Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 26th 2014 Contents | PROFILE |
My management style
cuts through any gender
orientation. I see my team
members for who they
are. You bring your love
here as well. Develop ur
people. Respect them.
4 | WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt October 26, 2014
By Roslyn Carrington
THE FIRST THING I notice as I step into Michelle Palmer-Keizer's office is
the couch. I'm not into ogling other people's furniture, but it's not an easy
couch to miss. Green as a Granny Smith apple, with an elegant olive brocade
pashmina casually draped over the back, it's the focal point of the prettiest,
most feminine office I have ever been in. I point out to her that I have been
in many women's offices, and they seem inclined to keep them as neuter
as possible, as if to avoid any conflict between their gender and their job.
She responds with a smile, "I love colour. Colour is part of who I am."
Although she has been with Republic Bank for thirty years, Palmer-Keizer
was appointed General Manager, Group Marketing and Communications,
just about six months ago, with responsibility throughout the region. "We
also have interests in Ghana," she reveals, and when I express surprise, she
explains, "You know, the linkages between the Caribbean and Africa are
very strong." She begins to tell me about her recent visit to Accra, and re-
lates how at home she felt there. "Whilst walking the streets, I understood
where we got our swing, the music when we walk, our facial expressions...."
Her frequent travel and long business hours don't affect her family life as
much as one would expect; her teenage son is ably looked after by a trusted
carer while she is gone. On that note, her advice to working mothers strug-
gling to keep ALL balls in the air is to delegate; choose what you yourself
are able to do, and then outsource everything else. "So what if you aren't
the one cooking? It's not about who is cooking the meals. It's about the nu-
trition you are providing."
And while she is travelling , she is never far. "I use the technology. I ensure
that his routine is constant and stable." And she's glad her son is old
enough to appreciate vacations that don't involve being spoon-fed Disney
fantasies. On a recent trip to Europe, she had the pleasure of witnessing
the Old World through his eyes. "He's a scientist, but while there, I saw
his artistic side come out." She adds, "I love this stage of parenting, when
you can really have conversations."
When not working, Palmer-Keizer is all about family. "I have five siblings,
and a mother who is a matriarch in the true sense of the word. We have a
lot of family activities, and I do some charity work with my church." She
got involved with TIBS earlier this year, as she wanted to get involved with
something that was not aligned to her professional life. Something that
she always wanted to do for herself. And being appointed to the Board
was just perfect, being a firm believer in breast-feeding. "I have never
bought a tin of formula --- never! I want to support the awareness and
spread the benefits of breastfeeding. It's the first time my volunteer ac-
tivities are not aligned with my professional life."
Having grown up in Laventille, she went to Holy Name Convent, and re-
ceived her further education in England, staying there with her father.
She studied marketing. "It's not about the smiling and the PR. What's
fascinating to me is the science; how do you use psychology to change
the way the public thinks?"
Although I find her story fascinating, and am swept up by our conversa-
tion, she expresses surprise that WOW would be interested in writing
on her. Her job consists of doing what she does best, which she says with
a laugh, "is bossing people around."
Considering her position on the corporate totem pole, that probably en-
tails "bossing around" quite a few people. Do any of them, especially the
men, have any issues with having a female boss? Absolutely not. "My
management style cuts through any gender orientation. I see my team
members for who they are." In fact, she advocates bringing your maternal
instincts to your job, not in terms of mothering your team members, but
in giving of yourself, making sure they develop, and creating a workplace
that is comfortable and nurturing. "You bring your love here as well. De-
velop your people. Respect them."
Furthermore, those to whom she has to answer also interact with her
with nary a nod to her gender. "In my interactions with my Directors,
there is no bias. They certainly don't take it easier on me because I am a
woman!" Given that her area is communications, the other "gap" she fre-
quently deals with is age, and that's where things get ticklish. "I under-
stand the baby boomers and the Gen-Xers, but Generations Y and
Z...what makes them tick? That's a new ball game." It's obvious, though,
that what makes Michelle Palmer-Keizer tick is her family, her job, her so-
cial responsibilities, and her God. And judging from her warm and relaxed
smile, none of this is work. "I love my job," she says. "I love my life."
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