You will be stronger in the end — Our medical director spoke with our company during a town hall about resiliency. He spoke about the hardship that lobsters go through in shedding their shell and how that is the only way they can grow. Know that through all of this, we are all growing stronger as female leaders, parents, partners, etc. by going through this. Focus on who you are becoming having led through this time. The resiliency you have built up as a leader. The balancing skills you are establishing balancing with work and life. Think of the person you will be when we get through this.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Gassmann, Director of Marketing, R3 Continuum.
Jamie joined R3 Continuum (R3c) in July 2011. Collectively Jamie has more than twelve years of marketing experience. In her current role she oversees the strategic direction and implementation of all company marketing initiatives including lead generation, content development and management, digital presence, and brand recognition and management. Along with her marketing background she has eight years of banking industry experience, eight years of insurance and healthcare experience, and four years or special publication experience. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications with special interest in Advertising and Public Relations from Minnesota State University Moorhead and is currently seeking her Master of Business Administration from Paseka School of Business, Minnesota State University Moorhead with a planned graduation date of winter 2020.
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. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I have been passionate about marketing since I was in the eleventh grade. I took a marketing class as an elective and I knew that was what I wanted to do. During my senior year I joined my high school’s DECA chapter and was nominated as vice president, my first leadership role. That year I ranked top eight in state for the marketing campaign competition. Additionally, that year I had my first internship in the advertising department within the local newspaper. Going into college, I was fortunate to know the career path I wanted to take and pursued a degree in mass communications with special interest in advertising and public relations. After graduation, I was among the 90 interns selected to be a part of Wells Fargo’s summer intern program and was the event planning and sponsorship intern. In that role I was given the opportunity to run the big summer initiatives for the marketing department with their United Way campaign and the Minnesota Wild road tour. Though my passion has always been in marketing, early on I pursued a leadership role managing a teller line within one of Wells Fargo’s Minneapolis branches. The experience and training became something I have carried with me through my career. It is also where I was able to get my first marketing leadership break, when offered a marketing manager role for Five Star Professional. My career then took me to a completely different industry when I joined R3 Continuum. While at R3 Continuum I have grown into being a part of the strategic leadership team and look forward to continuing my leadership growth.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
This year, I celebrated nine years at R3 Continuum, a global leader in behavioral health and security solutions for workplace well-being. In that time, the most interesting story that happened to me has to be the two incidents where I was able to experience our services personally. As a crisis response company, we have a network of more than 6,300 consultants nationwide and coverage in more than 85 countries. I have written about the work we do for clients a number of times in my role as a marketer, but to experience our services first-hand made that writing come to life. The first incident was when my coworker, who I interacted with daily, was killed in a car accident. That was the first time I had experienced the loss of a coworker and for a small company like ours, that loss was felt everywhere. R3 Continuum’s executive team brought in one of our very own consultants to help support our employees through the loss. We had both a large group discussion with the consultant and had the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting if needed. I found it helpful to hear how everyone was doing, to allow that time to share stories of our lost coworker and be open about how we were feeling. This was a healing moment for all of us.
When the COVID-19 pandemic heightened, again R3 Continuum executives leveraged our panel of consultants. Providing us the ability to make virtual appointments to talk through our feelings, the new stressors, and anything else we needed to talk about. This continued support was extended when the civil unrest occurred in Minneapolis, where the R3 Continuum headquarters are located. They were ready to leverage our own expert security resources to help employees evacuate from the hot zones.
As a company willing to leverage our own service resources to help our employees, it speaks to the commitment to “walking the talk” — an example of an organization that provides services that are vetted and proven, that will be provided to its own employees. Though the loss of our coworker was sudden, tragic, and hard, having the ability to leverage our own services and see them in action was invaluable in the situation. The support received during COVID-19 has truly been the conduit for binding our team together even more.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
As director of marketing I am tasked with being the voice of the marketplace. With that I am constantly watching conversations on social media, checking in with our subject matter experts, and attending industry conferences, all in an attempt to be timely with support and materials that can help solve the challenges businesses are facing now.
Currently, with the shift in the work environment due to COVID-19 pandemic and the stress levels that employees are working with — distance learning concerns, and other factors employees are navigating — there has been an increase in mental health conditions. Along with that increase, we are also seeing an increase globally in deaths by suicide. These two concerns are not new; they were a growing concern pre-COVID. But what COVID has done is intensified them to the point where some experts fear that mental health conditions will be the next pandemic.
We want to help mitigate that and help to flatten the curve before it gets out of control. What we are doing is modifying the use of one of our services, reactive Telephonic Support — Outreach. What normally would be a service in response to something, we are now offering as a proactive measure for employers to conduct wellbeing checks to their employees who are working both remote and onsite. This allows employers to utilize an unbiased third-party to conduct outreach through a telephonic clinician, giving employees a safe space to talk openly and confidentially about how they are doing. Should there be any concerns or need for further service follow up, the telephonic clinicians can transfer the employee to their employee assistance program (EAP), streamlining the employee’s ability to seek additional follow-up support.
