Retain talent by helping their team members recognize their own purpose at work while witnessing the value they bring to their roles.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Genevieve Piturro.
Genevieve Piturro is an Inspirational Speaker, a Best Selling and Award-winning Author, and the Founder of the national organization, Pajama Program. Today Genevieve is all about Purpose and The Human Connection, but that wasn’t always the case. She was a driven corporate executive striving for success in the television industry until a sudden inner voice challenged her direction and she dramatically altered the path of her life. She found her true purpose when a simple question from a six-year-old girl in an emergency shelter changed everything. In 2001, she jumped off the corporate ladder and founded the hugely successful national non-profit, Pajama Program. This year, the Program celebrates its 21st anniversary, having delivered more than 7 MILLION magical gifts of new pajamas and new books to children through its 42 chapters across the U.S.
Genevieve is now an inspirational speaker and purpose consultant inspiring individuals, groups, and companies to find their purpose & embrace the human connection for success. She created the Purpose ACER business training program to help leaders create a shared culture by aligning the goals of the company and management with the goals of its employees.
Her first book, sharing life and leadership lessons she learned through her Pajama Program journey, Purpose, Passion and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning, debuted during the Covid shutdown to rave reviews. The book’s message and Heart of the Matter life and leadership lessons after every chapter, dovetail perfectly with our Nation’s growing interest in finding purpose and rekindling our human connection. Her TEDx talk: “1 Idea + The Human Connection = 7 Million Pajamas” debuted with her book.
Genevieve has been interviewed on and in many local and national media including Hallmark’s Home & Family, The Huckabee Show, OPRAH, TODAY, GMA, The Early Show, CNN, Fox & Friends, O Magazine, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Parenting Magazine. Genevieve rang the Nasdaq Stock Market Opening Bell in 2016. She has been the recipient of many local and national awards as she inspires others to listen to their heart-voice in pursuing their passions. Genevieve is a graduate of Fordham University and lives in Irvington, N.Y. with her husband, Demo DiMartile. If you can’t find them, check the beach.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
I’m thrilled to be traveling to different places and meeting new groups of people to speak in person again, finally. Zoom just cannot carry the energy and connection we share — especially when my topic is The Human Connection!
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg — and I wish I could call her my friend! Judge Ginsburg was an example of the best we can be. As a bold leader, she took a revered platform and moved it a giant step forward, reminding all of us that when we do, we need to bring along as many others as we can. My favorite quote of hers is “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
My biggest mistake was trying to find a solution alone in a dire situation. In the 2008 recession I was faced with the possibility of my organization going under, and my anxiety and crippling fear kept me isolated from others. When I felt like I was at my wits’ end, I took a chance and asked our small team for suggestions. Someone came up with a simple idea that boosted morale which I believe was the key that led us to filling our bank account slowly but surely. In all honesty, I did not see how this idea would make a big enough difference, but I now speak on exactly what happens when you ask for help — THE HUMAN CONNECTION CHANGES EVERYTHING!
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
When I started officially growing Pajama Program, I took with me the lessons I learned from ”bosses” I worked for in the past. But soon I realized most of those leaders weren’t effective in making me feel invested in their company or goals. I was a good employee, but I didn’t feel connected to their vision. I had a Purpose now in starting my organization so my challenge was to create a whole new set of standards for myself to become a more effective and supportive leader. Not only did I have a business-related mission to convey, I wanted everyone to understand and embrace my vision. I did everything I could to empower and support my team members in their own goals so that at the end of the day they felt appreciated and seen, otherwise I knew they would lose interest … and heart.
Today when a leader brings on new employees it means identifying their best skills to be sure they align with the company’s needs, yes, but we also need to be proactive and look for ways to integrate our new hires into our teams. We need to ask them why they want to work with us, what gives our work meaning for them, and how they’d like to grow in their roles. And we need to listen to their answers and support them as best we can. And we need to make it our priority to inspire and motivate them to make the organization’s goals “their” goals too in order to grow together. Lastly, we need to keep our eyes and ears open to what brings and keeps teams together — and what can drive us apart.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
I stopped thinking I had all the answers just because I was leading. After more than two decades of experience in leadership I learned, “It’s not the Power of One that changes things, it’s the Power of One-ANOTHER that moves mountains and moves people.”
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
Asking for help — or at least suggestions — when I can’t find an answer alone.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
Ask for help! As leaders we need to accept that we may not always have all the answers. If we find ways to inspire our teams we can trust they will rally for us — and most importantly — feel comfortable offering ideas they see as solutions from their point of view — which can be just what we need.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
Build a team who are:
1. inspired by you and your vision and aligned with your company’s Purpose
2. eager to contribute their ideas for the good of the team
3. willing to embrace The Human Connection to collaborate in ways that support both their own roles and the organization’s goals and bottom line
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.
The ability to:
1. Understand how and why a shared and connected purpose is essential to the organization’s growth.
2. Inspire their employees.
3. Commit to building a culture that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.
4. Encourage their teams to rally for each other.
5. Retain talent by helping their team members recognize their own purpose at work while witnessing the value they bring to their roles.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
I try and encourage at least one person every day. Sometimes that means sharing something I’ve done right to lead them in the right direction, and some days I know sharing my worst decisions will open a conversation with someone who needs to know I can help get them out of a mess! My fears of losing my organization taught me that I had to take a chance and ask for help. Now the first thing I tell entrepreneurs is, ASK FOR HELP when you see the first signs of trouble!
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
As a leader I believe everyone is looking for meaning in their work — and I want to help them find it.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!