Fearrington, NC – Co-authors Paula Stafford and Lisa Grimes visited McIntyre’s book store in Fearrington Village on March 17 to discuss and provide insights into their new book “Remember Who You Are.” In a transparent and relatable way, Paula and Lisa share their own experiences to illustrate insights they wish they had known at the outset of their careers 30 years ago. Below is the video and transcript of their opening dialogue.
Paula Stafford: We’re going to start off by telling you a little bit about how we met. A lot of people ask how we met and why we wrote this book, and then, the title of the book. I’ll kind of kick it off.
I am a Raleigh native and was educated in Chapel Hill, worked in Durham, and now live here in Chatham County. I’m very privileged to be in Chatham County and honored today to be here. Lisa and I, and some of you guys don’t know this, we were competitors in the mid 90s. When I was head of business development for Quintiles, Lisa was the head of business development for PPD, a company we competed with.
Lisa Grimes: We wouldn’t have written a book together then.
Paula Stafford: No. We were competitors, like most women are with one another. We were competing with each other, but for business. We were competing for multi-million dollar contracts. We would see each other, actually in New Jersey and New York, and usually up the northeast corridor. We would meet in the lobby of a pharmaceutical company and she would be coming out the door and I was going in the door, and the claws were out because she was this very attractive, lovely, smart woman.
Lisa Grimes: Like she’s not?
Paula Stafford: And I knew, if I saw Lisa there, that it was going to be tough for me to win that business because I knew she was good at what she did. We had a mutual friend in the late 90s for years telling us that we should meet because he said, you guys are the same person. You need to meet. And both of us …
Lisa Grimes: … said no thanks. We met.
Paula Stafford: We did not think we would ever be friends. Then, in 2002 she had moved on from PPD. I was still at Quintiles, but in a different role and he asked us to have lunch together.
Lisa Grimes: At Baby Moon. Any of you all know that? Well, he didn’t show up. The two of us got to Baby Moon, and there we were. But he was right. After about 10 minutes into our conversation, we were finishing each others sentences and developed the friendship that has ultimately resulted.
Paula Stafford: And you’ll see that we haven’t stopped finishing each others’ sentences. And I will ask, can you hear us in the back? Because they had a microphone, but we have to go back and forth. Both of us speak loudly, so we thought we’d be all right. Okay, good. So, that’s kind of how we met.
Then, the book. Again, some of you know our husbands, at least my husband. And I know at least one of you knows her husband. Anyway, they, in about 2006 we were having dinner. We had gotten our friendship to a point, we were like starting to have dinner with our husbands. They enjoyed one another. And our husbands, one night, as we were just sitting there talking business, business, business telling story after story, and “I experienced this” and “Oh my gosh, I did too.” They said, you need to write a book. You know, younger women need to hear this story, like Tori, who’s going to be coming out into the working world soon. So you need to write this.
So we thought, 25-45, and where we ended up is that the basis of the book, that everybody wants to remember who you are, but achieve success, create balance, experience fulfillment. There’s no man who doesn’t also want those three things. So we have had a number of men read the book and say, “This isn’t just for women.” So it is women telling the stories, but those three are the kind of three sections of the book.
Lisa Grimes: And at the end of each of the chapters in here, and we’ll tell just a little bit about each of the sections. We won’t read more than 50 or 60 pages. But at the end of each of the chapters is a letter from an executive woman to her younger self as to what she wished she had known back in her 20s or 30s, and related to any of the topics. We decided not to limit when we asked these women to write these letters, so it was just the true what I wish I’d known when I was in my 20s. So maybe you can …
Paula Stafford: Yeah. So the name of the book, we’ll just tell briefly. The name of the book actually was kind of chapter one, and it was around, it’s called building your brand and developing who you are. So we started out the chapter with the story of where “Remember Who You Are” came, and then as we continued to write the book it became a working title. Thought we would change it, but then our publisher, Morgan James, actually liked the title so we stuck with it. So you read about it in the first chapter, but basically it was a saying that my parents, and has anybody’s parents ever said that to them? We’ve heard that in a number of places.
You know, when I would go out on a date, they would look at me and say, “Remember who you are.” A lot of it was in the eye. It was not about the words, but the words you associated with the eye roll and the remember who you are. So that kind of starts out chapter one, and then it goes throughout the book. We decided that it really is about, for us, we felt like those stories that we were telling went back to creating who you are, and then sticking to it and just continuing to be you throughout your career.
Lisa Grimes: That helps when we can be who we are in our personal and our professional lives, and it rolls all the way through. It also helps when we’re facing difficult decisions, because if we’d made the decision that integrity is part of our core brand, well if we have a decision or are asked to do something we might not want to do, well we already know who we are and that decision is that much simpler because we decided we’re going to be a person of integrity.
Paula Stafford: So it’s not a fiction book where we’re giving you any spoilers, but I will tell you so maybe you’ll want to buy a copy. So part one, achieve success. The three chapters are building your brand, delivering X+, and authentic leadership. So, shall I read? I’m going to read just a little bit from authentic leadership. But as most know, I like to sing, so I sort of try, but Ashley is going to absolutely remember this. That’s why I have to do this chapter.