This initiative can show employees that they have their employer’s support, while helping get professional support those who need it. We truly feel we could be helping to save lives.
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?
I have had the absolute pleasure to be coached/mentored by Linda Siggau, the co-owner and creator of the company Experience Happiness. She is an amazing coach and has helped to shape me as a better marketer and female leader. I began working with her in the summer of 2018. She has been an inspiration and helped me see myself through a different lens both as a person and a professional. I am a better person overall because of her. She has helped me to be a more confident female leader, to believe in myself, to have more of an executive presence, identify the signs of burnout and to speak up for myself. I believe all leaders should have a coach/mentor they can learn from, who can help them grow personally and professionally — someone who can help you work on your flaws and showcase your strengths. The world not only needs more female leaders, but increasingly strong female leaders and coaching can help with that.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Balance: I have found the work/life balance even harder to maintain during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a marketing and communications leader for a crisis management company, work has been even more demanding, and while working from home, it is much easier to work late as I don’t have to run to pick up kids. Additionally, my kids have needs throughout the day, and in the early evening they are ready for my attention. Balancing the demands of both worlds has been the most challenging for me. As a leader, it was already a balancing act in a normal setting. During the pandemic, for many professionals, it can feel like you are a stretch toy being pulled in several different directions; maintaining control is difficult. We are balancing our own schedules, ensuring our team is staying productive in the new remote setting, as well as meeting needs for children who are experiencing the changes of the situation. It can all become so overwhelming if you let it.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I focus on having grace for myself. I know these are not normal circumstances and I can only do the best job I can across all facets of my life. Additionally, I have had a number of conversations with my boss to talk through expectations and his perspective on balancing everything. That has been really helpful in allowing myself to relax and trust that I am still doing a good job despite the increased stressors, distractions, and complexities of the day. There is a great book called “Grace not Perfection” by Emily Ley that I have found insightful and inspiring. It addresses the need many women feel to be perfect across all aspects of our lives, sometimes to a fault. It shares tips for how we can slow down while still moving, and how to have grace for ourselves — taking that time with your children while still focusing on your career. It has been an amazing read for me during the COVID pandemic.
Another goal I aim for is to not be afraid to accept help. This is particularly challenging if you are someone who feels they can handle it on their own — which is me. Allowing help when it is offered can provide you that small, but needed, break to take care of you.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
As part of my role I am in conference calls and virtual meetings during the bulk of my day. One of the biggest challenges for me is balancing my work and life. For example, it was hard for me at first to be accepting that my daughter would “photo bomb” the meetings either with herself or one of her stuffed animals waving at the camera over my shoulder. I see myself as a professional and when I am working it is important for me to maintain that demeanor. When she started photo bombing meetings my coworkers would laugh, which naturally is an encouraging gesture for a seven-year-old. While on the call, it was difficult to know what to do, how would my coworkers think of me as a parent, and am I still holding a professional presence. What I learned throughout this was that my coworkers were not as bothered by the interruption; in fact they enjoyed it. The biggest challenge I faced with this was when presenting on a weekly town hall meeting; right in the middle of my presentation, camera and microphone on, my daughter came into the frame sobbing, holding her dying guinea pig. That was the most challenging balance as a mom and as a business leader. What to do? Of course, I apologized to the audience and stepped away from the call to help take care of my daughter. As a mom working through the pandemic, I have seen challenges that I would not have faced during a workday if I were in the office. These challenges, though hard in the moment, are ones that I can learn and grow from.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The biggest thing I can do for myself, my job, my spouse and my children is to ensure that I am taking care of myself. Working remote, juggling the roles of mother, spouse, Masters of Business (MBA) student, and marketing leader, I am facing challenges I will likely not face again. Taking care of myself is most important — providing an outlet to release the stress and to ensure that my health is in check so I can do the jobs I need to do throughout the day. I am a runner, and either on my lunch break or at the end of the workday I go for a run. It helps me clear my mind and gives me some alone time to just be in my thoughts with no interruption. I find it therapeutic. I also recommend finding a coworker you know is someone you can trust to talk with. When we have others that can relate to what we are experiencing, it helps to give us a sense of normalcy in the not-so-normal. And at the end of it all, again, have grace with yourself.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I have been working remote since March 13th with my children home throughout most of the entire time. The advice that I would share is it is ok to play both roles at one time. Now, there are some circumstances that will not work, for instance when you are on a client call. But most people are understanding and have become accustomed to seeing or hearing a pet or children on calls and virtual meetings. It has pretty much become the norm. I think that the balancing of the two worlds in the same setting has given employers and coworkers the opportunity to get to know their employees and coworkers more personally, whereas before COVID you did not get to see your coworkers in their homes, with their kids or pets. This experience has opened up that view.
