It’s been a busy year here at Kazoo, and we’re excited to welcome Monique McDonough to the leadership team as our new COO. Here’s your chance to get to know her, too — including her thoughts on employee engagement in the pandemic, the reflective power of consulting, and her dedication to championing women and parents in the workplace.
Kazoo: We’re excited to have you here! Could you start by telling us a bit about your background and what brought you to Kazoo?
Monique McDonough: My entire career, my professional experience has been focused on helping build and grow high performing teams. I have enormous passion and energy for helping companies become something bigger in the marketplace, and helping the people there become successful professionally.
So I have the privilege now, as COO of Kazoo, of bringing all these elements in my background together. During the pandemic, I realized there’s a huge gap in how companies are thinking about the employee experience and making employees feel valued in their roles. It’s such an incredible market need. So I’m doubly excited about the work I get to do at Kazoo, especially in this environment where our entire workforce is passionate about transforming organizations, employers, and employees.
During the pandemic, I realized there’s a huge gap in how companies are thinking about the employee experience.
Kazoo: What are some of those challenges you noticed employers grappling with in the pandemic?
Monique McDonough: A lot of companies have really struggled to figure out how to navigate remote work. It’s not just about creating policy, but at a deeper level: How do you help people navigate the challenges of working from home? How do you help people feel valued? How do you engage a remote workforce, support managers in creating team cohesion, celebrate the wins?
For mid-level managers and even for senior-level managers, that’s really hard. And that’s in addition to all the other work they do. So when I saw Kazoo, I thought my gosh, this is a systemic, all-company effort that is organic. It’s not relying upon managers to steward it forward. It’s actually an amazing opportunity from the ground up to have people own a critical part of employee engagement and satisfaction.
Kazoo: What’s something that excites you most about Kazoo? And on the flip side, what are you really excited to bring to Kazoo?
Monique McDonough: First of all, the potential. The way Kazoo integrates employee recognition and rewards and performance management to create a more holistic way of helping employees understand how they’re doing, how they’re valued, and how the work they do every day has an impact on the business — that’s the Holy Grail, right?
I’m also really excited about the leadership team I have the privilege of joining at Kazoo. This is an incredibly talented group of professionals. They’ve seen it, done it, know how to do it, trust each other, and are excited about what 2022 and beyond has for us. To be able to do great work in a company that I’m passionate about, and with an executive leadership team that is just stellar? That combination is really awe-inspiring.
And finally, I’m excited about building the team at Kazoo. We have amazing talent here, and we genuinely believe in what we do — we drink our own champagne and live the experience we’re walking our clients through.
If you can find a role that gives you energy, you can be great at all the things you want to be great at.
We also live and breathe diversity and inclusion at Kazoo at our core — in terms of what we celebrate in our events, the authenticity of how people bring themselves to work every day, and how we embrace people of different backgrounds and experiences. To work in an organization that actively celebrates diversity is just really exciting.
Kazoo: In your mind, how does employee experience impact business success?
Monique McDonough: How doesn’t employee experience impact business success? Employee experience is 100% tied to business success — you cannot decouple them!
If you give people the tools and the run room to be able to do the job, they will do great work. But people have to be motivated, engaged, inspired. They have to feel respected, they have to feel challenged, and they have to feel like there is a journey that they’re on.
If you have really engaged employees who feel like they are supported in all of those fronts — that they not only have great work, but that they’re recognized, they’re fairly compensated, they have run room on professional development — they will 100% deliver tremendous business results.
Kazoo: In an interview with the Ohio University School of Business, you note, “Everything I love—smaller companies, building teams, building companies, working with people—I get to do here.” In the quote, you’re discussing your work as a consultant with the Symmetrics Group — now, at Kazoo, you’re living it! How did your work in the consulting space prepare you for your COO role at Kazoo?
Monique McDonough: Through consulting, I had an opportunity to really be reflective. Yes, on what I did well as leader and as a professional, but also, if I could go back and do it again, what would I do differently? At Symmetrics, we were doing everything from go-to-market strategy to helping sales managers drive results and operate their businesses.
What I learned was, it’s not just about sales organizations: These lessons are applicable to all organizations. So as I pivoted in my career, consulting gave me the opportunity to reflect on these common themes, isolate what good practice is, and inspire people to change. That’s one of the most helpful skills I honed through consulting: How to lead through others.
Kazoo: We talk a lot at Kazoo about how to help managers make the transition from managing to truly coaching. Because coaching incorporates that reflective element — ultimately, we’re not just helping managers have better relationships with their reports. We’re also helping them engage in that reflective process and level themselves up in a major way.
