Create visibility. This often comes in the form of reporting structure and coming together. I give everyone two choices: scheduled weekly check-ins or drive-by meetings. Since I began managing teams, every single teammate has chosen a weekly check-in with me. They had a choice and they chose to be visible. For distributed teams that are spread out across large geographic areas, coming together as a collective is game-changing. Plan for it, budget for it, show up.
I had the pleasure to interview Constance Rapson. Constance is the Chief Marketing Officer at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I follow the yellow brick road. What interests me piques my curiosity and I’ve kept going down that road. I’ve been open and accessible to what comes along. It’s been an adventuresome path. Leaving agency life to become Chief Marketing Officer of CCRM Fertility was kismet. I worked in Women’s Health early in my career, I was leaving a portfolio of high growth stage companies, and fertility as a category is having its moment, which felt interesting to me. Those three elements made joining CCRM a good fit.
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?
It’s not really funny-funny, but certainly a mistake no one else needs to make. Rebranding a company and launching a company’s first ad campaign is a professional highlight of any CMO’s career, the timing of which is entirely up to the CMO, CEO and likely a board of directors. I started my job at CCRM pregnant with my first child. Due to production delays, the rebrand and campaign launch pushed into the middle of my time with my newborn son. I was where I wanted to be and I trusted the team to manage the execution. Not surprisingly, they did a beautiful job! But it was an untimely mistake to launch while I was absent. I missed the joy, the mayhem and the camaraderie of it all.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
CCRM is the first fertility center to have its own Hereditary Cancer and Disease Prevention Lab. Within the lab, we can help families eliminate hereditary cancers and diseases from future generations in perpetuity. The role of genetics in pregnancy health is moving to me.
One phrase we often hear from patients is, “I wish I’d started here.” Some of our patients have gone to other clinics and the clinic has failed them ten times. Then at CCRM, they get pregnant and deliver a healthy baby on their first try. It makes me feel so good to know that we offer success to anyone who wishes to have a baby.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are! We’re working on new ways to normalize fertility care with consumers. The first new service will debut in December 2019. It is an innovative idea helps women take the next step toward their goal of becoming a parent. There’s considerable anxiety that comes with starting fertility treatment, and we’re hoping this program will meet consumers where they are in their journeys and ease any fears.
Additionally, in the coming months we’re releasing some very exciting research on Male Fertility — stay tuned!
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Start by Listening. Create common purpose and continue to validate that. Then, set expectations early and often. Everyone on my team knows I expects three things: independent thought, autonomy and collaboration. Coming together to solve problems, create solutions and validate your intended purpose is really important.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
My advice to leaders managing large teams is dual.
- Be clear on roles and responsibilities so that people know what they’re here to do — and what they aren’t accountable for. I love job descriptions because they let new teammates know what they will be responsible for and where they can stop.
- Create visibility. This often comes in the form of reporting structure and coming together. I give everyone two choices: scheduled weekly check-ins or drive-by meetings. Since I began managing teams, every single teammate has chosen a weekly check-in with me. They had a choice and they chose to be visible. For distributed teams that are spread out across large geographic areas, coming together as a collective is game-changing. Plan for it, budget for it, show up.
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?
There are two. First, my strategic coach, Dr. Phyllis Cohen. She’s taught me that leadership is a daily job, not an inherited trait or an earned degree. It’s a daily practice of holding space for a vision and helping others make the best decisions they can to be successful. Second, the people who’ve hired me. They took a chance. There were other candidates that could do the job. Without Jed, Anne, Shoshana, or Jon (CCRM Fertility CEO), I would have steered a different course. I’m grateful for each of them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
There are a lot of ways to work.Helping people become parents is pretty damn good.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- As a change agent, don’t expect popularity as your goal. The leader can’t expect to be loved by all. Rebranding a 30-year old company, launching CCRM’s first national ad campaign and implementing a sales strategy was exciting to some and uncomfortable for others. I wanted everyone to love the idea and as the person representing the ideas of the entire team, I took it personally when I experienced apprehension.
- You won’t solve all the problems on day one. Understand that there is a process. Living in process is effective. On my white board, there is a corner of ideas. I started it when I arrived. Anyone can add an idea. Some of the ideas have been executed, with new ones added in their stead. And some are still on the board — 2 years later. Seeing the ideas shapeshift is the process. When an idea on the board fits into the larger strategy at the right time, it feels right and that’s effective for the business.
- I’m not a peer to my team and that simply comes with the job. The marketing and sales teams hang out together outside of work. I love that they adore each other and have become friendly, but it’s possible for me to be their friend and their boss. The boundary is important. As much as I’d love to go to concerts at Red Rocks with them, it doesn’t work. I did try once!
- Use reviews as a partnership. We do that now, but it wasn’t part of the initial timeline. Ask your team to tell you how you are doing. In the first 100 days, and then in a regular cadence.
- Prepare for many tears (of joy!). Seeing someone hold their baby after struggling with infertility is one of the most amazing things in the world. It never gets old.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Put yourself into the equation. In business and in my personal life, this has been the hardest nut to crack.
As a first-time CMO, a large part of my job is negotiating wants and needs for the brand, the short-term effectiveness of our programs and our long-term strategy. I solicit a lot of input from many stakeholders prior to making a decision. If I can remember to put myself into that equation — what I know and what I feel — the outcome will be exponentially superior for the business. I feel personal achievement when the decisions I’m making on behalf many others make me feel proud. If you’re not part of the equation, this is much harder to accomplish.
We are blessed that 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 🙂
Michelle and Barack Obama. Together, and individually, they demonstrate that individuals can make progress tangible. In politics, business and culture, it’s important to feel inspired by giants committed to change that will impact generations. The Obamas have done and will continue to do just that.