Podcasts

Podcasts

Podcasts

The Mental Health Movement and Your Wellbeing

hand choosing green smiley face paper cut out

The mental health crisis has been looming in our country for decades, well before the pandemic hit. Covid-19 further exacerbated and accelerated the situation—for women especially, who have felt the burden in unimaginable ways at work and at home.

This global crisis, coupled with the bravery of public figures like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka who are speaking openly and walking away, have led to a tipping point. It’s a movement that has given us the permission to prioritize our psychological wellbeing over others’ definition of success or pressure to live up to external demands.

Our guest Dr. Amy Gagliardi, associate medical director of McLean Hospital, will explore the current state of women’s mental health, and its impacts on family and the workplace, including the “Great Resignation.” Learn actionable strategies for self-care and emotional well-being (short-and-long term) for yourself, your family, and your teams.
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Posted in Health & Wellness, Podcasts, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women Tagged , |

Staying Afloat Without Risking Your Career | That’s A Good Question

Asian business woman multitasking while working from home

The pandemic brought new meaning to the “sandwich generation,” leaving women, in particular, stretched thinner than ever. This month’s listener finds herself in a seemingly impossible situation: She’s the family breadwinner caring for two young children, a husband with a chronic illness, elderly parents—and she just got a promotion at work.

How can she manage to stay afloat and keep all these balls in the air without risking her career? In this episode of Women Amplified’s “That’s a Good Question,” we help our listener  talk through the situation and figure out her next steps.

Through active problem-solving, practical advice, and shared experiences we will explore how to manage this “in between” phase, strategies to keep it together, minimize overwhelm, and avoid burnout. You will leave re-energized, inspired and ready to put solutions in place.

 


 

Our Host: Celeste Headlee

Celeste HeadleeCeleste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @CelesteHeadlee

Our Guest Expert: Myrna Estrada

Myrna EstradaMyrna Estrada is a Senior Vice President and Field Executive for Liberty Mutual Insurance. She has the privilege of leading 67 sales professionals in a 6-state footprint. The Central Region is Liberty Mutual/Safeco’s largest IA Distribution Region with over $2.5B in Direct Written Premium. Myrna and her team distribute Safeco Personal Lines products, and Liberty Mutual Business Lines products through Independent Agents. When she began managing the region it had approximately $400M in DWP. Myrna also helps spearhead campus-wide initiatives, ERG support, etc. Myrna is also very involved in Diversity and Inclusion work within Liberty Mutual. She is the Executive Co-Sponsor of the Amigos ERG and is on the Council for Men as Allies. Myrna celebrated her 37th anniversary with Liberty Mutual/Safeco last December. Myrna is married to Rudy Murillo and lives in North Texas. She has 2 sons and 2 stepdaughters.


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Episode Transcript:

Women Amplified Listener:
My question is around being part of the sandwich generation and having to succeed and achieve at work. So as a professional, I have recently been discussing promotional opportunities with my boss and where my career is headed and how do I want to get there and where do I want to be in five years, 10 years. And that’s all great, but in my personal life, I am dealing with small children. I also have elderly parents that need help. I have other family members who rely on me for certain levels of care. And I’m really struggling to balance my personal life with my professional life. I certainly hope to have professional goals at some point, but at this point in time where I’m feeling so strapped in my personal life, I just want to keep afloat and I want to keep my job without having to feel like I need to do more and more and more.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay, awesome. Myrna, would you go ahead and introduce yourself, tell us who you are and what you do.

Myrna Estrada:
You bet. Hi everyone. My name is Myrna Estrada. I’m a senior vice president and field executive for Liberty Mutual. I manage a team of 67 sales and distribution professionals in a six state footprint for Liberty Mutual.

Celeste Headlee:
And in interest of full disclosure, Liberty Mutual is my insurance company. I’m getting absolutely no discounts because of this interview. So “Lisa,” the job that you have, when you say that you love what you do, does that mean you’re not looking to change work? Does that mean you’re hoping to continue growing with this particular company in this particular job?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. I really like the role that I play in my company. I am fulfilled by the work that I do in my company. I’m happy with my compensation packet. I think I’ve been identified as a strong performer, which is why I’m being asked where do you want to go? What do you want to do? And quite frankly, at some point in my life, I may want to grow beyond what I’m doing now, but I am actually happy in what I do.

Celeste Headlee:
Myrna, have you been where Lisa has been? In other words on the edge of burnout and yet being told that the way to grow in your job is to do more.

Myrna Estrada:
I think I put more of that pressure on myself, always have, to just do more, do more, do more, and I have to stop myself before anything else. So I’d have to say that I don’t think I’ve been asked to do that. I think I have felt like that’s what I needed to do. And it’s frankly just a recipe for disaster because when there just isn’t any more to give there, there just isn’t any more to give. When I think of sort of the conversation and what we’re talking about and I manage people and manage lots of people over the years, I feel like sometimes we get caught up in what does development mean? What does taking on more mean? Sometimes, it feels like it means more of the really heavy lifting that sometimes you just don’t have the capacity to do, but if we truly looked at an individual’s development and truly looked at what will make them more fulfilled, more successful, not in their work, but in their lives, I think there are some pretty very doable development that won’t feel as time consuming and labor intensive as the traditional things that corporate America has done in the past.

Celeste Headlee:
Let’s break this down a little bit further. Let’s start at the beginning with how you recognize burnout. So let me go to you first, Myrna, how do you know when either you’re feeling burnt out or when one of your team members is?

Myrna Estrada:
Yeah. So that leads to like, I think a very important thing, which is, unless you’ve created that openness, that culture where somebody is going to feel comfortable coming to you with that information, I think it’s going to be tough to see that and to understand that. So first, I think you have to have that openness and that inclusive mindset where people feel comfortable having those conversations with leaders. So I mean, sometimes it may be something that you just observe or hopefully it’s that somebody reaches out and they say to you, look, I’m at a breaking point or I just can’t take on anymore. And hopefully that relationship is already there where you can then say, well, tell me more. Tell me what you’re experiencing. And I think that’s the key to it.

Myrna Estrada:
But that foundation frankly has to be there because if it’s not, it makes it very difficult to have that conversation as a leader. You don’t want to go to somebody and say, hey, is there something going on? You certainly can, but I think that makes it more difficult, more awkward. But it’s hopefully what happens is that there’s just this open dialogue on the regular where they feel open enough to tell you here’s what I’m feeling, and it’s not observed as a weakness. It’s not observed as you can’t handle it. It’s observed more like… I tell my people take off your corporate hat and become a human being, become empathetic and compassionate and say first, well, tell me what’s going on? How are you doing? And I think that’s a good starting point.

Celeste Headlee:
Lisa, have you ever gone to one of your supervisors and told them I’m a little on the edge of burnout? I need to pull back a bit.

Women Amplified Listener:
I have. I have. I haven’t exactly framed it in the framework of burnout specifically. I’ve framed it more in the light of having such significant external pressures to perform in my personal life as a caregiver that I’m having a hard time focusing at work. I think my burnout is I’m having caregiver burnout, which certainly wouldn’t be the same kind of burnout as I would experience in the job, but as a result of being burned out as a caregiver, when I’m in my office or I’m at a meeting or I’m assigned a task that I need to achieve or complete, I am not as invested in it as I had been in the past because I have so many other things pulling at me. So it’s more that lack of focus because of the burnout I’m experiencing outside of my job.

