As part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Christine Moore.
Christine joins FirmDecisions with over 20 years’ of agency and in-house experience in commercially driven roles. Her global knowledge is complemented by an in-depth understanding of the US market and an extensive marketing procurement background. Moore has held roles at the likes of PepsiCo Inc., Interpublic, Dentsu International, MDC Partners and WPP during her career.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always had a keen sense of curiosity and drive to really understand things. I think this is what has allowed me to have such a broad and stimulating career. I have enjoyed roles in finance, management consulting, procurement, operations. And I have worked within three continents. And while doing all this, I have understood that solving problems is the most important thing you can do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I think any global agency pitch is really the most interesting story that has happened to me. The pitch includes lots of ideas, creativity, late hours, travel, and intensity that you cannot re-create in any normal business setting. I have experienced them from the client side and the agency side, and it is really when you see the true colors (both good and bad) come out. I can only imagine it is how players on a competitive team feel when they go into a tournament.
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?
When I was younger — and very unaware about my driven, type A personality — I would always go for what I wanted in my career. This entailed reaching out to executives “outside of protocol”. It might seem strange but being brought up in Scandinavia, I never really experienced hierarchy and thus I would directly approach senior leaders within the organization to better understand strategies, implementations, and other areas, that was often not privy to me. Now, I understand that I was probably considered this terrible youngster that was not playing within the rules — but quite frankly I do not think I would have been where I am if that would not have happened. I was younger and more unaware of “the corporate rules”.
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 been lucky in all my roles to have had a “guardian angel”, in terms of a mentor, leader, collaborator who had my back. It has come naturally to me, and I am grateful for that.
In my first role after college, in a large global bank, the local office manager was very inclusive and saw my potential and curiosity. I was able to work closely with the leadership team on several projects and benefit from some of his managerial perks by securing a one-month work /stay program in our New York office, which catapulted me into the global business life. Since I had that experience in my first real work role or job, I came to take is as a natural work relationship and was never shy to look for a mentor throughout my career.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Oh yes, this is an important topic for me — on both ends. Before “game day” as I call it, I become a bit more introspective and I try to find “my A game” — this is where I am at my best, focused, and really knowing the issues and how to solve them”. I go through the event in my head and visualize or analyze it, to feel more confident in the situation. Afterwards, I do not dive into something new immediately (unless I must) and take a few moments to decompress, be grateful that I did well. I try not to analyze what I could have done better at this moment. You can do that later.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It is SO imperative that we have the best team in place to solve an opportunity or problem. Great ideas and execution come from discussion, enhancement, reiteration, and you will never achieve that without different thinkers with different backgrounds, education, color, social status etc. We absolutely need to embrace the unicorn in all of us, especially in competitive industries, where you must reinvent “sliced bread” every day to stay abreast of your competition. And it makes our work so much more exciting when you constantly see things from a new perspective.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
We need to take off our “blinders”. We all carry a past, whether we are part of a majority group or a minority group. It takes (at least) two sides to work together to move towards a world of more inclusivity. I feel like we have almost ended up in an environment where everything has become so “politically correct” that we can’t get to the underlying issues in the workplace. I think that if we could allow for more informal discussions, we would reach much better results.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
You are the ultimate decision-maker and have a responsibility to make the right call to help the organization do the best it can in any circumstance. How you make those decisions is a mix of your advisors, other leaders, and your own experience. Other leaders make recommendations, based on their expertise and area of responsibility. It sounds simple on paper, but it is a very complex environment to operate in.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a senior executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I think many executives gets put on a pedestal and operate behind closed doors with a very small circle of advisors (the c-suite). It’s the black box of the company. No one really knows what goes on in there, and it is not really questioned unless something goes very wrong.
