166: Jillian Medoff: My career had hit the skids

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166: Jillian Medoff: My career had hit the skids

Jillian Medoff Show Notes Page

Jillian Medoff was a business consultant with a passion for being a novelist. After having sold a few novels she was unable to sell her next manuscript. That’s when the editor of her first novel gave her some advice that she thought was crazy. But it paid off and Jillian is now following her passion of writing about corporate life.

For many authors, art comes from chaos. For Jillian Medoff, it’s the exact opposite. The eldest daughter of a traveling salesman, Jillian moved 17 times by her senior year in high school. Although she’s been writing fiction, she was eight years old when she knew that the way she’d eventually earn money would have to be separate from her artistic life.

Having steady, stable employment (i.e., a corporate job) not only offered her financial security, it also ensured she’d never be forced to write solely as a means to pay rent. As a result, she’s pursued two distinct, unrelated careers over the past few decades: becoming a solid corporate citizen during business hours, while earning an MFT and publishing four novels in the shadows.

Jillian’s day job is in management consulting. She’s worked for a range of employers, including Deloitte, Aon, Revlon and Max Factor. Now, as a senior consultant with a professional services firm in NYC, she advises clients on communication strategies for all aspects of the employee experience, such as workforce engagement, performance management and professional development. She’s fluent in HR practices and procedures, with deep subject matter expertise in benefits and pay programs.

At the same time, she’s a novelist whose character-driven books examine complex family dynamics. Her current novel, THIS COULD HURT, is a hilarious dissection of a corporate family through the lens of five HR colleagues grappling with professional and personal challenges in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse. Her other novels include I COULDN”T LOVE YOU MORE, HUNGER POINT and GOOD GIRLS GONE BAD. HUNGER POINT was adapted into an original cable movie starring Christina Hendricks and Barbara Hershey.

Jillian currently lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, Keith Dawson, and three children, Sarah, Olivia and Mollie. Along with her job at Segal Consulting, she’s working on her next novel, a 21st century BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @JillianMedoff to get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet  

“When people consider HR, either they underestimate the value that HR brings to an organization or they are terrified.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“Stripping down HR is totally contradictory to the ethos of what HR should be within an organization.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“On one hand, HR is given a lot of responsibility and no means to enforce it.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“Your employees are what drive the organization.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“One of the things that HR has traditionally done is undersold itself.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“With solid branding and messaging, an HR department can become for the employees a source of strength.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“Ultimately, HR needs to have reckoning with itself within the organization.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“If you’re aligning your goals with the organization you lose a lot of employee buy-in.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“Every organization is its own very small universe.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“By making their messaging and communications stronger, HR then has a stronger presence.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

“Strive to find your best self and find peers or mentors that you admire and emulate them.” -Jillian Medoff Click to Tweet 

Hump to Get Over

Jillian Medoff was a business consultant with a passion for being a novelist. After having sold a few novels she was unable to sell her next manuscript. That’s when the editor of her first novel gave her some advice that she thought was crazy. But it paid off and Jillian is now following her passion of writing about corporate life.

Advice for others

Trust yourself in the moment and keep going.

Holding her back from being an even better leader

Self-consciousness.

Best Leadership Advice

Treat others the way you’d like to be treated yourself. Lead others the way you’d like to be led.

Secret to Success

I will never give up.

Best tools that helps in Business or Life

Compassion

Recommended Reading

This Could Hurt: A Novel

The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success

Contacting Jillian Medoff

Email: jillianmedoff [at] gmail.com

website: http://jillianmedoff.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JillianMedoff

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jillian-medoff-91961714/

Resources and Show Mentions

Call Center Coach

Empathy Mapping

54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.

Show Transcript: 

Click to access edited transcript

166: Jillian Medoff: My career had hit the skids

 

Intro:  Welcome to the Fast Leader podcast where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.

The number one thing that contributes to customer loyalty is emotion. So move onward and upward faster by gaining significantly deeper insight and understanding of your customer journey and personas with emotional intelligence. With your empathy mapping workshop you’ll learn how to evoke and influence the right customer emotions that generate improve customer loyalty and reduce your cost to operate. Get over your emotional hump now by going to empathymapping.com to learn more. 