Celeste Headlee:
Well, it’s interesting to me Lisa that you’re talking about identifying burnout and knowing when you’re getting to that point, based on how well you’re doing at work and whether you’re able to do your job well. What are the signs that… What do you see assigned that work is encroaching too far into your life

Women Amplified Listener:
For me, it’s less work encroaching into my life as much as my personal life feels like it’s encroaching into my work. I can say that my boss is across the country, so we have a time zone difference. So one of the things that is difficult is I can be reached at any time. My work day, I try to end it at about 4:00 or 5:00, but their work day ends on, for my time because I’m on the East Coast, their work day ends for me, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00. So I’m accessible at any time. And that can be hard sometimes.

Celeste Headlee:
Myrna, when someone is feeling a tug of war, when they feel as though there’s not a balance between their work and their home life, for whatever reason, what recommendations do you have?

Myrna Estrada:
Well, this is a great one because especially in the last couple of years, right? I mean, talk about this topic is just profoundly impacting so many people around the world and my team is not excluded. I talk to people with a two-year-old in the background. How in the world, when daycares were closed, how in the world do you manage that? And there are elderly people that we’re so concerned about. So there’s been so much going on. I think I always… First of all, again, just empathy, care and compassion to start with. And then I think the most important thing is flexibility. I think what Lisa’s describing here is she needs that flexibility because there’s no telling what’s going to be going on in her life and what she might be tugged and pulled away from work for.

Myrna Estrada:
And I tell people, look, our talent is the most important asset that we have. So what can be more important than making sure that we meet the needs of our people and we try to make sure that they have the flexibility to do the things that they need to do particularly today in their lives. I think that’s really important. At Liberty Mutual, obviously throughout the last couple of years, listening to our people and the things that were important, gosh, this, we created a caregiver assistance program for the very thing that Lisa is describing. It’s very, very difficult for people with children or for elderly that they’re trying to figure out how to provide care for. And so there’s a number of things that we’ve done that help. It helps a manager to have a nice toolkit ready to go so that you can talk about self-care and the importance, making sure you’re sleeping well and all the different things that kind of help us create the right state of mind.

Myrna Estrada:
And of course, all the talk around mental health right now, this is something that we’ve been on a journey on for a year now just kind of preparing for obviously what we knew we were all going to be dealing with and have been dealing with. And we started a new ERG called Able at ERG, which is around supporting mental health. And how powerful has that been, particularly the last few weeks with the Olympics, right? We’ve seen that discussed and amplified and talked about in such a powerful way that [crosstalk 00:16:13] these are all great topics.

Celeste Headlee:
You’re referring to Simone Biles and also Naomi Osaka and the discussion of mental health and how it may affect performance, the times when you just have to step back.

Myrna Estrada:
100%. And in fact, it’s funny that since that has happened, I’ve actually had a colleague that we were in the middle of a lot of really heavy, heavy work. And this particular individual just said to me, she’s like, I’m tapped out. I’m tapped out. It’s Wednesday, I’ll be here tomorrow, but I’m taking Friday and Monday off. I just need a break. And how powerful that she felt so comfortable just saying that and just not feeling guilty about it and not expecting to have to explain. And I didn’t ask her to. I said, we got you 100%. We can handle this. If there’s anything I need to take over, let me know. And so I think that it’s just such a great, great topic that we take the taboo of it and just the stigma associated with it and let’s bring it forward and just be comfortable saying this is just too much. I’ve reached a breaking point. And I mean, that’s probably a little beyond burnout. Right? This is like [crosstalk 00:17:20] it went too far. Right? But it certainly starts with burnout and I think it’s important that we have the right dialogue to try to nip it in the bud early on.

Celeste Headlee:
Lisa, do you feel like you recognize the very early signs of this or no? Do you wait to address these kinds of issues until it’s become at least a mini crisis?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. That’s a great question. I think I think I do wait a little bit too long. In fact, I had a very similar experience to what Myrna is describing this week as a matter of fact. We were asked in a team meeting to identify some time this week to have a follow-up meeting to review a particular document that we really needed to delve deeply into. It really wasn’t an urgent meeting that needed to happen. It could have happened within the month. It really didn’t need to happen this week. And at that moment, I should have stepped up in front of my team and said, I can’t do it this week because this week in particular has been a very hard week for me and I didn’t. And I just, I bottled it up inside and I almost like eked out a yep, I can find time. Really just didn’t let the truth be known.

Women Amplified Listener:
And then maybe an hour later a colleague called me and she says, you don’t sound good. And I burst out into tears and I said I just can’t do it this week. I just can’t. And so I later got, I think she may have funneled my outbursts back to our boss and got a nice email directed to the whole team and said we’re going to put the meeting off till next week, it seems like we can’t find any time this week. And that’s it. But I could have nipped it in the bud at the meeting, but I didn’t because I felt like I needed to be strong, I needed to perform, I needed to achieve what the expectations of the boss set out. But yeah, I should have just said it at that time.

Celeste Headlee:
I actually wonder if maybe that was a little bit too late also, and I wanted to get your thoughts on this as well. Myrna because what I hear from Lisa is that she’s saying I should have spoken up in this meeting, but she was already at the point then where she cried right after the meeting when someone asked her about it. That feels like maybe the intervention should have come a little earlier. What do you think?

Myrna Estrada:
Yeah. No, I agree. And it’s funny, I hear this from my folks as well. And I think this is a COVID phenomenon as well. On top of the normal day-to-day pressures that we have always had, there’s something new about this environment where it’s virtual, where people tend to think you’re more available. I can ping you at any time. And it’s just simply not true. You can’t take emails all day long into the evening, into the next morning. It’s just impossible. We can’t tackle every process improvement we wanted to do right now because we think people have more time. It’s just not true. There isn’t more time. And so this is feedback that I get from my team as well. And I’ve been trying to listen very closely and sometimes it can be difficult to control because it’s like herding cats.

Myrna Estrada:
There’s like people getting at them from every angle here. I’d for you to do this, I’d like for you to do that. And they have the same thing that Lisa has here where they want to help, they want to yes, but where? Where do you put it into the schedule? And so I’ve taken it upon myself to try to police this as much as I could. Anytime there is an ask of my team, before it even gets to them, I ask how urgent is this? What is the time? Why do you need this now? To try to inter intercept some of that and keep that from getting to Lisa. So that’s work as a leader. I think it might be incumbent upon all of us to try to keep it from even getting to that. Because I think there’s just a natural tendency as a top performer to want to do it, to want to deliver, to want to give people what they need and move that initiative along and say yes even though you really don’t have the capacity to take it on.

Myrna Estrada:
So I think it’s a little bit of both. I mean, obviously it’s a little bit more of that person feeling, Lisa in this case, feeling more empowered to be able to say early on, let me explain sort of what I’m working on right now which is just I have to hit these deadlines. And maybe I have capacity in two weeks or three weeks. Feeling comfortable to say that, I think that’s tough. We’re all top performers, we’re all pacesetters. We all want to get it done. And that’s a whole another conversation probably. But but then the next issue is just as a leader, we have to try to help our folks sort of intersect and maybe be that ally for them, jump in and say maybe you can wait on that for a couple of weeks. I know that she happens to be working on X, X and X and so let me interject here and say if we can do it three weeks from now, that’d be a lot better.

Celeste Headlee:
Lisa, do you see yourself as a problem solver? In other words, someone who likes to solve other people’s problems?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yes. Yes. I can definitely say that that that is true.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. And I want to go back to the sort of those early signs and it’s only because both Myrna and I think maybe you’re waiting a little bit longer than even you realize, and how you might identify the very, very earliest signs. Not to where you’re in a meeting that might make you burst into tears afterwards, but could you catch it earlier in the chain?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah, I think I could. I mean, I think it’s recognizing that the earlier I see that I’m struggling or the earlier that I see that I’m going to not be able to complete a task or not even not be able to complete it, but not have the emotional or mental bandwidth to complete the task in a particular time. Recognizing that early before it gets to be too late.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah. Maybe not too late, but unnecessarily late.

