If You Want To Rise, Work Hard And Do Today
Leslie Monson is the Chief Marketing Officer for Ballard Brands, a New Orleans-based hospitality company that owns PJ’s Coffee. Monson joined Ballard Brands in 2018 after working for more than 12 years in hospitality marketing.
She oversees the marketing department where she spearheads campaigns, collaborates with advertising, develops promotions and organizes corporate partnerships for PJ’s Coffee.
I had the opportunity to interview Leslie recently. Here are the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: Where did you grow up? Describe your early childhood and its significance on your life.
Leslie Monson: I was born and raised in Savannah Georgia by a hard-working, single mother. She led by example and her determination and selflessness made an impact on me very early in life. When I was 10 years old, she married my step-father, another positive influence in my childhood. They both worked tirelessly to forge their own career paths, which helped push me to do my best in school. Through my hard work and with their constant support, I received a scholarship to attend college in New Orleans and I’ve lived here ever since.
Griffin: When did you first get the whisper you belonged in business?
Monson: My step dad owned and operated multiple retail businesses in Savannah and Jacksonville, so you could say I grew up in business. Early on I was helping to take inventory, learning customer service skills and gaining an understanding of the basics of business over dinner – it was our life. When I started college classes, it just felt like an extension of what I learned at home, but a different aspect that I grew to love much more, which was communications.
Learning about marketing campaigns and strategy excited me so much early on that I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I always envisioned myself as a changemaker for brands because I was so passionate and fascinated by consumer behavior and influence.
Griffin: Was there an early teacher that inspired you? Who and how?
Monson: My advertising professor, Terri Henley was a huge inspiration for me. She not only taught me fundamental marketing and communications skills, but shared with me the importance of being involved in the field. Her presence in the community was something I took note of early on.
She would push us (her students) to participate in marketing functions and taught me how to plan, execute and reflect on campaigns, which helped me get the most out of every experience. I definitely got the “marketing bug” while in her classes and I’ve had it ever since. It’s amazing how some teachers can leave such a lasting impression, but I’m thankful for it.
Griffin: What’s a great piece of business or life advice you received, who gave it to you, and how has it enhanced your life?
Monson: I don’t remember who I heard this from, but early on I was told to always lead others the way you want to be led. I’ve carried this piece of advice with me for years and love it because practicing servant leadership is crucial when it comes to succeeding in business and in life. It’s always important to reflect on how you’d like to be treated (personally or professionally) and then to see if you’re operating in line with what you believe.
Griffin: Please give me the top 3 bullet points in your Personal Leadership Credo.
- Lead by example by working hard
- Use your positive attitude to inspire those around you
- Don’t shy away from uncomfortable situations – Grow from them
Griffin: Describe a painful setback in your life and what it taught you.
Monson: Around five years ago, my family was hit with a series injuries and diagnoses. First, my son injured his hand on a treadmill so severely that he needed to undergo three different surgeries. Six months later, doctors found that our daughter had a congenital heart defect requiring open-heart surgery at just eight weeks old, which was terrifying. Then, roughly a year after our daughter’s heart surgery, my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer and I just felt as though I lost control of everything.
You can’t foresee these types of situations; you can’t prepare for them. I am proud to report that everyone is healthy today, but I walked away from that difficult time with a few realizations. I needed to be able to put my trust in others and not be afraid to ask for help when I needed it. I also learned that you can really only focus on what’s immediately ahead of you. The key to surviving some of the most challenging times is to take it task by task, day by day.
Griffin: What advice do you have for young, talented, ambitious women who want to rise?
Monson: Life can be tiring and challenging, especially as a woman, but don’t let that stop you from being a well-rounded leader. In my opinion, a respected leader is always involved and inspires others to do the same. Below are three simple ways I stay engaged in the community.
Whether it’s a local nonprofit organization that is near and dear to your heart or the town you live in, I recommend getting on a board. Being a board member allows you to advocate for issues and policies you’re passionate about. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people and listen to residents’ perspectives, which is also great insider information if you’re a business owner or area executive.
Another great way to stay involved is to prioritize local events. This one can be tough, considering most events are held after work hours, but utilize your team to make it easier on everyone. Gather your leadership team and divvy up the most important local events throughout the year. Making sure someone is always present is a good way to keep your finger on the pulse on the community and to show your support of local get-togethers.
This last bit of advice may prove to be the most fulfilling. It can be difficult to find time to volunteer because days are jam-packed with work. Suggest a workplace policy that prioritizes community giveback. An example would be providing employees the opportunity to use several working hours to volunteer at a charity or local organization of their choice each month. Make time to volunteer as a team as well. The benefits are twofold: a local charity benefits from the number of volunteers and your team will develop a stronger bond.
Volunteering is a great way to help the community and push your team to feel accomplished in every aspect of life. Isn’t that what all leaders want, anyway?