“How Extremely Busy Executives Make Time To Be Great Parents”, With Karen Hansen

From taking trains at 2 a.m. to make meetings after a family holiday to flying cross country on red eyes for school commitments, I’m resolute in making family and business all work. We have traditions in our family that are all about locking out the world and focusing in on our family — intense puzzle […]

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From taking trains at 2 a.m. to make meetings after a family holiday to flying cross country on red eyes for school commitments, I’m resolute in making family and business all work. We have traditions in our family that are all about locking out the world and focusing in on our family — intense puzzle races, game nights, family hikes, dance parties, surprise day “family dates”, and annual traditions. And the much alluded to “working mom balance” is essentially a way to say extreme multitasking. Despite the chaos, this is the happiest point of my life and value the powerfulness of this phase.

I had the pleasure to interview Karen Hansen, founder and President of Bullseye Communications . Karen is a Public Relations, Media, and Communications professional with more than 20 years of experience working with organizations to grow their brands. Throughout her public relations career, Karen has held esteemed titles at Travel Channel, World Wrestling Entertainment, PBS, Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks Interactive, Smithsonian Publications and more. Since launching Bullseye Communications, she has earned the business and trust of the some of the largest brands in the entertainment, media, tourism and sports industries. Bullseye Communications has been named as The Best Place to Work, and Karen has also earned accolades as a Top Female Entrepreneurs to Watch.

Thank you so much for joining us Karen! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

First off, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the two things that I’m most proud of: my family and career! Midwest born and bred, my parents instilled the value of hard work and academics at an early age. Through involvement in a myriad of extracurricular activities from 4-H to dance to student council, I also learned the enjoyment of connecting with people. As my interests evolved to journalism and writing for the local newspaper, I was instantly drawn to capturing moments and crafting narratives. Because I skipped a grade in school and graduated college early, I was aggressive with my career goals from the beginning. I earned internships every summer between freshman and senior year to gain industry experience as early as possible to achieve my long-term goals. I also have two parents that taught me the importance of guiding your children to independence so they can go out into the world prepared.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

One of my first PR experiences was with Walt Disney World media relations. There were many opportunities to learn with Disney’s never-ending roll-outs of new projects, announcements, and events. The team was gracious with their time and mentoring support, and afforded every opportunity from crafting pitches, developing stories, managing media, and more. And of course, escorting media through the parks and sharing my passion for Disney was an absolute thrill!

By my early 20s, I was taking Public Relations courses at New York University’s Marketing and Management Institute and was already managing an in-house PR team in the television business in New York City.

From there, through networking and word-of-mouth, my public relations career took off and I found myself thankful every day to have work that — while insanely demanding — I absolutely love! My years at Travel Channel created some of the most defining moments of my career while travelling the world to secure top tier media coverage. I realized on-site public relations was a strength and still get a rush from organizing and executing highly successful media events.

Founding a PR agency that weaves together the brightest communications executives in the business (many of whom are also working moms) has been an ever-evolving feat and commitment. The team has created a battle rhythm that embraces flexibility while simultaneously delivering impeccable results to our wide array of top tier entertainment clients.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

The public side to this business can seem glamorous which inevitably sparks interest. To those of us in this industry, we know firsthand the dedication it takes and that red carpets, fashion shoots, lavish media parties, exotic press tours, and celebrity wrangling are truly a small piece of the overall work.

My day starts early with immediately checking my devices for morning breaking news that can affect our accounts as well as responding to anything urgent that requires immediate guidance. After that initial rush, I’m getting children fed, backpacks loaded and out the door to begin their day at school. Then I head into the office to set intentions, and while I realize my to-do list will have a series of constant interruptions, it allows me to find early calm so I can be responsive to my team and engaged with client needs.

Sometimes it’s the gift of a full office day so I’m able to focus on email, writing, strategy reviews, executive remarks and more. Other times, I will be traveling cross country for industry events. Then other days, I’m meeting with clients at their headquarters for activation plans, communications workshops, or any other on-site engagement that arises. Often, I’m fielding new business calls and meetings with prospective clients to get a strong sense of their priorities and how our team could assist with their goals.

Once the day draws to a close, the absolute highlight of those workdays when I’m in town, is picking up my children from their afterschool program. No matter the work stresses of my day, having them run to me sharing tight bear hugs makes the rest of the world melt away.

As every parent knows, next are the crazy hours of dinner, homework, extra-curricular activities, reading, and getting ready for bed. Once they’re asleep, I’m typically back online to wrap up anything urgent that has evolved in the late evening. Then, I finally make time in my home gym for a workout which varies in length and intensity based on the time. One more check of devices, especially social media to keep abreast of client activity, and then lights out. While my schedule is intense and I find that my mind is always racing, inevitably my heart is always tied to my children/family first and foremost.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Clearly, every child needs and deserves devoted parental guidance, support, and love. My greatest accomplishment — as most parents would agree — is bringing my babies into the world and know it’s my job to teach them kindness, strength, patience and how to be good members of the community. As their needs evolve with every stage, it is up to us to guide and love them — it’s a true gift!