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:
It’s never too late, right?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah.

Celeste Headlee:
So Myrna, how might Lisa have a conversation with her boss? Not just her boss, but her teammates about healthier boundaries. How can she manage that conversation in a way that doesn’t make it sound like she’s shirking duties?

Myrna Estrada:
Yeah. I think the most important thing is self-reflection first because I think that, and it certainly may not be the case for her, but oftentimes we’re putting that pressure on ourselves. I say that for me personally. Yeah, I do. I have a very big job, but I also do a lot of work in the DE&I space for Liberty Mutual and that is my passion. I’m passionate about both roles, but boy, when you think of DE&I, that just really kind of gets me going. And so when it comes to that and people ask me about that, I have a hard time saying no to that too. And I have to prioritize and pick and choose what I can take on and what I can’t take on. But I think the key is very early on setting boundaries and just understanding like okay, the next two weeks are full. And I know that today. Nobody needs to tell me that, I already know. And anything else I take on, it’s a matter of prioritization and how does it bump other work? And if it doesn’t, feeling open and comfortable enough to say that.

Myrna Estrada:
And if you can’t, then I think that that’s a little bit of a conversation with a manager around let’s just be more open and transparent with each other. What are the things that we need to do to be able to trust each other so that I can tell you that and not feel like I’m not getting the job done? Because whether, certainly they may not even be telling you that, but that’s how you feel. And so to help me not feel that way, can we talk about like priorities and once the plate is full, the plate is full. There’s just nowhere else for it to go. And let’s get that conversation on the table now before we actually deal with that. And then I can tell you at that moment, hey, this is one of those moments where I’m booked, I’m solid. And so I think I think it all gets back to that, that comfort level, that trustworthiness between a manager and their employee and others to be able to have those conversations.

Myrna Estrada:
And I also I’m a huge proponent of allies as well. I know I may not only be your manager, and now I can be a peer and now I can be another leader that sort of also steps in and says you know what? Let’s let’s think about this. Is it really something we… Is it critically important that we do that right now? And if not, then maybe we give Lisa a longer deadline.

Celeste Headlee:
Lisa, how do you keep track of your workload? Very often people keep calendars, but on those calendars, they don’t also record the projects that they’re working on and their deadlines which is often a very good idea to keep all those things on one large calendar so that when you look at what’s coming up, you can actually get a good idea of your workload and how much you have to do, how much you have on your plate.

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. So I use both a, I’m old school, so I use both a written calendar and I use Outlook. Outlook really helps me keep track of where I have to be when I travel for work. So, or I did travel for work before the pandemic stuff and all that. But I’m about to start traveling for work again. So Outlook is very important for me to really have a snapshot of where I need to be when, but then I hand write a lot of my tasks because I, on Monday mornings, I like to come in, look at my handwritten calendar and then handwrite what my objectives are either for the day or for the week. So that’s how I keep track of things.

Celeste Headlee:
That’s great. But do you do that in advance? So if someone comes up to you and says, hey, next week, can you do this thing for me? And you look at next week’s calendar, do you have not just your appointments, but do you also have your deadlines and your workload recorded so you can say whether that’s going to be too much or not?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. I try to. I do try to because I want to be able to comment up because if someone has told me to do something on a Thursday or Friday and I know I’m not going to get to it, I will then flip ahead to the next week, write it down so that I can basically forget it over the weekend. And then when I look on Monday morning, I’ll see what expectations had been set out for me the week before and also what I have left to do when I come in on a Monday morning.

Celeste Headlee:
So when you accept duties that you don’t actually have time to handle without getting overloaded, how does that happen then? If you know what your schedule is in your workload and someone come to you and says can you also do this? Before you answer, is it that you’re answering too quickly before you’ve had a chance to look at your workload or is it because your urge to help someone else is just too strong?

Women Amplified Listener:
So I think that Myrna said really resonated with me. I often get asked to do things that I really want to do. And so I say yes, because it’s a great opportunity or it’s something that I’m really interested in. And I actually, I’m also involved in DEI initiatives. I lead up a DEI initiative at my company. So when things like that come up, I sure as heck I’m going to say yes, because it’s something I want to do. And that’s when I get overloaded. I don’t know how to say no to something I want to do.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. Myrna?

Myrna Estrada:
I can so relate Lisa. Oh my goodness. And to this day, I still do it. Somebody will tell me, oh, I want to do an interview on Monday at nine o’clock. Okay. There I am. Monday. I drop everything important meetings because I’m there. Here’s what I would tell you about that because that’s a tough one. It’s my passion. So while it puts stress on me, it fulfills me in such a way that I don’t see myself ever completely pulling away from it. But here’s what I would say I’ve done in that regard. I have leaned heavily on my manager because whether I need it or not, he gives me a pass. He gives me grace. I will say to him, John… Oh, I shouldn’t say his name. I will say to him I am not going to make that meeting. I know it’s an important meeting, but let me tell you about this other very important work as well. And thank goodness for our strong passion towards DE&I initiatives and our culture and knowing that that’s very important to me because he always supports me in a way that makes me feel okay about that.

Myrna Estrada:
So I’ll be honest. I put some other work aside so I can do those things that I’m very passionate about and I believe you shouldn’t feel bad about that. I think you should embrace that and know that that is going to make you feel good, feel inspired and energized to do even more for the organization or for whatever particular cause. So that’s what I do. I lean heavily on my leader and I say, I need some help because I want to do both. And let me tell you why I want to do this. It’s very important. And he always supports me and we find a way to make it work.

Celeste Headlee:
But Lisa, that requires, if you take on the extra thing that you really want to do, what Myrna is saying is that she goes to her leadership and says, hey, I need extra room over here. I won’t be able to do this. Instead of trying to do both, she’s doing the DEI work and then letting something else go.

Women Amplified Listener:
Yep.

Celeste Headlee:
Are you doing that?

Women Amplified Listener:
Probably not to the extent that I could be. I report to my boss for a very specific role within my company and the DEI is over and above that so I tend to keep it to myself because she’s not responsible for my progress on those particular tasks. So I probably could be a little bit more open with her in terms of how much I’m actually doing, because I don’t think she understands the extent of the work that I put into with DEI because it’s not part of the role that I was hired to do.

Celeste Headlee:
Yes. But I mean, Myrna, make the case for why her boss needs to be made aware.

Myrna Estrada:
This is a huge topic and one that we talk about all the time, because what good does it do if a person is passionate and doing this work if our leaders don’t know that, don’t talk about it, don’t address it. And so we really have done a lot of work in this space and I’m not going to get into all that. It’s just incredible work to try to make sure that those conversations are happening on a more regular basis. But here is what I would say to that. It is really important that they understand that it is a huge corporate initiative likely where you’re at Lisa and just like other work, it’s as important. And so when you raised the flag and say something’s got to give here and this is really important work too, my hope is that, of course, that you have that support.

Myrna Estrada:
What I would say is I like to tell the story because I think it’s really cool. Early on when I was doing a lot of work in this space and it was consuming a good part of my schedule and I was trying to manage it all, I just remember thinking does my boss really know? Do they really know how much time I’m spending on this? And I try to kind of keep them informed and came time for my annual performance review and we started talking about the work that I do in the DE&I space. And he listed out literally almost every single thing I had done that year. It nearly brought me to tears that he’d recognized what I had done. And so that is so critically important.

Myrna Estrada:
And it’s baby steps, we can’t get there overnight, but I think having that conversation with your leader, Lisa, might be helpful where you say let me show you all the things that I’ve done and I’m not showing you this to give me a pass or to get it… I just want you to know, and this is also very, very important work for the organization and very important for me work for me personally. So if it’s not being highlighted already by your leader, then maybe you can bring it to their attention.

