2:30: "The Courageous Conversationalist" - Pam Kaufman

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"The Courageous Conversationalist"

Pam Kaufman is the President of Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products. She leads worldwide licensing and merchandising for Viacom Media Networks and Paramount Pictures.

Pam’s job is to expand the relationships that Viacom and Nickelodeon have with their audiences. And she does that by building personal relationships in every part of her work. She also believes in telling the people that work for her what they need to know to get better - and doing that in real time. From a leadership perspective, that makes her rare.

This episode is called, “The Courageous Conversationalist”.


Three Takeaways

  • Define success explicitly.

  • Maximize the value of your time.

  • Unlock the potential of those around you.


"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 2-30: "The Courageous Conversationalist" - Pam Kaufman

Pam Kaufman is the President of Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products. She leads worldwide licensing and merchandising for Viacom Media Networks and Paramount Pictures.  In fact, Viacom and Nickelodeon are in the news this week. They just acquired the rights to Garfield. 

Pam’s job is to expand the relationships that Viacom and Nickelodeon have with their audiences. And she does that by building personal relationships in every part of her work. She also believes in telling the people that work for her what they need to know to get better - and doing that in real time. From a leadership perspective, that makes her rare. 

The episode is called, “The Courageous Conversationalist”.

“I think again, if you have a strong leadership team, they want to know, "Where can I do better? Did I misread that?" And timing, immediately. What are you waiting for? I don't know what you'd be waiting for, quite frankly.”

Knowing the right thing to say is part of the skill of leadership. Most leaders get better at that over time. 

Having the confidence to say it as soon as they should, doesn’t always follow.

In my experience, most leaders wait too long to give feedback. And sometimes, twist themselves into pretzels trying to justify why now is not the time for that conversation.

Sir Alex Ferguson might be the greatest coach of all time. For those of you who don’t know, he was the coach of Manchester United for 26 seasons. In 13 of those, he won the English league title. Imagine winning the World Series or the Super Bowl every other year for 26 years.

A Harvard Case Study has been written about his leadership practices. It’s definitely worth a read. Here’s a link. In the Case Study, he talks about when he gave his players feedback.

“No one likes to be criticized. Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement instead. So I tried to give encouragement when I could. For a player—for any human being—there is nothing better than hearing, “Well done.” Those are the two best words ever invented. You don’t need to use superlatives.

At the same time, in the dressing room, you need to point out mistakes when players don’t meet expectations. That is when reprimands are important. I would do it right after the game. I wouldn’t wait until Monday. I’d do it, and it was finished.”

Knowing what to say, is worth thinking about, for sure.

Debating when to say it, is worth much less of your time than you’re almost certainly giving it.

To quote today’s guest, “I don't know what you'd be waiting for, quite frankly.”

Here’s Pam Kaufman.

Charles:

Pam, welcome to Fearless. Thank you so much for joining me here in the lobby at the Majestic at Cannes again.

Pam Kaufman:

Thank you for having me.

Charles:

When did creativity first show up in your life? When are you first conscious of creativity being a thing?

Pam Kaufman:

Creativity was a thing on my first job. I was fortunate enough to work for a small graphic design agency in New York, started by two women, and they created fashion catalogs. And back in the day when people were reading print fashion catalogs, I remember walking into this teeny office run by two 28 year old women, thinking this is the most exciting, creative place I've ever been. Between the design, the fact that they curated not only the fashion for the catalog, the jewelry, the models, and had such a great aesthetic perspective about the whole thing. I thought, "Okay, this feels really exciting."

Charles:

Was creativity part of your childhood?

Pam Kaufman:

It was not. I grew up the daughter of a very successful Wall Street person, who then ironically became one of the most famous handicappers in horseracing history. That's another podcast. And then my mother, who was both a teacher and ran a bridge club. So we went to the Broadway show now and then, but I wouldn't say it was part of my childhood.

Charles:

Do you have brothers and sisters?

Pam Kaufman:

I do. I have one older sister, I'm sorry, one younger sister, Jill, who works on Wall Street.

Charles:

Wow, okay. What got you into the design business coming out of school?

Pam Kaufman:

Well Charles, as I said in my recent commencement address at American University, it was kind of the only job I could get when I graduated college. I graduated with a Degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science and I thought, "Well, when I graduate I'm definitely going to be the next Diane Sawyer because I've had the best internships and I definitely know what I'm doing." And quite frankly it was very challenging finding a job in New York, in television.

And so after many conversations and meeting many people, like 50 interviews worth of people, I was connected with Graphics Unlimited, Karen [inaudible]. That was my first role and I kind of fell into it and it was the best first job. And it set me off on the journey.

Charles:

So but originally you wanted to be in front of the camera, you wanted to be an investigative journalist?

