PAM KLEIN - President, Phoenix Group

PAM KLEIN - President, Phoenix Group

Exclusive Interview for MOM.CEO

MOM.CEO: You’re a CEO and a committed mom, what’s your secret to making it work?

PK: If you're fulfilled, then it works. You figure out what’s important and then prioritize. You assess where you need to be, determine the commitment you are prepared to make and do it. With clarity, it doesn’t become burdensome, stressful, or ridden with guilt. You know you are where you need to be at that particular time.  

Figuring out priorities was key for me in understanding myself particularly mid-career, as I was working and living in constant ‘go mode’. Intensified with the energy of a young son and daughter. My husband was a game-changer – critical support and cheerleader. We figured it out together. Understood give and take. Ensured someone was always there on the home front. This came in very useful when I needed to be there for the agency. As you well know, advertising is intense, I could be where I needed to be. It gave me focus to get the work done. The reciprocal was true for my husband. No one career trumped the other. 

The biggest thing I believe is to be able to prioritize in the moment.

"Being half-in creates conflict on many levels."

The Klein-Powell Family

MOM.CEO: Looking back, what would you have changed at being a mother considering the huge responsibility and sacrifice of being a CEO and building The Phoenix Group?

PK: I’m really fortunate because I work with professionals, strong women, DAD.CEOs and entrepreneurs. The demands on me as a professional when I had young children aren’t different from young moms with kids today.  It always comes down to making sure you give as much time as you can to your family. Contributing the best you can to your career. 

Looking back knowing what I know now, I would have given more of myself to my family. That being said in the moment we make the best decision we can. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. 

I don’t beat myself up over how I parented. Looking at my kids I feel we did really well! Given the sacrifices and choices we made along the way, they are compassionate individuals we are proud of.  

If I could give a piece of advice to a younger me back then, I would tell myself:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

MOM.CEO: Do you have time management tricks to better balance work and family?

PK: For me, it’s about how I allocate my time. I have to be fulfilled in three areas: family, career, and community. I need to be engaged whole-heartedly in these 3 areas. It’s not always equal time however there is time for each.

One trick I’m still learning is the power of self-care. Self-care benefits family, work, and community. I make it a point to exercise in the morning. If I don’t do it then it’s easy to let slip. Morning fitness is critical to my physical health, mental well-being, and energy. My daughter said to me that when I haven’t been to the gym for a day to two, she sees a difference. Her sage advice, "you need to go to the gym!”

The benefits of self-care is crucial for her family according to Pam Klein

MOM.CEO: This mirrors a lot of what John Boynton of the Toronto Star said in our interview for DAD.CEO, that yoga and mental well-being plays a critical role in his day-to-day function. He mentioned had you told him about all this when he was in his 40’s, that he would have scoffed at it, but now wishes he had discovered this and taken it more seriously.

PK: Absolutely! I would echo that statement 100%. Your family is a reflection of you and the activities you enjoy. Our activities as we mature change. Personally, I have a stronger focus on health both physical and mental wellbeing. Yoga and mindfulness play an integral part in that. 

A cancer diagnosis 18 years ago brought the former top of mind. Maturity brought the benefits of yoga, spirituality, and mindfulness top of mind. 

The Power of Pink annual charity event founded by Pam Klein

MOM.CEO: Do you feel that MOM.CEOs have it harder at balancing their work/life duties than DAD.CEOs? Or is it now becoming an advantage due to the ‘home isolation double-duty’ that fathers are now facing? 

PM: It’s interesting in our home we have 2 executives/CEOs. We consciously contribute in a very open and equitable way to make sure that things are working smoothly as possible. We’re a tag team. It takes planning, communication, and understanding. Simple things like if I prepare dinner, he cleans up. He is an awesome cook so I do my share of the cleanup.

Pam with her husband Stephen on vacation in Arizona, USA

I recognize gender and role equity isn’t everyone’s reality. I’ve seen an evolution in our industry. Historically a male-dominated industry, it’s changing. MOM.CEOs are leaders in the advertising world.

We’ve worked hard as a society to fuel more MOM.CEOs. We are becoming more reflective of the communities we want to be. Still, there is more work ahead which is why I’ve modeled the role of CEO for my daughter.

MOM.CEO: The word NO is a powerful word in business, but how does its meaning work as well in your home or is it the opposite with YES?

PK: There is room for NO in varied scenarios: business, home, and community. NO works for safety. NO works for time management and NO works for social good.  Most importantly, NO works when you’re doing what’s right. 

If I’m true to my values whether I say NO or YES, I feel ok.

Sometimes it is "NO – for now", but it doesn't mean that the door is firmly closed.