Celeste Headlee:
What do you think, Lisa?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah, no, I think that’s reasonable. Yeah, I think that would only bolster my performance reviews because I am balancing more than just what I’m expected to do, what I was hired to do. So yeah, I think that’s a completely… I think that’s a really good a good recommendation and something I could take back to my organization and I think it would make a big difference.

Celeste Headlee:
So do you feel Lisa like you have some actionable items that you can get started on pretty immediately?

Women Amplified Listener:
I do. I mean, I think I need to open up the chain of communication with my boss to include more than just the objectives, right? I’m fortunate in that we speak every two weeks one-on-one about anything, about anything. And typically I try to keep those conversations focused on the work at hand, but I think one of the things that this conversation has helped me realize is I think I need to expand what I talk about in those meetings, because it’s going to impact those objectives that I have set out for myself. And I really haven’t been successful at doing that up until now.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah, I think that’s great. And do you feel as though you enough time at home to get done the things there that you would need to do?

Women Amplified Listener:
Aha. No. Okay, I mean-

Celeste Headlee:
Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

Women Amplified Listener:
No, I don’t.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah. Okay. And I definitely do not want to even give any space to the that’s okay because you called yourself part of the sandwich generation.

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. That’s true. That is definitely true.

Celeste Headlee:
Which means you recognize that it’s a problem?

Women Amplified Listener:
I do recognize that it’s a problem. I recognize that I have one of me and four people that need my attention at any given time so it’s hard.

Celeste Headlee:
It’s hard. But that also means, I asked you earlier, if your work was encroaching on your home. What’s causing the imbalance at home if it’s not… So I take it you’re not doing any work from home. Once you get home, you are fully there and you don’t answer anything else.

Women Amplified Listener:
No. I do work from home. I do work from home. That’s part of it. I work from home.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. So you don’t have to give me personal details, but tell me a little bit about what the imbalance at home looks like.

Women Amplified Listener:
So the imbalance at home includes young children who are at camp, but each week camp tends to end at a different time. So I was not successful at finding camps this summer for my kids that went 8:00 to 5:00. Most of the camps end at 1:00 or at 3:00. Some weeks they end at… I’ve been fortunate to have one this week that ends at 4:00. But I’m having to go pick up my kids from camp at one o’clock while I might be in a meeting and so I’m taking that meeting in the car or I’m at camp picking up my kids and the meeting’s going on and I’m on mute because I have to pick up my kids. So that’s one element of it.

Women Amplified Listener:
The other element of it is I have an elderly relative that is continuously in need of help. Her remote’s not working. She’s out of milk. She’s confused about her medications. And we’ve arranged BNA services for her, but I am on my own with that. I’m the only capable adult family member that can really help her with some of these issues because I don’t have other family nearby that can help her. So I get phone calls at any given hour to help with some of her tasks and she’s a half hour away from me. And sometimes I say yes, but sometimes I do say no. I’m trying to get better boundaries with that that I can’t do everything her. So those are my main issues. So when I say that my work life doesn’t necessarily encroach on my home life, it’s that my home life is encroaching on work.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. And then there’s all kinds of things going on in my head because I know the statistics on people’s imbalance and it’s not that. You may absolutely be one of the exceptions, but it’s also there’s a fair chance that your work is taking more time than a full-time job. But let me take this to Myrna because this is something that we have seen again and again, Myrna, especially during the pandemic and as we begin to emerge that perhaps businesses weren’t… Many businesses were not fully prepared to help employees succeed despite of the many challenges at home. Not just with taking care of kids at home, not just taking care of relatives who need extra care, but also the fact that we’ve just been through a year of trauma and everyone’s stressed and anxious and the things that may have been easier in 2019 are now very difficult.

Myrna Estrada:
Yeah. No, 100%. And throughout the years, I’ve had experiences like this where there were unique situations that people were going through and we have lots of tenured employees and the way I look at it is whatever’s going on in that moment, it’s a moment in time and that moment might be six months, a year, two years. It could take a while. And what I always tell leaders is, look, your people are worth it. They’re just flat worth it. Put the people first. What do we need to do to be flexible? And I think that’s the most important thing that I can give that a leader can give, that an organization can give is first flexibility. Give you grace, give you the space to understand what’s happening.

Myrna Estrada:
My children are grown and out of the household and so… But I remember what those days were like. I remember traveling and thinking about but I got to get… It’s picture day tomorrow, do they have the right shirt for that day? Whatever. And I remember what that was like. And for me it’s just extreme flexibility, space, give them grace. It may not be the performance you’re normally accustomed to looking at from that individual, but they’ve got a lot going on at this very moment. I think that’s very important. As an-

Celeste Headlee:
What? Sorry to interrupt Myrna but that’s awesome that you are that kind of manager and that your company is that kind of company. But what if somebody isn’t at that kind of company? Any ideas on how they might navigate that conversation?

Myrna Estrada:
Well, I think we talked a lot about the work schedule and capability and what we can actually take on. And I think the reality is in your home life, it’s the same thing. At some point there’s something has to give, right? And so I think it’s similar work. You’ve got to take a look at all the different pools that you’re getting in a personal level like what am I getting pulled to do? And can I do all of these? If I can’t, if I physically can’t do them, what has to give? And that’s hard for us too, right? Just like in the workplace, there’s stuff we don’t want to say no to, in the personal space, there’s so much we don’t want to say no to. Oh, but I must attend that recital. This is the recital I have to go to. Okay. But is every reason, do you have to be at every recital?

Myrna Estrada:
And those are the same types of decisions I think we need to make in our personal lives that not because something else, because work is more important, but because there just isn’t enough time to get it all done. And so what can I help within? And then lean on the army around you. I mean, we all have that tribe, right? We all have people that are there to support us. Lean on them. I can remember being a single mom and how I leaned on my parents. My parents would… That my kids went to school with it and they were so amazing. They would call me, hey, just as a reminder, tomorrow is picture day. And I’m like yeah, let me jump on that. So that’s sort of kind of the feedback I would give.

Celeste Headlee:
I would say Lisa looking at… Normally hearing your description of your question, but reading the initial message that we got, it occurred to me that you seem to be quite focused on doing a whole bunch of things at the same time. In other words you want to develop in your career, you want to be more productive and not say no to people and do your DEI work at the same time that you want to also increase the amount of time that you have for your family. And I wonder, have you prioritized that the list of things that you want to do? Do you know which ones are going to take priority?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. I mean, I think right now, my children are little. I think my family is my priority. I think what I worry about is… What I truly believe in my heart is I kind of want to stay where I am in my particular role and I want to do it well and keep myself employed. What my fear is is if I stay sort of at the status quo for five years, six years, seven years, whatever it is and then at that time decide, okay, now is the time that I want to grow and soar and grow in my career. Maybe increase responsibility, jump up a level in responsibility. Will these 5, 6, 7 years of a seeming lack of growth impact my ability to grow down the road? Because I do they do feel like-

Celeste Headlee:
Have you not had growth in your career over these past five years?

Women Amplified Listener:
Well, I have had growth and I’ve landed in a place where I want to stay plateaued because I’ve grown, grown, grown, grown, grown a lot. And then I’m now at a place where I’m happy and I want to plateau, but I also know that I have like 20 more years left in my career and I’m not so sure that I will remain satisfied once my kids are older and once a lot of these other external responsibilities are behind me. I don’t know that I’m going to be happy to be plateaued, but right now I’m very happy to not go anywhere. I’ve been in my particular role for two years. And I’ve already been getting pressure from my boss to say where do you want to go? What do you want to do? How do you want to grow? What’s next for you? And I don’t want to have a next. I want to be…. I want to stay where I am so that I can deal with everything else I have going on in my life. So I worry that down the road I’m going to be looked at either as a slacker or someone who hasn’t continued to leap.

