Monica Hammond is the Vice President of Tech and Specialty Support for Verizon Consumer Group. She specializes in customer experience (CX) and creating a sense of organization and intuitiveness for consumers and her team.
Hammond has won awards from the National Association of Female Executives for her work as a community champion and was the recipient of the Verizon Credo Award, which is one of the highest recognitions you can get at Verizon. On top of her accomplishments, Hammond states that her confidence as a leader and fashion-forward executive has helped her to connect with others on a more down-to-earth level, “People often comment on my fashion style, and I try to just have fun with it! I let my clothes reflect my style and my mood.”
As a leader in CX, Hammond also explained which companies and leaders will succeed in the future and, unsurprisingly, CX was at the forefront of this conversation, “I think companies that seek to close the gap and adopt new CX business processes as well as modern technology will remain relevant and competitive. It’s a completely competitive environment, so delivering on an excellent customer experience at this point is table stakes. It’s really what is needed, and I would say it’s table stakes for success in particular in this digital age. Customers are looking for that digital-first experience and most businesses are going digital first.”
When it comes to courage and perseverance, Hammond believes it’s all about overcoming your fears, “Contrary to popular belief, courage isn’t the absence of fear. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have fears. Instead, it’s taking action and proceeding in spite of fear. Some have said, and I’ve read where it’s said, that courage is conscious fear and action coming together. I would say it’s just about having a bit of grit, perseverance, and passion. In addition, when you stretch and strive for new experiences outside of your comfort zone, you tend to be happier and more fulfilled.”
Hammond also left us with one of the most important pieces of advice she believes will help women succeed, “One of the biggest pieces of advice that I would give my younger self is not just to lean in but to leap in. Take every opportunity that comes your way and run with it. I had a tendency to talk myself out of opportunities, so when you come to that fork in the road, be brave and take the harder road and it’ll pay off in the long run.”
1. How would you describe the way most companies handle CX and what are you uniquely doing to redefine that standard for the better? What is the cost of not addressing this?
I would say that most companies really remain unaware of the gap between the experience that they believe they’re providing and the experience that they’re actually providing.
I think companies that seek to close the gap and adopt new CX business processes and some of the modern technology will remain relevant and competitive. It’s a completely competitive environment, so delivering on an excellent customer experience at this point is table stakes. It’s really what’s needed, and it’s table stakes for success in particular in this digital age. Customers are looking for that digital-first experience and most businesses are going digital first, so I would say there are probably four things that I would think about when I focus on CX.
One would be building a culture around CX. I think too many brands treat it as just a normal customer experience, and it’s very siloed in its function, so then you have this disjointed and unsatisfying type of customer experience. You want your experience to align directly with the success of the organization.
The second thing is focusing on the customer’s needs, so knowing what people are coming to your company for and how that evolves over time. It’s really essential to CX to stay on pace with the customer’s evolution, and it’s especially crucial during times of rapid change in the global pandemic. The way people work and the way that they want to consume products and services is very different, and so you have to be innovative and agile to be able to get in front of that from an experience perspective.
Lastly, adopt the appropriate technology platforms. You have to collect the right data, you must be thinking about improving on your omni and cross-channel experience, customers want to be able to start digitally and then go on a call, go online, you name it. Customers want an omni-channel experience; you want to optimize your self-serve platform. I think a solid CS platform can really provide a lot of things, but you need to make sure that you have the culture, the expectations, and all of the above very well aligned.
2. How did you define your personal leadership style, and how do you reflect your leadership style through your wardrobe? Why is your appearance and style important to you?
My personal leadership style is more transformative. I really lean into my naturally strategic side. I like to transform and disrupt, and I think that my style is that I lean heavily into communication.
I think it’s one of my greatest strengths. I lead by trying to find the best in my team and I am great at delegating. I try to find what their strengths are and lean into those.
My personal style is based on the fact that I love clothes, I love fashion, and I think it’s evolved over time. I think when I first started leading, I probably was a bit buttoned up with the suits for the time. But as I became more comfortable in my skin and more confident in myself as a leader, and as I really tried to lean into the things that were authentic about me, I took a bit more risk. I’d just throw on something that probably wouldn’t be considered traditional executive wear. I’ve been known to wear some gold pumps to work, I love leather. I like a bit of an edge.
I am very comfortable in my skin, and I do think that your appearance and style is important. You have to be seen as an executive worth respecting, and I think a style can relate to who you are and express things about you. It also has a relatability aspect to it. I think people find me highly relatable because I don’t feel so buttoned up or suited down. I think that that’s why style is important.
3. What is the benefit of keeping people first as a leader, and how can other women leaders use this to their benefit as well?
I’m a very people-centric leader, so I understand that it’s people who really make the company successful. When people feel valued or cared for, they work with, in my mind, stronger intrinsic motivation. They have a deeper sense of meaning and a much higher level of engagement.
I have a passion for advancing women and women leaders. It was really ignited by my own experience because I personally encountered some biased thinking, and I was determined to become that advocate for change for strong female role models.