MOM.CEO: What top 3 lessons did your parents or mother/father or a mentor give you with that you feel are still relevant in today’s digitally connected world?

PK: I’ve learned a lot from my family roots. My father is what you might call a ‘serial-entrepreneur’. Even now in his 80s, he’s still thriving in his own business where he is reinventing himself and doing amazing things. A big part of that comes from having a strong work ethic and not fearing the unknown. My work ethic and dogged determination comes from him. Don’t fear an opportunity. And whatever the job, do it like it’s the most important job.

Secondly, I learned to help those in need. I watched the video on DAD.CEO with Guy Kawasaki where he mentions his father's concept of ‘Noblesse Oblige' that is those who are fortunate have a moral responsibility to help people who are less fortunate. When I heard this, it struck a chord with me. Giving back is core to my upbringing. Both my parents volunteered for community groups locally, nationally, and globally. It was not uncommon for them to leave for months on a mission to developing countries.

 

Greta's convocation celebration with grandparents in attendance

We’ve instilled the same in our kids. Both became volunteers from a young age.

When it comes to a lesson learned from a mentor, I remember clearly when Graham Barker (founder of Phoenix Group) appointed me as President of Phoenix Group, I was overwhelmed as to how exactly I was going to step into this agency and this challenge. Filling his shoes figurately and physically was impossible. I mean, it was an exciting but daunting task. So, I hired an Executive Coach and I spent a lot of time finding my values-based style of leadership. It was really transformative experience for me. 

To sum it all up:

"Determine your values, give back to your community, and work hard."

There were several one-liner lessons that left a lasting impression.

“When shaking someone’s handshake, do it like you mean it.” Or “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” Or Don’t be a quitter.” Or “It’s just as easy to keep the top half of the gas tank full as the bottom.” 

MOM.CEO: Do you agree with the saying of being in the right place at the right time? Is that possible when you’re doing double-duty as a MOM.CEO?

PK:  I grew up with the mindset of goal-setting. Every New Years' eve, you set personal, physical, and financial goals. Not resolutions - goals. I knew I wanted my Master’s degree by the time I was 24, I would be a VP by 40, own a house in my early 30s, run a marathon (almost made it), etc. I was always thinking about what my next move will be. 

What I learned was how I realized the goal is, the bigger lesson. I’ve achieved the goals I set out not always at the precise time or place that I anticipated. I believe if you are prepared and receptive to unanticipated opportunities that come your way, that’s when the really great things happen.

I dreamt of being a psychologist. When I failed pharmacy during my post-graduate work I reinvented the dream. Educational Psychology became my new dream. Fast forward to a career as an instructional designer and digital strategist. This presented an introduction to the world of advertising. Here I am.  

The lesson:

"Don’t quit. Pivot and welcome unanticipated opportunity."

MOM.CEO: Being in the advertising industry where stress and pressure are known to being quite high, do you have any advice on how to not let it affect your relationship with your kids/family? How do you manage stress from work when you get home?

PK: While stress cannot be avoided, the one thing I do is make every effort to be as transparent as possible with my family. Talk about the demands, expectations challenges, and rewards. When our kids were young I’d explain why I couldn’t attend a basketball game or concert. We’d relive it when I was home and present. They understood from an early age my heart was always with them. 

Experiencing new adventures together is a family tradition

Stress is talked about honestly. More importantly, we share tactics to deal with it. It’s OK to get help, exercise, talk to the dogs, be mindful, practice yoga, go out … I model the behaviour. I am a Reiki Master-Teacher. The practice is immensely beneficial to me. They can see first-hand self-care is critical.

It’s important to articulate what you need at a particular time so that you can give yourself space to deal with what you need to deal with and then you can actually be present for your family or your colleagues.

Let’s face it, it’s a life-long commitment to becoming mindful and to be present.  I understand it’s not easy to do, but it’s something that I’m really trying to continually work on in my life at work and at home. Be focused and be where you are with clarity.

MOM.CEO: How do you unplug with your family? Anything that might surprise us?

PM: Well, I learned to surf later in my life. My husband and I were in Tofino, British Columbia, One of our favourite places to be. I’m sure I was the oldest surf student they’ve had. Surfing is such a great metaphor for life. To stand up on that board takes astute focus, guts, and tireless determination. I don’t consider myself a “surfer” as I spend more time in the water than on the board. We’ve learned to surf as family.

I was fortunate growing up that I traveled extensively. We traveled with our kids. Our annual family vacation is still a highlight for all of us. We connect and unwind. With our son and daughter living away, time with them is precious. Traveling together is still a family priority. 

Fortunately, we all appreciate good food and wine. Creating meals together is a wonderful shared way to unplug.  

MOM.CEO: Are you a different person when you are at work versus the person you are at home? 