Pam Kaufman:

Yes, that's correct. Reporting.

Charles:

Do you miss that? Do you wish that you had gone down that path?

Pam Kaufman:

No-

Charles:

Not at all?

Pam Kaufman:

... because three jobs later I ended up in television, and I think what's been exciting about my role right now is I'm working in television, I'm working across obviously a lot of different IP, and my message in some ways is coming across through other places other than being obviously in front of the camera.

Charles:

And from there where?

Pam Kaufman:

And from there I went to another small company that got me into the entertainment marketing business called Equity Marketing, and Equity created the toys for fast food companies based on entertainment properties.

Charles:

Oh wow. And that's a huge business.

Pam Kaufman:

It was a huge business back then. You know, I'll tell you my first interview went something like this. "Okay, we saw you have experience at The Olive Garden, we're working on a promotion for Burger King and there's this new show, we think it's going to be big, it's called The Simpsons, and we think you might be the right person to help us launch The Simpsons at Burger King." And so that's quite frankly how I got into the entertainment business.

Charles:

What a brief.

Pam Kaufman:

Right?

Charles:

What a brief.

Pam Kaufman:

And I thought, "Oh my God, this sounds exciting. I don't really know a lot about the entertainment business, but I certainly know fast food, I know sales," and I really started loving the agency side of the work.

Charles:

How soon before you knew The Simpsons was going to be as big as it became?

Pam Kaufman:

Right away.

Charles:

Straight away?

Pam Kaufman:

Right away. It was really exciting. Burger King took a big leap on this obviously unknown property back in the day and it sold out within seconds and they subsequently did three other programs around The Simpsons.

Charles:

So you knew fast food, you were learning about the entertainment business. How high up in the organization were you at this point from a leadership standpoint?

Pam Kaufman:

I was about a Senior Director and I realized two things. I'm a good salesperson, I really like the entertainment business, and I loved connecting with people. And so from there I had done a program for Dairy Queen on Tom and Jerry, and at that point Turner Broadcasting had just purchased the Hanna-Barbera film library to launch The Cartoon Network. And again, I met an amazing person, Lois Sloane who ran the licensing group at Turner, and she said, "Pam, oh my God, we need what you do over here. We have all these new kid's properties from The Flintstones, The Jetsons, et cetera. Can you come and launch this group for me, do promotions for us?"

And I started as a Vice President there, which was obviously a big deal, and I launched the Promotional Division to sell Turner's IP to outside companies.

Charles:

And what made you a good salesperson?

Pam Kaufman:

I believe I can read a room pretty quickly, I show up very prepared, and I like people. I have no problem listening to people that are interesting and I like connecting with different people. And again, it was fun. There I was talking about the new Flintstones movie and representing, again, Ted Turner's IP. It was really an exciting time in the business.

Charles:

So the notion of reading a room is one of those really important foundations that we talk about a lot, but I don't know that we actually really understand enough about what that means. Are you outcome-oriented when you walk in? Are you clear about what it is that you're trying to get out of that situation?

Pam Kaufman:

Again, yes. I think if we are having a meeting, the first thing we want to do is start with the finish. So at the end of this conversation, what do we want to accomplish? As you know, there's so many meetings that get off to probably the wrong track and they start going down a path where, "Wait, what are we trying to accomplish?" So when I walk in a room and I'm having a meeting, I want to know where we want to end up. That's the first thing. So that's kind of what I think about every time I walk into a room.

Charles:

And you said you do a lot of prep?

Pam Kaufman:

A lot of prep.

Charles:

So you're-

Pam Kaufman:

I prepped for today, Charles.

Charles:

Thank you. I'm slightly anxious about that I have to be honest-

Pam Kaufman:

Really? Why?

Charles:

I'm kidding. I think I'm kidding. Well, we'll see, right? Okay. So continue your career path for me. What, where next?

Pam Kaufman:

Sure. So I was at Turner Broadcasting for almost three or four years and I loved it. I loved the company, I loved the job, and at the time, towards when I started thinking about leaving, was when Time Warner and Turner merged, if you recall that time in history. They actually laid off everybody in the Licensing Department, because Warner Brothers had a licensing group, except for me, because I was not only selling promotional programs, I was also driving media revenue.

So remember, they bought the Hanna-Barbera film library to launch The Cartoon Network and The Cartoon Network was an ad-driven platform. And when I was working with the team to sell a program like, again, The Flintstones and Frito-Lay, the Flintstones and [inaudible], you can go down the list of Kraft and Kellogg's, et cetera. I was bringing ad sales people with me because we all needed to connect with these clients and we were driving revenue to the company, not only through promotional programs, but also through media deals.

