023: Joan Pepper: Please bring my daughter home
Joan Pepper Show Notes
Joan took the better of a year constructing all of the necessary paperwork for adopting a girl from the country of China. Once completed Joan had to mail all of the documents to obtain the required county, state and federal approvals before it was submitted to the Chinese Consulate. But something went terribly wrong and her paperwork was lost. After the panic and frustration wore off Joan constructed one of the most daring FBI MOST WANTED type of plans that you’ll ever hear. Listen to Joan tell her amazing story so you can be inspired to move onward and upward faster.
Joan Pepper was raised in Toledo, Ohio where she began her public speaking career competing in 4-H competitions at local county fairs. She is the oldest of four children and is proud to be the sister of three outstanding men that are successful in wildly divergent fields. Although she might like to take credit for nurturing her little brothers to success, doing so would be a blatant lie as credit for building their children’s character, integrity and Catholic faith was the lifework of two outstanding parents.
Joan graduated from the University of Toledo with a degree in Business Administration and began her career working for Aetna Insurance in Cleveland. She moved to Atlanta in 1987 after it became clear that “the worst year for winter weather ever” was actually an inescapable annual Cleveland special. In 1997, she obtained her Master’s Degree in Psychology after spending nine months in county jail as an intern in health services.
The bulk of her career has been in marketing and distribution with roles in the customer facing B2B side of the insurance business. She is currently employed as the Director, Customer Experience Analytics within AIG’s operational services arm where she leads collaborative customer journey initiatives across the globe.
Joan is a strong advocate for adoption and for celebrating multi-cultural families. She is a wife to a Peruvian and mom to both a native born son and a Chinese born daughter. She believes her family may hold the record for the number of cultural holidays celebrated annually in any one household.
She spends most of her free time solving brain teasers like, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” when she asks her children, “What were you thinking?”
Joan believes success is the result of stubborn perseverance and a slightly off sense of humor.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
Listen and @joanpepper will help you get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet
“To keep your drive, you have to have a successful result every day.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“What helps me achieve the big success is make a difference every day.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“When it comes to changing behavior you can’t blink your eyes and make it happen.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“Never, never, never give up.”-Winston Churchill Click to Tweet
“You have to believe that most people will help you when asked.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“When you hit a wall look for another approach.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“You can motivate others from the rear without the authority to do so.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“Everybody needs to know that what they are doing matters.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“Every day is an opportunity to learn something new.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“What would you do if you weren’t scared?” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“God will either get you through it or God will make it better.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“I see no reason why I should give up.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
“We all don’t make decisions in the same way.” -Joan Pepper Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Joan spent almost a year completing all of the necessary paperwork for adopting a girl from the country of China. She completed all of the requirements and mailed all of the documents, but they got lost. Joan was angry and scared because her entire identity was included in those documents. But once that wore off Joan designed an elaborate plan to get over the hump and recover her lost package. Listen to how she did it and what you can learn to move onward and upward faster.
Advice for others
When you hit a wall, look for another approach. And believe you can motivate others from the rear without the authority to do so.
Holding her back from being an even better leader
Probably fear. It’s a natural human emotion.
Best Leadership Advice Received
God will either get you through it or God will make it better.
Secret to Success
Best Resources in business or Life
I have mentors inside my companies, outside my company, and my family.
Connecting with Joan
54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.Click to access edited transcript 023: Joan Pepper: Please bring my daughter home
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
Jim Rembach: Thanks Kimberly. Okay, Fast Leader legion, I have a lot of energy for this particular episode today. I am really excited to be able to have Joan Pepper, and yes she is spicy on the show today.
Joan was raised in Toledo, Ohio, where she began her public speaking career competing in 4-H competition at the local county fairs. She is the oldest of four children and is proud to be the sister of three outstanding men that are successful in wildly divergent fields. Although she might like to take credit for nurturing her little brothers to success doing so would be a blatant lies, credit for building their children’s character integrity and catholic faith was the life work of two outstanding parents.
Joan graduated from the University of Toledo with a degree in Business Administration and began her career working for an ETNA Insurance in Cleveland. She moved to Atlanta in 1987 after it became clear that the worst year for winter weather ever was actually an inescapable annual Cleveland event. In 1997, she obtained her Master’s degree in Psychology after spending nine months in county jail as an intern in Health Services.
