Author Andy Smith | Juniper Women in Leadership Series: Part Three of Five
Embrace a culture that doesn’t embrace the status quo.
Recently, Juniper Founder Lynne Katzmann, Ph.D., received the inaugural McKnight’s Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award, a tremendous honor for both Lynne and the culture she’s created at Juniper, which remains the only company in its category founded and led by a woman. To reflect on Juniper’s unique position in the industry, we’re celebrating our large community of women in leadership positions in a series of articles
This, the third piece in the series, focuses on the principles and aspects of our culture that make Juniper a great environment for women and team members willing to…take chances, fail and reboot, play to diverse strengths, innovate for good.
Taking Chances—More than Lip Service
We spoke with women in leadership roles at all levels of the organization. What emerges from their feedback is an environment that celebrates risk-takers, aspiring leaders with inventive ideas who are willing to work hard to achieve their visions.
Equally important, it’s a culture that understands the importance of permitting team members to fail, learn, reboot and start again rather than celebrating middle-of-the-road “perfection.” A consultant with Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group who has worked with Lynne and members of her leadership team, Judith Katz helps team members embrace long-term thinking, managing today’s responsibilities while looking ahead.
“My job has been to support Lynne’s leadership team to help them keep up with her, because she’s moving fast. Often I’m working with people who are great operationally, helping them think more strategically, helping them develop the skills to both manage operations while thinking of the future,” Katz says.
“I’m always encouraging team members to think about where they want to be five years from now.”
Our Core Values
Ranging in age from 20s through early 60s, the Juniper Community leaders we interviewed pointed out the following unique aspects of our culture:
Transparency. Employees at all levels are given a tremendous amount of information to do their jobs.
Planning. An emphasis on thinking strategically, learning to manage operations today while thinking about 2025 and beyond.
Balance. Working at Juniper is no picnic, but high standards are offset by an intrinsic understanding that sometimes life outside work becomes a team member’s priority.
Ownership. Providing opportunities to take on new responsibilities not already on a team member’s resume.
Openness. A non-judgmental willingness to listen to left-of-center concepts, from any level of the corporate hierarchy.
Leaders also pointed our Juniper’s innovative approach to recruitment, a readiness to let younger associates implement new ideas and the importance of mentoring. The next articles in this service will focus on these topics and include input from the next generation of our leadership team.
No Glass Ceiling
The contrast between Juniper and other companies is especially stark for women who built careers in other industries from the 1970s through the 1990s, when the corporate gender balance was only gradually beginning to shift.
Cindy Longfellow compares her life at Juniper to previous jobs. The differences are eye-opening. “I worked in Colorado, Texas and New Mexico in the insurance business, which was highly male dominated, though that may have changed a bit. When I was in that world I don’t recall having a single female leader; they were all males,” says the Vice President, Business Development, Sales and Marketing.
“It was like coming up from almost drowning to come to Juniper, where I found a company of incredible female leaders. I’d never experienced that before.”
Casting Talent in the Right Roles
Juniper gives women the opportunity to climb the ladder, or adjust their responsibilities to better take advantage of their interests and strengths. Some, like Sue Pappas, have a passion for working on the front lines, making decisions that directly impact care.
When Pappas joined Juniper over a decade ago, she was at a crossroads. After a number of years working in long-term care, she had to decide between continuing her career – with a few adjustments – or law school. She chose Juniper, taking on the challenging role of nursing Home Administrator at Juniper Village at Spearly Center in Denver, Juniper’s only behavioral health community.
In her previous position, Sue had been a regional director of operations for another provider. Juniper offered the opportunity she was looking for, to be more “hands on.”
Making Room for Mistakes
At all levels, there’s a resistance to pigeon-holing. If they show talent and initiative, team members are encouraged to pursue positions in other sectors, especially those with a solid understanding of our operations and culture.
Longfellow echoes the sentiments of other women in leadership at Juniper—it’s an organization that rewards excellence while understanding there must be room to fail. “I’ve had the opportunity to learn and try to do things that I wouldn’t have been afforded elsewhere,” she says.
“So much of what I know about marketing was self-taught. I don’t believe at a more traditional company I would have had the opportunities that I’ve been afforded here, the chance to grow in my role, because I wouldn’t have checked off the boxes on my resume, and that would have held me back, especially in male-dominated industries. Not here.”
An Open Book
Anne Campbell sees Juniper as, yes, a great environment for women leaders, but also one for anyone with ideas and the work ethic to follow through on them. “I just think my opinion is viewed in a different way and my opinion counts,” says Anne Campbell, National Director of Special Projects. “We’re a very transparent company. I’m given all the information I need, not just some.”
She describes her work environment as one where people take their responsibilities (but not necessarily themselves) seriously. So while Juniper is a great environment for women, it’s not always a strong fit for the timid, of any gender!
Though the company emphasizes work/life balance, Juniper’s leaders often end up working fairly long, intense hours. So collaboration and compatibility are important. “It’s very organic, but I really think that, for me personally, I work well with people I get along with. I want to enjoy the people I’m around,,” Campbell says.
“For me that includes people who are okay with change, and to a certain extent ‘fearless.’ In the past, I’ve been challenged working with people who wouldn’t change and I find we can move faster if we’re working with people who are comfortable with change.”
Campbell adds, “This includes fearless, driven women who want to have fun and do cool things.”
Keep reading. In our next article we’ll continue to develop with this “fun/fearless” theme, focusing on Juniper’s approach to recruitment and mentoring.