So that being said, if you park that for one second, at the same time Nickelodeon was looking for a head of Integrated Marketing, a job that really required somebody to understand not only sales, promotional programs, and how to work with advertisers. And so I got a call from, again, somebody I had stayed connected with in the industry, very important part of my story and they said, "Nickelodeon's looking for someone to run this group, we think you'd be great." Of course, I said, "I'm very happy." And then again, the layoffs started happening and I was the last man standing.

And also during my interviews with Nickelodeon, I became pregnant with my second child. So here I was happy, pregnant, and why would I take this job at Nickelodeon? And in any event, it was a great opportunity. It was a much larger role, much larger brand, much larger responsibility, and I took the job and showed up on the first day, eight months pregnant.

Charles:

What did you feel like being the last man standing?

Pam Kaufman:

I felt sad, because I really, really loved the group of people that I was working with and so I was sad, I was a little embarrassed, and surprised.

Charles:

I mean, I would imagine there's almost sort of a survivor's guilt aspect about that under a certain set of circumstances.

Pam Kaufman:

Yeah, it was a really tough feeling.

Charles:

It must be really hard.

Pam Kaufman:

It wasn't like, "Whoa, yay," it was hard.

Charles:

You mentioned just now that part of your success has been creating a network and maintaining it and building it. It's not something that every woman does particularly well, right? I think men tend to naturally network more easily than women. Talk to us about your kind of networking attitude. Tell us how you have actually been able to kind of develop that aspect of your career because I think it's really important.

Pam Kaufman:

Sure. Well, I'll just say this, as opposed to starting with the beginning. I'll start with the finish. I attended a panel yesterday or I should say a interview discussion that MediaCom led with Bob Bakish, our CEO. And I love that Bob said, square in the middle of his conversation, he fundamentally believes in partnerships. And I think again, that's why I've been pretty successful at Viacom and definitely love being part of this new regime at Viacom because they put so much emphasis on partnerships.

And so if you dial back to my early part of my career where I worked closely at Turner Broadcasting with the people at Burger King, which I grew those relationships over time and Kraft, it really comes down to the people you connect with and the way you handle business relationships. And so when I showed up at Nickelodeon, one of the first deals I was able to do, again with a team of people, was to secure one of the largest deals for The Rugrats Movie with Burger King.

It was a multimillion dollar deal that drove ad sales revenue, obviously exposure for the film, and I squarely put that in, or I should squarely give credit to the fact that I came with a strong relationship with the guy that ran Burger King marketing. And I learned that super early on. And you know, we were talking before we started recording about Ken. One of the best parts about this week is reconnecting with the people that you love in the industry and you're able to do business with. So it's been vital to my career. And that's not just externally, it's also inside a company.

Charles:

Yeah. Is developing and managing and maintaining your network both a constant and a clear part of your focus? I'm mean, are you working that in your own mind all the time?

Pam Kaufman:

Constantly. My new role at Viacom, which again, this is one of the reasons why I love this company, one year ago actually last month I became the new President of Viacom Nickelodeon Global Consumer Products. It's the first role of its kind at the company where my team and I are working on IP across Viacom. So I grew up in Nickelodeon, amazing brand, you know, SpongeBob, Dora, Rugrats, Blue's Clues, I mean PAW Patrol. But now because my team and I have to expand across the company, we're working on Paramount Pictures, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, and the international business.

So it is job one that we understand who our partners are within Viacom, how do we work with them, and how do we over-communicate with them.

Charles:

So as you are focused on building a network and maintaining it and recognizing the importance of that, what do you think you're bringing to that that actually allow you to be successful in doing that? Why do you think your network is as strong as it is?

Pam Kaufman:

Well, let me just start with, we have an amazing team. The leadership team that I work with on the Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products is the best in the business. We have people that come from Disney, people that come from Toys R Us and Walmart, and people that come from the licensing industry and they are outstanding at what they do.

So I think when we walk in the door with our new colleagues, we're walking in with pretty good resumes and a good track record. So that's number one. And number two, we're open to listening. Our head of Franchise Planning, Charlotte Castillo, the first thing she says is, "I want to sit with the team, and I want to understand what the brand's about, and I want to meet with the research team." I'm like, "Charlotte, it's time to get going," and she's like, "Pam, be patient. We need to understand what the brand is about and where, and by the way, does the consumer even want to buy South Park consumer products?"

And so again, it is an extraordinary team who understands how to obviously move the ball forward for I would say these new partners.

Charles:

What do you think you're bringing?

Pam Kaufman:

I'm getting the conversations started, bringing communication, bringing hopefully some good ideas and great relationships.