The bulk of her career has been in marketing and distribution with roles in the customer facing business-to-business side of the insurance business. She is currently employed as the director of Customer Experience Analytics within AIG’s operational services arm where she leaves the collaborative customer journey initiatives cross the entire globe. Joan is a strong advocate for adoption and for celebrating multicultural families.
She is a wife to a Peruvian and mom to both a native born son and Chinese born daughter. She believes her family may hold the record for the number of cultural holiday celebrated annually in anyone household. She spends most of her free time solving brainteasers like, it seemed like a good idea time, when she ask her children, “What were you thinking?” Joan believes success is the result of stubborn perseverance and a slightly off sense of humor. Joan Pepper, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Joan Pepper: Yeah. I am.
Jim Rembach: Alright. I’ve given our listeners a brief introduction but can you please tell us what your current passion so that we get to know you better?
Joan Pepper: Currently, I work in Customer Service for AIG and Customer Experience, I put a lot of enthusiasm into it, I’m enthusiastic about it. Frankly, I get off energized, I like what I do, I like the people I work with and I just like getting better outcomes for people. And as I mentioned in my bio, as you mentioned, I do have an adopted child and adoption is also very passionate cause to me.
Jim Rembach: You got passion at work and passion at home, that just sounds fantastic I think that’s the place that all wish where we could be in. When you talk about at work, you had mentioned about results, a lot of us have issues getting to the point having results—when I had the opportunity to meet you I found somebody who didn’t necessarily spend a whole lot of time in the weeds. So, when you think about results, what are some key things that helps you get them?
Joan Pepper: I think the key to getting results—you have to look at the macro picture, the big picture, and you have this big project and you have this big result at the end and that’s great. And you’re going to have a project planning, you’re going to get there and you have collaborative, you have to cross sale, everybody to go with you. And you have that big result, but I think that if you want to keep you enthusiasm, if you want to keep your drive all the way, you have to have a successful result every day. And it maybe something as simple as, somebody calls me on the phone, ask me a question and I know the answer, and if I’ve done that I’ve made their life better that day.
I had a job before this one where I was drawing down a business unit, what I did for three years, it was negative messaging, to be quite honest with you. The messages I had weren’t all that good and so we had very diminished morale in the group. And what I did was I had an old fashioned paper calendar and when someone want to call me, if I could solve their problem no matter what it was, that is a win for the day and I would write it down. And that’s what I would tell everybody that I worked with, write it down. If someone call you—they didn’t know what department to call or they just have a question, something simple like that, you’ve helped their day, you’ve made a difference every day.
So, what helps me achieve the big success is making difference there every day. And it is the weeds but it gets you to that bigger goal at the end. I think it’s just the way with customer experience, you don’t see immediate results. And people have a need for immediacy, especially with the electronics and—I can look anything up on Google what I want, Boom! It’s done. But when it comes to changing behavior, changing methods of delivery and everything like that, you can’t blink your eyes and have it happen overnight. Same as raising children, you can’t turn them into a productive adults overnight, it’s a process. And you have to have small wins and small battles but small wins every day. I really think that’s what keeps me going.
Jim Rembach: I definitely see you as a person who’s very resilient as well, I mean, very inspirational talking about the energy and talking about your degree Psychology obviously you focused and have a lot of passion for the positive side. One of the ways that we also do that here on the show is by looking at leadership quotes ‘cause they do just that. They help inspire, they help us persevere, and they help us do things that otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do this by staying in our own minds. Is there a quote or something that really drives you?
Joan Pepper: On my mirror when I get up in the morning every day, it’s Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.” And I have needed that I don’t know how many times. And it reminds me of they had a challenge that was slightly more difficult than anything that I’ve ever faced. And that is the one that I always sit back, think about, get up and keep going.
Jim Rembach: And definitely that’s one of those situations where never giving up, continuing to push through. I have talked about perseverance before I even knew that was your favorite quote because I see that in you. So, you play it out every day, can you think of a time where that really served you well cause you had a hump to get over? Humps on the Fast Leader show, can you share it with us?
Joan Pepper: Yeah. I laughed a little because I don’t want to be labelled the terrorist or anything like that. Let me tell you a story about when I adopted my daughter. My daughter was adopted from China. And adopt from China, it’s a long process and it’s somewhat brutal, you have to please two governments, the state of Georgia, it’s not as simple as you were thinking. In the process you have to compile somethings called the, dossier, it has everything about you, and it has a home study, your birth certificate, your marriage certificate, just everything, and I call it steal my identity and a kit.