Okay Fast Leader legion today I’m excited because I have somebody on the show today who’s going to bring some humanity to something that often times doesn’t seem so human. For many authors art comes from chaos for Jillian Medoff it’s the exact opposite. The eldest daughter of a traveling salesman, Jillian moved 17 times by her senior year in high school. Although she’s been writing fiction she was eight years old when she knew that the way she’d eventually earned money would have to be separate from her artistic life. Having steady, stable employment not only offered her financial security it also ensured she’d never be forced to write solely as a means to pay rent. As a result she’s pursued two distinct unrelated careers over the past few decades becoming a solid corporate citizen during business hours while earning a master’s in fine arts and publishing four novels in the shadows. 

 

Jillian’s day job is in management consulting. She’s worked for a range of employers including Deloitte, Aeon, Revlon and Max Factor. Now as a senior consultant with a professional services firm in New York City she advises clients on communication strategies for all aspects of employee experience such as workforce engagement, performance management and professional development. She’s fluent in HR practices and procedures with deep subject matter expertise and benefits and pay programs at the same time she’s a novelist whose character-driven books examine complex family dynamics. Her current novel This Could Hurt, is a hilarious dissection of a corporate family through the lens of five HR colleagues grappling with professional and personal challenges in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse.

 

Her other novels include, I Couldn’t Love You More, Hunger Point and Good Girls Gone Bad. Jillian currently lives in Montclair, New Jersey with her husband Keith Dawson and three children Sarah, Olivia, and Molly. Along with her job at Segal Consulting she’s working on her next novel a 21st century Bonfire of the Vanities. Jillian Medoff, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

 

Jillian Medoff:   I sure am, happy to be here.

 

Jim Rembach:   I’m glad you’re here. I’ve given our legion a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?

 

Jillian Medoff:      Sure. I actually think of my novels as a passion even though it is work. I work during the day as a management consulting as you said and I’ve had a long career in communications—corporate communications but my biggest passion of my life, other than my children and my husband, is crafting very long but readable novels about family systems that are either traditional families or corporate families like the one in my new novel. 

 

Jim Rembach:   It’s really interesting listening to you say that. You said family systems and often times we think about HR or human resources as a load of systems but that’s not what this book is about this book is about what I had mentioned as far as—it’s the humanity in HR which oftentimes just doesn’t seem like it’s there.

 

Jillian Medoff:      Oh, absolutely. I think when people consider HR it’s either they underestimate the value that HR brings to an organization or they are terrified. When someone says HR called—I got a call myself from HR the other day and I just sort of panicked and all she wanted to do was say that she had read an essay that I’d written for LinkedIn. So, I think one of the real driving forces of my novel was to find the humanity in a culture that’s traditionally driven by the bottom line. To do that I drew on my own experience working in an HR department right after the market crash. I really found out a lot about HR itself but also what the misperceptions that the public has about HR as a discipline.

 

Jim Rembach:   Even when you’re saying that I started thinking about—based on the comment that you had said a moment ago is that—you talked about value of HR to an organization but for me oftentimes I see that HR is one of those things like certain parts of the organization which may be outsource or stripped down to its skeleton. And so when you start talking about the value of the human capital and the importance of retention and skill sets and buy-in and culture and all of those things, how does that really fit? I mean, it is it really a value statement to make if you’re going to be stripping down HR or even outsourcing it to somebody else?

 

Jillian Medoff:      Oh, I think that’s stripping down HR is totally contradictory to the ethos of what HR should be within an organization. I mean, back in the late 70’s I think it was, HR was really creative maybe even it’s earlier at the height of unionization to be an advocate for employees. And then over the years the fundamental philosophy of some HR departments changed where they became less an advocate for the employee and more of a strategic partner to the business which meant that their goals aligned with the business goals of the company. So, if the business goals of a company are to drive revenue, decrease in expenses and stay at a court then they become less an advocate for the employee and more an advocate for the organization it put HR in this very strange place. 

