Meeting People Where They Are: Respect and Intention


A Firm Beliefs conversation with Pat Fitzgibbons

Pat Fitzgibbons, SVP and Senior Public Relations Manager at M&T Bank, recently joined Bliss CEO Cortney Stapleton on the Firm Beliefs podcast for a candid conversation about his father’s role in shaping how he treats others, our role as communicators when it comes to cutting through the jargon, and why it’s essential to think about our individual impact on the world around us.

Below are highlights from their discussion.

Cortney Stapleton, CEO of The Bliss Group: Who has had the biggest impact on your career and how has that experience really shaped the way you want to impact others?

Pat Fitzgibbons, SVP and Senior Public Relations Manager at M&T Bank: My dad worked at one company for 38 years and he eventually became the CFO and worked in the president’s office. He was really dedicated, and his team stayed together because they liked working for him. He’s been retired for 20 years but they still call him frequently and ask for his opinion. I think about how he treated his people, and I’ve always admired it.

Similarly, there’s also at least one person from every job that I’ve held who I’m still in touch with, think about, and talk to regularly. It’s great to be able to pick up the phone and connect with them, knowing that everybody brings a different perspective.  

Cortney: At Bliss, we talk a lot about delivering impact through insight. What is one insight that someone gave you?

Pat: You have to take people where they stand. I don’t really want to be around people who automatically agree with me or automatically parrot what they think that I think. It’s important to listen to those different perspectives. Now that I work in-house, I have clients in-house and they have different needs and different expectations. I think it’s important to take a minute to hear what they’re saying. It’s very easy to fall into the echo chamber but that’s not productive. Everybody has something that is good to hear and can contribute, so you just have to force yourself out of your comfort zone.

Cortney: It often feels like every brand is trying to position themselves as mission driven or purpose driven because we know younger audiences and employees are particularly interested in this. What do you think it takes to make a company truly purpose driven, beyond their PR and messaging?

Pat: As communicators, the really important thing is for us to translate the jargon for people and cut through the industry speak abbreviations that we all use. That jargon gets in the way of actually communicating with our current people and people who we’d love to come work for us. Clarity is a really important thing, and we need to show more than we talk.

Cortney: What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career who wants to make a difference in the world or just in their workplace?

Pat: I was at St. Michael’s College talking to a group of students about what they were looking for their first job. I told them that it’s kind of like making friends. Do you want to hang out with this person for eight to 10 hours every day? Is this the kind of person you want to be in a crisis with? Can you see them leading you through X, Y, and Z?

We also talked about how people are going to be thinking about salary and it’s important to remember that you can’t get paid enough to be unhappy. I’ve had a number of positions where the money looks great, but the job isn’t really what I wanted to be doing. Being unhappy in a job, whatever that job is, even if you’re getting paid a lot, effects every other part of your life – your personal relationships, your health. It’s really important to have that feeling of happiness. People don’t think work should be fun, but it should be. It doesn’t have to be a laugh riot, but you shouldn’t be miserable. At the end of the day, you should feel like you’ve accomplished something meaningful and fun.

Cortney: What are the biggest challenges you’re currently facing in creating impact or changing the way something is done for the better?

Pat: Finding the time. A lot of us, especially when you get to the senior level, are getting pulled into so many interesting things that break into the flow of your day. It’s hard to give yourself that time to actually sit quietly and think about the stuff that’s going to be very meaningful, long lasting, or going to improve someone’s life. And those things do take time, they don’t magically happen somehow.


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