Recognize that everyone has different limits and tolerances. Every individual responds differently to stressors and stimuli. Understanding how to motivate in a healthy versus destructive way is a key to success. We’ve used personality testing tools to spark discussion on our teams about our different working styles and approaches to problem solving. The intent is not to create definitive labels but to gain insights about each other.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Tan, the chief marketing officer of Reverie, a cutting-edge sleep technology company on a mission to help people live better lives through the power of sleep. Tan leads the marketing and customer experience teams across Reverie’s wholesale and direct-to-consumer verticals. Combining her passion for teaching others how to embrace quality sleep with nearly two decades of strategic marketing and business acumen, Tan drives innovation across the company. She received her master’s degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, a BA from Princeton University and lives in Metro Detroit with her husband, Martin, and two young daughters.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?
I grew up in the Rocky Mountains in a multicultural, academic household with two older siblings who were my guideposts. I headed east for college (Princeton) and spent the next decade primarily in New York City with a two-year stint at the Kellogg School of Management. The expectation in my family was that the pursuit of learning and adventure was more important that staying close to home, and we all ended up moving very far away. This physical separation taught me independence and the meaning of connectedness, which isn’t about proximity. It also gave me the confidence to experiment with several career paths and failures, which ranged from brief stints in psychology research, publishing and PR to many years as a management consultant and now (for 6 years) running customer experience at Reverie, a sleep technology company founded by my husband. I am grateful for all the things I’ve learned along the way, including how to maintain some level of mindfulness in the midst of chaos.
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
I grew up in the Rocky Mountains, in New Mexico, in a small town up in the mountains. This was our view from the backyard (photo credit to my mom, who took this last week). Having such easy access to nature gave me a close connection and appreciation of the wonder of the world. We spent weekends hiking and skiing, and whenever I was overwhelmed, I could sneak out to the edge of the canyon, sit on a rock and find solace in the view, the breeze and the owl hoots echoing off the canyon walls. I found spirituality through my connection to the land.
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
Daily stressors in my life include running a business with my husband, parenting and world events. Being able to practice the technique of acknowledging and letting it go, or “watching the traffic go by versus stepping into the street and trying to stop it” is critical to my ability to function effectively. The unexpected happens every day — a painful business mistake, team drama, the tantrums of a threenager. If I stepped into the traffic, I wouldn’t be able to provide the support and guidance needed for those around me to resolve issues. Members of my team are encouraged to step outside for air and a walk or stretch out and power pose as they prepare for a difficult conversation or challenging task. When tensions arise at home we try to release energy physically through jumping, dancing or running.
Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?
I define success as feeling relatively at peace without a growing pit of anxiety in my core every day, because why bother with financial or professional success if you’re overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety? Many years ago, I chose to leave a high paying career track in exchange for less travel. I chose to work with my husband so that we could align our priorities and family time. In a childcare pinch this month, I left the office at 3:30 and spent the next 3 hours shuttling my kids and niece around — with a screaming toddler in the back seat. I had calls and emails flooding in. But all in all, it was a successful afternoon. I curbed my frustration for the most part. I did a LOT of deep breathing. And I ended the day with happy memories of flying kites in the park and eating gummy snacks in the car.
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
Be aware. Pay attention to your surroundings and turn on your empathy radar. Recognize that no one sees the world just as you do, and therefore will not think just like you do. When we live this awareness, we are much more likely to appreciate and respond empathetically to those who are not like us, in turn spreading understanding and goodness. This sounds very aspirational, but an everyday example of it is simple. As a 12-year resident of New York City (the opposite of my rural beginnings but with spiritual commonalities) I went everywhere by walking or taking public transportation. That meant that every day, I was cohabiting space with people I would otherwise likely never see or interact with. Occasionally we would exchange a glance, smile or words. But sometimes all it takes is a little bit of awareness to unlock a sense of understanding outside your known scope.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
I grew up terrified of water, especially big waves and jellyfish. It wasn’t until I learned to scuba dive in my 20s — first in a pool at a YMCA and then in the Caribbean — that I overcame that fear through learning to breathe. Being in an unfamiliar environment with your life dependent on a big air tank and mask requires some mindfulness and breath control. Once I overcame my fear and got under the surface, I was amazed by the brilliance of life under water and awed (again) by the natural world. Learning to breathe and release my fear opened a new portal of experience. The slower I inhaled, the longer I could stay underwater and enjoy the surroundings. This technique set the foundation for the mindfulness practices I have adopted since then.
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?
I’m thankful for my husband, Martin. Facing life, parenting and business together can be challenging, and he is a tremendous balancing force through it all. Working closely with your husband on both business and parenting can be challenging at times, and I’m very thankful my husband.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
· Recognize that everyone has different limits and tolerances. Every individual responds differently to stressors and stimuli. Understanding how to motivate in a healthy versus destructive way is a key to success. We’ve used personality testing tools to spark discussion on our teams about our different working styles and approaches to problem solving. The intent is not to create definitive labels but to gain insights about each other.
· Give space for creativity and release. Creativity fuels every job function — from marketing and R&D to customer service, HR and operations. At Reverie, this means access to fresh air and sunlight (we have glass garage doors that open), toys (ping pong table, hover boards) and flexibility (work remotely when absolute focus is required or giving call center operators the freedom to walk the halls while handing calls).
· Create company perks that encourage self-care and self-awareness. We promote the following at Reverie:
i. Naps are encouraged. We have a nap room in each of our offices. It’s also acceptable (and even encouraged) for team members to use the showroom to relax during the day. You often see people adjusted to Zero Gravity, working or having meetings. People also take nap breaks all over the office — on the beds, on couches, etc. There’s no better way to get a productivity boost!
ii. We offer sleep coaching to all staff members. This consists of 3–5 sessions with one of our in-house sleep coaches to work through sleep habits. This has had the biggest impact on our team. Even younger team members in their 20s have found significant life improvements by learning better sleep habits.
iii. We have an onsite gym in our HQ, which team members are encouraged to use throughout the day. We’ve done company-wide workouts (think 4-minute squat challenges) to encourage healthy breaks.
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 is my soap box: Get more sleep. Seriously, nothing is more restorative or healthy than allowing yourself 7–8 hours a night in bed. With the lights out and all devices around you turned off. The pop cultural notion that geniuses can burn the candle at both ends is completely false and has been proven again and again by critical mistakes caused by sleep deprivation in corporations, governments and out on the street. If you choose to sleep when you’re dead, you’re going to die sooner. When you do get enough sleep, you’re more often playing your A game and better able to handle stressors that will inevitably knock you off course. #GetMoreSleep #ThatMeansYou
How can people follow you and find out more about you?
I’m a private social media user but you can find me and some of my opinions on linkedin/lisamtan
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.