For the last seven years, I’ve led a program called ‘Women of Influence’ that focuses on the frontline women primarily. For people early on in their career or people that have quite frankly become stagnant, we take them through an evolution of everything from branding, executive presentation skills, how to market themselves, interviewing, you name it. 80% of those folks have either moved on to other roles, gotten promoted, or found success, so I feel really good about that. I think you have to lean in to being a female leader and not be afraid to be courageous about owning the development of women. Yes, men are definitely a part of that journey, but I think that many people look for others that look like them and can understand the balance of things such as motherhood, balancing work and family, taking care of parents—I try to lean into all of those things, and be very open and vulnerable about it with employees who find themselves feeling guilty about balancing it all.
4. How do you bridge organizational strategy in order to keep people first but still see the results you want as a company?
This is the single most important new capability that executives will have to master. There are seven things that I personally do to bridge the strategy and execution gap.
First, you have to make sure the senior leaders are aligned with the strategy. Folks need to make sure that they understand it, they are aligned, and they’re ahead of it.
The second thing is you want to build ownership around the strategy’s vision. People and employees need to understand where they fit in that strategy.
You want to make sure that the strategy is in every corner of the organization. For instance, my strategy and operations need to align with what’s happening in our sales organization and how we think about it when marketing our products and services. You need to cascade that strategy in every corner of the organization so everybody’s aligned.
Also, you want to connect everyone to the strategy. Ask yourself, ‘how do I personally connect? How does my performance matter in the scheme of this strategy?’
The fifth thing to empower people to deliver on the strategy. It’s just so important that people feel empowered. There are multiple ways to get to the end goal, so people feeling empowered help to deliver on it and deliver on it over and over again.
The sixth thing is to monitor the individual performance. You should be monitoring how people are doing with the strategy, and adjusting as needed.
The last thing is you just want to celebrate and reward success. I think that that’s very important.
5. How do you build confidence/courage and a career on your own path versus what other people may say or expect?
I think professional courage is a skill that gets little mention right now, but it’s really quite critical to career growth, happiness, and fulfillment.
It’s a fundamental element of leading, so whether you’re in a formal leadership role or not, it’s critical to your career and personal growth. But contrary to popular belief, courage isn’t the absence of fear. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have fears. Instead, it’s taking action and proceeding in spite of fear. Some have said, and I’ve read where it’s said, that courage is conscious fear and action coming together. I would say it’s about having a bit of grit, perseverance, and passion. In addition, when you stretch and strive for new experiences outside of your comfort zone, you tend to be happier and more fulfilled.
Courage motivates you to reach for more and constantly seek the best version of yourself, and this contributes to happiness. You want to acknowledge your fear. It’s alright to have fear and to not repress it. You want to dig deep. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much, so you just have to really go deep within yourself to find the courage to do things and to innovate and fail and be okay with it.
You just really need to be willing to go through a few layers that may be not so comfortable to break through. You want to listen to your intuition; your intuition knows. It took me a while to really understand that. Once you’ve dug down deep, you’re able to listen to your intuition without any of the static and fear in the way.
That’s how I would think about it. You want to consistently make decisions that are really in line with your values and be willing to work hard, fail, and persevere.
6. You recently stated that you were proud to work for Verizon as they ‘put people at the forefront of their commitment and values.’ What are some of the most impactful things you’ve accomplished through Verizon using this ‘people-first’ strategy?
I’ve had to do some pretty big bodies of transformational work: consolidating organizations, innovating our platform, finding new ways of working — there’s some pretty big things that I’ve been able to accomplish. But I’ve done most of that through people.
It’s important to keep people at the forefront, being involved, getting their feedback, getting their input, and allowing them to work on projects. When people buy in and people understand, they want to be a part of that success. I’ve had an opportunity to really transform the organization. I’ve had a chance to create an international work stream for Verizon. I’ve consolidated multiple organizations to reimagine how we are working, so that’s probably one of the biggest projects particularly during the pandemic when we’ve needed the most help on.
7. What advice do you wish someone would have told you that you believe is essential for women to get to the top?
One of the biggest pieces of advice that I would give myself is not just to lean in but to leap in. Take every opportunity that comes your way and run with it. I had a tendency to talk myself out of opportunities, so when you come to that fork in the road, be brave and take the harder road and it’ll pay off in the long run. I think, in the earlier part of my career, I had fears, so when I had an opportunity to go into sales, I didn’t take it. But really, sales is service and service is sales, Operations is sales too. Everybody is involved in sales, and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that content concept. I think it’s equally important to think about the contributions you want to make in your career and not get stuck in the job title.
I didn’t learn that lesson quick enough, so I always tell people to learn from my mistakes. There may be a time to take a bunch of lateral career move opportunities but you’re doing work that you love. To work with people that could later help you, be your sponsors and mentors, that’s incredible.
Lastly, there is some advice that I live by: trust yourself, your talent, your ideas, and your gut. You waste way too much time at the start of your career trying to mold yourself into what you think success really looks like or what someone else tells you it should be. You just can’t build strong relationships or strong businesses by turning yourself into someone else.
8. Recommend one book OR tool and briefly describe how it helped you!
I have a lot of books and tools that helped me, but I will tell you, the biggest thing that helped me was getting an external coach. It’s been life-changing for me and is really great to work on yourself, get expertise in a safe environment, and get that one-on-one coaching. It extends beyond your role and your company as it’s just really great for your personal development. So, I would definitely recommend this concept to others for the ways it helped me alone!