It has to go in an envelope and you’re not allowed to send it, tracking it, so you have to send it get it notarize at the county then you have to take it to the state and the state has to, ‘Yeah, you know that the county really exist”. Then you have to send it to the Chinese consulate in United States of America that says, “Hey, guess what, the state of Georgia really exist.” What happen was all my paper works in the envelope, followed directions, got everything done, which takes better part of the year, send it down to state of Georgia to get their official state on it and waited, and nothing came. And waited, and nothing came.
So, I called them, yeah, yeah, you know they have it on their log, when it went out, nothing came. At this point I have all these work as well as my identity missing. And I was like, “Now what?” First thing I did, I panicked the second thing I did was I got really angry. The third thing I did was I think I panicked a little bit more. I called the post office and said, “Here’s my problem… and they said, “Ah, you know, we don’t have it.” I talked to my mail courier, “Ah, we don’t have it.” Then I think I’m a little bit angrier and more panic and I just sat back and I thought, “Alright, what can you do? What can you do that might get this to work for you? You have to find a needle in a haystack and how are you going to do it?
So, I thought, Okay, I know where I left the package and we’re going to start there. And we’re going to walk, we’re going to follow it from downtown Atlanta to my house in [inaudible 9:07]. So, I called the Post Office and said, “Hey can you tell me which post office [inaudible 9:11] and there’s sort of like, “No” It was right after 9/11, it was right after the Anthrax had risen, they’re like No we’re not going to tell you that. I thought, alright, I have to beat that one. So, I checked on legally how far they have to stay from postal track if you follow it, it’s a 100 feet, just you know.
I checked that and then I put on a suit, made myself look like I knew what I was doing, I printed up an envelope and I made a facsimile of what it was. It was this envelope with the return label on it, it looked identical and I’ve carried it down to the state department and I started in the office that they stamped and said, “Have you seen this?” “No” “Can you tell me where it goes from here?” “Sure” So, they take me down to the sorting room in the post office, I talked to that girl told her that story, “Have you seen….?” “No” “Where does it go from here?” So, then I go into—this is the [10:07 inaudible] and I go up to the main room in the state office and they did have security and I don’t have a badge but I guess because I had a suit on and I was carrying a paperwork they let me in without asking. And I went into their mailroom started picking up their machines looking behind cabinets, everything like that, it wasn’t there, nobody asked me what I was doing which was the part where I probably shouldn’t reveal that, and I left, that’s okay. Now what, what’s next? It’s not here.
So, I eliminated that place. I went home and I thought about it like, “Okay, I’ve got to figure this out.” Now, you’re close to my agency, you can remember this before you bought postage online, you went to the post office and in the post office there was a wall, remember the Most Wanted pictures the FBI’s top ten would be on the wall, we’re all familiar with that in there. So, I went home and I started making posters and it was a picture of the envelope I was looking for. I put, “Please bring my daughter home, most wanted, and gave a little bit of a story, day it was lost, this is why I need it. And then I thought, “Now, I have to get it to all the post offices in [11:24 inaudible] how do I find them? It was a little bit more challenging that I thought and I’ll think about it for a while but I waited till the middle of the night and started calling post offices and I figured the sorting station will be the one that answers the phone, I was right.
And I got all their fax numbers and I started sending it to every single post office, I faxed it to every office in between point A and point B. And two days later my door ring and there was my postal carrier with my envelope who said, “I’ve no explanation, I was told to handle over this to you”. So, then I turn around and I took my most wanted poster, I wrote, ‘Captured’ and I faxed it back to all the different post office, Jim, I don’t know who helped me. I don’t know who found it. But I know someone did. So, I would say the lesson was, you have to be a little creative and you have to believe most people will help you when asked.
Jim Rembach: Gosh, Joan, that is one fantastic story. I hope we don’t get censored by the NSA on that one. That is just unbelievable. But ultimately what is did it resulted in? Please finish the story.