As for balancing, I block time on my schedule. In my role my calendar can fill up quickly and be one solid day of jumping from meeting to meeting. As I prepare for my kids to be going back to school this fall in a hybrid format, it was important for me to carve out dedicated time on my calendar that is for them. That way I can have the time I need with them, and not feel guilty that I am not focused on my work during that time. Additionally, I prep on the weekends for the week to come as much as possible. I prepare food in advance that I can easily heat up after the work and school day is done. I focus on housework on the weekend as well so during the week it is just simple picking up. The goal is to take tasks off your plate for the day to day, providing you one less thing to worry about during the week.
And as I have mentioned before, have grace with yourself. It is ok if that basket of clean laundry didn’t get into the closet. We are navigating a balancing act that we have never had to navigate before. It is important to do the best that you can, with what you have.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Right before the pandemic started, I had made a commitment to myself that I was going to ensure that self-care was a part of my day, every day. With that, I focused on my diet, exercise and overall mental health. This shift became valuable while going through the sheltering in place. It allowed me to have more patience and provided an outlet to release the intensified stress I was feeling, balancing the demands of my workday and ensuring my children’s schooling was a priority.How I have been able to do this is through meditation, running and other exercise, and finding enjoyable activities (i.e., bike rides, picnics, crafting, games, etc.) that I can do with my family.
Additionally, I have tried to focus on what I have control of and try to not let the things I can’t control consume me. That has helped me to maintain focus and calmness while navigating the challenges that have presented themselves this year.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Seek the silver linings — It is so easy to focus on the negative so much that we may not see the positives from what is happening. For me, a silver lining is more time with my children this year. As part of my job I travel a lot, particularly during the summer months. During the pandemic, my travel was halted, and I now have had the opportunity to spend more time with my children then I would have.
- Remember “This too shall pass” — We know that this will not go on forever. There will come a point where we will either accept that COVID is a part of our lives or it will become not as threatening like smallpox and polio have. When I am going through a rough patch at work, at home, or just in general, this is what I remind myself: that this too shall pass. We will get through it.
- Have grace with yourself — As a leader I have high expectations of myself, sometimes to a fault. I can get so caught up in my world that I forget there are others in that world who need care as well. Allow yourself to be okay with the imperfect. That is something I focus on every day. What I have found is that it helps me to be a better mother, spouse and leader. Sometimes it is easy to project our goals for perfection on to others, but that is not realistic. Having grace allows you to accept the less-than-perfect that we all need sometimes — especially now. Acceptance will help you to be okay that you maybe did not get the house cleaned because you needed to help your children with schoolwork after your own work.
- Work on establishing new traditions — Start a game night with your family that perhaps you did not make time for in the past. This helps to build new family traditions, while getting you through the moment with some fun. For our family, we used to go camping every year. When my travel schedule intensified, I was not as able to make a camping trip happen. This year, with travel not happening, I am making time for camping again.
- Make time for self-care — I truly believe I have been more successful navigating these challenging and complex times because of the self-care decisions that I made pre-COVID and have been able to maintain during COVID. Making time for journaling, meditating, exercising, in-home spa treatments, or other self-care options helps to give you an outlet for release. It helps you make that necessary time to relax and reset. For me running is an outlet for releasing stress, clearing my mind, and just taking that time to step out of the day-to-day complexities. It does make a difference and your family will thank you for it.
- You will be stronger in the end — Our medical director spoke with our company during a town hall about resiliency. He spoke about the hardship that lobsters go through in shedding their shell and how that is the only way they can grow. Know that through all of this, we are all growing stronger as female leaders, parents, partners, etc. by going through this. Focus on who you are becoming having led through this time. The resiliency you have built up as a leader. The balancing skills you are establishing balancing with work and life. Think of the person you will be when we get through this.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
When loved ones are feeling anxious, first and foremost you have to be an outlet they can safely share their feelings and what might be driving those feelings without judgement or criticism. Everyone’s level of anxiety is going to be different. Some will have very little or a stronger ability to cope through it, while others who historically may have mild anxiety are feeling heightened, maybe less controllable feelings. My sister and I have been that support system for each other through the additional stressors and increased anxieties the pandemic has brought on. That truly has been a blessing for me, and the outcome is a stronger bond between my sister and me.
Another recommendation I have is to leverage your employee assistance program (EAP). Most employers have EAP programs that offer counseling sessions. Now more than ever this is a relevant need. Some feel ashamed or nervous with talking with a counselor, but I have spoken to two people in the last month who swear by it. They wished they had leveraged that benefit sooner. You don’t have to suffer alone, if you need an unbiased outlet to share your feelings, your employer likely has these benefits available. Use them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” This quote inspires me to overcome fear and to go after my dreams. I often feel that sometimes what holds us back in life and in our careers is fear. Believe in yourself, and if you fail, use it as a life lesson or an opportunity to grow. I overcame my fear of going back to school to get my MBA. When I applied at Minnesota State University Moorhead I was nervous about how I would handle school in a virtual environment, balance it with my workload, and ensure I had time to be a wife and mother to my two kiddos. I have done it and this December I will graduate with my MBA in hand. If I had held myself back fearing the “what-ifs”, I would not have accomplished all that I have accomplished. Believe in yourself, don’t wait for others to believe in you first, and go after what you want confidently.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!