Celeste Headlee:
Okay. So Myrna, there she’s talking about the fact that she’s reached a good state, a good position and wants to stay there for a little while. But it’s being constantly asked where she sees herself in five years, what she wants to do, how she wants to develop. What kind of advice would you have on how to answer those questions?

Myrna Estrada:
My recommendation at this point is to sit down with your manager, Lisa, and let’s redefine growth. Let’s redefine growth because it sounds like growth is a very defined and not uncommon corporate mindset of what’s the next promotion and what’s the next promotion? We look at growth that way and it’s such a mistake. I think it’s just so limiting in my opinion. Growth can be defined in many different ways. And I think maybe a candid conversation with your boss about for the time being, I want us to look at growth in this way. Let’s redefine it. My work in the DE&I space, let’s look at that growth. It makes the organization better, it fulfills me, it’s solid work and it’s additional work so it’s difficult to take on. And why don’t we look at that as growth? That will meet everyone’s needs and frankly, I’m good with that. Right now that will make me feel good about the progress that I’m making.

Myrna Estrada:
I think that’s key. It’s just sort of redefining growth and making sure that we’re not putting too much stress on that to look a certain way because there’s plenty of growth to be had even in a current position and just at the same time balancing everything, because if it feels right, like you’re telling me, you’ve said it a couple of times now, that feels right for you. It feels right for where your family is, where your career is, where your workload is, then it feels right for a reason. Let’s take some time and kind of reevaluate whether that’s not the right approach and just having a different level of growth that is within the framework of what you’re doing right now.

Celeste Headlee:
Is that something you can do, Lisa?

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah. Yes. I really liked that idea. I like the idea of reframing growth. I think just looking at the people who surround me in my role, I think growth has always been defined as a bit of a step ladder, right? One step up, one step up, one step up. And so I think that that’s how it continues to be positioned to me. It’s not been discussed in the manner that you’re suggesting Myrna. And I really like that. I think that would make a big difference because you’re right. You can grow in many ways. You don’t have to just grow by achieving a higher salary or more responsibilities or more direct reports. You can grow other soft skills, or even technical skills but we will keep you at your level. And that does feel like what I want.

Celeste Headlee:
Yeah. Yeah. And I also think that sometimes it’s easy to think that that’s the expectation and maybe it’s just that they want more for you, which is fantastic that your boss wants more for you. I appreciate that. Thank you so much for thinking about me and my success. But right now, let me tell you what success sounds like to me: managing all of this and doing it well. I want to do it well. I want to feel good about the work that I do. I want to come to work excited every day and in order for that to happen, I need to just stay put for a minute and just let this sort of kind of continue to be healthy. Okay. So I want to say thank you, first of all, to Myrna Estrada. She is senior vice president and field executive for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Thank you so much for your advice and also for sharing a little bit of how you have navigated parenthood and success at work.

Myrna Estrada:
You’re so welcome. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Celeste Headlee:
And Lisa, thank you and good luck. We would like to check in later and see how things are going.

Women Amplified Listener:
Yeah, that would be great. Thank you so much for all your help and your advice. This has been wonderful.

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Posted in Life Balance, Podcasts, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women Tagged , |

How to Connect in a Reconnected World—with Cal Newport

Cal Newport

Overnight, technology essentially became our only means of communication. Face to face interactions – meetings, conferences, networking –  were immediately replaced with Zoom coffees, happy hours and team meetings. It took adjustment, but we adapted.

Now, as we re-emerge and navigate a new normal,  many are struggling to reconnect outside of the confines of their computer screens and the safety of their home offices. This episode will explore how to create sanity for yourself by approaching communication is a more structured way and taking control of your technology.

Learn the benefits of a digital detox and ways to shift your workplace away from “hyperactive hive mind” communication so you can get back to the basics of human connection.
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Posted in Communication Skills, Podcasts, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women Tagged , |

Success, Leadership and Authenticity: A Conversation with Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams

This episode is a replay of an amazing 2021 California Conference for Women Keynote Conversation with best-selling author, nonprofit CEO and political leader Stacey Abrams.

Narrowly defeated as the first Black woman to win a major party nomination for Governor, she galvanized a movement that would register 800,000 new voters. Joined by award-winning journalist Lisa Ling, we will explore Abrams’ road to becoming a true pioneer. From her humble beginnings, to successes and pitfalls along the way, she shares invaluable lessons about ambition, leadership, authenticity and failure.

You will leave inspired and armed with tips so that you are ready to lead from the outside and truly make a difference.


Stacey Abrams

STACEY ABRAMS is an author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO and political leader. After serving for eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Minority Leader, in 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia. Abrams was the first Black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States. After witnessing the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election by the Secretary of State’s office, Abrams launched Fair Fight to ensure every Georgian has a voice in our election system. The impact of Fair Fight led to Abrams being named to the Forbes list of World’s Most Powerful Women in 2020. Over the course of her career, Abrams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels. She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the 2012 recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, and a current member of the board of directors for the Center for American Progress. AbramsNew York Times best-selling book Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change, is a personal and empowering blueprint for outsiders who seek to become the ones in charge. Her newly released book Our Time is Now is a blueprint to end voter suppression and chronicles a chilling account of how the right to vote and the principles of democracy have been and continue to be under attack. Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School. She and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi and were raised in Georgia. @staceyabrams

 

Lisa Ling

Lisa LingLISA LING is the executive producer and host of THIS IS LIFE on CNN, now its seventh season. For five seasons prior, Ling EP’d and hosted Our America on OWN. She was also a field correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and contributor to ABC News’ Nightline. Ling was the first female host of National Geographic’s flagship show Explorer which sent her to cover the phenomenon of female suicide bombing, the spread of the MS-13 gang and the humanitarian crisis inside North Korea. She got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age. She later went to become a co-host of ABC Daytime’s hit show, The View, which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show. Ling is the co-author of Mother, Sister. Daughter, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood, and Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and The Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home that she penned with her sister Laura. In 2014, President Obama appointed her to the commission on White House fellows. She is an advisory board member for Fostering Media Connections, The Amani Project, and a Baby2Baby angel. @lisaling

Celeste Headlee

Celeste HeadleeCeleste Headlee is a communication and human nature expert, and an award-winning journalist. She is a professional speaker, and also the author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, Heard Mentality and We Need to Talk. In her twenty-year career in public radio, she has been the executive producer of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Radio, and anchored programs including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. She also served as cohost of the national morning news show The Takeaway from PRI and WNYC, and anchored presidential coverage in 2012 for PBS World Channel. Headlee’s TEDx talk sharing ten ways to have a better conversation has over twenty million total views to date. @CelesteHeadlee

 


 

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Stacey Abrams & Lisa Ling Interview Transcript:

Lisa Ling:

Today, I am so excited, and frankly, a little giddy, to be talking to one of the most compelling figures of our time. She is an author, an entrepreneur, non-profit CEO, and a true leader who has broken boundaries, demanded justice, and opened the doors for millions of Americans. She is, of course, the incomparable Stacey Abrams. Stacey, so great to see you. Thank you so much for being with us.

Lisa Ling:

Now, you rose to national prominence by becoming the first black woman in history to earn a major party nomination for governor. But what I think has really captivated so many people is what you did after failing to win that seat. Many were begging you to run for a Senate seat in Georgia, one that you very likely would have won. But instead, you led this massive collaborative effort to register 800,000 voters in Georgia. In other words, in your words, you refused to let a setback set you back. So can you tell us why you made that decision?

Stacey Abrams:

Well, first of all, Lisa, thank you for interviewing me. I have admired you for years. And if that’s the introduction I get, I would love for you to do my eulogy. It’s a little bit stark right now to use that phrase, but it was really good.