Joan Pepper: I got my paperwork back I was able to send it over to China. I have an absolutely beautiful 8-year old daughter that I adopted in September 2007. And it is a challenge and it’s a blessing and I would do it all over again other than losing of the envelope. [Laugh]
Jim Rembach: The Fast Leader listeners, they can learn so many different things from that story and you did share a couple of things but going back through the process if there was one thing that stood out that you would definitely recommend to other folks, what would it be?
Joan Pepper: Look for another approach. When you hit a wall look for another approach and believe that you can motivate others from the rear without any authority to do so believe that.
Jim Rembach: You also did a lot of things from an influence perspective and persuasion, a science of persuasion perspective that other people just wouldn’t know to deploy, I would suspect because you have a psychology degree. For me, you play the people for their emotion but you did it in an ethical fashion, you weren’t doing it as the ‘terrorist’ like you were saying, you did it to really say, “Please help me.” And when you do that and you show that humility, it’s amazing how many times people will step up. I hope your thank you message and capture message got to the person or people who helped you with that process. And that it actually encourages them to do it again because I’m sure there’s other folks that are on the same situation that needed that kind of help.
Joan Pepper: Yeah. I agree. I think it’s also really important that when something like that happens we’re so busy and a lot of time we will tell you if something is going wrong. But we don’t take a lot of time to tell you when things are going right, I try to make a point of doing that. A lot of surveys, you get surveys and people call just to complain. But I like to tell people when they’re doing things right because everybody needs to know, hey, what they’re doing matters. And if they don’t think it does that day, maybe you’re one voice that tells them.
Jim Rembach: Yeah. You’re definitely on track with that. I think too many times we do focus in on that negative piece and that threat. And I know that as human beings that’s something that we just focus on from a pure survival perspective but that’s not what actually motivates us even in a long run. What it does it causes us to maybe move quick but not sustenance, so, thanks for sharing that. Now, talked earlier about some of things that you are doing within AIG and [15:36 inaudible] you do a lot of different work. But what’s one thing that your current work is doing for you that provides you with that energy that you had talked about earlier?
Joan Pepper: Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. And I think that the reason I’m with the company I’m with is for that reason. And you don’t get that in a lot of places and I enjoy that. I don’t necessarily enjoy job or I’m counting this same widgets every day, I think it takes different personalities are drawn to different occupations and different jobs. But what energizes me and excites me is just the ability to do something new and to work with the people I work with.
Jim Rembach: What’s the new things that you’re learning now that’s exciting you?
Joan Pepper: I’m learning a lot about global collaboration.
Jim Rembach: I think a lot of us are actually having to experience that now more than ever. They talk about the globalization of the marketplace for organization as well as from a customer exchange and experience perspective. Is there something that you’re finding that is a surprise or an epiphany to you in regards to that collaboration that you didn’t know otherwise?
Joan Pepper: One thing that surprises me is maybe we have so many highly qualified people doing so many great things. And I’m just wondering, and I don’t know the answer to this, are we actually getting the full benefit of that? I don’t know if that’s a surprise because I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to it. But I do know that we have an awful lot of people doing an awful lot of really good things.
Jim Rembach: So when you start talking about that potential missed opportunity, where do you see that potentially being?
Joan Pepper: I think that the opportunity we may be missing is pulling this altogether may just be a communication issue. And I think for companies such as ours, that was in a major reorganization, and with moving around to reestablish those communication lines, it’s going to take time, things don’t happen overnight and I think you have to have a little bit of patience with that. So, I believe that as our communication gets better and better, and it is, we will be able to get—everyone uses synergy, it’s a word that I don’t allow because I’m tired of it but frankly, you get the synergies of everybody working together as soon as you have the ability to do that communication in a platform to do it.
Jim Rembach: The Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Alright here we go Fast Leader listeners it is time for the—Hump Day Hoedown. Okay, Joan, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So, I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Joan Pepper are you ready to hoedown?
Joan Pepper: Okay.
Jim Rembach: So, what do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?