Charles:

Why do you think people trust you? I mean, because part of your narrative already is people reaching out to you and saying, "You could do this, you could do this, you could do this," right? I mean, and different people, not just one or two, but a pretty broad group. Why do you think people trust you?

Pam Kaufman:

Honestly, I've been transparent my whole life. I'm a good sales person, but I'm not a ... I don't want to curse, but-

Charles:

No, you can. It's fine.

Pam Kaufman:

Okay. I'm pretty transparent. And so I have no issue saying, "I don't know this." And I also, again, feel like I'm going to just tell people the way it is. We're going to work really hard to sell the outstanding slate of Paramount Films for consumer products. And if there's some things that just aren't connecting, we'll tell them. Obviously, we'll tell the film makers and the people that ... And the same goes for, again, MTV et cetera, [inaudible]. So I think that's what I bring.

Charles:

Do you think transparency is missing, in general?

Pam Kaufman:

I do.

Charles:

Do you think it's rare?

Pam Kaufman:

I do. I think it's rare. I mean you hear the word, it's thrown around a lot, authenticity. We hear it among, obviously, with not only people, but with brands. I think the same goes inside. And people can smell it. You can just smell when somebody is being real with you, and they're not. And I honestly don't know how to be any other way, really. I mean, to a fault, maybe.

Charles:

Has it ever gotten you in trouble?

Pam Kaufman:

Oh, sure. Oh, sure. I mean, I think again, not everybody wants to hear the clear, honest truth and sometimes ... I like to think feedback is a gift. Obviously, try to give the best constructive feedback. "Wow. Dion, you just slayed in a meeting. That was great. Let me tell you why it was so great." And then, of course, where I think we can improve things.

Charles:

So you're not reluctant to give people that constructive criticism and feedback?

Pam Kaufman:

Never. In fact, I think it's almost more important to acknowledge great and show people what great looks like. Obviously you want to tell people when you think, "Hey, it would have been great if you did this or that or sent this note," but zero. I think it's, again, it's really important to show people and acknowledge what great looks like.

Charles:

What have you learned about how to do that effectively? Because obviously, timing is a big part of giving people constructive criticism and commentary. How have you learned to be able to do that? Because I think it's one of the issues that's lacking in leadership in general. I think people have a hard time with just being straightforward. We'll build a film editing company and we were always asking clients for feedback, how can you get better if you don't know? And the worst situation's when they told us how great the experience was, and then never came back.

And occasionally, we would get feedback through a third party about an experience that we'd had with one of our editors, which was negative. And our producers were always reluctant to tell the editor. And my response was always, "You have to tell them, it's their career. It's not our career. They're working here for now. They'll probably work somewhere else. We have a responsibility to help them be as good as they can be." So tell me a little bit about what you've learned about giving constructive criticism.

Pam Kaufman:

I have a lot to say on this topic. First, I will tell you what's really awesome, again, at Viacom is we just instituted a new performance feedback system, that's actually great. It's quarterly, it's informal, there's a tool that makes it really easy to track things. It provides as much transparency between you and the person as you want or not. And I'm really excited about it, because it's not this once a year, fill out a form. And as you know, everyone waits for that once a year.

This is a quarterly review. It's a really informal conversation. I had one with someone on my team at a diner. I did one on a walk, and it was great. It was really great and I loved also the same feedback that I received from the people that I work for. So I want to just acknowledge the work the company's doing around that.

It's awesome. The second thing is I, Charles, it's easy to give people feedback when you really believe in them and you believe in the leadership. And I try to advise some of my colleagues and some of the people on my team who really care about the person, but are really seeing things that are not working.

So start the sentence by saying, "I think you're amazing and let me tell you why. What I think you're doing is really good. And now let me tell you where I think I want to help you a little bit." So that's just lets everybody feel a little bit more relaxed. And I'll just say it again. If you can continue to show people what great looks like, "I think this is great. I'd love you to see what David just did in this meeting. And what David just did in this room, it's something you might want to follow. I definitely learned from it."

And then on the flip side, I'm not saying it's all rosy. I think again, if you have a strong leadership team, they want to know, "Where can I do better? Did I misread that?" And timing, immediately. What are you waiting for? I don't know what you'd be waiting for, quite frankly. I mean, I don't think you want to do it in the middle of a meeting. I don't think you want to send somebody a little text message and say, "Wow, you're really ... that would've been better." But I think pretty quickly is a good place to start.

Charles:

And when you're hiring people, are you defining great at that point initially? Are you setting a platform to say, "This is what we're looking to do, this is what I would hold you to. This is what I hope that you are able to achieve." What's the context you're providing people when you hire them?