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Active parental role models to guide young children is essential to their development. From the time my children were babies, I would rock them and play lullabies, read stories and get on the ground and truly play with them. As the physical demands lessen and the emotional demands increase, my husband and I found ourselves embracing the evolution of our responsibilities. And those stages — that go ever so quickly — are completely valued. I love watching them evolve through each milestone, deepen trust in our relationships and establish the groundwork for a lifetime of encouragement and open dialogue.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I couldn’t agree with this statement more! From taking trains at 2 a.m. to make meetings after a family holiday to flying cross country on red eyes for school commitments, I’m resolute in making family and business all work.

We have traditions in our family that are all about locking out the world and focusing in on our family — intense puzzle races, game nights, family hikes, dance parties, surprise day “family dates”, and annual traditions. And the much alluded to “working mom balance” is essentially a way to say extreme multitasking. Despite the chaos, this is the happiest point of my life and value the powerfulness of this phase.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.

Parenthood is a lot like managing a team so here are the key takeaways I’ve learned that will lead to the most impactful time together:

  • Leadership is like Parenting — Both require emotional stability and eternal accountability.
  • Compassionate Feedback — Essential whether you are trying to mold a team or tiny humans.
  • Walk the Talk — Actions speak later than words; be someone others can respect and emulate.
  • Mutual Respect — I would rather be loved and respected than feared and cowered to in order to make something happen.
  • Trust Yourself — With clean intentions and innate instincts, be decisive and confident even if you’re making it up as you go!

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

It’s straightforward: teach them right from wrong, being consistent with discipline, guide instead of demand, show them your love, apologize for mistakes, and recognize it’s our work to put them into the world as independent people.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

Because of my career, I’m often presented with unique opportunities. Where appropriate, I expose my children to these activities so they understand what can be accomplished with hard work. For example, my PR agency worked with Major League Baseball on the All-Star Game. While I was actively engaged onsite with media, my husband brought our children to the FanFest activation (a baseball lover’s paradise) with MLB players giving autographs, World Series trophy photo ops, indoor baseball diamonds, virtual reality batting cages and tons of other attractions and artifacts. They ran around until they were exhausted and often discuss what a special experience it was.

Another one of our clients, The Washington International Horse Show, has a “Kids’ Day” every year. My husband brings the kids out for this family-friendly event created to share the joy of equestrian sport. With pony rides, art stations, face painting, pony brushing lessons and a pony kissing booth, my family loves participating every year!

As they become more aware of my business, they appreciate more how I make a living. And of course, it’s a team effort in this household. My husband works on the business management side for Amazon, and we’re both sure to set an example, letting them know that the things we enjoy as a family are possible because we work hard at our jobs!

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success is a pretty ambiguous term, right? So, let’s be realistic with this and know it can be defined differently for every family and every business.

For Bullseye Communications, when I decided to build my own agency, I knew I wanted to do it differently. My goal was to create a company where results were valued first and foremost, a positive and collaborative environment was given the highest value, and corporate nonsense like who came in first or stayed the latest mixed with an onslaught of unproductive meetings were scrapped. And I think Bullseye was on The Best Places to Work for two years running because of it. To be recognized for crafting a positive and collaborative environment in both the workplace and for our clients is a great source of pride for our entire team.

For family, that can change day to day. But I prioritize spending time with my children and painfully recognize the time of them being “little” is fleeting. I try to maximize our connected time together, and one of the most impactful ways is an annual vacation where I completely disconnect from work and focus on anything and everything family (maybe sneaking an email peek here and there)! I treat that timeframe with kid gloves because it’s an essential part to our family DNA.

All of that said, the number one comment I hear is “I don’t know how she does it.” My response is two-fold. With public facing social media, it’s truly a highlight reel of the best moments. As my friend says, “There are no tears on Instagram” so the regular struggles aren’t often emphasized. Also, at any given time work, sleep, family, fitness or friends are not all perfectly aligned, so you make lifestyle sacrifices and prioritize as necessary. I admit that I thrive on the intensity, am charging through the lack of sleep, but mostly feel a deep sense of gratitude.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

There are a multitude of resources available, but I find myself relying most heavily on my family, especially my mom, sister, mother-in-law, and sisters-in-law for advice and guidance. They intimately know our family dynamics, children, and as mothers themselves, often have insightful experiences to share with me! And I must admit it’s so nice in a professional setting to openly discuss family as often these interviews are so singularly tied to career.

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

This is a bit of a joke in my family, as growing up I loved to start speeches (high school graduation, college entry essay, etc.) with a quote by Henry David Thoreau. “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

But guess what? That quote still applies in life, work, parenting and more! I knew what my dream castle career looked like and I work every single day to continue to achieve that and never take where I am in the process for granted. Those foundations are essential.

For parenting, you know the vision of where you want your family to be. For us, that’s finding unconditional love and harmony in the everyday, so we always work at it, despite the real life infusion of chores, home care, and other necessary distractions.

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. 🙂

This movement is incredibly simple — be kind. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and suggestions, but we all have different abilities and strengths. Kindness is easy to embrace every time, despite not being offered it always, and I choose an empathetic approach first and foremost in all interactions. Imagine if we all raised all children with “being kind” as their default.

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