Margery Kraus, the Founder and Executive Chair of APCO Worldwide participated in a virtual senior-level discussion for WWPR’s Coffee & Conversation event on May 5.

Kraus, a true visionary and leader in the PR world, discussed the story behind the title of her newly-published memoir, Roots and Wings: Ten Lessons of Motherhood That Helped Me Create and Run a Company. Kraus appropriately named her memoir after a wall hanging in her house. As the saying goes, “there are only two lasting things of value to give your children. One is roots, and the other is wings,” Kraus recalled. She claimed this philosophy guided her while raising her three children and growing her own business. 

Kraus explained, “the roots is your value system. If your kids really buy into that, they can have a lot of freedom,” highlighting that freedom gives people room to grow and make their own decisions. “I realized that that’s how I built my business. We had a really strong set of core values.” She noted that it’s important to be clear about what your company or team’s values are and what you collectively stand for. Once that’s achieved, you’ll attract people who subscribe to those values and foster a healthy workplace culture.

She also encouraged WWPR members to lead with empathy and transparency during these unprecedented times. 

“It’s ironic to start this way, but I think at the heart of this is good communication” joked Kraus, stressing that everyone has had to adjust to this new normal. “I assured people that we have been through a lot together,” Kraus added, referencing a global townhall she convened for APCO employees early during the crisis, which she tackled calmly and honestly. 

While our current reality poses new challenges to overcome, Kraus’ words of wisdom offer great guidance for managing and thinking about the future. 

5 Leadership Tips for Managing and Thinking About the Future: 

  1. Move forward together with transparency – Communicate well and often. Assure your people of what you know – do so incrementally. Be open and honest about the future of the business, the clients, and the people. 
  2. Don’t overpromise – Lead with assurance but no guarantees. While you should reassure everyone that you’ll do everything in your power to keep things normal, there’s no way to guarantee anything when dealing with the unknown. 
  3. Encourage everyone to be present when they work – Whether this means requiring video-on meetings, checking in with on another more regularly, or paying extra attention to client needs. 
  4. Be proactive and inventive with your clients – Your clients need you now more than ever. Consider providing new services that could be helpful during this time, use those resources to fill in gaps for them. 
  5. Understand how your people are feeling – The current remote-working situation has unveiled numerous new challenges for people. Young parents for example, especially working moms, are juggling full-time work and caregiving. Form support groups and non-corporate resources that your people can lean on to signify we’re all in this together.