Pam Kaufman:

Yeah, that's a great question, because actually, we're in the middle of interviewing for a couple roles right now. I just did some recent interviews, and yes, we are ... First and foremost, we are making sure that obviously, the person has the basic skillsets of what we're trying to accomplish, but also telling them a little bit about the company, what we're trying to do, the team we're trying to build, and then hear how their thoughts are around that.

Charles:

What kind of people do you look for?

Pam Kaufman:

Well, the first thing is we are, again, very focused on building a diverse and inclusive workforce. And what's, again, great about some of the work we've been doing is we are encouraging our teams to not go to their "Rolodex" or ask their friends who they know. And so the first thing we do is we say, "Okay, who's out there? Who can we meet? Who have we not met?"

And that has been, again, sounds like, "Oh, everyone's doing that." It's kind of been game changing, to push people out of their comfort zones and out of the initial responses and then getting them to go outside of their initial contacts. So that's the first thing we're doing. And then the second thing we're doing is to see that they have the background for the job and just ask them pretty basic questions. "What would you do on day one? How would you get started? How are you working across organizations? Are you comfortable with a dual report?" Et cetera.

Charles:

And I think your point about diversity inclusion is a really good one though. The struggle of getting the initial [inaudible] past the initial response so that people are actually pushing harder to find more diverse, more interesting candidates, I think, is a mindset shift. I mean, you really have to bring a discipline to that for a while to get-

Pam Kaufman:

Well you have to bring a discipline. You have to make sure, again, that you have ... It's not only HR's responsibility, it's your responsibility. Again, my team and I talk a lot about when you go to Hong Kong toy fair and you're attending the licensing show in Vegas and you're doing a lot of deals, also look for great people. People that, again, aren't in your immediate sphere of contacts and maybe we can meet them.

I am a massive believer in informational meetings. Just take a meeting because you never know. I like to tell a story, again, one of the best people on my team, Dion Vlachos, who is our EVP of retail publishing, and now toys. We've had him for a year. He and I talked for a year. I just thought he was great. And a year later, we brought him on board in a totally different role than we had first met him on.

So that was, again, big believer of that. And the second thing is, and we've had some good conversations here in Cannes about the word inclusion, even how more important that is than diversity. And again, you and I were talking about a lot of women leaving the workplace early, because people don't understand how important the word inclusion is and how important it is to create an inclusive environment, and check in on those who maybe aren't always front and center in the room and in conversations. Again, that's going to be a big focus of Viacom and a big focus of mine going forward.

Charles:

Yeah, it is fundamental, I think, to the success of business moving forward, to be able to create this kind of environment-

Pam Kaufman:

Absolutely.

Charles:

... and to be sensitive to the fact that ... I think inclusion is a much stronger reference point than gender equality even, because you run the risk, I think, when gender equality is the goal, that there has to be an equalization of what's happened in the past before we can move forward. In fact, what we're all trying to, not all, but I think what most people that you and I would care about are trying to achieve is an environment in which everybody can come in and contribute their best selves, their best thinking, to the success of the organization, to their own personal success.

Pam Kaufman:

Yeah, and we're looking at it all. We're obviously looking. There's three ways we're thinking about it. Obviously, our organization. We're looking at our content, the kind of content we're making. And thirdly, we're looking at the people behind the camera, and the vendors we're hiring. So it's really this ongoing focus, and not just in organizational space.

Charles:

And there's a responsibility to your point, actually, about as content creators, in some cases, content for kids. Setting the mindset early on about what is society, what is the kind of society we want to live in look like? Is actually part of what you can do, right?

Pam Kaufman:

I mean, listen. We're very excited. We've been partnering with #seeher since the beginning, which is a just a great movement. It's about seeing more women, obviously, adequately represented in, not just advertising, but now content. And Viacom's been a leader in this space.

If Nickelodeon from day one has been very mindful to represent all kids from the definitional show, Clarissa Explains it All, to obviously, Dora the Explorer. Les Casa Grandes is a new show we're about to launch. And so again, this is a company that's led in making sure that all the population is showing up across our channels and in our stories.

Charles:

So important. So powerful.

Pam Kaufman:

It is.

Charles:

Going back to your own leadership journey, one of the things I was struck by about your story is that in almost every case, and I think maybe every case, you tell me, that your leadership has been oriented around a very results oriented environment. I mean you've had to deliver results all the time. How do you balance that? I mean, every leader has responsibility for results, but you, I think, have a particular need and focus on that. How do you balance that with making sure that you are creating an environment in which you get the best out of people? Because sometimes that takes longer.

Pam Kaufman:

I'm smiling because it's such a simple question and it really ... I don't mean to keep repeating myself in this interview, but it really does come down to the people that are leading the teams. And when you have great leadership, and I am talking about the people on my team that lead big groups and big responsibilities and they feel like they have the resources they need, they feel like their ideas are getting put forth. They feel some sense of autonomy to make the decisions, the business results do come.

