The Power of Positivity for Corporate Boards & The Value of an Artist’s Perspective on Innovation and Growth - in Conversation with Tara J. Agen
Optimism is a powerful initiator of happiness, creativity, and collaboration — having a “glass half-full” approach is a gift that allows you to positively impact the world around you and see the endless potential in the future. Tara J. Agen describes how her positive outlook was inspired by her grandmother: “My grandmother was a loving, kind, fun and a very giving person; until I grew older, I never even knew that she faced traumatic and dramatic hardships in both World War I era Europe and as a non-English speaking immigrant in the United States. She was such a positive person that she didn’t let her early life experiences impact her daily optimism — through her example, she taught me to always live on the sunny side of life.”
Tara J. Agen is a future-focused creative collaborator who focuses on the human side of business. She is a global and strategic leader in both her executive role and in her roles on various boards. She has leveraged positivity throughout her career to create opportunities and solve problems.
Tara, you’ve been working very closely with corporate growth goals throughout your career, and you also serve on non-profit and corporate boards. What is your main contribution to a board? With your insights and experiences of being an executive, as well as an artist, coupled with a strong, people-first approach to leadership, how do you add value as a board member?
“My years of leading as an executive, first and foremost with deep corporate financial responsibility to drive business management and performance impact, combined with my love and appreciation for creating art, has made me deeply appreciate inspired leadership and the ability to deliver creative board contributions while elevating the importance of the financial obligations for performance. I’ve been a watercolor and digital sketch artist for years (nowadays, I create NFTs), inspired by the curiosity of color, capturing a moment in time of a world around me, and how this curiosity has helped me see all sides of an issue before I give advice or direction. It is no different than when I wait for what color I want to build next in something I create. Art is a valuable source of healing and personal expressive development for me. For the boards I have contributed to, art has pushed me to think bigger and more expressively.”
“I attribute my prioritization of optimism from my grandmother, creativity to my deep love of the arts, and on boards, I make sure to bring forth the optimist and artist within me. Friction is where artists create from and by being comfortable in the uncomfortable, I am very forward-thinking. From a place of positivity, having the ability to create and ideate has allowed me to solve performance issues and deliver new opportunities for growth acceleration. These results provided opinions and solutions with a more creative approach that complemented or supplemented real-time thinking or critical/chaos-driven answers. I’ve been creatively searching for ideas throughout my career and with the various boards I’ve served on over the last twenty-plus years, I have embraced the friction, inertia, or roadblocks with a true positive zest for try it, do something or take a risk now.
“Early in my life and career pathway, I fought the creativity within me. I was determined to become an attorney and practice law, and, even today, there’s still a part of me that appreciates rules, regulations, and risk management. As I started my own business at twenty, moved to a small business environment in my late twenties, and then to a Fortune 10 company, I started to value my creativity for the value it brought to conversations, brainstorms, and actions. As a result, I do not ignore the part of me now that asks, ‘What would happen if you made this move, act, or designed this differently?’ or, ‘Could pushing past this boundary be the right thing to do now?’ This innate curiosity allows me to look at the intrinsic value of everyday structures and operations in a most positive way and play out scenarios, quickly, that give answers as angles to every possibility.
“By embracing this creative curiosity and optimistically searching for impactful solutions, I’ve been able to manage a number of unique and challenging initiatives in my career pathway. For instance, in 1994, I created HP’s first Sports Marketing partnership with the Boston Celtics. In 1997, I created HP’s first consumer relationship program when we launched its first HP Pavilion personal PC. I created one of the first HP approaches to sustainable printing in my community. In 2008, I teamed up with a local HP reseller, the local Chamber of Commerce and its vast business organizations and my local government to ‘go green’ by upgrading all of the participating businesses and our local town government’s printers with technology that printed more sustainably. More recently, the team and I were able to create a number of firsts and bests for HP Monitors, including the first with recycled ocean plastics. Today, I am leading Marketing’s digital transformation, including a look at ethics in Marketing AI, that have undertaken over the last three years; notably, the team and I have reinvented the way we automate Marketing, from campaign creation and agency selection to content/asset management in a most optimized, organized and user friendly way. When I think about all that I have been able to do as a person and through teamwork at HP, I am humbled and thankful that my creative optimism supported my journey to lead and deliver so many firsts in my career path!
“Ultimately, I believe the largest strength I bring to any board is creative, optimistic collaboration. I look at opportunities and challenges with a positive perspective to see what can be gained out of any situation. I have appreciated tough problems that need deep thinking and very innovative solutions — I am comfortable looking at that blank canvas and thinking about what I am going to draw or paint before I create a finished design. It’s key to take a step back and really listen to what the challenges are that must be overcome, and the opportunities that can be discovered.”
Thank you for sharing your unique perspective, Tara.
Connect with Tara on LinkedIn.
Tara J. Agen is a future-focused, creative collaborator with a 360-degree problem-solving perspective. Having led huge business transformations and driven growth for years, Tara is an inspirational expert at guiding strategy from inception through execution as well as attracting, developing, and retaining talent. A holistic communicator who creates win-win situations, Tara is an optimist.
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