Monique McDonough: You become less of a manager and more of a coach, right? Because you are about developing people, and developing leaders is really fun. Because people have consciously said yes: I want to lead people and I’m excited about that.
But leading people isn’t about managing a function. Leading people is about helping leaders figure out how to get the best performance out of their people, how to drive excitement about the work they’re doing and how to help people identify that there are always opportunities to develop into better professionals.
I’ve been in my professional journey for more than 20 years and I still learn things every day. If you’re open to learning, and open to feedback and coaching, you can do that cognizantly.
And coaching doesn’t just happen from manager to employee. Coaching happens horizontally and across an organization. When you find an organization that embraces coaching as a philosophy and not just managing as a hierarchy, you’re going to find it unlocks so much potential for people.
When you find an organization that embraces coaching as a philosophy and not just managing as a hierarchy, you’re going to find it unlocks so much potential for people.
Kazoo: Let’s talk about two of your passion areas: You’re a champion for working parents, and also women in leadership. What can companies do to support these two groups?
Monique McDonough: So, I’ve been a parent for 12 years now. And I will tell you, I think the hardest job is to be a working parent. You have to realize that you’re not going to get it all right. Once you take a step back and just have a little dose of reality and realism and give yourself a little bit of a reprieve, it’ll be okay.
I have focused a lot on trying to find jobs that are cognizant of the fact that I have multiple roles: I am a professional. I am a mother. I’m also an individual. It’s so important to find companies that not only acknowledge that, but fully support it. If you have to duck out in the morning for a personal meeting, is that okay? Is that taboo? Do you have to go through hoops? Or is there a trust that you’re going to make the right decisions about where you spend your time?
Ultimately, it’s about finding an organization that trusts you to do the right things professionally. Because if so, they’ll give you the space to do the things that you need to do personally. If you can find a role that gives you energy, you can be great at all the things you want to be great at.
Ultimately, it’s about finding an organization that trusts you to do the right things professionally. Because if so, they’ll give you the space to do the things that you need to do personally.
I will say, one thing that’s been really interesting about the pandemic as a senior leader and a woman is to have my daughters see what I do every day. They see how people engage with me, the kinds of conversations I have, meet the people that are part of their mom’s team.
So now my girls know a little bit more about what the future can look like, and what a successful career looks like. Of course, they don’t have to grow up to be me — but they have this example, early in their development, to see what successful women do. And that’s super cool.
Kazoo: What advice would you give rising women in leadership? And what would you tell companies seeking to foster and support women leaders?
Monique McDonough: If you want to be a successful female leader, seek out an organization that really embraces diversity of leadership. Because what you’ll find is that you’ll fight fewer battles and spread your wings more easily. And in an organization like that, that’s more progressive in terms of how they’re thinking about leadership, you’re going to spend your time doing great work, not fighting for a seat at the table.
In an organization that’s more progressive in terms of how they’re thinking about leadership, you’re going to spend your time doing great work, not fighting for a seat at the table.
Companies where women have to spend all their energy breaking through the glass ceiling are starting to realize what the Great Resignation means for female talent at their organizations. They are starting to realize that the level below the glass ceiling is dwindling. And it’s really going to be tough for them to draft and promote people up. Top talent that has hit the glass ceiling is going elsewhere — because they’re not being valued or recognized or invested in the way that they want and that they quite frankly deserve.
So those organizations are going to continue to face the same challenges. And in another year or so, they’re going to start to really understand how tough it’s going to be for them to meet the goals that they’ve said publicly that they’ll meet.
Kazoo: Any last pieces of advice?
Monique McDonough: As a successful professional and as a senior female executive, I’ve worked really hard to get where I am. But I also have this mentality that my job is to help pay it forward. That’s one of the most important pieces to figure out how to do: How can you pay it forward? What are you doing to help advance or improve the experiences of others?
For example: Earlier in my career, I used exit money from a successful start-up to join forces with a friend of mine and create a scholarship for undergraduate women in business. When I was in college, I needed financial support myself; at one point, I didn’t know if I would be able to come back after summer vacation because my family had a financial setback.
And I thought, my gosh, I don’t want anybody else to have that same challenge — if you’re doing the work and getting good grades, it shouldn’t be this hard. I can help to improve somebody else’s experience and ability to get to the end of their four-year degree. But it’s not just about giving your treasure. It’s also about giving your time and your talent.
So I’d love to leave people with this question: How can you give back? Especially in a way that’s outside your immediate job or immediate family? How can you help leave people and your environment in a better place than it was when you walked up?