Charles:

So results are a consequence from your perspective?

Pam Kaufman:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Charles:

From an organizational structure standpoint, what have you learned about how to create an organization that actually unlocks creativity and innovation? What are the important components of that?

Pam Kaufman:

It's funny, I grew up alongside creatives. I never managed a creative group. And you'll appreciate this obviously, growing up in the agency business. I was always the account executive. So I was more the diplomat. I like to say being a waitress early in college actually helped shape my career. I had to manage the creative in the kitchen and obviously sell the check. That being said, I always worked alongside creatives, and I learned to really respect their timeframe, the art that they were putting forth, and so forth. But I never really managed a team.

So what, again, has been exciting about this new role is for the first time, I'm managing a fairly large global creative organization. And the one thing, or many things, I've learned is that they are artists. They need their space to think and to grow and to be inspired and to give them the space.

Charles:

What's your relationship with fear?

Pam Kaufman:

With fear?

Charles:

With fear.

Pam Kaufman:

Oh, I'm really comfortable with being uncomfortable. If that answers your question. I think it's good being knocked off your game every now and then. I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Shari Redstone and it was my first ever meeting with her and I said, "Oh my God, I'm so uncomfortable and nervous." I told her that, and that was interesting.

Charles:

What was her response?

Pam Kaufman:

Oh, she laughed. She says, "Please, you're going to do great. Don't worry about it." And then I also, obviously, get nervous at presentations. And so it's part of the job. I mean, if your stomach doesn't get uncomfortable every now and then, I mean, then it's time to find the next thing.

Charles:

So you actually, maybe like it isn't quite the right word, but it's valuable to you?

Pam Kaufman:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I've been in a lot of rooms recently where I'm really uncomfortable. And I know you're using the word fear, I think it's not being afraid. It's being uncomfortable. Oh, many times, many times. Especially in the last six months.

Charles:

As you've taken on this new role?

Pam Kaufman:

Yes.

Charles:

How do you respond in those situations? Are there things that you do when you start to feel that way?

Pam Kaufman:

Prepare, ask questions, ask advice. I have a pretty good crew of advisors, many of whom are here in Cannes, and we call each other up. We'll say, "Okay, here's the scenario. I have this meeting with this really important client. What do you think?" Sometimes we give fashion advice. It's everything from, "What are you wearing? To, "What are you presenting? To, "How should I handle this?"

Charles:

...

Pam Kaufman:

Yeah, a big part of it.

Charles:

So again, the power of your network actually-

Pam Kaufman:

Absolutely.

Charles:

... is a big part of it.

Pam Kaufman:

Yeah. Big part of it.

Charles:

Big part of it.

Pam Kaufman:

Big part of it. I think it's really, again, listen, you can want to show vulnerability to your team, but you really want to be vulnerable with your closest colleagues and advisors. Because that's where you get the best advice.

Charles:

So you're comfortable being vulnerable with your team.

Pam Kaufman:

Yeah.

Charles:

Well, how far can you take that? Because obviously there's a balance between leaders, people feeling like the leader has a plan. We're heading in a direction. I mean, I think as leadership evolves, modern leadership is evolving, right? So that vulnerability, accessibility, authenticity, to use the overuse word, all of those things are really important. I mean there's a lot of conversation we talked about on the podcast about the role of modern leaders or the power of modern leaders is much more through influence than it is through bureaucratic power. And so getting people to trust and believe and understand, how do you balance those two things? How do you balance, I'm responsible, I'm in charge. We're going this way. With being accessible, being vulnerable when you feel that way, when it's necessary?

Pam Kaufman:

I think it's important that people don't see that you have all the answers and so I think it's exactly what you said. It's a balance. I think you as the leader of a team in an organization, you need to set a vision. You need to set a plan. You need to keep telling everybody what the vision and the plan is and here's why we're doing what we're doing. And then along the way, I mean I definitely do this with the people that work for me. I can't tell you how many times I pick up the phone and say, I'm really unclear about this. Can you help me see this through? I think people want to feel like they can contribute. And then for the broader organization, you know they also, as you know, we talked about this earlier, I love that you're doing these podcasts. They could see that we don't have all the answers at this stage of the career.

We've learned a lot along the way and really happy to share it, but we don't have all the answers. And I don't know how you can lead a team, be a friend, and not say, show some vulnerability and be really transparent about things. I don't like to stand up in front of say, I really don't know everything you guys, but I've been honest about some of the things that I'm not comfortable with. I never managed a P and L prior to getting this job and I had to get really comfortable with, you know, understanding how to work across an organization and obviously managing a budget, et cetera. And you know, it's been really, quite frankly, one of the most interesting and exciting parts of the job.

