How storytelling builds trusted relationships

Margery Kraus, founder and CEO for APCO Worldwide, shares how telling her personal story of leadership inspired by motherhood opened new doors—and offered “authentic vulnerability.”


How do you create a strong, consistent culture when your business is spread out to almost 30 countries?

I’ve been asked this question often as APCO has grown. Over time, I found myself answering from my family experience and the link between setting the rules and providing the freedom of movement that comes from trusted relationships.  When my kids were growing up, we had a sign on the wall that read, “There are only two lasting things of value you give your children; one is roots and the other is wings.”

For thirty-six years, APCO has relied on the same principles. As women, when we bring our whole selves to everything we do, there are many learnings from motherhood and raising a family that we don’t only bring to the job, but that also define us. Often, especially for my generation, women don’t talk about work and family as a collective thing. It was almost taboo.

So, I started putting it down on paper as a conversation starter and published my first book last October. “Roots and Wings: Ten Lessons of Motherhood that Helped Me Create and Run a Company” is to celebrate what I had learned and encourage others to challenge the way we think about work/life balance. To me, it’s always been about work/life integration, blending the two and keeping the best of both top of mind.

As I’ve shared the book with friends, employees and clients, it’s been a pleasure to hear how many are sharing it with their daughters and mothers, and even more surprising, the men who have been champions of sharing my story as well. This message resonates around the world, from a series of events I was asked to do to promote the book in the Middle East, to talking with APCO employees in China. Recently, I was on the phone with someone I had yet to meet, and he immediately started asking questions about “Roots and Wings.” He hadn’t even read it yet and was so excited by the synopsis he saw online! For me, these moments have been amazing in creating personal—and authentically vulnerable—relationships with people from so many different backgrounds.

Don’t wait to tell your story. I shared mine as an easy-to-read collection of my thoughts over the years, and it had an appeal I never expected, including being named on Parade’s Ultimate 2019 Reading Gift Guide as their suggested gift for “career-focused moms.” If I had waited, I would have lost so many chances to encourage a conversation I believe we must have if we are to continue advancing women’s equality around the world.

If you think you don’t have time, partner with someone who knows the drill and can help facilitate the process. People think they know you and will be shocked by some of the personal details you share, but that just means you did it right.

If you have something to say, then say it.

Margery Kraus, founder and chief executive officer of APCO Worldwide, a global consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C., specializes in public affairs, communication and business consulting for major multinationals.


2 Responses to “How storytelling builds trusted relationships”

    Bailey Broughton, Editor for Platform Magazine says:

    Bravo for your courage in telling your story! It seems that “Roots and Wings” is a must-read for budding public relations professionals who are seeking to strike a proper work-life balance, especially in the midst of a pandemic when boundaries between work and home are vanishing. Your story and its success are very inspiring, and I’m hoping many emerging professionals will follow your lead and use storytelling to achieve “authentic vulnerability”.

    Alliosn Cohen says:

    What a great read about motherhood and work life integration. This topic is vibrant, relevant, and beneficial to so many demographics. “Roots and Wings” seems like it has a great premise with helpful ideologies to improve family life as well as professional workplaces.
    -Allison Cohen, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

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