Summary

It’s often said that women shy away from power…but what if we changed what power meant to us? In this episode, Fiona McKay interviews guest speaker, Shelley Roberts, a people and performance expert, and CEO of Strategy Clicks – about how women can redefine their experience of power. They explore important questions on how we can embrace our power in the workplace.  Where does it come from?  How do we build on it? How can we use it for good?  Shelley has worked with women – and men – from many different types of companies and has seen first-hand how authenticity, a values based approach, and emotional fluency, can be key to opening people up to their power.

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Hello leading ladies and welcome back.  Today I am really honored to have Shelley Roberts joining us.  After meeting Shelley at a women in aerospace conference in 2017 she became a dear friend and a mentor to me. And the advice she’s given me has been invaluable. So, when planning this podcast, I couldn’t imagine doing it without her.   She just has so much great stuff to share and I’m really excited that she’s here with us all.   Anyway, Shelley was previously Vice President at a corporate insurance company before leaving to found Strategy Clicks, a company that focuses on strategy, performance and leadership – specifically the people side.  What I love about her work is that she focuses on how the brain and business work together to get the best out of people.  Her clients include many big aerospace companies, the Department of Defense, high-tech companies, oil and gas and much, much more.  Shelley is full of energy, playful and a total powerhouse so today she is here to talk about honing and owning your power.  Welcome Shelley!  

Thank you, Fiona, thank You for having me – I’m so glad to be here.  

We are s glad to have you! So Shelley, my first question I like to ask in every podcast…what do you think about the glass ceiling, does it still exist? 

When we talk about the glass ceiling, I think I look at it through a couple of different lenses.  If we look at it through the data that still exists in terms of salary differential, in terms of opportunity, the research – and perhaps even people’s personal experience of opportunity that is given to a woman side-by-side resumes that have equal experience, and the propensity to lean towards the male candidate, yeah it still exists.  I would also say that there’s a lot of unspoken, perhaps even unconscious patterns and habits that we as women also follow suit with that perhaps we are part of that glass ceiling as well.  So I do think it exists and I think without passing by the opportunity to say and acknowledge the shoulders that we have stood on, the women who got the vote, the women prior to that who really managed the homes, and then   burning your bra and so to get through our place today, certainly we’ve stood on a lot of really amazing women shoulders.  And there’s work to do.  

We’ve come a long way but I think that there’s still some big dents that we can make. And one of the things that I notice is some of the differences between women when it comes to the glass ceiling. Some of them say, ‘okay I’m gonna take a hammer to this, I’m going through,’ and others tend to shy back from it a little bit.  And today you’re here to talk about honing and owning your power; so what do you think is the relationship to power and the glass ceiling?

Well in the earlier time of my company I started working with the Department of Defense. And all needles point to it as a very masculine industry, It’s also a very predominantly male workforce. And so when we were doing leadership development, particularly in their process improvement groups – so a very technical side of the house – teaching their leaders and teaching their facilitators how to run process improvement groups we would get women coming up to us saying, ‘it’s different for us, it’s different for us,’ and so that caught my ear. And so I started to ask questions, I started to look at my own experience and through that lens I would say it’s been an interesting exploration even using the word power.  So we started having these Diva dinners.  So we started inviting women, from our clients and our colleagues.  And we asked them to invite women of power that they knew. And initially people responded with, ‘well I know this woman and she owns this business, I know this woman and she’s great, she’s a VP.  And it came as a surprise to us, it startled us and it was an eye opener…because we wanted to expand the definition, beyond the women with a position, the women with titles.  We said no, no expand your diagram, expand your circles, ‘who are the women that have that certain something, who are the women that are comfortable in their skin?’  They might be grandmothers, they might be high school young women, they might be the barista who you get your coffee from every day who just has this great essence about her. And so it was an interesting beginning to these conversations because people had to adjust what they defined a woman with power.