Charles:

How did you do that? I think that's just such a fantastic insight because you take on a new position and there's a thing that there's a lot of things you don't know. I mean, any of us who've taken on senior [crosstalk].

Pam Kaufman:

Listen, I didn't grow up doing consumer products. We just talked about my journey. I grew up in sales and marketing. What I didn't mention is prior to this role, I was the first chief marketing officer at Viacom and at Nickelodeon. And so that really was my orientation and then moved into consumer products.

Charles:

So you've learned new skills at every step. At every step.

Pam Kaufman:

Definitely. Which is what kind of keeps it interesting and exciting. And uncomfortable.

Charles:

And it feels like that doesn't intimidate you. It doesn't. I mean, you're conscious of the fact I need to fill a skillset.

Pam Kaufman:

Yes.

Charles:

But it's not holding you back, which I think a lot of people, obviously, a lot of people getting into new roles and being hyper conscious about the things they don't know and they don't do and they become fixated on those things. So the exclusion of everything that got them there in the first place, it sounds like you've been able to say, I need to add this skillset to what I already do really well, let me do that. Is that fair?

Pam Kaufman:

Absolutely. I mean, again, it's not easy and it's not comfortable and it's to use your word fear/scary. But I think it just keeps it interesting and again, I think if you show up a certain way, you have a decent reputation that you're in it to win it. You want to perform, people will lean in and support you. And definitely, I mean there's a lot of things, again, I talked to you earlier about the fact that I, you know, never managed a global team. And so the first thing I did when I got the larger role was to go around the world and start meeting with the teams and wow. It was so awesome to go to all these different places, meet such talented groups of people that really, really knew what they were doing, both in consumer products and obviously understood the region that I was in. And that was super exciting. And intimidating.

Charles:

Intimidating from what standpoint?

Pam Kaufman:

Because you are in some places you're not speaking the language and some places there's such an emphasis on what's happening in the political landscape that I, you know, I never considered as part of the job. And so that was a big piece of this.

Charles:

Yeah. It must've been an enormous transition for you.

Pam Kaufman:

It still is. It's only been a year. It's still, consider me still transitioning. We can talk about the next scan and see how I've transitioned.

Charles:

When you look back at the last year, how has it been different than you thought it was going to be?

Pam Kaufman:

I quite frankly didn't think it would be this exciting. It is very challenging, very challenging. It's a challenging time in media. It's a challenging time in consumer products. You know, listen, retail continues to shrink and shift. Content seems to be consumed everywhere. Yet it's not being consumed in the same way on linear platforms. I work for a company that started as a television company and I'm proud to say we're no longer just the television company.

Charles:

And can't be just television company.

Pam Kaufman:

No, of course not. In fact, you know, we're really, really excited. I mean, one of the biggest messages that you know, I didn't think I'd be saying one year into the job is we are taking the IP that we represent across Viacom. I mentioned many of it in this last hour, but we're taking that and we really using the power of our platforms and it's television, live experiences, a film studio that's really awesome and really important. YouTube and other platforms and Pluto, which is one of our most exciting launches, our free streaming television service, and then of course retail. So you've got this amazing chess board and landscape of all these different platforms to amplify IP to the consumer and it's not just one way anymore.

Charles:

I want to pick up on something that you said a couple of minutes ago about the importance of having a vision and then repeating it, which I think is the piece. Not enough companies have a clear enough vision to start with, and most companies that have a clear enough vision don't actually communicate it often enough or in a way that's going to resonate with their even internal audiences often enough. Sounds like that's something that you're conscious of and that's something that you do. Talk to me about defining a vision and then communicating it internally.

Pam Kaufman:

I think it's priority number one. I think it is my job, so you know, again, Bob spoke about this yesterday, it's really interesting that I'm doing this the next day, but Viacom's set forth with a very clear vision and communicated that vision everywhere we go and they go and all of us go. From a consumer products perspective, it's really important that we set, I think there's an organizational piece of this and then obviously a business piece of it and my team and I wrote the vision together and we communicate it everywhere we go both internally and externally. And I would hope that anyone on my team can deliver what our four strategies are for business growth, obviously that we're trying to build a high performance culture, what we're doing in the space of leadership development.

And honestly, Charles, that's my job. That's our job to keep communicating again and again. Again at the licensing show last month, which is our biggest presentation, we reminded that audience, again of 1400 people, here's what Viacom's standing for, here's what we're standing for. And then we just got right back into it and hopefully the presentation that we delivered over the course of an hour that closed with Snoop Dogg. Yeah, it was really cool, delivered upon what we said we were going to do.

Charles:

And it's such a simple thing as you say it, but it's so rare in my experience.

