Kim Newton spent more than 20 years at Hallmark, with the last two-plus years leading customer experience. She is now a solopreneur and the founder of The Intentional Pause™, helping women to embrace pausing as a powerful way forward, with intention, to achieve their dreams.
Dan Gingiss: I’m glad that you are here. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Kim Newton: I’m originally from the Bay Area and I went to school in Nashville and came to Kansas City to work right after my MBA in marketing. After my undergrad in accounting, by the way, I interned in accounting and I always tell everybody to intern because I learned that I didn’t want to work in accounting, not one single day. So, I literally went straight through and got a marketing MBA.
I wanted to integrate art and business, because I have a huge creative side to me and Hallmark, at the time, had one of the largest creative organizations. I really wanted to work with creative leaders and a creative community. So, I went there, and I literally had a two-year plan, and you know how plans go. But I met my husband in Kansas City and it was clearly an opportunity for me to grow because I spent 20+ years there. And I always talk about my background at Hallmark in 3 chapters. So, I can do it pretty quickly, because in 23 years, you do a lot of things.
One of the things that attracted me to the company was obviously the brand. I spent my first 10 years in all things marketing: multicultural marketing, product marketing, brand marketing, everything marketing. I call that my functional chapter. Then I switched to my cross-functional chapter where I started to look at the company end-to-end and I was a leader for commercialization and innovation for a transformation that the company was doing. That’s a lot of “tions” but that’s what I was doing. It was the first time I saw the company end-to-end. And I learned a lot about how the company did work, versus how it was supposed to work. I loved that view.
I loved the end-to-end view, and I wanted the rest of my career to have that end-to-end view. So then I led Everyday Cards, which was one of the largest businesses. If you think about the Dewey Decimal System of life, that’s what I call it: a card for any occasion. That was that business.
After that I started my third chapter, which I call Enterprise Leader, where I switched into strategy. There I helped the retail business and the product business. I went to corporate strategy and the global business. But then I went onto what I think is my most fun job: leading consumer experience for the Hallmark brand. I did that the last couple of years that I was at Hallmark. I was able to lead a couple of initiatives that really streamlined how people experience the brand. That’s when I became super addicted to consumer experience. In my opinion, it is the epitome of merging strategy with operational – getting stuff done. And then that’s how I met you.
Dan Gingiss: Well, our shared friend in common is Marquesa Pettway and she did a couple of VIP weekends. I think she intentionally planned that we would be at the same one because she knew we’d have a lot to talk about. So, kudos to Marquesa. So that obviously begs the question then, you spent over 20 years at Hallmark, and now you decided to do the crazy thing. You decided to go off on your own. Tell us a little bit about The Intentional Pause Project.
Kim Newton: Well, I never intended to be at one company for my entire career. And after about 20 years at Hallmark, even though I loved my career there, I started to feel like I wasn’t meeting my own potential. I felt that there was something else out there. And so, as we do sometimes when we’re working in Corporate America, our heads are down and we’re super focused on the business. But I just decided to poke my head up and look left and right and say what else is out there?
So, I exploded my network and I exploded who was influencing my thinking about what I could do in the world? And a really game-changing moment for me was I got into the Henry Crown Fellowship with the Aspen Institute. It’s a coveted experience. It’s super exciting that I got in because 600 people are nominated, and 60 people are reviewed and 20 are chosen. I was super excited and honored to be in it.
But one of the things that you have to do to get in is not just “be awesome” or something. You have to articulate your inflection point. And this was a fantastic exercise for me whether or not I got in, but I actually had to articulate where I was and what I was feeling, so I knew that I wasn’t I was feeling like I wasn’t meeting my own potential. And I told myself that.
Inside of the fellowship, you have to start a venture. And there’s two requirements. One, that it makes the world a better place, and two, that you’re super passionate about it. That’s how The Intentional Pause was born. I was feeling like I wasn’t fulfilled, and I was mentoring women all over the country and they had the mentality of “achieve, achieve, achieve,” but not necessarily feeling fulfilled, and were extremely overwhelmed, but underwhelmed at the same time. I thought, why are we doing this? But the most interesting thing that I thought was amazing was that only 36% of these women said that they were following their dreams.
