“It’s always important to speak up” With Jilea Hemmings & Lisa Stockmon

It’s always important to speak up: As a young child, I was always told to make sure to use my voice, to not let anyone make me feel small or belittle me to the point where I don’t contribute. This wasn’t always easy advice for me to live by early on in my career. I […]

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It’s always important to speak up: As a young child, I was always told to make sure to use my voice, to not let anyone make me feel small or belittle me to the point where I don’t contribute. This wasn’t always easy advice for me to live by early on in my career. I believe everyone has something important to say, and I aim to create a culture where people feel empowered to speak up.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lisa Stockmon, chief marketing officer of Banfield Pet Hospital, the largest general veterinary practice in the U.S. with over 19,000 associates and 1,000+ hospitals nationwide. Lisa is responsible for managing Banfield’s brand reputation, client and digital experience, and for driving product innovation to further the practice as the leader in pet health and wellness. She graduated from Dartmouth College and has an MBA in marketing and strategic management from the University of Pennsylvania.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Lisa! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

There is one “ah-ha” moment I had very early on in my career that helped set me on the path to where I am today. I was at my first job at an advertising agency in New York City, and there was this woman I worked with who called all the shots. She was responsible for many different parts of the business — not just advertising — and was always calling me on the phone with different updates and asks. I was in awe of her — she was smart, bold and direct, and I knew that I wanted to one day be in her position on the other side of that phone helping to shape and push a company forward. She’s who inspired me to eventually obtain an MBA — and not just “do the work,” but hopefully leave a mark on organizations and the people I lead.

This idea of making an impact very much stuck with me throughout my career and is what led me to seek out a mission-driven company like Banfield Pet Hospital, where we’re committed to creating a better world for pets and the people who care for them.

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

So many memorable stories come to mind, but as a Black woman the experiences that have really shaped and stuck with me are the ones that have shined a light on the biases and stereotypes — even subconscious ones — that have existed and continue to exist today. Years ago, before the creation of professional networking platforms like LinkedIn, I had spent around 9 months or so building a working relationship with a woman over the phone. The time came for us to finally meet in-person, and when I got to the bottom of the elevator we had arranged to meet at, I noticed a woman who kept walking by me looking for someone. When I finally went up to introduce myself, she was visibly shocked — maybe because my voice or name didn’t match up with how she had pictured me in her head after so many months of speaking on the phone. We both laughed at the time and went on to have a great meeting, but these types of experiences really solidified for me the importance of building more inclusive and diverse industries and businesses. I carry this lesson with me today and keep it in mind as I work to create a culture where everyone on my team feels accepted and appreciated for who they are as individuals.

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?

At the start of my career, I remember spending a good amount of time putting together a presentation deck for my boss. When it came time to present, we had all gathered in the meeting room and I was asked to grab a sixth chair for the table, which I assumed was for me. After getting the chair and sitting down, I quickly learned the sixth chair was actually for my colleague, and I was in their seat! While it might have been an embarrassing moment for me at the time and I was a little hurt about not being included in the meeting, I can look back and see the valuable lessons it taught me — even if they weren’t so clear to me then. What felt like a silly mistake later helped me understand the value in proactively seeking out what’s expected of me and to check my presumptions. Today, it’s one of the many experiences that has helped shape me into a leader that prioritizes ensuring everyone has a seat at the table and feels empowered to contribute and speak up, regardless of their role on the team.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?

There are countless reasons why businesses should prioritize diversity within their organization. When you have diverse teams, you get diverse viewpoints and ideas, leading to a culture that fosters creativity and innovation. We truly live in a global society, and it’s so important for corporations to work to build teams that reflect the consumer so that they can better understand and relate to customers. Organizations should prioritize diversity not only because it is the right thing to do to help build a more inclusive and equitable future, but also because in a lot of ways it can serve as a business strength and growth strategy.

More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?

When I think of the younger generations of today, they not only expect a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future — they demand it. There is so much to learn from the different backgrounds, thoughts and perspectives that a diverse team brings, and it’s so important to create a culture where everyone’s voices are heard and supported.

Diversity is helping to create conversation and spark change. I believe that in order for businesses to stay relevant, leaders need to understand how society is changing. For me, going to hospitals and seeing the diversity among our more than 19,000 associates across over 1,000 hospitals across the U.S. is so powerful, and a reminder that we need to continue to take action to help build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive veterinary profession.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?

The diversity issues we see across industries and in our communities are deep-rooted and will take time and commitment to create the necessary change. That said, there are three actions I believe any organization can take today to help create more diverse teams within their business:

  1. Don’t just talk about diversity, put intentional effort into hiring diverse people and developing the diverse talent that already exists within your organization
  2. Educate hiring teams about the reason why diversity is so critical; when they truly understand the why, they can better deliver on your hiring goals
  3. Truly listen to diverse associates and make sure they feel seen, heard and part of the process

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership to me is about engaging teams, problem solving with them and helping them succeed. To me, leadership also comes down to understanding what your strengths are and also your weaknesses. An early mentor once told me to hire my weaknesses, but in order to be able to do that you have to be honest about what you’re not as great at. For me, I love strategy and I tend to surround myself with people who ask difficult questions, people who are maybe a little more methodical than I am. When we all sit around the table, everyone is able to contribute their strengths, and I feel like we’re that much more impactful as a team because of it.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It’s always important to speak up: As a young child, I was always told to make sure to use my voice, to not let anyone make me feel small or belittle me to the point where I don’t contribute. This wasn’t always easy advice for me to live by early on in my career. I believe everyone has something important to say, and I aim to create a culture where people feel empowered to speak up.
  2. It’s a journey not a race, and make sure to take time to enjoy the journey: So often we think our careers are linear and they’re not. I tell my children often that there are chutes and there are ladders; sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down, and sometimes you’re staying where you are. As long as you’re learning and you’re able to make a contribution, then you’re on the right path.
  3. You can have it all, but not at one time: As a parent, a woman and an executive, there are so many different roles that we play. Sometimes we lean into one role more than the other, and that’s okay! You can still succeed at everything; you just might not be the best at everything at every given moment.
  4. Manage without fear and be open to life’s possibilities: I’ve experienced so much change throughout my career, from moving coasts to changing industries. Some of it has been hard, but I eventually fully embraced a “why not” attitude and now look at it all as an adventure — with many important lessons learned along the way.
  5. Develop and fine tune your listening skills: There is so much to learn when we remain quiet for a moment and truly listen to other ideas and perspectives. It’s something I believe anyone can benefit from, no matter where they’re at in their career or what their role is within a company.

You are a person of enormous 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 believe firmly that education should be a guaranteed right for everyone. There is so much promise in knowledge, and I think we as a society need to continue to find ways to ensure a lack of access to education is never a barrier for anyone pursuing whatever career or life path they choose.

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

“If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.” — Anonymous. As I mentioned above, I feel strongly that we all deserve a seat at the table. Our unique thoughts, opinions and perspectives are important, and we should never ask for permission to speak up and be our true selves.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Michelle Obama is such an interesting person with great perspective and leadership skills. I would love the opportunity to spend the day with her and soak up as much of her knowledge as possible.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram — @LisaMarketingMaven

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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