Leading as your authentic self is easier said than done. This is especially true as a woman of color in an industry dominated by white men. Joining Elizabeth Bachman in this episode is Jennifer Landgren. She is the North American Director of Digital Platforms & Solutions Hub at Dentsply Sirona, the world’s largest dental technologies and consumables company. She highlights the importance of partnership in cultivating a culture that empowers and a business that thrives. Plus, Jennifer shares tips on how you can convey your authentic self when speaking that sends a message and gets results!
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Jennifer Landgren On Leading and Empowering Others To Be Their Authentic Self
This is the show where we interview experts from around the world on topics such as leadership, visibility, presentation, skills, diversity and communication challenges nationally and internationally. Before I get onto this very interesting interview, let me suggest that if you’re curious how your presentation skills are doing, you can check our free four-minute quiz at www.SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can find out where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results you need and the recognition you deserve. My guest is Jennifer Landgren, the Director of Digital Platforms at Dentsply Sirona. She is someone I’ve known for a couple of years now who has wonderful insights into how to be authentic, how to make yourself heard and how to show up in an international environment.
Her official bio, which is extensive is Jennifer Landgren is the North American Director of Digital Platforms and Solutions Hub at Dentsply Sirona, the world’s largest dental technologies and consumables company. She’s responsible for driving innovation to develop an integrated ecosystem of connected devices and software, leveraging AI at scale to enable aesthetic, functional and clinical precision of dental treatments.
What that means is it enables your dentist to use modern technology where everything talks to each other to do the best diagnosis and treatment. She’s a former product manager. She’s launched successful, innovative end-to-end dental workflow solutions. She’s also passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and leverages her leadership positions at Dentsply Sirona’s diversity and inclusion council and the employee resource groups to influence corporate strategy on diversity and inclusion.
In recognition of her contribution, she was named as the 2021 Paradigm for Parity: Woman on the Rise, which acknowledges innovators who are breaking barriers in corporate leadership and showing the value of gender identity and racial equity in the workforce. Before joining Dentsply Sirona, she was a marketing leader for SAS platform businesses dedicated to scaling growth and operational efficiency. She received an MBA from Babson College’s F.W. School of Business and a Bachelor’s of Marketing from Suffolk University. In her spare time, she enjoys road cycling, trying new foods and traveling. She’s now in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband, Henrik. She’s a really interesting person with a lot to say. I am excited about it.
Jen Landgren, I am so happy I got you on the show.
Thanks for having me. I’m so honored. The work you do for women is absolutely incredible. I’m very pleased to be here.
We’ve worked peripherally together and you’ve seen some of the results. First, let me ask you about your dream interview. If you were to interview somebody who’s no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?People love humanity. They like to feel like they’re not being sold to, that they’re not sitting in a live infomercial. They want opportunities to connect. Click To Tweet
The person I chose is with us. I hope that’s okay. I’m a complete fangirl of an executive by the name of Bozoma Saint John. She’s the Chief Marketing Officer at Netflix. I first learned about her back in the 2015 timeframe when she took over a similar role at Uber when they were having this PR crisis with harassment against women in the workplace. Female users of the app didn’t necessarily feel safe so she was brought on board to clean up the house. I just thought that she was the representation of authenticity.
Sometimes when you think about female executives, you have a particular vision of what that person should look like. Bozoma is so unapologetic. She has the biggest hair and statement earrings, the brightest clothes. She’s changing the face of what it looks like to be an executive. She speaks her mind and she addresses issues that impact women in executive leadership roles or girls who are aspiring to get their head-on. I thought about interviewing her right away. Naturally, I would love to have an audience of amazing women to experience that but I actually would love to have a room full of men because sometimes the message that she has, there are people who need to hear it. That’s the person I would choose to interview.
Somehow, Bozoma Saint John found her courage and decided, “I’m going to be who I am.” That doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s like the people who are funny, who you say, “They’ve always been funny.” They may have developed humor as a survival skill as a child, for instance. Someone who is unapologetically herself, I would want to know what made her decide, “I’m not going to blend in.”
