Chuck Gose: Welcome to Chuck Chats Tracy!
Tracy Imm: Thanks Chuck! Excited to be here!
Chuck: It’s been a few minutes since I last saw you. I think it was at the IABC Heritage Region Conference in Pittsburgh a few years ago.
Tracy: Yes. I was expecting to see you in Richmond at the last IABC Heritage Conference this past fall. It’s always one of my favorite conferences with great people, great conversation, and always good dine arounds.
Chuck: I think they’d had enough of me. A break is always good ;).
When I saw you last, you handed me a book that you wrote - A Brave Girl’s Guide to Work that You Love.
What motivated you to write the book?
Tracy: It actually started as a talk I gave at IABC Heritage in Indy (the first time I met you) about how to advance in your career. Then I started giving it as a lecture to undergraduate students that I taught. I realized I could impact more people if I turned it into a book on Amazon.
Angee Linsey actually gave me the idea and I ran with it.
Chuck: What has the feedback been?
Tracy: It’s been great.
The book is short, sweet, and to the point. I created a free workbook to go with it where the reader can do exercises to help them figure out what they want to do at work.
Originally, I thought mostly young people would want it but I’ve found people of all ages find it helpful.
Chuck: Throughout your career, have you been a “brave girl”?
Tracy: Yes and no.
I like to have a plan and then take measured risks. I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve had some great mentors, guides, and coaches along the way.
The big thing is to be prepared when opportunity comes knocking. You have to have ability and willingness to try new assignments.
Chuck: Is there a danger in taking on new assignments / being stretched too thin? Or is being brave also about learning when and where to say no?
Tracy: I think if you believe in yourself then taking on new assignments can actually be fun.
But being stretched too thin is not a good thing.
So many organizations try to operate on a shoestring budget and expect results that are not achievable. I think it’s incumbent upon you as a professional to point out the facts of the situation to your client or supervisor.
Chuck: I’m sure there’s lots of great advice in the book but what’s your favorite piece of advice?
Tracy: Most people don’t do the personal development work to figure out what’s going to satisfy them.
I have found that when things weren’t really working at work, there was actually a values conflict.
For example, freedom is one of my top values and if I’m not working in an environment where freedom and creativity can happen, then I’m not going to be very satisfied.
I recommend that people look at what their top five values are and then decide if their work is honoring those values.
Be prepared when opportunity comes knocking.
Chuck: If the exercise shows it’s time to leave, that in and of itself can bring out bravery.
Tracy: Absolutely. I think you have to know when it’s time to leave and also know how to leave gracefully. It’s a really small world out there and your reputation is everything!
Chuck: I think this speaks to managers, too.
When I left Rolls-Royce, I remember being irritated that my manager didn’t even counteroffer. I asked her about it and she said she was too excited for my next opportunity to hold me there.
That’s a sign of a great manager and leader, too.
Tracy: I had a similar situation. The leader knew I was going to blossom in the next role at another organization and that he really couldn’t hold me back. He asked me what he could have done differently and I told him nothing—he had been a phenomenal mentor and internal client.
I always use him as my gold standard for what an executive should be like.
Chuck: What’s his name?
Tracy: Mike Wallace. Not the 60 Minutes Mike Wallace.
Chuck: Shout out to Mike Wallace and Maria Weber!
Look at what your top five values are and then decide if your work is honoring those values.
Tracy: Absolutely. I think it’s hard to be a good leader. But once you find one and work for them it’s the best feeling.
Chuck: What do you think communicators, and specifically internal communicators, should be doing to be seen as stronger leaders?
Tracy: You have to know the business and speak that language. You have to be able to help the executives get business results.
I’ve always had a seat at the table because I understand the revenue streams, the operational issues, the customer focus, and that’s what the organization is all about.
As an internal communications leader, your job is to translate the business strategy for the company and also listen to employees to find out what impact those business decisions have on employees.
Your job is to be the glue in the organization and keep the wheels turning—often the executives are too far removed and have made decisions that really impact the front line employees. You have to be able to advise and say confidently “we might want to think a little bit more about this” when you see the employee impact.
I always felt like I was the voice of the people when I was in executive meetings and I took that responsibility very seriously.
You have to know when it’s time to leave and also know how to leave gracefully.
Chuck: What’s a major skill that you see that’s evaded a lot of communicators, either younger or more seasoned ones?
Tracy: One that comes to mind is project management.
If you know some basic project management skills then you can really stand out. You have to be able to connect all the dots, in my opinion. And if you can show strong project management skills, you’re different.
Chuck: Project management... not my strong suit at all. It is an absolute grind for me and I get no pleasure out of it BUT it has to be done.
The skill I’d like to see communicators develop aligns with your “brave” system—speaking truth to power. It takes time and effort to build the respect but communicators and leaders would both be better off.