Stacey Abrams:

I want to frame what happened in this way. I’d spent a decade building towards Georgia becoming a competitive state primarily because I believe in justice. I believe that progress is possible and that the weakness of our public health system, of our infrastructure, of our educational system, that the challenges we face in Georgia are solvable. And my responsibility when I became Democratic Leader in 2010 was to think about how do you solve it? But through that, I also very strongly believe that becoming governor, especially in a southern state, would be instrumental to tackling these problems, not just for Georgia, but to really set a narrative for what could happen across the south and around the country. And so when I stood for governor, I told folks, “If you will trust me, if you will run with me, if you will vote in ways you haven’t before, I’m committed to trying to make these things come to fruition.”

Stacey Abrams:

But it was near the end of that campaign where we really became grossly aware of how vicious the voter suppression led by my opponent, the Secretary of State, how effective and vicious it was. And so when I didn’t win, my first responsibility was to either challenge the outcome of the election to try to make myself the governor, or to challenge the system that allowed him to strip the right to vote from so many people to create barriers to their participation. And I was raised by my parents to believe that if you saw a problem, your job isn’t to whine about it. You can for a little bit, but not for very long. Your job is to fix it. And for me, fixing the problem meant that we had to tackle the root issue, which was access to democracy in Georgia.

Stacey Abrams:

Fair Fight has gotten a great deal of credit for the role we played in helping activate voters to register, including a group that I’d started in 2014 called the New Georgia Project. But what we, I think, did most effectively was to actually tackle the system itself. To say that voter suppression has multiple tentacles and we were not going to let any of those tentacles continue unabated.

Stacey Abrams:

So when we didn’t win the election, my first responsibility was to tackle the issues of democracy, to tackle the system itself. And that meant beginning with a lawsuit against the state of Georgia and the elections officials, then Brian Kemp and now Brad Raffensperger. And just yesterday, we received word that the court refused to throw out the case, which is what the Secretary of State’s office sought, because the issues still continue. But another part of it was making certain that when people tried to register to vote, that their registrations were processed. That when they tried to find a polling place, that a polling place was open. That if they needed in the middle of a pandemic to cast their ballots by absentee ballot, that they were able to do so.

Stacey Abrams:

For me, tackling the system itself has always been the most important approach to the work of justice. And running for the Senate, while I think it was an incredibly gracious invitation, and I am so grateful for those who wanted me to undertake that, it wasn’t the right job. For me, being in the Senate is an important position to have. We have seen already how critical it is to have people of good intention in that body as we watched so many abdicate their responsibility during the impeachment trial. But where I wanted to stand was, how do we make certain that it’s not about a single election or a single person, but that we fix the system itself? Because if you don’t fix the system, you may be successful, but someone else is going to lose out. And that person is going to be a voter whose voice isn’t heard.

Lisa Ling:

Well, you truly galvanized the system. After Georgia was called in the presidential election, and then after the two Senate seats flipped, the internet just blew up. Your image was everywhere, accrediting you for mobilizing, organizing, and making sure that people registered and voted. Thousands and thousands of people, many for the first time in their lives. What would you say were the keys to the success? And in particular, how did you mobilize so many different demographics?

Stacey Abrams:

The work started long before 2018. And I reference that because I know there’s so many people out there wondering, how can I do this where I live? And I believe it is possible across this country, but we have to be honest about how hard it is, but how valuable it is. We began the work, I started my work in earnest in 2010 when I became Democratic Leader. So the end of 2010, heading into 2011. I began by really understanding what the impediments were to voter registration. And so often, it was that people weren’t asked or they didn’t understand the process. If you come from a family that has long had civic participation or you live in a community where civic engagement is what’s expected, then yes, voter registration seems easy. But if you live in a community that’s often been isolated from civic participation, where politicians don’t even bother to ask for your vote, where your school doesn’t talk about it because you’re barely getting the education you deserve, you’re not going to necessarily know how to be involved.

 

Stacey Abrams:

Voter registration has to be more than giving someone a piece of paper to fill out. It’s got to be about educating people about what voting accomplishes, because voting isn’t magic. And I think one of the testaments to the work that I’ve done, that so many have done to get more people to the polls, is that we were honest about what we were asking for. This wasn’t going to transform the country. We weren’t going to wake up and the world is absolutely different. But the world gets better when you participate. Change begins when you participate.

Stacey Abrams:

And we really talked about voting. I used the analogy that it’s like medicine. For the diseases, for the ills of our society, the medicine has to be taken again and again for us to get what we need, for us to get better. But the minute you stop taking your medication, things lapse, things get bad again. And so we have to not only vote, but we’ve got to create a pattern of voting.

Stacey Abrams:

And so one of the responsibilities I felt and where I get some of this credit is that I’ve made sure that we invested in organizations, that we built organizations. When I started the New Georgia Project, which is now run by Nsé Ufot, we raised a lot of money, but we gave a lot of money away. And we did the same thing with Fair Fight. It’s not just about building the organizations I start, it’s about using the platform I have to invest in other community members and other groups in smaller organizations that may not have the platform I have, but have the same purpose. And often, we see ourselves in conflict. I believe that this is a collective effort. And when people see you working together and your attention is focused on their betterment, more and more people believe that it’s worth investing and it’s worth trying.

Lisa Ling:

Well, one of the things that many have recognized about your leadership is that you are very deliberate about sharing resources and even credit. Why is that?

Stacey Abrams:

Number one, I heard a long time ago that I’d rather have 50% of something than 100% of nothing. When it comes to justice, when it comes to progress, when it comes to getting things done, I’ve always believed in partnership. It may be the fact that I’m the second of six children. So I was about 15 before I realized Snickers really could satisfy because you always had to share. And for me, the sharing piece, it’s not only sharing credit, it’s sharing the work. And if you’re willing to do one and not the other, then that requires self investigation. I’m not a better person at what I do if I’m the only one who’s acknowledged for it. And for some, that’s the metric of their value, that they are the one who get all the credit.

Stacey Abrams:

I want to see us have the success. And the best way to engender that success is to celebrate everyone who participated, to laud everyone who participates. There’s a saying that victory has 1,000 parents, but defeat is an orphan. Defeat means taking responsibility for where you are, and I take responsibility when I can. But that also then means that you have to celebrate the parents of success, especially those who did work that no one saw. Because if you’re willing to do that, if you’re willing to create space for others to come in, you actually create space for even more people to see themselves as a part of what you do.

Lisa Ling:

Well, certainly, the movement that you helped to create, it was so obvious that everyone really did feel like they were a part of something. And that was really so exciting to watch from afar. I want to talk a little bit about how you became the person you became. What inspired you to public service to begin with?

Stacey Abrams:

I’m the daughter of Robert and Carolyn Abrams. And I talk about my parents so often because they really are the genesis of what I grew up to do. My parents had three rules for us. Go to church, go to school, and take care of each other. They wanted our faith to be a foundation, but they also raised us to believe that faith should never be used to hurt others. It should never be a sword to strike people down. It should always be a shield to protect. And for me, that meant living this faith in a way that was always about helping others.

Stacey Abrams:

The fact that they told us education was critical was because they both came from the abject poverty you hear about in Mississippi. And while they’d made progress, we were still working poor when we were growing up. But my mom and dad said, “Look, we may not be where we expected to be, but we’re further ahead than anyone else in our families have been. And so we’re going to celebrate where we are and then we’re going to push you all to do even more.” And that meant education had to be a part of what we did.