 

On one hand you have employees who need advocates not just for issues like disability and medical benefits but also for issues that you see in the news now like sexual harassment and discrimination and at the same time you have the organization saying, well, we can’t have a liability. So, HR then has all this information about employees and then and what do they do with it? Who do they advocate for? For instance, in the case of like Harvey Weinstein if HR knew what was going on for years before anything was said people are asking in the public if HR knew why weren’t they advocating for the employee but in fact they were advocating for Harvey Weinstein who is also an employee of the company. On one hand I think HR is given a lot of responsibility and no means to enforce it. For instance, it’s HR’s responsibility to come up with policies that illustrate or enforce the company’s goals but they don’t have the power or they don’t have buy-in from senior leadership they’re sort of hampered. Going one step further when you strip down an HR department you really lose a vital function of the company that understands its employees understands what value they bring. If you think about it this way, an employee—a staff is really an organization’s most fundamental and valuable asset. Your employees are what drives the organization and when you don’t have a department that understands who they are what they can do, on a personal level not just on a function level, then you lose an entire aspect of that workforce. When HR employees know the employees that they’re working with, they know their co-workers they know their strengths they know where the challenges lie they can really help put them in roles that play to their strengths and that ultimately help the organization. When you strip down HR to a function you lose that essence. You lose the true humanity of what HR does bring to an organization, it’s about human resources it’s about human it’s not necessarily just about resources

 

Jim Rembach:   Listen to you talk I started thinking about a lot of organizations right now that needing to and must go through some type of transformation process. So, when I start thinking about the impact and effect of HR from an asset perspective and what they can actually can assist with and provide in that transformation process they are hampered. Over the course of time it has been shifted to where they are more functional then finesse and providing value but now we have to go through a transformation process, how can they actually do things differently or what do they need to do in order to really drive that transformation process?

 

Jillian Medoff:      Well, one of the things that HR traditionally has done is undersold itself and really presented itself as a place where that is administrative, they file forms and they process claims and they come up with spirit week and hat day and that kind of thing. But in fact I think with solid messaging and branding an HR department can then become for the employees a source of strength of advocacy where change really can happen on an individual contributor level. In other words, if I think of HR as the place to go and they’re going to file my claims and do administrative details and that’s about it then I’m not necessarily going to see the value of HR. However, if HR rebrands itself whether it’s human capital or some sense of the department as having power within the organization then I’m going to use it more to my advantage to help advance my career. Like if I’m with an organization and I know that HR not only has a lot of personal information but it also has information about me relative to where I can go within the organization I’m definitely going to leverage their knowledge base and tools to define my career and grow within the organization. I think that ultimately HR need to have a reckoning with itself within the organization like what do we want to do? What do we want to be? And how do we present ourselves to our colleagues and to senior leadership. 

 

Jim Rembach:   That’s a good point so they have to go through their own transformation too, don’t they?

 

Jillian Medoff:      Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think it’s kind of—at one point if you’re aligning your goals with the organization you lose a lot of employee buy-in. I don’t want to go to HR for my personal problems if I feel like they’re much more inclined to side with the organization. But if an HR department presents itself as objective as they can but also confidential I think there’s a lot of confidentiality issues that that HR can truly leverage to say we are here for you, we have resources that that help protect your confidentiality, we have third party advocates that you can use that you will not be in anyway—if you want to report something or if you want to just even talk to us about where you’d like to go professionally—I think that there are tools and resources that HR can take advantage of to help employees help themselves and that would be one step in a more positive direction.

 

Jim Rembach:   It’s interesting one of the things too when you start talking about that dynamic as well as humanizing HR—in the book, of course there are several components that really make it real because we’re talking about a novel and a story of people’s lives you often refer to and address the whole generational dynamic within HR departments that you’ll find. There’s also gender dynamics too, right?

 

Jillian Medoff:      Right.

 

Jim Rembach:   When you start talking about those elements within HR and the work that you’re doing with organizations how often times do you think that that HR isn’t helping themselves or doing things in a manner by which they can become that more valued asset? 

 

Jillian Medoff:      Well one of the things about the book that that I really wanted to convey is the fact that every organization is its own microcosm or its own very small universe with its own dysfunction, with its own logic and I think in in the book you see this small research company contextually because a year after the financial crash there’s been a series of layoffs so now they’re very, very lean HR is almost at the point at which an organization would farm out the department or hire someone to do the HR arm and just get rid of them. I really wanted to show an HR department sort of under siege and within that department itself there are generational dynamics and there’s all kinds of other personal issues that come into play.

 

But I think on the larger scale one of the things that HR has traditionally not been very good at is communicating with employees. I’m not talking about just branding themselves and having a philosophy I’m also talking about having a consistent voice when talking to employees making sure that the messages that you’re getting across from HR to employees are as appropriate for the audience as possible. For instance one of the things that we talk about when I’m in my business life is helping HR communications segment their communications so that they target the markets or the audience’s that they really want to reach. For instance you wouldn’t necessarily talk to a millennial generation the same way you might talk to people who are starting to think about retirement. 