I thought OK, I think the world would be a better place if more women were following their dreams. So, I commissioned two research studies. One was quantitative, nearly 400 women and another was qualitative, where I really went deep on some insights, and I learned a couple of things. And I was trying to figure out what am I going to do with this information? 91% of women said that they were unapologetically ambitious and extremely overwhelmed. 87% said personally and 73% said professionally. That’s where the 36% came from that were following their dreams.
So, when I asked, what I’m going to do about this? The research said that they need three things: By far, the number one issue was that this idea of being still long enough to think was not even an option. Autopilot is the thing. So, permission to pause. The second was tools to help navigate what is it that I want to do? And three, strategies to fight fear. And so, I developed a workbook. I wanted to put together a platform. That’s where The Intentional Pause Project came from, because I do think it’s going to be a project to get more women following their dreams. In response, I wrote a book and came up with a process and approach.
I took my strategy background and my mentoring background, and I put it together into this approach. And this is the part that’s super fun. So, as I’m putting this together, and I’ll talk to you about the process, I decided, you know what, I should be following my dreams. This is so cool, but I should be following my dreams. And as you know, I’m a quilter on the side. I’ve done it for years. So, I decided I was going to pursue my artwork more seriously.
When all of this was happening, it wasn’t on the same trip I was on with you in Harlem, but I came back to New York the next month and I was talking to an amazing mentor of mine. Her name is Mindy Grossman. I showed her my artwork and she said, “Oh, my God, I have to buy this for Oprah for her birthday.” And I’m like, what is going on? And so, I sold my first piece of artwork that was gifted to Oprah. And I took that as a sign. So, I followed my dreams while I was writing The Intentional Pause and launched a gift quilt company. So, I have a line of gift quilts coming out as well as The Intentional Pause book.
Dan Gingiss: That’s incredible! My mom was a quilter as well, and I know the work it takes. They are not easy. So you said that one of the things that came up in your research was the power of the pause or the necessity to take a pause. What are you doing for your female clients who are looking to make a pause in their life?
Kim Newton: Well, the big thing is that they wanted tools. So, there was a lot of references to being inspired by other people, but they needed something that they could tangibly do themselves. So that’s why I came up with a workbook. And I never, ever aspired to write a book. That is not on the list. And so, it was pretty amazing to think about it as a process, which is a strategic process. It’s basically a personal strategy.
There are five intentional pauses that are in the workbook: the first is a pause to audit. Because as we know, any good strategy starts with a good assessment. And then we go into dream and there are exercises to help pull your desires out of you and your purpose. And third activate, which is best practice for setting goals. I think the thing that’s most differentiating about it is the next piece, which is fortify. So, fear is the number one thing. And I’m getting so much feedback. From men, they’re like, hey, we apply too. But I studied why people give up.
There are also five main reasons why people give up. And so, I crafted something called your “forest,” which is your fears, your obstacles, your relationships, your emotions, and your self-talk. The Intentional Pause not only pulls your dreams out of you, but it also helps you develop an emotional plan to get after them. And so, this idea of developing an emotional plan that can be with you on that journey, can fortify you in those moments when you want to give up. I had plenty of them. Then, the last step is “actify,” which is taking the action plan that you have for your goals and your emotional plan and merging them together into a series of intentional pauses in the future.
I’m getting great feedback on it. I think from a lot of different ages, people who are definitely, like you and I, a little antsy in corporate America, wondering if they should take the big leap, and people who are retiring, but also younger folks. Think about what COVID has done. I pin emotional planning to culture and transformation in a company. And, you know, you can’t transform something without culture. I’d say it’s the same for yourself personally. You can’t transform if you haven’t checked your personal culture. So, yes, I’m trying to speak and sell it, and it’s super cool.
Dan Gingiss: That’s awesome. Kim, it’s been a pleasure, as always. Thank you so much for taking time.
Interview was edited for length and clarity. You can watch the entire interview on YouTube.