Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the engaged co-hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, slipped into Philadelphia to meet with the CEO and select employees of Independence Blue Cross companies in a workshop timed to coincide with the start of Brzezinski's "Know Your Value" tour.
At the invitation of chief executive Daniel J. Hilferty, Brzezinski and Scarborough met privately with about 60 IBX employees, mostly non-managers, to talk about how to get more out of their careers. The event Thursday was the first corporate event the TV personalities have done, according to Hilferty.
"I'd been on their show a few years ago, and we really struck up a relationship," including with Hilferty's wife, Joan, he said.
Why did Brzezinski and Scarborough agree to the visit? The personal tie.
His main takeaway from Brzezinski? "No longer do employees, mainly women, feel the need to apologize for being in the corporate arena," Hilferty said.
Instead, "she advised our employees, 'Look in the mirror, and think of skills and leadership you have; be proud of them. Find a coach-slash-mentor who can unearth them and package them, and achieve what you want in the workplace.' "
"We're trying to work to make sure the glass ceiling is not part of our culture or how we do business," Hilferty added. "I'm a latter-middle-aged Caucasian male. Sometimes, we're not even aware of what other folks go through as they walk through life."
IBX said members of the racially diverse group of employees who met with Brzezinski and Scarborough averaged 7.34 years of service each and represented every division (Independence Blue Cross, AmeriHealth Administrators, and AmeriHealth New Jersey). The average age was 41, and job titles ranged from director/senior director equivalent to non-managers.
The 56 employees chosen (mostly women, with a handful of men) were selected from among a pool of 300, 77 of whom were invited to make application videos.
In an interview, Brzezinski noted, "Women tend to apologize our way into conversation. We're too self-deprecating during negotiations. That's like dumping all your money out of your purse.
"We worry about being friends with people, as opposed to respected business partners first. Friendships happen naturally," she said. "Joe would walk in and, typical male testosterone fashion, get into an argument [with his bosses] and walk out and say, 'That's over.' He would push the reset button and move on.
"Women have to realize it's not personal; it's just business. Make your case, be respectful, but state your case."
Brzezinski fashioned a second career as a motivational speaker and author with her 2011 book, Knowing Your Value. Her subsequent national speaking tour encouraged women and minorities in the workplace to ask for raises, promotions or family-related time off, and to "ask for what you need in the business world."
To wit, she said, this year "I asked for more days off. I had a tough year. I got divorced, my dad died. I just needed that, and I asked for it and got it."
On Oct. 30, Martha Stewart, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Jane Pauley are among those expected for Brzezinski's all-day "Know Your Value" conference at Manhattan's Grand Hyatt hotel, in partnership with NBCUniversal News Group.
Those interested in participating in a "Grow Your Value Bonus Competition" should submit a one-minute video explaining why they deserve bonuses. Three finalists will receive a day of coaching, styling, and travel to the Oct. 30 event and the opportunity to pitch Brzezinski live on stage for a $5,000 bonus.