So we got these women together and we started asking people, ‘what comes to mind when you hear the words ‘a woman with power’?’ And immediately, without question, regardless of the context or the environment we were in, it was not very flattering.  And so the idea of being a woman with power having this undercurrent, or this underbelly of, ‘oh she’s a B-I-T-C-H, or she slept her way to the top, or she’ll poke your eye with her stiletto on her way up,’ and it was shocking to me because it made me realize, ‘no wonder, who would want that?’ So the idea of evolving and perhaps even reclaiming what it means to be a woman with power became our mission in these dinners, and women with power as a conversation.  And so we started to expand what that means, we started to expand the conversation around, ‘when do you feel most powerful.’  It’s not a bad word, what would you want it to mean? and so the idea of reclaiming even the word power was a really interesting and a really magical place to start.

Beautiful, beautiful. So a couple of things that you said…the whole thing about a woman in power being somebody who’s in a senior position, who’s had to do special things to get there, versus a woman of power as somebody who is comfortable in their skin.  And I really love that it could be a barista, it could be it could be your sister who’s in college, it could be somebody who is sitting at the top of the company, it can be the person at the front desk.  So, talking about being comfortable in your own skin what do you see as the relationship to being comfortable in your own skin and power? Because to me that sounds like one of the foundations to hone in on.

In my experience, as we’ve evolved these conversations, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of women in the business setting.  If you peel away the onion and get to the core of what that source of power is, it’s usually one of a couple of things.  One is it’s that that person is really clear about what their core values are and they are designing their life, and they’re designing their work, and they’re leading from their core values.  So there’s a sense of authenticity that is consistent across all of those women with power. They know what their values are and they know how they play out in the facets of life and they know how they get nourished. And so that is work that we don’t typically do at the office, those are not conversations that we typically spend time and energy on in our role as a leader, in our role as a business person…and yet it is absolutely the core of our power our energy, our creativity, as well as the return in terms of job satisfaction – and I think satisfaction is the word that feels right, even if there’s a conflict, or even if there’s something happening at the company that doesn’t feel good, disruption.  If that person, if that woman is still being able to connect with her values and lead from those values there’s a sense of certainty and a sense of confidence that comes with their decision-making when they use those core values as a guide, as a meter, as a source of that power. So I would say that is one elements about being comfortable in your skin.

“If you peel away the onion and get to the core of what the source of your power is, it’s usually one of a couple of things…. and it’s not work that we typically do at the office.”

“There’s a sense of authenticity that is consistent across all of those women with power. They know what their values are, and they know how they play out in the facets of life, and they know how they get nourished.”

I absolutely love what you’re saying.  I’ve long believed that there is a strong link between your level of confidence and your authenticity when you’re showing up in the workplace. And I see that with men and women…and people come to me and they’ll say, ‘oh I want to figure out what I want to do with my life,’ and my first question is, ‘well are you living authentically?’ Because how can you figure out what you want to do if you’re not showing up authentically? So what do you think are some of the barriers to being authentic and understanding your core values?

It requires a layer of vulnerability that is still not really valued in the workplace. It requires a level of vulnerability even in our own self-reflection to be able to get to that place. When we explore core values it can feel very raw, it can be very emotional.  I do a lot of work with my clients, especially in tact teams, about their core values.  And oftentimes when I ask them to share what they are, and to go into a little more detail about where they came from and how they were developed, you can see this hesitancy, this reticence to want to expose ourselves.  And so I think one of the barriers to really understanding that, much less using them in the workplace, is that layer of vulnerability.  And yet what I’m also seeing is that that layer of vulnerability is also at the core of high levels of performance, high levels of innovation, high levels of trust, high levels of focus, and ownership about projects, and speed to get things done.  We have to be willing to have that vulnerability. So I think there is a crossover, like that Venn diagram crossover, about the barrier to getting to our core values and then the barrier to expressing them, which is the willingness to be vulnerable and the value of being that at work – which is a business secret to success really.