 

So let’s say for instance we’re talking about financial wellness you would talk about it differently with millennial than you would with let’s say the baby boomers, I hate to use those kinds of  buzzwords but in fact that’s it’s an easier way of saying people in their 60’s versus people in their 30’s. With people in the 30s you’re going to talk about financial wellness and holistic ideas about retirement when you talk to people in their early 60’s you talk about retirement readiness. I think HR has always, from the companies that I’ve worked for and as opposed to the companies that I—I’m an employee of a company and I’m also a consultant to companies and the companies that I have worked for have not been very good at targeting the messages that they want to get across to different generations or different groups within the organization, different demographics, levels that kind of thing. And so, as a consultant one of the key strategies that we bring is niche marketing, target marketing how to make sure your messages get across correctly. Once you start having that consistent tone and your audience segmentation is defined then you start to see HR as a more authoritarian voice a voice that you want to pay attention to. In that way by making their messaging and communications stronger HR then has a stronger presence. 

 

Jim Rembach:   And as you’re talking I started thinking about—they’re becoming more customer-centric employees-centric more human-centric and they’ve got to increase their own emotional intelligence to connect with their audience so that they in themselves have and gain engagement and trust. That type of conversation and what you just went through is very similar inside and outside the organization, so I think that’s fascinating.

 

Jillian Medoff:      Oh, thank you. One of the things that I also think that is very interesting is how you have senior leadership wanting their HR department to have more of a presence and be more authoritarian, not authoritarian in a negative way I mean just have more cache, have more strength to not be viewed as just administration and clerical staff but to be viewed as strategic partners of the business who can help their employees live their best life, for want of a better phrase but find professional growth and development. A lot of times the senior leaders they won’t put resources toward human resources they don’t pay for an internal communications arm they don’t help HR financially—I mean having good communicators having strong philosophy having a good brand that cost money. On one hand senior leadership wants HR to be a force within the organization but on the other hand they don’t put any enough budget behind it so that HR can do the kinds of things that be the kind of department that they want. Sometimes it’s not HR’s fault sometimes HR is at the mercy of what senior leadership is willing to—how far they’re willing to support them.

 

Jim Rembach:   That’s interesting I mean, that’s the same case that’s so many different groups within an organization are contending with and it comes down to them being or needing to do a better job at business acumen to be able to present those cases to the executive level to say and do just that, hey, do we want to improve our retention rates? Do we want to improve our buy-in rates which is going to result in XY and Z from a financial perspective and therefore if you want to do that this asset that you have here requires investment and this is the type of investment that it requires.

 

Jillian Medoff:      Oh, absolutely. I think a lot of big companies certainly like JPMorgan Chase those big organizations they understand the value of HR and the value of human capital and they know how to leverage it they’re also doing it on a larger scale. A lot of my clients are mid to small, maybe a thousand employees or at the most 5000 employees and those are the organizations that I just don’t think that senior leadership puts enough money behind or they don’t put enough support behind HR, it’s the mid-level group that really suffers from a lack of consistency with HR philosophy versus output of what HR can do. And you see that a lot in the news lately you see this a great deal where on one hand HR is getting just (21:17 inaudible) for all the ways that they fell down on the job when it comes to diversity and sexual harassment but on the other hand HR—you can’t expect HR to do all the heavy lifting itself you can’t empower a department without giving them the resources, the funding you can’t expect HR to do it all themselves, I guess is the bottom line. In large companies they understand this and I’m talking about really big companies with a lot of social cache and a lot of money but it’s the mid-level organizations and the smaller organizations where they want HR to do and be all things but they don’t give them the financial support.

 

Jim Rembach:   I think that’s a good point. When we start talking about HR when we start talking about engagement when we start talking about connection and communication there’s a whole lot of passion associated with that and one of the things that we look at on the show to help give us some of that passion are quotes. Is there a quote or two that you like that you can share? 

 

Jillian Medoff:      Yes, it’s my favorite one and it’s—Hitch your wagon to a star, it’s by Ralph Waldo Emerson and it’s really kind of I think very appropriate for business because it’s sort of like—when you’re looking at your professional development when you’re looking at how what you want to bring to an organization—really strive to find your best self and find peers or mentors that you admire and emulate I think that to me is the essence of business leadership.