Stacey Abrams:

And the third was that they said take care of each other. And part of it was take care of your five brothers and sisters. And if anybody gets in trouble, everyone’s in trouble, so you might as well do well. But it was also that they would take us out to volunteer. We would go to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and juvenile justice facilities. We would look at them. We were like, you guys do know we don’t have running water at home or the lights have been cut off for two weeks? But they wanted us to understand that, as my dad said, having nothing is not an excuse for doing nothing. And when you take those pieces together and when you watch the way my parents not only raised us, but the way they lived.

Stacey Abrams:

My parents volunteered, even when they didn’t know where their next dollar was going to come from. They would take us with them to vote, even though they knew politicians didn’t bother to knock on their doors. And they protested, even though they knew that some of the things they were asking for would go to people that were not themselves, and that they would benefit others, but they may not benefit from that protest. I grew up believing that my responsibility, and I shared this with my siblings, that our responsibility is if we see a problem, our job is to fix it. And there is nothing more broken than the waste of human capital and human spirit that comes when people believe that they’re not a part of progress, they’re not a part of society. Or worse, when they believe that no one cares about them and no one cares about their future.

 

 

Lisa Ling:

When they said take care of each other, you really took that to heart and began to take care of everyone, and it’s so incredibly moving. Stacey, you represent someone who is actively changing narrow, outdated ideas of what leadership looks like, not only as the first black woman to run for governor on a major ticket, but as a self-described geek and introvert. So what does it take to decide not to compromise yourself and be authentically who you are?

Stacey Abrams:

As I said, I’m the second of six children, and that meant I grew up surrounded by extraordinary people. My siblings are remarkable in their own ways. But it also meant that we together, we are each other’s best cheerleaders. We create opportunities for one another, we share our successes and our failures, and we’re all very close. There’s 12 years between the oldest and the youngest, but we’re a pack. That’s how we run.

Stacey Abrams:

What that meant for me was that even though I was introverted, I wasn’t shy. I was just more comfortable being by myself than being in crowds. But my belief that things needed to be done, it was stronger than my desire to be quiet and stay away from people. And part of that came about because even in my family, sometimes I was the one who had to speak up. Sometimes I was the person who had to give voice for the younger ones who didn’t know how to frame what they needed. And we don’t have the luxury, we don’t have permission, to not serve those we care about, to not serve the communities we care about.

Stacey Abrams:

I had to translate that in a lot of ways, and part of it was accepting who I am. I talk about being an introvert not because I want credit for being an introvert, but because I want people who find themselves in that space, who are quiet and don’t necessarily see themselves as a voice for others, to understand we can be quiet and loud at the same time. It’s just about understanding who you are so you can adjust your systems to make it work. I go out and talk to people all the time. But when I come home, I’m by myself and I will immerse myself in the silence that I need.

Stacey Abrams:

Likewise, when I was told by some when I was getting ready to run for office that I needed to change my hairstyle, I needed to lose a lot of weight, that I need to get braces, they may have legitimate points. But to tell myself that I’m not prepared to serve because I don’t look like what people expect is not viable for me. And so part of my authenticity is just stubbornness. I’m not willing to wait to do what I think needs to be done, and that means I’ve got to accept who I am.

Stacey Abrams:

I can always work to do better. I want to be healthier than I am, but I don’t think I’m grotesque. I’m not going to fix my gap because it’s my mother’s gap. It’s the gap that I have and that my mother had because our families couldn’t afford orthodontia. And if this gap creates space for me to do even more for people, I’m happy with it. I like my hair the way it is. And while some may not be comfortable with it, I try to make sure there are other parts of me they like. But fundamentally, if we don’t like ourselves, if we aren’t willing to be our whole selves, if we wait until we are perfect to act, then we never do anything.

Stacey Abrams:

That’s not to say that who you are should never force someone else to be different. That’s the selfishness, I think, sometimes with authenticity. I do have to be a part of society, and there ways I have to compromise not myself, but compromise my behavior. I have to go to those lunches and have those conversations. I need to do those speeches. And it’s not that I don’t do the things I need to do, I just create the accommodations I need to make what I do match who I am. But you used the word compromise, and that’s exactly the right word. But you don’t have to compromise your values or your authenticity to compromise for society. You can be a part of without losing who you are.

Lisa Ling:

I’m cheering inside vociferously because I don’t think women can hear enough that you don’t have to compromise your authenticity. It’s just such an important message and mantra. I want to take you back to your college days when you were at Spelman. In your incredible book, Lead From the Outside, you wrote about the time when you are a student at Spelman and when, after a breakup, you went into the college computer lab and put a spreadsheet together that laid out your life plans for the next 40 years. For example, by age 24, you wanted to write a best-selling spy novel. By 30, you wanted to make $1 million, and you wanted to become mayor of Atlanta. So why do you think you did that back then? And how many of those things materialized and what did you learn from this exercise?

Stacey Abrams:

Part of being at Spelman was being in a place that, for the first time, race and gender were not the differences between me and someone else. I was at a black woman’s college. And while some see it as a way to immerse yourself in blackness and in gender issues and gender conversations, it was also a space where the quality of my work, the quality of my mind, was the conversation. It wasn’t barriered by some people by what they saw and what they expected because of who I was from the outside. And let me be very clear. The intrinsic and indelible nature of being a black woman is something I celebrate, but I am that and more. And it was the and more that I had a chance to really explore at Spelman.

Stacey Abrams:

But it was also the first time I got to date, really. I dated a young man near the end of high school, because I wasn’t able to date until I was 16. And so the second time I dated, the second time I thought I was in love, it broke my heart. And one thing he said to me was that he just doubted what I would be because I didn’t seem to be the person he needed. And so I decided to figure out who I was. I’m very goal oriented. And so I went into the computer lab, and we had Lotus 1-2-3, that was the newfangled program at the time. And I wanted to write it down because I’d read a book before about how important it was to concretize your goals by writing it down. But for me, it was even more. It was not only writing down the goal, but writing down how you get there.

Stacey Abrams:

I didn’t come from a family where we knew professionals. I didn’t come from a family where we knew politicians. I came from a family that understood civil rights and protests, where we talked about those things, but those weren’t a part of my daily life. And so I had to give myself a roadmap. I needed to map out how I would get there. It wasn’t enough to say, I see it. I needed to understand how to reach it. And at 18, you’re so full of all of the things you can become and all of the ways you can get there, but we rarely receive guidance on how hard it is if you haven’t seen it done before.

Stacey Abrams:

And so for me, I tried to think of the most ambitious things I could imagine. But even when I thought of the ambition, I put constructs around it. I didn’t just want to write a novel, I wanted to write a spy novel. I didn’t want to be a billionaire, I wanted to be one millionaire because that was the most money I could imagine making. I didn’t think about being President of the United States because that was absurd. The best job I thought a black woman could have in politics was to be the mayor of Atlanta. And so even then, I was trying to be as ambitious as possible, but I was constrained by who I thought I could be. And so one of the reasons the spreadsheet has been so important to me is that it’s allowed me to dream even bigger, to map out how I get there, but to also allow myself to change my dreams.

Stacey Abrams:

I don’t want to be the mayor anymore. I had a chance to work for two extraordinary mayors. They did amazing things. But I do not want their jobs, because the work of being a mayor is different than other type of work. That’s one of the reasons I realized I wanted to run for governor, because the work of a mayor was always constrained in the south by what the state decided. That a mayor in a city where the governor or the state legislature could take away what you had given changes the nature of that job. It doesn’t diminish the importance, but it changes the nature. And we have to give ourselves permission to change our nature too. To figure out that thing that drove us at 18 might still be there, but it might’ve become encompassed by something different, something more, by changes and challenges we hadn’t imagined.

