, she felt overwhelmed. It took several weeks until she felt comfortable.

During that time, since she lives alone, she got a puppy to keep her company and got into a nice routine. Then she was told to go back to the office. She told me, it’s tough never knowing what will happen each week.

Remote Collaboration

Globally, many people are working from home, are remote or are hybrid. With teams scattered across the world in pre-existing silos, unfocused strategies, and functional specialization, communication and collaboration are more difficult. With siloed teams, people don’t have access to the full organizational picture.

Other challenges include, loneliness, distractions, being motivated, time management, lack of supervision, feeling disconnected and other issues. Since the lines have blurred between our personal and professional lives, people, social media, and other distractions make it difficult to focus.

A colleague owns her business. Throughout the day she manages virtual events, webinars, and podcasts. With a large business network, she must speak to people all throughout the day. Without a break, she must complete her daily work late at-night and is exhausted.

Career Advancement and Mentorship

With the talent shortage and people quitting their jobs, business leaders must create business models to reskill and upskill their employees. If you’re unable to get the training you need at work, there are many tools you can use to learn on your own.

Do research on the industry in which you work or a sector that interests you. Use social media to follow people that are ahead of you. Listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos and Ted Talks and look for virtual events in which you can participate. Learn to educate yourself.

If you’re having difficulty, think about people who you admire and reach out to them. Many people love helping others. I’ve had several mentors throughout my life, like my dad, friends, colleagues and even my three grown sons.

In 2016, after I’d just launched my agency, I was in an accident and bedridden. I wrote to four leading marketing executives for help. Each of them wrote back to me. I was most impressed by Deirdre Breakenridge’s response and have been working with her ever since.

Let’s talk about Career Development. Can you share a few ideas about how you can nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues?

In 2020, when people lost their jobs and income, I wanted to find a way to help. Many people define themselves by their job title, the work they do, their income, gender, age, and other self-limiting beliefs. Instead of focusing on an uncertain future, I encouraged people to look back using a process called, Decode Your Value.

If you reflect on your core values, background, experiences, relationships, and interests, you’ll find transferrable skills and new opportunities. I’ve written a series of articles and have spoken about the process. Since the concept is a bit abstract, my team and I created my Life Skills tree for people to use as a guide and a free PDF for people to download.

The first article in the series is called, “Grow Through a Branding Process: Decode Your Value to Reveal Your True Potential.” I’m happy the process helped people to move forward.

Can you share a few ideas about how employers or managers can help their team with career development?

A busines leader who used the Decode Your Value with her team said it best: Despite hiring and working with my team, we didn’t realize all the underlying skills and resources we had. Knowing what our employees care about helps us hone those interests. The Decode Your Value process and Life Skills tree helped us highlight people’s talents beyond their resume value. Often young professionals switch jobs because they feel undervalued. My goal is to ensure my team is inspired, feel like they’re a significant part of our corporate culture and continue to grow.

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. :-)

Decode Your Value to Design Your Life.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is Wendy Glavin Agency. Under the News tab on my site, you can read my published articles, interviews, podcasts, technology column, event coverage and more. You can reach me directly at wendy@wendyglavin.com or connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.

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David Liu
Authority Magazine

David is the founder and CEO of Deltapath, a unified communications company that liberates organizations from the barriers of effective communication