Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, PsyD, is an international philanthropist and trailblazer for women’s empowerment, who believes women will hasten their advance to equality by defining themselves and others as leaders. A successful author and educator, she founded Women Connect4Good, Inc., a 501(c)3 foundation, to help support other organizations that work to advance women and girls. She also serves on the boards of several social-profit groups, including Take The Lead, Inc.
In 2022, Dr. Nancy’s latest book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other in Business and Life (Adams Media/Simon & Schuster, January 2019), was released as an audiobook. In addition, she and her team at Women Connect4Good continue to gain momentum with the Lift Women Up campaign, recently launching the 2022 Lift List. Originally created to complement a documentary that aired on PBS featuring her work championing women’s equality and advancement, #LiftWomenUp focuses on the steps that we all can take to help each other continue marching towards gender parity. She also hosts the popular podcast “Smart, Amazing Conversations with Dr. Nancy” which looks closely at the stories of life and leadership, of smart, amazing women and men.
Dr. Nancy has earned numerous awards including most recently the prestigious Mosaic Award from Diversity Woman Media, a Women Making History Award, presented in Los Angeles by the National Women’s History Museum as one of a select group of women who has made a significant contribution to her field. Dr. Nancy was also honored in Washington, D.C. at the 2018 Canales project with 20 other women, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Nancy has served for many years on the governor-appointed Missouri Committee of Psychologists. She also served as the director of a large employee assistance program, and as a Nationally Certified Crisis Team Leader in New York after 9/11.She travels widely and spends much of her time in California, near her daughters, granddaughters, grandson, and her beloved horses. She invites everyone to join her in reaching out to support women in the pursuit of leadership, equality, safety and success.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: When I was a child, I was a tomboy. I didn’t want to be a girl because boys seemed to have the most fun. All that changed when I married and had three daughters. I felt like I had to be the best girl I could be and be a role model for my daughters. I got my doctorate in psychology and have since embarked on journey of advocacy and philanthropy, all geared to support women.
When I founded Women Connect4Good, Inc., it had one mission, women supporting women. This has evolved to women and men supporting each other. I wrote a book about it, called In This Together, and included a chapter on the importance of male allies – against the publisher’s wishes – because I realized that throughout history, women have never gained freedoms and rights without men helping them.
We are ALL in this together and the only way we can end the problems in our society today, and create a just, equitable world is to accept that and to support one another and lift each other up.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: We all learned what’s really important. For me, it’s relationships. Great leaders understand that they have to have empathy for the people on their teams. They also know that diversity matters. In fact, diversity among team members can give an organization a broader insight, and the best chance of not only surviving but thriving.
Since March 2020, I’ve expanded my partnerships with different organizations working to advance women, whether to protect them from societies that keep them oppressed or to provide networks and support to help reach their full potential. It’s a big world and women are making a difference. Countries led by women are thriving with fewer deaths from COVID, and data that shows when women are on boards and in top leadership, businesses make more money, period.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: Businesses need to use this disruption to create a new and better way of doing business and solving problems that have been escalating for years. They need to pay attention to the ideas of their internal customers because that’s what their employees are. It only takes one unhappy internal customer to ruin a company’s reputation.
If organizations listened to those employees and used their input to create solutions that empowered the employee to contribute their best work, it could turn the culture around and help them keep the talent who is increasingly difficult to find in house.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: When we lost the ability to meet face to face, we did like a lot of people and turned to Zoom. It actually enhanced and expanded the way we interacted, and we’ve been able to connect more often. I’ve also done a podcast for over 10 years, and I might still be doing audio only if not for the pandemic.
I love video and have moved my podcast to that format too and really enjoy having conversations with people while seeing their faces. Also being forced to stay away from people caused me think about better ways to reach out.
The most important aspect of my foundation is supporting other organizations that promote women’s advancement and protect women from societies that keep them oppressed. Before the pandemic, most of that work was in the United States. Now our reach is global and getting more so every day. I also feel that the distance made people value their connections more. Partnerships that I had before the pandemic are even stronger today.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: We intend to keep on going and growing. I think people who are following their passion became even more determined with the interruptions of COVID. Without strong guidance to get through the pandemic, we were all kind of on our own. For entrepreneurs like me, we stepped back, examined the situation, and focused on what makes us strong. Like I said before, it’s all about relationships. They are our most valuable asset. When we support one another, we accomplish our goals faster and easier.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: I hope more women go back to work and more businesses make that possible with increased flexibility and options for childcare. My foundation has always worked remotely, so the lockdowns have not directly impacted our work. Distance isn’t a problem; it’s a tool for all of us to be where we want to be and do the kind of work we like to do.