Lisa Ling:

I appreciate that you gave yourself those goals. Whether those particular goals, materialized or not, you set out to make them, and I think that that certainly proved fruitful for you as an exercise. Now, women and people of color have been fighting for pay equity and better representation in leadership for decades. And some would say that minimal progress has really been made. And you’ve made the point we don’t have time to dismantle centuries of patriarchy, racism, classism, and bigotry. Instead, we need to hack the system. So what would hacking the system look like to really achieve equity in the workplace with all the issues that continue to plague us?

Stacey Abrams:

For those who sit in C-suite or middle management, part of it is remembering where you started. We so often focus on what’s happening at CEO level, we forget what happens to the cleaning ladies and the janitors and the secretaries and the assistants, the administrative people. Part of the way to hack the system is instead of championing your own change, work within your organization to ensure that you are doing the best you can by those who are the most vulnerable and have the smallest voices and the weakest choices. That hacking is such a difference because when you start at the bottom, it is that notion of lifting all boats. But in this case, you’re creating a foundation that then ensures that the next level and the next level benefit because you’ve taken care of that baseline. But it’s also about being willing to be the voice of those who don’t have the right to speak up.

 

Stacey Abrams:

The first time I was working at a law firm, and it was fantastic firm, but one of the secretaries asked me a question about what she could do, and she needed me to be her champion. And I thought, well, if I do this, then I’m putting myself at risk. And in retrospect, I think, of course she needed to ask me. I could put myself at risk because they gave me more value, they ascribe more value to the role I played. And it was my responsibility to use that position of power to hack power for her. And there’s so many small ways we can do that. Things we see that we don’t say, or we whisper it or mutter it, hoping that someone overhears us. But we can hack the system by redesigning the system where we are. And it may not change everything, but small changes accrue.

Stacey Abrams:

When I became Democratic Leader at the state, I was intentional. When I first hired my staff, I was the new leader. We had one full-time staffer. I then hired around me people I knew. And it turned out when I finished hiring, my staff was black and white. It completely ignored the fact that Georgia had a burgeoning Latino population, a growing AAPI community, Asian-American Pacific Islander community, and that I had the responsibility to think about that too. So I picked up the phone and called the organizations that serve those communities and said, “I’ve run out of money, but I would love interns, if I could, just to get them in the door so that they could be seen.” And it was my opportunity to hack the system.

Stacey Abrams:

I knew I’d been successful when one of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle said, and I don’t know if he was being complimentary or not, he said, “We can always tell someone from your office. It looks like the United Colors of Benetton or the United Nations.” And for me, that was a perfect compliment, because I couldn’t fix the state, I couldn’t make the GOP hire anyone, I couldn’t tell the Speaker who to hire. But in the posture that I had in the platform that I had, I could do more. And even if I couldn’t pay them immediately, I brought them into a space they had never been in before in number. And I became a better leader, I became a better person. And when it came time in 2020 to turn out voters, we didn’t just turn out black and white voters. We increased participation by Native American, Asian American, Latino voters in record numbers. And that’s because I used my system and my space to hack the system and change the outcome.

Lisa Ling:

Stacey, that’s the thing that I think so many people just so admire about you. Clearly, you are wildly ambitious, but you’ve never lost sight of your surroundings and the people that you have been trying to lift up as well, and that has been so appreciated. You once said that we should have aggressive and wild ambitions that are only anchored by plans, not by doubts. And as women, I think many of us have been taught to temper our ambition. So why do you recommend women have aggressive and wild ambitions? And to the women listening today, what would you say to encourage them to express or make those wild ambitions materialize?

Stacey Abrams:

So over my shoulder is a poster for a documentary that I produced called All In: The Fight for Democracy. And I want to mention it for two reasons. Number one, fighting for democracy, being willing to tackle systems that have been in place literally since the inception of our nation, is wild and in some ways absurd, that in Georgia, a young black woman, or semi-young, is going to tackle this system and try to make it work better. But that was my wild and ambitious dream, but it was also grounded in the plan. Knowing that litigation was a part of it, knowing that we needed to fix legislation, knowing that we needed to build advocacy. Using my skills grown over years of building organizations, hiring people who are smart and thoughtful and capable of greatness, being willing to raise money in order to fund those dreams. But beginning with this very ambitious belief that I was going to stop voter suppression in Georgia. And then we actually, by August of ’19, decided we’re going to do it in 20 States. So that’s one piece of it.

Stacey Abrams:

But this poster also represents one of those secret dreams I had. I am a geek, but I also am well known for my love of media. I love television, film, books, music. I immerse myself in the arts. And I had the ambitious idea that I could produce a documentary to tell the story of voter suppression, because people needed to understand this isn’t a singularity. My campaign and what we faced was certainly deeply problematic, but it was repeated in places across this country in smaller fashion, and maybe not with the same kleig lights. But what I wanted people to see and understand was that this could be done, and so I produced a documentary, and now we’re out there in the ether. I met filmmakers and I was able to plot out how I could be a part of this.

Stacey Abrams:

And so regardless of the scope of the ambition, and regardless of whether it seems to be so personal as to be small or so massive as to be unattainable, our responsibility is to dream it anyway, to desire it anyway. Because you may not get what you want, but you will get something so much better than you have, one, because you tried, and two, because more than likely, you’ll succeed. Sometimes we’re not afraid of our ambition, but it’s not about being afraid of success, it’s being afraid of the responsibility that comes with success, the responsibility that comes with failure. But the only responsibility you have is to understand why you succeeded and multiply it, or understand why you didn’t succeed and solve for it. But we can’t let our ambitions be edited by our own fears. I like to say, take fear out for a drink, get to know it really well, make it your friend, because fear makes you brave. And if fear makes you brave, bravery makes you ambitious, and ambition makes us better. And that’s how we start to create change.

Lisa Ling:

I love that. Leader Abrams, we are about at the end of our time, but I have to ask you one last question. Since you are such a big planner, what can you tell us about your future aspirations?

Stacey Abrams:

I can tell you one day I will run for office again, but I am not thinking about that now, and here’s why. Right now, we are fighting more than 120 voter suppression bills that are popping up all around the country to undo the work that Fair Fight and so many others were able to do in Georgia and around this country. Two, we have a census that has been absolutely decimated by the weaponization under the Trump administration. And it is the narrative and the investment that will dictate the next 10 years of our lives, and really a generation of change. And then we have a COVID recovery that’s going to happen, but has to be deeper and broader and more infrastructure driven than anything we’ve seen before, especially in the south.

 

Stacey Abrams:

When I didn’t become governor, I created Fair Fight to work on democracy, Fair Count to work on the census, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project to work on making sure that the south receives the support it needs to really see progress, and those are things I’m going to be focused on. My work is here in Georgia. My focus is on Georgia. But I’m always thinking about how what we do here can the world, and specifically help those who’ve been left out and left behind. That’s what I’m focused on. I will think about running for office again later. But for right now, that’s the work ahead of me and I’m excited about it.

Lisa Ling:

Well, thank you for your candor on that. Leader Stacey Abrams, we so appreciate you taking the time. We thank you for your wisdom, your insights, and constantly challenging everyone around you to do better and be better. Thank you so much.

Stacey Abrams:

Thank you.

 

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Posted in Podcasts, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women, Success & Leadership Tagged , , |

Malcolm Gladwell on Bold Leadership in a New World of Work

Malcom Gladwell

Managing in a post-pandemic workplace is more complex than ever. Leaders have been required to stretch their skills in unimaginable ways and swiftly adjust their styles to meet the unique needs of individual team members.

Featuring renowned journalist and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, this episode will explore ways you can keep your teams engaged, productive and growing while also juggling the challenges that come with remote and hybrid workplaces.

With inspiration and advice, learn ways to lead boldly and meet the demands of the new world of work.

Transcript & additional resources for this episode below!

 

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Posted in Innovation, Podcasts Tagged , |