That’s one of the first questions I’d ask because as a Black woman, I’ve been conditioned to think a lot of the things about who I am is wrong for society. For example, I’m a first-generation American. English is my second language. I sometimes use the wrong word. I’m always conscious about how I’m speaking, my presence or the foods I eat.
She has managed to figure out how to be one person everywhere. I’m one person at work with my friends and with my family. How can I be me all the time, everywhere? It takes a lot of energy to maintain all of these different personas or to code-switch. That’s one of the questions I would ask, “How did you get to the point where you’re authentically yourself in whatever room you step in and people accept it?”
I imagine people didn’t accept it for a while. She’s gotten to a point where they have to accept it. Maybe that’s the message for all of us. Before I circle back to that, tell us what it is you actually do. There you are at Dentsply Sirona, which creates products for dentists. All we know about the dentist is what we see in the chair. We go into the chair and we’re either terrified or we’re not. They clean our teeth and they fill the cavities. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. What is it that you do?
Dentsply Sirona is one of those companies that is ubiquitous. We have been around since the 1800s providing dental products. We offer things as simple as regular everyday treatment center chairs to the big scanners, the instrumentation that doctors and dental professionals use for procedures or software programs used to treatment plan cases, end-to-end solutions.
What I do now is work in a new group called Digital Platforms and Solutions. We’ve been tasked with integrating all of these key components of a workflow to help dentists treat patients much more easily and seamlessly. We hate going to the dentist. I’ve never met a single person who looks forward to a dental appointment.
How do we make the patient’s experience smooth and easy-going? How do we leverage technology and AI information to keep patient records in a central location so that you don’t constantly have to explain your health history to your dental provider? How do we make treatment planning easy for the clinician when it comes to using the data from diagnostics so they can make easy decisions and prescribe you with the right treatment at the right time, or even predict certain ailments that may come down the line based on your habits? There is a strong correlation between oral health and overall physical health. If we take care of our mouth, our body will thank us for it. The work that I do is to help integrate all of these technologies particularly in the North American market and drive innovation for future solutions.
One of the things I know from having worked with the First to 50 program, which Dentsply Sirona has the initiative to get 50% of the speakers being women. Female dentists from all over the world were teaching me to look at all the machines, those scanners and the wraparound X-ray machine. I remember the days where they would take an X-ray and then they would go into a little room, put it into the developing solution and you didn’t get a chance to look at it until later in the appointment. Now it’s instantaneous. It’s the sort of thing that we take for granted now but it took a lot of work to do that. That really opened my eyes.
It’s so cool how much technology is available from the neck up. Imagine you being able to see your face at a 3D model and visualize your future smile. The smile cannot be underestimated. I am confidently speaking to you right now because I’m confident in my smile. I can eat what I want. I can communicate. I can move throughout the world knowing that my mouth is going to help me communicate and get to the next level in life. Oral health is critical for that. This technology being able to show patients the benefits of it in the chair is going to be highly impactful. I’m so excited about working on these types of projects.
I love what Dentsply Sirona is doing and really paying attention to get more equity and parity out there. How do you then bring your full self to the stage as a Black woman? We were talking about authenticity. I’d love to hear more about that.It's important to be brilliant at the basics. Know your audience, know your material, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Click To Tweet
The answer is not simple because it’s been an incredible journey. At the start, I just try to emulate everyone else I’ve ever seen on stage which typically are White men. There are certain characteristics that they have with the way that they project and pace across the room and command attention. Some of those things are useful but it wasn’t me at first. I had to figure out how do I sprinkle a little bit of myself throughout my presentations whether it’s you using humor or an opportunity to connect with people or tell a personal story to get my message across so I’m not copying and pasting.
That’s why representation is important. Earlier when we talked about Bozoma, when you see someone with a different way of communicating but getting the job done, it’s truly impactful. For myself, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand my story, who I am as a person, what experiences I’ve had that had shaped me and brought me to this space whether it’s a small meeting room with 50 dentists or a large conference room with hundreds of people. How does the information I have to share now connect my story to the audience?
People love humanity. They like to feel they’re not being sold to and not sitting in a live infomercial. They want the opportunity to connect. That’s how I figured out as a Black woman, how do I bring myself to the stage. Another thing is I had to get over the things that weighed me down that, “People are going to hear when I mess up words because I didn’t pronounce it correctly. They’re going to look me up and down and wonder, ‘What the heck is she doing here? Who is this person?’”