I think the big offices will downsize and go the way of the dinosaur if they are smart. They are limiting. People have to live near their workplace or commute from distances that force them to lose hours out of their day. More and more people with families are finding that prohibitive.
The pandemic has created a new workplace and has proven that you can live anywhere and work anywhere. It’s liberating and provides talent for organizations that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: While Zoom has revolutionized the way we connect, it has also led to more screen time. I prefer to work on my feet and move through tasks throughout my day. While I have my phone with me at all times, and generally have easy access to my computer, I try to limit screen time only to what’s necessary and then get up and get moving.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: We all connect through our stories. When someone tells their story, there’s always something—some experience or feeling that you share. I don’t use storytelling as a strategy in my foundation. The stories that fuel our passion and motivate us usually come to us through our organizational partners and those we help.
Learning their stories, their “why” and how they make a difference in the world is exciting. My team is motivated by what they feel is worthy work and we’re all in touch with our shared story and support for our mission.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: The greatest challenge is not falling back on the old way of doing things. The good old boy network has a top-down power structure that hasn’t worked for decades. It’s inefficient and makes very poor use of the talent available. Now that things have been shaken up, it’s time to focus creating a work life balance that will make it easier for women to work and take care of their children, and for men to have a life outside of work so they can also participate in making a home.
Productivity relies on having a balance of mind-body-spirit, of relaxation, laughter, love, activity, and nourishment. It’s impossible to have all of that and work 24/7. It’s not only inefficient; it leads to burnout, depression, and loss of the most talented workers.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: Marketing. The way we communicate online and off is ever-changing. To be on top of those shifts, and to continue to reach decision makers and end users effectively is a top priority.
While my foundation does not sell anything or market in the traditional sense, we do focus heavily on our messaging and our campaigns, like Lift Women Up, to spread kindness and contribute to change. Marketing is ongoing and staying ahead of the curve is always the goal.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: Possibly. Too many men are promoted into management who aren’t good managers and aren’t trained to be managers. It’s been used for too long as a reward for doing good work. Rather than rewarding the person, it puts them in a position that they are not prepared for.
Management needs to be treated as a separate skill with its own criteria and training based on the qualities of a great leader, like listening, and trusting, then empowering your employees to do their best work. More women need to be placed in upper management too so they can use their skills to build a stronger workplace and more resilient organization.
We need to value our teams and realize that every person is important and has a unique perspective to offer. Making the workplace work, and creating an atmosphere where employees are seen and heard, respected for their contributions, and supported in work and life will help organizations, not only survive, but thrive this year.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: Empathy. So many people never really thought about it until the pandemic. But in March 2020 people found themselves in terrible situations and for many the only way we could really help was to try to understand and empathize. In research for my book, In This Together, I learned that new ideas and policies are certain to fail if management doesn’t abide by them as well.
For example, if you set up a system for family leave, the CEO must take it and let everyone know he/she is doing it. If the top management practiced empathy, it would set the standard for the whole company, change the culture and completely transform day-to-day operations, the quality of the product and the way all customers – both external and internal – feel about the organization.
To put my superpower to good use, I will continue to practice empathy with my team, our partners, and everyone I meet, while encouraging those around me to do the same.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Dr. Nancy O’Reilly: I don’t think we can call ourselves successful until everyone is successful. We have a marketing initiative going on right now called #LiftWomenUp. We created 52 ways we can support ourselves and one another, one for each week of the year, and we are encouraging women to join us. This is the third year we’ve done it and more and more of our partners are spreading the word.
When everyone is supported, or lifted up, that is success. We must quit judging one another and feeling that there’s not enough for all. The more we create the more there is, and the higher we lift, the higher we go. If we all lift as we rise, we will find ourselves in a place of unbelievable success. I don’t think 2022 is too early for this to happen. In fact, I think now is the perfect time for this and so much more.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Dr. Nancy O’Reilly for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Dr. Nancy O’Reilly or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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