Yeah, absolutely…and so we talk about vulnerability, and one of the things that I’ve noticed is different between the UK and the US is the separation of the personal and professional. People tend to shy away from bringing personal things into the workplace and so I sometimes find that it’s very difficult to understand people’s values if you don’t necessarily know them personally as well.  So how do we how do we overcome that paradigm of not being afraid to bring the personal into the workplace, without it becoming inappropriate?

Well I think we’ve heard the same thing, especially in North America. I grew up in Canada and it’s similar, it’s not as acute there, and it’s similar. We’ve all heard the saying, ‘well it’s business it’s not personal…leave your emotions at the door, leave your personal life at the door,’ which is ironic at best.  Because I get calls from my clients, leaders who ask me, ‘how do I build ownership, how do I build loyalty, how do I build commitment on my team, how do I build willingness to take risk?’  Guess what? Those are very personal asks, those are emotional offerings…and so we if we do not give ourselves permission as leaders in business to make the work personal, we give up the right to ask for any of those deeper and more emotionally based gifts that we can bring to our job.  So the irony is that it’s the very thing that the leader is asking for and it’s the very thing that they’re hesitant to bring to the party or at least to invite in. But if we’re not willing to make the work personal you give up the right to ask for any sort of discretionary effort.

Yeah, one of the things that I know is that when I’m showing up as my true self it doesn’t even feel like work, and so I’m working, I’m producing, and I’m not even looking at the time because I’m enjoying myself. And I really appreciate being able to get to that place, but it took me a lot of work to get there and, taking some wrong turns along the way. So that leads me to my next question, what are some of the things that women could proactively do to lead other women to a place where they feel comfortable being vulnerable and opening up?

First and foremost model it.  We can tell others how to do it till we’re blue in the face, in fact we’ve all heard it and yet we’re still having this conversation.  I think the most powerful thing we as women leaders, as women in business the strongest message we can send is to model it.  One recent example which is right on the tip of my mind is there is there was a New York Times article just a couple of days ago about Dr. Bonnie Henry who’s the chief health officer in British Columbia where I used to live. And the New York Times wrote this amazing article about her and her I guess I would call ‘accidental fame,’ because they’re calling her the COVID Whisperer, they’re calling her the master of managing this virus, she’s done an amazing job. If you were to look at how she leads though it is incredibly unique and it is incredible. I wouldn’t say it’s unique, it is incredibly authentic – humility, collaboration, empathy, as well as – and this is the part that that caught my eye – as well, she’s wildly effective and people listen to her. And she’s the first person to say, ‘I didn’t mean to be the face for this,’ so she didn’t try she was just authentically herself, especially in crisis. And then the other thing that people started to notice was if you catch pictures of her where you can see her shoes, she is incredibly authentic. She’s got a suit on she’s definitely holding it together, she’s definitely a powerhouse in her own right, with her own sense of graceful approach…and she’s got really interesting shoes by a Canadian designer called John Kubola.

What I love about you bringing in the shoes into this is the symbolism. One of the things that I’m really, really passionate about is that women don’t need to lose their sense of self in the workplace.  Some of us have – including myself – some of us have thought, ‘well we need to model men in order to get on,’ and I really love the idea of knowing that you can be powerful and still own your femininity, and whatever that actually means to you. And the shoe is one way,   a lot of women feel powerful in high heels, and color is another. I mean, me personally if I were black clothes it tends to mean I’m not in a great mood.  And so I’m very, very conscious of what I wear, I will actually put clothes on that add to my confidence because I know it’s affecting what’s going on in here (points to head in video). And so with your work focusing on a lot of the neuroscience, what are your thoughts on power and these symbols and things we can actually do to give us that boost when we need it?