These types of things used to weigh me down before talks. I was filled with anxiety. I had to block all of that out. There are going to be preconceived notions. People are going to have whatever feelings they have about you, the moment that they see you. That’s human nature but that should never get into way of you tactfully and confidently delivering your content.
Presentation skills have a lot to do with how you show up in the workplace as well. A big part of what I do is help women be heard at work. You may have a seat at the table but they’re still not listening. How has that impacted you? Especially because you’ve worked internationally. Sometimes you were the Black representative in Boston. Sometimes you were the Black representative in London and sometimes you were just one of the faces on the conference call. How have you handled that?
I try not to look at myself as the Black representative because that’s a huge responsibility to carry. I’m myself. I’m Jennifer. There are characteristics around me. I am a Black person. I am a woman but I am Jennifer. I put myself as an individual first. Whenever you are the only, which a lot of women and women of color experience, you’re the only person or the first person of these particular characteristics that someone has interacted with, you’re going to be met with a lot of curiosity. Sometimes it could translate into microaggressions.
People are curious about it. “Where are you from? How did you get here? Why are you here?” I’m always aware that these things are going to come up. I almost even practice my responses to microaggressions because sometimes it could catch you off guard and you giggle or you brush it off and then you reinforce that behavior. You inform people that it’s okay to address you in a certain way and to make certain comments around large groups of people.
I’m practicing my responses to microaggressions because sometimes it distracts people from you doing your job. If you want to spend ten minutes talking about my box breaks, I can’t get this project plan or this road mapping done right at the beginning of a meeting. I nip it immediately just to set the tone of how we’re going to engage. You have to do it tactfully, especially in large groups because you don’t want to humiliate people but you also want to create those boundaries.
I love that you said that because it’s been thinking about anticipating a possible response and figuring out what you’re going to say before you get caught off guard. That’s also a big part of the work I’m helping people with. If you catch yourself giggling and that’s diffusing tension, which is what we’re taught as little girls, how do you then be approached as a leader who’s worth listening to?
I had my days as the ditzy blonde. It’s not the same at all but I remember the years of trying to be taken seriously for my brain. After 40, nobody seemed to care anymore. That is a memory from my 20s actually. We talk a lot about international business here. One of the things that are so impressive about Dentsply Sirona is that it is a global company and has global representation. You’re talking to people all over the world. What differences have you noticed in terms of how you communicate with different countries and assumptions?
That’s the most incredible part of my job that I get to interact with people all over the world all the time. There are key differences in how people conduct business. At first, I was jumping in with both feet with my American-style of business, “Roll up your sleeves, we’re going to knock this out, burn the midnight oil.” I’ve met some opposition to that depending on the country. Certain countries have different work-life balance rules. At first, I was confused about that. I’m like, “Don’t we want to get this done?” It’s important for us to spend some time getting to know the customs of where we do business and then having one-on-one with people.Connect with people in your company who you identify with. There’s so much power in the community. Click To Tweet
Sometimes we jump on a call and you have a core team across 3 to 4 countries and we get to work. Spending fifteen minutes for a coffee chat or like the Swedish people’s fika, having a coffee and getting to know people go such a long way beyond learning about the customs. We do this thing within our team called gift of time, where every week there’s a random pairing of you and someone from your team. You spend fifteen minutes getting to know them to diffuse any assumptions you have about them.
When you send an email or you request a meeting, they know who you are and a little bit about your story. You know something about them. That, “I hope you’re well,” sentence we like to put in the start of every email could be a little bit personalized and then we can get things done. There are differences across the different countries I’ve worked in but ultimately the human connection supersedes that all and also have the understanding of the customs of that region.
That gets back to authenticity.
That’s the core word, being authentic. It’s not easy with certain cultures to find out who the core of the person is. It takes time, commitment, effort. You just have to make it a part of how you do business.
Talking, communicating and catching one’s own assumptions of, “This is how I think the world works. That’s not how you think the world works.” The joy of international life is to be able to live and work with people from other parts of the world who have different values. I keep thinking about a meme that was going around where they said, “You reach out to a German and they say, ‘I’m on vacation. I’ll get back to you in two months.’” It’s the German’s vacation message. The American’s vacation message is, “I’m going to be offline for two hours because I’m having kidney surgery but you can text me here. I’ll be able to answer it after 3:00.”
