In Celebration of International Women’s Day, we are profiling inspiring women in the meetings industry. This article, on Janet Traphagen, president, Creative Group, is the third in a five-part series:
In a span of approximately 23 years, Janet Traphagen worked her way up from account manager at the meeting, incentive, and recognition company Creative Group to president. She is an immediate Past Chair of the Incentive Research Foundation and is a member of the Sales Management Summit, a board for senior sales executives. Today, Traphagen’s passion is coaching and mentoring.
This year has added significance as Creative Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary. “Over five decades of change, one constant remains. We’ve stayed true to our roots, always focused on helping people achieve their greatest potential. And we could not have achieved our outstanding success without the dedication of the talented team here at Creative Group,” says Traphagen.
Meet Janet Traphagen
Andrea Doyle (AD): You are an exception to this, but do you feel the glass ceiling, the invisible barrier that blocks women from top jobs in this industry, still exists?
Janet Traphagen (JT): It’s been exciting to watch this shift over the years in our industry. Now, with more and more women in top roles, it’s on us to ensure equality for all is a part of the cultural fabric in each of our organizations.
(AD): Is there anyone who mentored you early in your career, or helped you become the type of leader you are today?
(JT): There have been many who have taught me what it means to be a leader, not only mentors. Those who stand out the most were those who leaned into difficult conversations with me, whether a boss, a colleague, or a direct report. They spoke the truth, challenged me to be better, and helped me develop self-awareness and confidence.
(AD): What is your proudest accomplishment?
(JT): Being able to balance head and heart while running the business. Our employees know that I value them as human beings first and foremost, despite sometimes difficult business decisions that need to be made.
(AD): What are the challenges that keep you up at night?
(JT): Right now, not the business. We have a solid strategy, great talent, and investor support to help our clients thrive. It’s the crazy world we’re living in with its dividedness and uncertainty that preoccupies my thinking. We’ll see how that plays out in our industry over the next few years.
(AD): What attributes and/or qualities have you developed that have helped you become successful?
(JT): Primarily, the attribute that comes to mind is the ongoing development of self-awareness. I say ongoing because it’s a daily practice. Others have heard me say, ‘The drift is real.’ If I don’t stick to my morning quiet time, where I reflect, pray, journal, and exercise, I notice the difference. The day drags me through it versus me being intentional about my day and fully present for our employees and clients.
(AD): How do you define success?
(JT): Leading through difficulty while remaining true to who I am – balanced with not taking myself too seriously.
(AD): What is the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
(JT): I’ve only cooked three times in the last 27 years. Thank God for a great husband!
(AD): How did you get started in this industry?
(JT): Like many, this industry found me rather than I sought it out. In the late 80’s, when I worked at GE, the marketing team needed help with their large sales meetings and the annual incentive program. The work fully aligned to how I’m naturally wired, and the next 30+ years is history.
(AD): Is this what you envisioned yourself doing?
(JT): No way! However, I did envision helping others in some way. And, I view that is still my job. In a recent MPI talk, I opened with this statement, ‘When you spend your life helping others reach their full potential, you’ll wake up one day realizing you’ve met your own.’
(AD): What does the future hold?
(JT): Hopefully, a world filled with a bit more harmony, more time with my beautiful grandbabies, and an opportunity for every one of our employees to reach their full potential while serving our clients.