Pam Kaufman:

Really?

Charles:

Yeah. It's standardly rare to find a company who has articulated and then recognizes the discipline they need to have because leaders have heard it before and so they're bored by it. Right. I've read it two or three times.

Pam Kaufman:

I totally agree.

Charles:

I'm bored. Yes. But your audience hasn't. And even if you told them three times, they only heard 10% of it at best. Right?

Pam Kaufman:

Right.

Charles:

And so there's that old piece of scientific research-

Pam Kaufman:

It's funny, I said to someone on my team the other day, we showed again our presentation, our licensing presentation now to the wider staff because you don't want everybody to go to Vegas. So we did a Facebook live event. We wanted to show the rest of the team what we did in Vegas and what the messaging was. And so one of my teams said, Oh my God, I can't believe I have to sit through that again. I go, listen, dude, it's a good thing you know it and you're bored by it. I love that you're bored by it. Mission accomplished.

Charles:

That's right. It's such a great reference point and it is so rare.

Pam Kaufman:

Wow.

Charles:

It doesn't happen very often.

Pam Kaufman:

Good to know.

Charles:

Yeah, it's really true. Let's talk for a couple minutes about the empowerment of women leaders. I know it's a really important subject to you. It's an important subject to me. A lot of my clients are women. What have you learned about how to help women become more successful, more effective, to unlock their own potential from a leadership standpoint?

Pam Kaufman:

Well, the first thing is to reach out to women and to speak to the women who are, you know, obviously within your organization or colleagues and making sure you're checking in on them. How are they doing, whether it's, you know, they're starting a new role or taking on new responsibilities or you know, first time parent or first time in a marriage, et cetera, et cetera. So I think just checking in and seeing how you're doing, which you talked a lot about inclusivity early on. And I mean that's like one piece of it.

The second piece of it is to make sure that you're building a work environment that is supporting women. And by the way, it's not just women, it's kind of, it's a little annoying that we speak about women and men in separate conversations. But in this case it is important that they feel like they're being heard, that we are shining a spotlight on them. You took, we talked earlier about feedback and it's also about recognizing, and I've taken this term that, you know, I've heard Shelley Zalis use in many people over the years and it's like just shine a light. Just recognize somebody, acknowledge the work they're doing. So important.

Charles:

How do you lead?

Pam Kaufman:

How do I lead? Well I feel like I want to be visible. I want to communicate what we're trying to accomplish over and over again. And when I say visible, not just in my office somewhere, I try to make sure I am going to the offices around the world, sitting with the teams. As I said, we've been doing these brown bag lunches. We take our monthly all staff meetings of get broadcast everywhere very seriously. I feel like it's putting on a show once a month and that is filled with a lot of people presenting. In some cases I just open it and so, and I try to be, as I said, okay, little vulnerable and most importantly just advocate on behalf of the team. Advocate, advocate, advocate, and make sure that they are being recognized, that they have what they need and that I'm listening. I'm sure there's a lot of things I can improve, but that's what I'm trying to do for them.

Charles:

What are you afraid of?

Pam Kaufman:

At the moment this interview with how it's going to sound quite frankly. How did I do? So at the moment, the interview. But I think, I think there's a lot of uncertainty going forward. That doesn't scare me, but it's a little nerve wracking in terms of the world of media and making sure that we have the right IP in our system. You know, it's a very fickle consumer right now. A lot of turns. So making sure we're armed with right IP and then resources, just making sure that people have what they need to get the job done.

Charles:

So I wrap every conversation with three themes. Three takeaways that I've heard that I think contribute to your success as a leader.

Pam Kaufman:

Oh, I can't wait to hear them.

Charles:

You're clearly very intentioned. You are absolutely clear about what it is you're trying to achieve for the organization, right? What this is about, what does success look like. Two, and this isn't always true for leaders, you are really disciplined about that, right? You are prepared, you are organized, you are focused, you are clear about where your time is being best spent on how to maximize the value of what you do. Three, all of that is done in service of the people around you and that work for you. You are clearly very connected to their outcomes. What works for them, how do I unlock their potential. There's a real humanity that I think drives all of that through.

And what's been interesting, just observationally in terms of your question that your anxiety about this interview, and I think the audience will see this. It took me a little while to get you to talk about yourself because you were so concerned about making sure that you gave recognition to the people around you. And I think that is really fantastic. Right? I mean, from a human standpoint, leadership standpoint, you keep putting the people around you and crediting them first. People want to work with someone like that. My interests, the audiences' interest is actually in what makes you tick. And I think, you know, as the conversation went on, I think we have a very, very strong insight about that.

Pam Kaufman:

Thank you.

Charles:

So thank you for sharing.

Pam Kaufman:

Thank you.