It’s sad but there is some truth in there. I’ve torn a page out of my foreign colleague’s book, focus on myself, turn off my computer after a certain time, be present with my family, practice self-care and really go on vacation when we do go on vacation and not check emails. It takes incredible discipline to truly shut off. It’s rewarding when you do it.
Leave the phone behind. How could we do that? We’re all evolving new ways of doing that. When you are out there speaking, you have a way of preparing yourself for speaking engagements. I’d be curious to know what you do to prepare yourself.
It’s important to be brilliant at the basics. Know your audience and your material and rehearse. Those are important things we should all do. What I like to do is when I’m rehearsing is I record myself. I’ve been told that I can have the tendency to speak very quickly but sometimes in the moment, you don’t recognize that. Record yourself going through your presentation, recognize your body language and what are you doing with your hands. I’m a hand talker. Sometimes I see the audience member look at my hand. That could be a distraction.
Recording yourself, your body language, recognizing your tone, your speech and your presence and taking notes on that and fine tuning as you go. Another thing I like to do is before I speak, I always do a 5 to 10-minute calming meditation. I have found that to be very helpful because I get so much anxiety and my heart races before I start speaking. It just happens before I get into my zone.
Having a calming meditation where you’re telling yourself, “I’m in control of my surroundings and my emotions. I am calm and present,” and really getting centered to have a nice, loose start goes such a long way. There are so many out there. I use Peloton. I love the quick, short five-minute calming meditation breathing and getting yourself together before going out in front of an audience.
In the days when we were doing it live, I would always have somebody say, “Remind me to go into the bathroom,” before I was supposed to speak. I may not have needed to use the toilet. What I needed was to go into the little room and close the door, breathe, focus and ground myself. Otherwise, being me, I would just keep talking and then they say, “It’s time to go on stage.” I go right on stage and my body’s there but the brain is not. Do you do that when you are presenting in-house within the organization as well?The benefit of allyship is that you're bettering the culture of where you work. Click To Tweet
It definitely depends on the audience. If you’re used to your colleagues and you’re doing an update or you’re informing them on regular business, you have a comfort zone. You know your team. They are going to be establishing rapport to start, some giggles, some exchanges and then you go into your presentation. When I have to do something external for the organization or if I’m doing it to a larger audience that I’m not used to, I always center myself. I’m meeting new people within the company.
There are 16,000 of us working here at Dentsply. If you can imagine, you could meet someone new every day for many years to come. You also have opportunities to connect with a larger audience base that could help push your initiative forward. One example is an addition to my day job that I do at Dentsply Sirona, I’m also very active in diversity and inclusion initiatives. That’s tied to building our culture to ensure that Dentsply Sirona is a place where you feel like you belong, that you will find a group within the organization that supports your values and also helps to tie to the overall business objectives.
You’re meeting people that will never work on your team and could be in any part of the country or the world. It’s important to always practice some form of calming if you have time because sometimes we’re jumping from meeting to meeting, even if it’s 30 seconds, to calm yourself before you present content that could be very impactful to the audience.
That’s often why I find it helps to memorize the beginning and the end. What are the first couple of sentences? What are the last couple of sentences? A) That’s what people remember and B) that’s when you’re likely to be nervous. That was something that one of my trainers taught me way early on when I first started this business. I went, “It makes sense.”
Let me ask you a little bit about diversity and inclusion, where do you see that going? I do notice because I follow you and Dentsply Sirona and the wonderful speakers that I’ve been working with. I do notice that there is a lot more diversity popping up within the company. You talked a little bit about how that’s moving forward or not. What would you advise someone who is feeling excluded if they feel like they’re not being seen? What would you say?
D&I at Dentsply Serona has been incredible within the last several years since we embarked on this journey. It’s a challenging topic to address, especially in a company of our size but the building blocks were there. We just had to formalize it. You already had this incredible community of passionate, well-connected employees who are passionate about the business and also loved working with each other. We just needed to put it in a framework. Having the building blocks there is critically important but not all organizations have that.