Well I think about my earlier years and I have a huge amount of gratitude for the men in my earlier career.  And I think back to the time when I was representing my company. I was the only female in my peer group, who were all at least 15 to 20 years older than me, and we had to go to a conference. And we had a booth at this conference, and it was a big deal in insurance, like the creme de la crème of the conference’s every year. And so, we all had to represent, all had to do booth time to represent the company, and so we all wanted to be – and myself included, I wanted to be – a part of something.  So the neuroscience is one of belonging; the neuroscience of being a part of something really drove my efforts and drove my success.  And I would also say I learned a ton from my colleagues, and at the same time when we got our booth uniforms, they didn’t offer women’s styles.  I wanted to wear it, we were so proud, it is a company called Frank gates, and we were the the G’s. I wanted to wear the G’ss, I wanted to represent and the only small thing they had was this blue male sweater vest with a polo shirt. And at that time I was so proud to wear the G’s that it didn’t really occur to me, it was only later that I realized, ‘wow that was not very flattering.’  My point is that notion that it’s a process to really understand your own power, where it comes from and being able to figure out what those symbols are that represent you.  There was a time where I looked at my closet and it was dark suits, and I had this awareness of wow that’s not that’s not who I am, and that doesn’t represent my energy, and that doesn’t represent my personal brand that I am.   It just all of a sudden it felt really inauthentic and so wearing color and wearing earrings- certainly not distracting ones – I think it’s a process to figure out what that is for you. For some people it’s a piece of jewelry, for some people it’s shoes, for some people it’s Doc Martens, for some people it’s a sweater. I think it’s a process to really understand who you are and how you want to represent yourself because ultimately we make decisions about people within one fifth of a second. When we meet them. So how you show up, people will decide do I trust them, do I believe they know what they’re talking, about do I want to work with them? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink he calls it intuitive attraction or intuitive repulsion. And to what degree do I want my images and my symbols to represent who I really am? There’s a congruence there now that feels really good.

Yeah, and it can actually be a difficult balance. For me, when I was a teenager growing up I actually loved blazers and smart trousers and people used to laugh at me, they were like, ‘oh why are you dressed like, are you going to the office?’ because I was 14 while I was wearing this kind of stuff.  Anyway fly forward 15-20 years and I remember somebody saying to me, ‘hey if you if you want the engineers to relate to you better Fiona, dress down, wear a polo shirt, wear trousers stop wearing new dresses.’ And so that was a really difficult one for me in terms of, ‘okay, where am I going to get my energy from? And so there’s something there about how much how to keep yourself whilst at the same time communicating verbally and non-verbally the way your audience is communicating.

Well as a function of respect, as a function of other awareness. There are certainly people that say, I wear what I want to wear, and I think there is a certain level of authenticity required there.  I work with lots of different industries; if I show up at a high-tech company with slides and ball pits in my fine wear they aren’t going to listen to me.  At the same time, I work with the US Department of Defense, I do a lot of work just outside the Pentagon, and if I showed up in my t-shirt and my khakis or my even my funkeator boots that might not land in the same way.  So for me it’s a combination.  It’s a balance between what is authentically me and what would be respectful for my listeners, because when I’m at work with that level of power I can have the most useful thing to say – except if they’re not listening, it goes wasted, so for me it’s about them. If I’m stuck in my fancy earrings and my nice cute boots I’m in my own world and I don’t get out of my own way, so in that setting it’s really a function of respecting who you’re working with and to what degree do you want to be able to wield that power in a healthy  way for good.

What I’m hearing is showing up with ‘you’ but in a way that invites other people in.  And that’s what I love about shoes – because you can always wear cool shoes because there’s cool sneakers, there’s cool stilettos…anyway I’m a little bit biased. So just switching tracks a little bit, I know you’ve worked with a ton of women in aerospace. How have you seen women in aerospace using their power effectively?