“One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock. Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock rock. Toe-tapping, be-bopping and big smiles filled the room as the tunes of Bill Haley and the Comets wailed through the cafeteria. Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock rock. We’re gonna rock around the clock tonight.
It was employee appreciation day, a tradition started to build pride and camaraderie in our ranks, a way to say thank you. More than 1,000 people came for lunch and games, team building, and awards. Some executives participated, some did not. We weren’t forced to, and when I was asked to emcee the 50s themed event, I said yes without hesitation.” Maybe a little. “I rented a poodle skirt, and even learned how to skateboard so I could make my grand entrance on wheels. I was greeted with laughter, applause, and appreciation” I think “from the crowd. I showed up.”
So, that chapter is about being authentic in your leadership and I know that that day I was coerced into wearing a poodle skirt and being on a skateboard, which I felt was a little silly for an executive, but on the other hand, you know, I am silly, and I just decided to be me. And I wouldn’t say I was always that way in my career, but when I got to a point and I decided that I was in leadership and I wanted to lead others, that I really wanted to just be me.
So I was just a little bit silly that day. And I know that there were people laughing with me, but there were also a lot of people laughing at me. Those were the people that I just knew weren’t going to get on the bus with me, and you learn to know who are those that were on the bus with you and those who weren’t, and you learned to manage them. Anything else you want to say about the first three chapters?
Lisa Grimes: I would say, just in terms of building your brand, we have spent a lot of time and do workshops, actually, on building your brand. If none of you have sat down and really thought about building your own personal brand, you know, we can all sit here and rattle off a lot of corporate brands or logos, or think “Oh, that means that.” We see that logo, we think of that. Or we hear that phrase. And we like to challenge people to come up with your own personal brand. We’ve done it in six words, and we’ve actually challenged ourselves to our one word personal brand, because it kind of gets to the core of who you are and it takes a while to get there. Mine is connector. I like to connect with people, I like to connect people to other people as I meet them.
Paula Stafford: Mine is serve. Server.
Lisa Grimes: So, it’s just a good exercise. We talk about it a bit in here, but just figuring out who you are takes a lot of self-awareness, so it kind of helps you figure out your purpose and your passion on what drives you.
Well I’m going to read a little bit from the chapter called the juggling act, which is in our section on creating balance because it’s something I think we all have more opportunity that we can do on any given day.
“Many working women, especially mothers, would agree that their lives often resemble a three-ring circus. At any given time we could be flanked by a high-flying trapeze act in one ring, and daredevil stunts in another, and in the third ring stands Mom. Mom’s the juggler. Three, four, maybe five, six, or more balls are being tossed in the air. Some soar high, some stay close.
It didn’t happen overnight, of course. You may have started by learning to juggle in career and a spouse. Maybe we went back to school or we took on a big volunteer project. Over time, maybe we added one or many children, and then all of their activities. And then there’s our faith, our home, our friends, our sanity. Is there any room for an exercise ball? A good nutrition? A healthy meals ball? There seems to be no end to the number of balls we’re trying to keep in the air. The effort required to keep them all moving is relentless and exhausting. You may feel that, if even one ball drops, you will be thrown off balance and the whole act will come crashing down.
No. Let go of that notion. You’ll achieve the Holy Grail of a balanced life only if you accept that some of those balls can and should drop, at least for a season. It’s much easier to know, if you know your priorities.”
So one of the things that we talk about in the book is really figuring out what our priorities are, and I wish I could juggle, and it would have been nice if I’d learned how, but I could not balanced and learn how because it would have taken me 24 hours a day. And it’s not really a ball, but it’s a Waterford crystal heart. So this is what we use to symbolize our core values, our priorities that are key.
Paula Stafford: Which for us are our family and our faith.
Lisa Grimes: It’s something that we don’t want to drop, because if we drop it, it is going to require such a mass effort to put it back together. And it’s valuable. It’s the most valuable of any of the things that we have up here.
Next is a glass ball. Right behind there, we put a lot of emphasis on our careers. They’ve been glass balls for us. At times, they’ve been in different places. At times they, for me, probably before I found the balance that I needed and the fulfillment I needed were crystal balls, but I found much more balance and fulfillment by having it as a glass ball. But something I don’t want to drop, because again, it’s something I valued, and it’s something that if I were to drop this, it’s going to shatter.
We have rubber balls, and normally we’ve been on hardwood floors. I don’t know where it might go, but you know what? What happens to a rubber ball? You drop it, it is going to come right back to you. So you are juggling lots of things and you drop this, you’re going to barely realize that you dropped it.
Paula Stafford: I’d say, I’ve had two rubber balls. One was laundry, because I could throw it down, but it would bounce back up. It was not important to me. But also, my friends also were a rubber ball throughout my career. And I would say now that I’m more advanced in my career and my age et cetera, that my friends are a glass ball now, because I don’t want to lose them and drop them. But I have to say, my career definitely came ahead, and I was a bouncing ball with my friends. And my husband was the one making play dates for me when I was in town, which wasn’t very often.