Joan Pepper: Probably fear. I think that fear is a natural human emotion that it is something that will raise to the top no matter what you do and that one thing would hold you back. One of the things that I say to myself now, what would you do if you weren’t scared? And they don’t fail the effectivities yet. I can tell you that that’s my new tactic, Okay, what would you do if you weren’t scared? And that usually the right answer by the way.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Joan Pepper: It was from my dad. My father died from lymphoma five year ago. And there’s been a lot of really good professional leadership advice but this is it: I was working at a job offer I was like, agonizing over which of this two good options I should take. And my father had fight cancer, brutal cancel lymphoma five years earlier, and I was furious make myself sick over, do I take A, do I take B, trying to figure out the opportunity cause if I take A, if I take B, at this point I was in nuts. And he said, “I want to talk to you for a minute”, and I thought, “Oh, no, what have I done now.” You maybe 45 but it was like, “Oh, boy, what have I done now.” And we went over we sat in his van and he said, “Want to tell you something.” He said, “You know, that last five year of my life has been a gift,” he said, “it’s a weird gift, and it’s an odd gift and it’s not one that I would’ve asked for but it’s been a gift because over the last five years I have learned one of two things will happen, God will either get you through it or Got will make it better. And you should not spending your effort worrying about things like this.” And his cancer came back shortly and about a month after then he died. But it was sort of the Aha moment of, you know, okay, make a decision move forward, it may be right it may be wrong but you’re not going to lose your life on this one, and even if you do one of two things will happen. It wasn’t from a—not necessarily I could give you all sort of business leaders examples but when it comes to—you live your life at work too it’s part of you, it’s not really two separate things. We have this whole work life planned and it’s like “Look here’s the deal, you’re either going to get better or you’re going to get through it. And don’t waste your energy on trying to figure out which one it’s going to be. So I really think that was probably the best advice. Do I follow it all the time? No. Honestly I don’t, I wish I could but being human, I know that does that not always happen.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Joan Pepper: I think, I’m just a real pain in the ass. I just see no reason why I should give up. Maybe it took, it’s where you’re now and—you know that punchy clown? You would hit, it bounces, you punch it, it bounces up and sometimes I don’t know when I should stay down. However, I’ve been able to do some pretty cool things because I would say it’s just that I’m sort of stubborn.
Jim Rembach: It’s being productive and constructive with it that is really the differentiator. So, what is one of your best resources that helps you lead in business or life?
Joan Pepper: I have mentors that I worked with at my office and at my company and outside of my company. These are people that I’ve worked with, that I admire for a lot of different reasons and I try to talk them—I have some professional organizations and those helps me as well and of course, I have my family. And I do have three younger brothers, one is a lawyer, they are all sorts of stuff, and running things by family—of course I’ve a husband as well, people I trust that helps me.
Jim Rembach: Yeah. You definitely can’t do it alone, can we?
Joan Pepper: Nope.
Jim Rembach: What is one book that you would recommend to our listeners?
Joan Pepper: There’s so many of them. But the one that I really thought was okay, this sort of boils it down. I was able to hear the guy talk called Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton the gentleman’s named Lee Ellis and he in POW camp in Vietnam. And he wrote a book on leadership, it’s not a hard read just tenets of leadership. And if they were able to—you think about situation hey were in, which was pretty awful, if they were still able to have a cohesive group that led through this terrible crisis, I would recommend that one. The other one that I would recommend and really like is the Art of Choosing and has nothing to do with leadership, does have to do with humans and it has to do with different cultural differences and how we make decisions and that we don’t all make decisions in the same way. Her name is Sheena Iyenger, she happens to be a blind writer from India who went to one of the [inaudible 23:44] it’s called the Art of Choosing, it’s very interesting book.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader Legion, you can find links to those books and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/Joan Pepper. Alright, Joan, this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you were 25 years old again and you were supposed to begin a new job as a manager of a team of people that is underperforming and disengage but you retain all the wisdom and skill that you currently have your task is to turn the team around, so you get up, you get ready and you head out to work, what do you do now?
Joan Pepper: I love it. So, no wrinkles and all the knowledge, I like that. I think I’d walk in, I’ll take all the company propaganda off the wall, if there was any. I will get the people together to make changes and then I would look at three things just that everyone know what they’re doing, what’s our goal, do we have all have the same mission? Do they know why they’re relevant? Do they feel relevant every day? Do they feel like they’re doing meaningful work? Do they understand why their work is meaningful?
Jim Rembach: It’s an honor to spend time with you today, Joan. Can you please share with the Fast Leader legion how they can get in touch with you?
Joan Pepper: Absolutely. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m at 404 3136542 that’s US and I am on LinkedIn@Joan Pepper.
Jim Rembach: Joan Pepper, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. Woot Woot!
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster.
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