One story comes to mind. So I started working with a company that has since been bought up by a larger aerospace conglomerate and when I started working with them they had a really tight office and a really tight operation here in the Seattle area; they had offices all over the US and globally. And there was a woman who ran the office here, she ran the show here, and she had a very distinct instinct and a really deep heart for the value of the team collaborative.  So a very technical industry, she came from Boeing, so she certainly has a lot of a very technical long-standing experience working in a very impersonal kind of industry history.  And she had a vision for a different way, and some might say it was a very feminine way. It was based on communication skills, it was based on belonging, it was based on learning from each other versus this historical experience that a lot of her team had brought which was very competitive, which was very, ‘I’m right you’re wrong,’ and very stoic in its expression. And she held to her vision and she worked with all the different kinds of teams – they were a bit of a matrix organization.  She actually took her expertise where she would go in and teach these teams how to work better together.  They were clear on the what, but not the how, and the how needed to change.  She took all of those tools we had worked on and became masterful, and I would say they were definitely the more emotionally intelligent based skills.  And so for a long time there was a lot of resistance because of old habits and she had enough strength and enough vision and enough heart and enough commitment to stay the course. And I would say that has become their secret to success and I also think it’s one of the reasons why they were so valuable to the company.

Awesome, what a great example I, hope I get to meet this lady someday, you should let her know she needs to come on my podcast!  So the things I heard you describe about the lady was she had the power coming from within herself, she had the power coming from within her heart, power from knowledge. and that being both technical knowledge and emotional intelligence knowledge. And what I really loved is what you said about power from others, power from collaboration.  So what are some ways you see that women could potentially collaborate to share their power with one another and encourage their power in the workplace?

Well in her case there were some dark times, so in her case  when you face that kind of resistance, and then when the company got bought out it certainly didn’t seem like it was supported, so there was some really dark times. So she sought support, she would call me.  We had this coaching relationship where she would call me and to ask for help.  Sometimes it was just to cough up the hairball and sometimes it was to strategize and sometimes it was for a different perspective. So I would say the first lesson is to seek sisterhood. Or Brotherhood, it doesn’t have to be another woman. Seek other people. Oftentimes those people are outside your company or outside your industry. I would say that is definitely one underutilized request or ask; we don’t seek for help, especially women who think, ‘oh if I ask for help it might mean I look weak. might look like I don’t know what I’m doing.’ We don’t get anything in this world unless we ask for it.  That’s become more and more clear to me as I’ve grown and as I’ve worked with lots of different people, and so asking for that kind of support building, those kind of relationships.   I would also say I think there’s a lot of really good activity, and I don’t know about where your listeners are working, but from my perspective there’s a lot of really good resources around mentorship and I think that has got us to a particular place. But I think what is necessary now is actually sponsorship of other women because mentorship, what I’m finding is mentorship ends up being a little bit more like, ‘I’m gonna help you become like me,’ whereas I see sponsorship as, ‘I’m going to help you become more like you…I’m gonna sponsor you because you already brings something really cool to the party.’ And so that sponsorship is a little different ask, a little different take on how we can work together.

I would also say I have a real curiosity about the animosity between generations. And so I would also say if you’ve been working in the workforce for more than a couple of years, seek out somebody who’s just joined and see what you can learn from them. Because I think, especially in the aerospace, there’s this sort of top-down, this sort of information experience, which is valuable and it’s valid, but I feel like there is an untapped resource.  It’s those people who’ve been in the industry, who have old habits and who see things in a particular, perhaps cemented sort of way, aren’t asking great questions of the new folks. And that real huge shame because they’re an untapped source of energy an untapped source of innovation and untapped source of curiosity. And so I would say it also models asking for help.