Lisa Grimes: You know, and other things that are rubber balls is throwing the perfect I don’t know six year old birthday party, or it’s always having a clean house, or thinking if you’re wanting to have friends over you’ve got to make a home-cooked meal when a pizza will do. I like to cook. You don’t.
Paula Stafford: Some of my friends from the neighborhood know. They had to tell me what an avocado was one time.
Lisa Grimes: Then the other thing, and I just have a little collection of these, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on them, but we all tend to juggle some balls that it might be better if, when they fell, we left them on the ground. Maybe the ball is saying yes to everything that comes along because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to say no. But if we say no, we’re really giving ourselves permission to say yes to thinks that are our crystal and glass balls. Maybe this is the comparison. We’re spending our time wishing that we were somebody else or trying to be somebody else or wanting to be somebody else. That’s a ball that we can often spend a lot of time on that we probably don’t need to. Or the if only’s. If only I’d made that other choice. Well, you spent all this time. Or, guilt, false guilt, worry. You know, a lot of times if we do something that we shouldn’t have done, we should feel guilty about it, but there’s times that people try to put guilt on us that we just don’t need to accept.
Paula Stafford: And we have lots of stories in the book, in terms of that false guilt or real guilt. There’s a story of a hurricane, which you can read about and I won’t tell today. There were times that you felt guilty, but if you prioritize things right, and you knew that your career was a priority for you, then you tried not to get so guilty when you missed a kindergarten graduation because Miss Tindel, who taught my son and daughter in the third grade knows that I missed a lot of things.
But you know, it was a choice that I made, and I didn’t spend time feeling guilty about it when the kids came in the door. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there.” Because then that makes them feel pain and sorry and guilt and whatnot for it. But you know, we just went with it because it was what we decided, as a family, to do and it’s how we operated. So we tried to let that ball, that lead guilt just go to the bottom and not try to juggle it with everything else. Anyway, there’s a lot about guilt in the book.
Lisa Grimes: Yeah, because too often we let our to-do lists or these other things that really aren’t priorities occupy our day, and I don’t know if everybody can see it, but if you read the leave the lead balls where they belong, we’ll actually be able to smile, because we’ll have a lot more time and we’ll be spending our time doing what our priorities really are. And we’ll find a lot more balance.
Paula Stafford: Those balls may be a little silly, but they’re also a reminder and a visual to that you can juggle your way through. We weren’t saying that we were perfect at it, but we think we’ve given some tips and hints about how we managed to juggle some pretty busy lives for many years.
Lisa Grimes: Right. It’s a question that we often get asked, especially when we’ve been coaching or mentoring others is, do you believe you can achieve balance? And we do believe we can find balance, you’ve just got to have your priorities in order in order to do it.
Paula Stafford: So, the last three sections are on experiencing fulfillment, and there’s a lot of different ways. One of those is, we talked about complimenting beats competing, and that women … Ola, Maria. And that we compete with other women, that we are here as role models that we shouldn’t compete with each other. We should start complimenting and supporting each other as women. And anyway, I was getting distracted a little bit because Maria is part of my support, and how we compliment each other, because she helps our family in many, many ways.
And then the last chapter is on whom can I serve today? And we can talk about different ways that we serve and we mentor others, because a lot of times we think we don’t have time for mentoring or we don’t have time for giving back. For me, I felt guilty. Some of my guilt was that I didn’t feel like I was giving back in the community enough because it was all I could do to work and support my family. But as we were writing the book we realized there were things that we were doing to give back, and that you can give back even when you’re busy, and you don’t have to wait until you retire, because literally, a smile at the grocery store is giving back to someone else.
Lisa Grimes: Yeah. And so, the book ends with Susan Braun, who’s the CEO of the JimmyV Cancer Research Foundation, who’s certainly a great example of giving back for the majority of her career, writing letters to her younger self. But there are plenty of ways for us to give back on a daily basis, because we all know somebody that if we pass the mic around, every one of us has something they can teach another person. We might not think we do, but we all got experiences, and we just found, if we’re willing to be real and be who we are and be a bit vulnerable, which we were in the book, there weren’t stories in there that we would normally like to say, “Let’s tell this embarrassing thing that we did,” but you know what? It’s real and if it can help somebody, then that was kind of the reason that we wanted to write the book.
Paula Stafford: Yeah. So, I think you know, it’s all about remember who you are, and it starts with figuring out who you are. You might be able to tweak it a little bit, but if you just try to change too many things then you’re not true to who you are. So hopefully the book, and what we’ve heard from others is that there are tidbits in there and things that people are excited to try to implement and help to achieve that success, create that balance in their lives, and experience some fulfillment. So that’s why we wrote it, was to share these stories and give encouragement to people who maybe don’t think they can either find the success, the balance, and the fulfillment. So, that’s the why. We try to cut it off at about 25 minutes in terms of prepared remarks, but we are open to Q & A and any questions you want to ask or embarrass us, or anything.
After their initial dialogue, the ladies headed into a Q&A session with audience members. Below are some video clips from the Q&A –