I think this is an outdated model of running a company. In this era, success lies in being connected to your company, your employees, your clients, and your peers. You will be your best when you can live and work in a transparent manner, and not be afraid of the sun shining on your dealings. I work with an open-door policy, encourage dialogue, discussion, and innovation. Sometimes it is hard to change the culture of the company, and as a leader you must be patient but firm in developing more openness in an organization.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Don’t get me started. Every time I see the differences, I get frustrated. I think about how men are allowed, even expected, to be aggressive, dominant, overbearing, gas lighting, while a woman is assumed to be “emotional” when she speaks up. It takes too long to break stereotypes for women (or other minorities) to sit on the sideline and wait for their turn. You need to step up, become the person you are happy to be, in line with your values. What everyone else says about you is none of your business. And I know it is hard to do. But if you manage to do it here and there, you are doing great!
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I am not sure there is a striking difference — this is my first number 1 role, I have always been a number 2 in command, with strong ties to the number 1. So, I have seen what the role entails. I do think it is important for a leader to know the business, the people, and the clients as much as you can. The more comfortable you are in your expertise in those areas, the more time and energy you can put on decision-making and leadership.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I think most of us have it in us — it is a matter of releasing the passion to pursue it. I think the traits that have served me well has been thinking like a business leader for a very long time during my career. What I mean by this is to always think of a problem in a multitude of ways. There are many angles to a situation and becoming a leader requires you to apply 360-degree thinking. It is important to be both strategic and tactical. To see the big picture and the small pieces of the puzzle. Some of us are better at swimming in one lane, and that may be the people who shouldn’t pursue leadership roles. But I really don’t want to discourage anyone.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Be yourself and do not downplay your female traits. It is important to give culture room to breathe — when we set an example in our own behavior, the organization will start to emulate that behavior. It’s important. To think about what you would like that to be. It is usually a mix of company and your own personal values that will drive this mix of identities and allow a team to thrive together.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I spent a fair amount of my extra time at home (no commute, no travel) to help a local charity organization who offer services for less fortunate. I like to physically get involved, not just donate money or clothes, so I helped at a community closet, allowing people to come and pick up clothing for themselves and their families. It is important to spread a sense of belonging, in a friendly and non-judgmental environment. It also helps me step out of my own head and be present with individuals who have not had the same opportunities in their life as I have.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I only have 3.
- Before I started my career, I was oblivious to company politics. It probably took me a while even working before, I understood the depth and importance of it. I am not sure I understand it now.
- I also didn’t know how much company culture has such an impact of success of an individual. As we are all advised by the older generation (our parents) we go into the work force with much of their learnings, only to find that we may not fit in the role we have achieved because it was set on our parents’ premises, not ours.
- I wish I had been told that quantity is not quality. I wish I had learned how to have a better balance between work and life when I was younger. It is a very difficult boundary to have when you are at the beginning of your career and it may look different from now, but it is important to know how to turn off, relax and enjoy life outside of work whatever age you are.
You are a person of influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think “pay it forward” is such simple yet genius thinking. We all need a little help sometimes, when you don’t have exact change for the meter, it rains and you don’t have an umbrella, when your cell phone battery dies… I think helping a stranger is one of the most important things we can do. And it feels so good on both the giving and the receiving ends.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s not how you fall; it is how you pick yourself up again that matters”. I am not sure who said it, but we will all inevitably make a mistake — whether you fail according to your own standards or the world’s expectations on you. When this happens, it is imperative to assess, reinvent and go back out there. It took me a few mistakes before I learned that curling up in a ball and avoiding reality did not work. When we learn to have the courage to face our mistakes, we take the power out of them, and we can face them in a much more positive and ultimately successful way. I have walked away from many situations where I have failed, but when you face the situation, you will overcome and feel much better afterwards.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, advertising, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Brenee Brown — I discovered her TED talks about two years ago, and during the pandemic, I started listening to her podcasts (Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us), and every time she covers a topic that I had not ever thought of, in a way that makes me think outside the box and she inspires me to really push myself to do things differently. I haven’t met anyone in real life that can continue to trigger my thoughts, question my stance and act accordingly as she does.