Absolutely, aerospace is very hierarchical, at least in the larger companies that I’ve seen. And so there’s often a fear to approach women that are several levels above you.  And I actually had somebody reach out to me on LinkedIn a few weeks ago and asked if I could spare a half an hour and she was so apologetic and said, ‘I don’t want to take up too much of your time.’ she was 25 and my goodness I learned so much from her, so we agreed to have a reverse mentoring relationship. So I’m helping her with her career and she’s helping me to understand her culture – she’s Latina – and it’s awesome because I’m learning about my blind spots and how I can be a better leader, and how I can support younger women better. But what really surprised me is as I showed up to my zoom call and I hadn’t done my makeup, and I was eating my breakfast and she was like, ‘oh I didn’t expect you to be this easygoing.’ And so for me I think that is a good learning point.  These women that want our help are sometimes afraid to approach us, so sometimes it is good to show up as human and because this tells these women that, ‘hey you’re just like me and maybe I can talk to you, maybe we can’t establish a friendship, maybe there is something we can both learn from one another.

Being authentic also includes really being authentic about our messiness, our humanity, and the mistakes, and the roadblocks and the challenges, and the real vulnerability.  Because I do think that there has historically been this notion that women have to be, or they have to show up, perfect.  As collected and emotionally having it all together…and

Being authentic also includes really being authentic about our messiness, our humanity, and the mistakes, and the roadblocks and the challenges, and the real vulnerability.  Because I do think that there has historically been this notion that women have to be, or they have to show up, perfect.  As collected and emotionally having it all together.

I think that’s a real shame because that is for me. And the work that I’m doing now with my clients, we’ve done a lot of work around emotional intelligence and that as a communication strategy and skill.  But what’s happening now is that we’re expanding that into what I’m calling emotional fluency, the exploration of humans.  We have this full range of emotions in our – if you can imagine like a Crayola crayon box – and most of us end up learning and being only allowed to have like the three that you get at the restaurant to color the table.  And so as both men and women expanding the fluency and expanding our crayon box to the full 64 so that we can navigate all of those different situations. And so that kind of vulnerability I think it’s gonna be necessary for us to be able to operate into the future, especially at the speed that we are going to be expected to innovate and respond and adapt, as well as be inclusive.

Absolutely, and I really love what you say about the box of colors. My opinion is that if we want people to show up more vulnerably then we also have to allow people’s humanity, people expressing their vulnerability. That they’re not always going to get it right, sometimes they may show emotions that might not be appropriate for that situation and it’s important that we allow for that humanity rather than punish people for it.  So that’s just a big thing that’s important to me.

And guess what, that also changes our brain. If we allow our emotional fluency to be expressed or explored even, what happens is it opens up our brain and allows the parts of our brain that are responsible for those insights, those aha moments. If we want to increase the volume and the quality of those innovative ideas we have to be able to access it through this particular Avenue or this particular crayon box. Because that that’s the dirty little secret of emotions and emotional fluency. It’s actually good business because it changes our brain and allows us to think in different ways, allows us to see things in

“Developing emotional fluency is what changes our brain.  It allows us to think in different ways. It allows us to see things in new and innovative ways… in places that never existed before.”

new and innovative ways, to connect dots, to create new relationships, to create new energy in places that it never existed before. So that is the work that I’m doing with my clients. Its how do we incorporate that as a business strategy especially given the quality of thinking is what we actually pay people to do.

Absolutely, yeah! Sometimes I can get so excited in the workplace I have to go lie down, then my ideas are just flowing! Well, before we wrap up today I just have a few more questions for you.  Going back to something that you said at the start and when you first started asking people about, ‘what does a woman with power mean to you,’ and we heard about   how some of the feedback that you got was not flattering…how can we move past that, how can we change those narratives. Is it a case of that we just got to ignore them, they’re out there, or do we take it on? How do we change the narrative that powerful women are X Y Z, particularly from men, well some men.