 

Jim Rembach:   That quote has a lot of different angles that you can actually use it for. When you start looking at the difference in what you do from a consulting perspective your passion for writing how you’ve written several books and just the whole course of life I’m sure there was a lot of humps that you had to get over and it brought you where you are today and also where you’re going. So, is there a story that you can share with us when you’ve had to get over the hump? 

 

Jillian Medoff:      Absolutely. There was a period in 2008 where I had sold two novels and they hadn’t—one had done very well one hadn’t done that well, and I really felt like I was at the end of my writing career from a professional standpoint like, I figured I would always be writing but I would mess it’s not necessarily sell. I spoke to the woman who is now my literary agent and who had been the editor of my first novel and in 1997 my first novel Hunger Point came out she was the editor in 1998 she went and joined a literary agency. Many years later and she’s a big agent and my writing career had—it really was had hit the skids in a lot of ways. I talked to her and that and I said, look I have this manuscript it has been to 28 publishers all of them have rejected it and I think I’m done I mean I think I really have reached the end of my career. And she said, wait a second let’s back up you need to really sit down with yourself and think about what do you want to do as a novelist where do you want to go. And I said, but it doesn’t really matter where I want to go it’s what the publishers are buying. And she said, no that’s not true you have to really sit down and think about your art and think about commerce and think about what makes sense and you have to decide what you want to do and then we’ll get you there. And I thought that was really crazy but I did what she said. 

 

I sat down I worked on the book that I presented to her that had been rejected by 28 publishers. It took two years, I rewrote it and then I started working on—we ended up selling it in two weeks. We got two offers it came out in 2012 and it was a best-seller it’s called, I Couldn’t Love You More. This was in 2010 I had sold I Couldn’t Love You More and I really started thinking about what I wanted to write about what I was interested what my passion was and it was really about corporate life and I wanted to write a novel about this. And so for the next seven years I worked on a novel that I thought would never see the light of day but it was what I was truly passionate about it was the course of my 30-year career it was taking all the talents that I’d had as a novelist all my experience as a corporate worker and I put it into this novel and it came out last month. And so the hump was, oh my god, I will never sell another book but the true lesson was find what your passion look within yourself don’t look at the market look at how you want to write stick with it and that’s what really led me to the success of this novel.

 

Jim Rembach:   We definitely hope that you continue to focus on that passion so that you can release good works like this. And the Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Now before we move on let’s get a quick word from our sponsor. 

 

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Jim Rembach:   Alright here we go Fast Leader legion it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Jillian, the Hump Day Hoedown is a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Julian Medoff, are you ready to hoedown? 

 

Jillian Medoff:      I’m ready to hoedown. 

 

Jim Rembach:   Alright. So what do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?

 

Jillian Medoff:      Self-consciousness.

 

Jim Rembach:   What is the best leadership advice you have ever received? 

 

Jillian Medoff:      Treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself. Lead others the way you would like to be led.

 

Jim Rembach:   What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?

 

Jillian Medoff:      I will never give up.

 

Jim Rembach:   What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?

 

Jillian Medoff:         Compassion. 

 

Jim Rembach:   What would be one book that you’d recommend to our listeners and it could be from any genre, and of course we’re going to put a link to all four of your books on your show notes page including latest which is, This Could Hurt.

 

Jillian Medoff:         Emotional Intelligence.

 

Jim Rembach:   Okay, Fast Leader listeners you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to www.fastleader.net/jillianmedoff. Okay, Jillian, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you’ve been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything back you can only choose one. So what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?

 

Jillian Medoff:         Okay, if I could take one skill set that I have now is that I understand novel writing in a way that I didn’t back at 25. I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy being insecure about what I was working on. I think that what I would teach my younger self is to trust yourself in the moment and keep going. You can always go back and edit but just going forward just get the words down and trust yourself because you know what you want to say.

 

Jim Rembach:   Jillian it was an honor to spent time with you today. Can you please share with the Fast Leader legion how they can connect with you? 

 

Jillian Medoff:         Yes, you can absolutely email me anytime, jillianmedoff@gmail.com and I’m happy to talk about anything from management consulting to writing novels.

 

Jim Rembach:   Jillian Medoff, thank you r sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot! Woot!

 

Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader Show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster. 

 

END OF AUDIO

 

 

2019-12-08T06:05:42-05:00March 28th, 2018|Podcasts|0 Comments

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