Tracy: Good point.
Life is really about relationships and it takes time to earn people’s respect and trust.
You have to be careful about speaking truth to power. Have facts to backup your claims.. Have some benchmark information to show how others are doing things and that they work.
You have to know the business and speak that language. You have to be able to help the executives get business results.
Chuck: I see that you’ve also started a podcast. Is this related to the book or a whole new effort?
Tracy: Yes, I have and I absolutely love the medium.
I was blogging but had a hard time with being consistent. And I love to talk to people and hear their stories.
I wanted to create a platform where women could share their stories and their lessons to help other women as they navigate life.
I’ve released 23 episodes and I’ve recorded over 50. I’m basically banking my content and then dripping it out over time. I release episodes early Monday morning.
Over 2,000 downloads in 22 countries so far! I am always looking for new guests too.
Chuck: And the podcast is called…...
Tracy: Brave Girls with Tracy Imm!
Chuck: What’s really cool about podcasts is how quickly they spread, especially to places where you wonder how someone even found it.
Did you listen to podcasts before you started? If so, which ones?
Tracy: You are so right. In fact, I noticed today my podcast was downloaded in Uruguay and I had to look on a map to see where it was!
And yes, I am a huge podcast listener. I have two hours in my car each day, so I have many favorites.
While I was writing the book (and my second book), I got hooked on The Beautiful Writer’s Podcast.
Chuck: When I started podcasting, Freakonomics was my inspiration. I love their tagline - “The hidden side of everything”—and I thought that fit so nicely to internal comms.
It’s amazing how much creativity can be expressed through just the human voice.
I’m going to check out that last one though. We can all be more beautiful writers.
Tracy: They interview really great writers. Turns out, they face the same blocks as you and I.
I’ve found comfort in knowing that Elizabeth Gilbert, Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, and others hit up against the same issues.
Chuck: Do you have any tricks or tips on preparing your podcast guests?
Tracy: I tell them to just pretend we are sitting at my kitchen table on a Saturday morning drinking coffee and talking. It seems to relax them.
I also send them some background info before the show. If there is another episode that I think they should listen to I will recommend they do that before the interview too.
I always tell them that they will feel like they are doing all the talking and that’s the point. And I prep them for my finale question: “What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done and how does it inspire you today?”
Chuck: If I ever get to be on your podcast, can we pretend it’s bottomless mimosas instead? I feel like that would make for a more fun conversation than coffee.
Tracy: Bottomless mimosas it is!
Chuck: So good. Are you a New Year’s resolution person?
Tracy: I like to set my intentions for the year. I usually pick a word or theme. I don’t have a good track record with New Year’s resolutions.
Chuck: And so what’s your word or theme for 2019?
Tracy: It’s simplify.
Have you gotten sucked into the Netflix show with Marie Kondo like the rest of the US?
If so, then if it does not spark joy, get rid of it!
Chuck: A year or so ago, I watched one of her videos on YouTube of folding socks. I’ll never get that time back, nor does anyone have time to talk to each sock.
Chuck: I’m not a resolution person either, but last year two rang true: elaborate and unnecessary. And this is very different from your simplify theme.
But in 2019, my word is “pride.”
Tracy: That’s interesting. Explain.
Chuck: The 2019 one or last year’s?
Chuck: I found myself not being proud of things that I should have been. I was proud of others, but not of myself. And so that’s part of my journey in 2019 is to seek out things that I’m proud of, whether that’s spending time on projects I enjoy or creating new talks.
Whatever it is, I want to find pride again.
Tracy: That’s awesome. Well I always learn something from your talks so my vote is for you to keep speaking and sharing your ideas. You are an excellent public speaker and always have something up your sleeve to teach us!
Chuck: Well that’s very kind of you, and I particularly like the “something up my sleeve” part. Always good for a surprise here and there.
But I could just as easily say the same about you.
Tracy: Now we have the mutual admiration society going. What do you see as a trend for internal comms in 2019?
Chuck: I’m not a trendy person naturally so I always struggle with questions like this. So to answer / not answer your question, I’d love to see communicators do more exploration with podcasts internally to see how employees will respond.
Some are doing it but not many.
What about you?
Tracy: I still think video is underutilized with employee comms. Podcasts are an interesting concept but not sure most places would adopt them when you can barely get the intranet to be a collaborative workspace.
Chuck: Guess I’m looking for sneaky ways to engage, inform, and educate coworkers in ways they least expect it.
Well Tracy, thanks for taking the time to be on Chuck Chats. Let’s end this the way we do all of the chats. Share your passion for the world of internal communications. . . but using only emojis.
Chuck: Here’s to a successful 2019 and hopefully our paths cross sometime this year.
Tracy: Thanks for having me. This was fun!