One of the things I would say for an individual who is feeling excluded within a company, which I’ve been there, I have felt excluded. I’ve gone to the bathroom and cried because someone said something very insensitive to me and I didn’t know how to place my emotions or address it. The first thing is to connect with the people within your company with who you identify. There’s so much power in the community. Even if you have a small once-a-month meeting where you are just talking about some of the challenges that you’re experiencing and looking for solutions, it’s impactful to your experience at your job.
The second thing is to look for ways to find allies. Allyship is such a critical component. Some people like to use the word partnership instead of allyship because sometimes allies feel there’s a sense of obligation, while the partnership is we’re working together as a team. There’s something in it for you and there’s something in it for me to make this business a better place for customers and for the people that work here. Having this conversation about allyship is critical within an organization because you will always find people who are willing to mentor you and create space so that you can have a voice.
That’s one way allies can be instrumental. How do I ensure that the quietest person in the room who has amazing ideas when we’re on one-on-one gets a chance to communicate that in a meeting? How do I bring them into projects that they’re going to thrive in? How do I ensure that they’re getting the credit for the work that they do? Those are two areas. It seems daunting for one individual to have to do that. In fact, people of color tend to carry the burden of having to educate and bring some of these initiatives forward. That’s why it’s important to have a framework within an organization whether it’s piloting different programs or a well-thought-out multi-year strategic plan, where you have more councils and employee resource groups, strategic partnerships and benchmarks. The key is to just get started, start with that small community.
One more question about allyship. What do you say to the people who say, “I would love to have an ally. I know what I’m going to get from them. I know what I will get?” What’s in it for them? What is the benefit to the ally of being an ally?
Any time that you help the person with the least privilege, everyone benefits. That’s how you have to look at it. It’s that “I’m not doing this for the individual. I’m doing this for the betterment of the entire organization or society.” For example, if you just think about the playground as a child. If you invite the kid who everybody doesn’t play with, suddenly you have more people to play with. The game is more fun. There are more ideas. Someone is bringing more toys and a fresh perspective.
The benefit of allyship is that you’re bettering the culture of where you work. No leader wants a person under a team that feels ostracized because there’s a direct link to feel you belong and performance. If you’re performing well, the company performs well. That is the benefit, it’s like, “How do I help my company to perform well? How do I help my company win?”
If you’ve been helped, turn around and help someone else and lift as you climb. Jennifer Landgren, this has been such a delight. I’ve been a fan of yours for quite a while now. I’m so glad I finally got you on the show. If someone says, “I want to be like her,” what’s one way somebody could start?
I would start with understanding who I am, writing down the things that make you unique. It’s rooted down into your authenticity. Who am I as an individual? Also, what types of things am I passionate about? What do I want to work on? How do I want to change the world? I know it sounds like a big task but starting there to really understand your foundation and then see where that takes you.
Thank you so much. Let me remind you that if you’re curious about where your presentation skills are, you could take our free four-minute assessment at www.SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could get you the results that you need and the recognition that you deserve. I’ll see you at the next one.
- Dentsply Sirona
- Bozoma Saint John
About Jennifer Landgren
Jennifer is the North American Director of Digital Platforms & Solutions Hub, at Dentsply Sirona, the world’s largest dental technologies and consumables company. She is responsible for driving innovation to develop an integrated ecosystem of connected devices and software leveraging A.I. at scale to enable aesthetic, functional, and clinical precision of dental treatments. As a former product manager, she’s launched successful innovative end-to-end dental workflow solutions.
She is also passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and leverages her leadership positions on Dentsply Sirona’s D&I Council and Employee Resource Groups to influence corporate strategy on DE&I. In recognition of her contributions, she was named as 2021 Paradigm for Parity Women on the Rise, acknowledging innovators breaking barriers in corporate leadership and showing the value of gender parity and racial equity in the workforce.
Before joining Dentsply Sirona, she was a Marketing leader for SaaS platform businesses dedicated to scaling growth and operational efficiency. She received an MBA from Babson College Olin School of Business and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Suffolk University. In her spare time, she enjoys road cycling, trying new foods, and traveling. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband Henrik.