PK: I’d say I’m the same person on both fronts. However, how I show up may be different. My demeanour and presentation in a client pitch will be different than the times I’m a wife and mother. Wherever, whenever, and however I show up the constant is my truth and my values.

“It’s all about how authentically you show up and present yourself.”

MOM.CEO: Being a leader that deals with financials often… can you give us 3 tips that a mother should be teaching her children on finance/money so they may have a chance to succeed in life?

PK: One of the things we made a point of was to be open to entrepreneurship. The benefits of making your own money. Being fully able to control your own money. I see it now with my son who is in a sales-related role with a technology company. While he is not the CEO, he does understand sales and commission. You are in control of your outcome. We made it a point to discuss with them the possibility of making your own money beyond a salary and to not be afraid of being an entrepreneur and doing your own thing.

Another lesson was to invest in yourself early. Their grandparents bought them stocks for birthdays. We invested in their RRSPs (Canada retirement savings program) when the turned 18. It's never too young to learn the value of compound interest. and what it means to establish good credit.

Finally, we instilled in them the value of giving with both types of currency: Time & Money.  We tried to teach them the intrinsic value of being a compassionate person. Find a way to give back because you can. 

“Save and invest in yourself, but never forget to give back.”

Becoming Chancellor at the University of Regina, Canada

MOM.CEO: How do you want to look back and be remembered as a MOM and a CEO?

PK: As a CEO, I would like to be remembered as a considerate and compassionate leader. 

As a mother, I’ve had moments where I heard what my kids truly thought of me. 

My daughter and I were enjoying a fabulous afternoon in Vancouver – a favourite place for our mother-daughter trips. Gorgeous afternoon walking along West 4thAvenue. Out of nowhere, she gave me this beautiful hug and told me:

“You know mom, you’re really a good person. I love you!”

That was such a beautiful and meaningful moment for me. 

Keeping the bond alive and well is key for Pam and her daughter (Costa Rica).

And with my son, I had just been installed as the Chancellor at the University of Regina. The role is an incredible honour. One of those moments where I asked myself “how did you end up here?!” The ceremony was steeped in tradition. Truly one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life. My son commented to me after the ceremony. 

“You know mom, my whole life you’ve been telling me how proud you are of me. I just wanted you to know that I am so proud of you!” 

That was simply the greatest gift. 

Because of what we’ve done, what we’ve taught, and how we’ve lived, they’ve taken it to heart. 

It matters most what my family thinks, everything else pales in comparison. In the end, my family fuels much of what I do. To hear it being acknowledged means the world to me.

MOM.CEO: Do you find that it’s maybe time we start celebrating Mother's Day by acknowledging their roles in teaching, mentoring, influencing, etc. the next generations of CEOs (boys and girls)?

PK: The greatest contribution of being a mom is to share tireless support and endless love. No thanks required. A mother’s role is to teach, mentor, feed, and support our boys and girls. Leading by example both models & inspires. We should make time to celebrate the children who thrive - that’s our reward. And, I do enjoy my family cooking for me on Mother’s Day! 

MOM.CEO: Any last words of wisdom?

PK: Know your values and don’t compromise. For me, I value integrity (do what’s right), compassion (give more of yourself), and bring dogged determination (to whatever you do).

I can’t overstate that, living from your values helps make hard decisions easier and helps celebrating more joyful. It’s empowering when you know your purpose and your intention and you never waver. 

If you understand what matters and why, then everything becomes clearer. 

I have a favorite quote from Theodor Roosevelt.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

This sums up the idea of being present, intentional, and impactful. Be relevant at work, home or play.

“You have to know yourself, know your values, and live them to the fullest!”

About Pam Klein

President, Phoenix Group

Pamela Klein, B.A., M.Ed., Pro. Dir, Pam is the President of the Phoenix Group, a leading advertising, communications, and web development firm. Pam received her B.A. from the University of Regina, M.Ed. from the University of Manitoba and professional director designation from the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. She’s worked internationally and across Canada for private, public, and not-for-profit companies. She leads her team by example: striving for excellence, creating a rewarding work environment, and giving back to the community. She has 30 plus years’ experience in business management, leadership, and strategic development.

Pam’s has served with many organizations including current Chancellor of the University of Regina and member of the board of governors, board member Saskatchewan Roughrider Foundation, the Paul J. Hill School of Business; Camp Circle O’ Friends; the MacKenzie Art Gallery; Sask Film; Hospitals of Regina Foundation; North Central Family Centre and Heritage Regina. She founded the Power of Pink, an event to benefit breast health which raised close to $1 million and has donated her communications expertise to many community events. Klein is inducted in the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Canada 150 Medal for philanthropic contributions.

www.thephoenixgroup.ca    

 

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