I have developed a fond appreciation of the butterfly as a personal symbol of self-actualization. It serves as an elegant and constant reminder that I am officially an adult - just in case my sprouting strands of gray hair are not enough.
But I had never considered the butterfly a pillar of insurmountable strength until our worldwide CEO at Starcom MediaVest Group, Renetta McCann, who is black, spoke of the "butterfly effect" to members of the MediaVest African-American Affinity Group during our first holiday celebration.
Her gift was to encourage us to understand and unleash our own personal power. Regardless of the size of the effort, if we do something - anything, no matter how small - we can effect change. Taken from chaos theory, the concept goes something like this: Somehow, something as small as the fluttering wings of a butterfly could ignite a chain of events resulting in a phenomenon as immense and forceful as a tsunami.
My curiosity got the best of me. Imagine something as miniscule as the ticklish flutter of a butterfly's wings sparking a windstorm that turns into a tornado, triggering an earthquake, then a tsunami. Look at McCann's career and you'll see that anything is possible, if you believe.
When she started in Leo Burnett's account management training program, she did not know she would shatter the glass ceilings put before her. She came to get the job done, and along the way became a role model.
She was the first black media supervisor at Leo Burnett, then the agency's first black female vice president. Now she is the only African-American to lead a global communications agency, one running 10 top media and marketing agencies with billings above $18 billion and a global workforce of 4,500. Not too shabby.
McCann is a true change agent in what has been called one the most racist industries in the country due to its questionable hiring practices and inability to maintain and promote a diverse workforce. McCann did not let that stop her. Ranked No. 27 by Forbes among the world's most powerful women (though she hates it when we remind her of that), McCann is our monarch butterfly.
One of the many areas in which we feel the gentle yet ever-present movement of her wings is in our agency's Diversity Initiative. Undoubtedly, her passion for diversity is infectious. After all, how many global CEOs do you know who would take time out during the holiday season to fly in for a three-hour meeting to inspire 15 employees?
In 2005, SMG became the first communications agency to roll out diversity training for its entire North American organization. Laura Desmond, then CEO of MediaVest, now the SMG CEO of the Americas, caught the wind and created the foundation for what is now MediaVest's diversity recruitment, retention, and education program. With a new sense of empowerment, the African-American Affinity Group, of which I'm a proud member, was driven to commit time and energy after hours to accomplish several initiatives.
The ripples from our inaugural year are still being felt, as one of our interns, Gina Lawrence from Spelman College in Atlanta, was selected as a finalist in the American Advertising Federation's Most Promising Minority Students competition based upon her experience at MediaVest.
The moral to this story: Never underestimate your own personal power, no matter how small your effort may seem. The impact may be felt by others years from now in ways you could never imagine. Special thanks to Renetta for giving the gift of wisdom and being the wind (Oh, I have to say it) "beneath our wings."
Kendra Hatcher is senior vice president, contextual planning, at MediaVest. (email@example.com)