Given the cultural opening that’s happening right now, i think it’s a really big question in terms of, ‘what can I do, what is in my sphere of influence?’ And out of the gate I would start by looking at myself. I would start by looking in the mirror and saying, ‘to what degree have I invited other women to my world, to what degree have I opened my toolbox or my – I’m going old school here – my rolodex to help other women. And to what degree can I be really honest with myself and recognize when I have been jealous or not my best self. Because what we found is that women actually propagate a lot of that story, and so being kind and compassionate and offering other women grace I think is really what is in our control, as well as offering it to ourselves.  The idea of being kind to ourselves, being able to take risk, having grace, with that experience of learning and newborn baby legs, I would say is one of the best places to start. Because again, by modeling it goes to modeling what we want more of.

I thank you so much here honestly there. I totally hear we’ve all had those moments where we thought those unkind thoughts, and what I’m clear about now is that that’s generally the ego speaking. It’s our own insecurities and our own egos that lead to those thoughts, and so for me it’s a case of, ‘okay why am i having that thought, what’s really behind it, it’s not really about them, it’s about me.  And I’m not saying that I always do that and I never have these naughty thoughts but it’s proactive, it’s s a proactive action that we’ve all got to take every day.

It’s fear-based, it’s not grace based it’s not what’s possible based.  it’s definitely looking at our own self and having a real rigorous conversation about what our strengths are are and working to our own strengths. And if someone is exhibiting a quality that that is triggering us then oftentimes I’ll say, ‘wow, I want what she’s having.’  And it’s a process – like how do I learn that, how do I learn that instead of it being a threat to me?

I went to a women’s conference hosted by Merrill Lynch and I remember Tiffany Dufu was speaking and she’s the author of Drop The Ball and she’s launched this big thing called The Cru, it’s amazing. Anyway, I remember she was saying, ‘rather than stand there and envy what somebody else has go out there and create it for yourself.’ And I just thought that is just such a great piece of advice. 

What is the one piece of advice that you would give to women early in their career for dealing with the glass ceiling, how do you get through it?

Blow up the idea of a career. I think the idea of a career path is actually really passe, I don’t think that it serves us anymore at all, and especially with younger women who are coming into the workforce now. The early research is starting to point you that.   Typically I’m a genXer and so typically my generation would have like five or seven different jobs, work for five or seven different companies, and we would progress or we would move to progress, always in the same industry. I would say recognize that that is not the way of the future.  What we’re seeing now is that in partciular your new generation may have between five and seven careers in their lifetime, so instead of focusing on a career the one piece of advice tha I would offer is we have been brought up to think, ‘what are you gonna do for work, what do you want to do, what you want to do for work, what do you want to be when you grow up.’ So it was always focused around the job and then you got the job and then you built the rest of your life around that job, you lived where the job was, you probably met a partner where the job was, socialized where the job was, and the job was this maypole. And probably 15 years ago right around the time that I left my VP job and started my company I had a coach that I was working with that helped me change that value proposition…and instead of saying what kind of job, what kind of career do I want, ask what kind of life do I want and then build your work, build what you do for work around the kind of life you want. And that has been transformative, it’s been freeing, it has really been a root of my company’s success.  I’ve

Blow up the idea of a career. The idea of a career path is passé and it does not serves us anymore. Instead of asking what kind of career you want, there is a better question.

been able to say yes to things that I probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t on my career path, if it didn’t make sense toward that ceiling. And so it really it just blew it right up because I was more interested in the kind of life I wanted…and then the good news about that is that that also can involve – now that I’m pushing middle-age which I’m proud of – I’m at a place in my life it’s like ‘whoa, what do I want my life to look like now.  And building my life, building the work, building the clients that I work with around the kind of life I want.  So yeah I would say that that would be my offering, my one piece of advice is actually blow up the idea of a career and spend more time and energy thinking about, and planning for, and designing the kind of life you want…and then putting your job as part of that.

 What I love about that is that that way the ceiling, the glass ceiling, is then what you say it is, not what everybody else says it is and then that’s what you’ve got to get through. Because it’s different for everyone

Exactly, yeah, I remember somebody said, ‘well, you gotta play their game,’ and I felt my whole body just contract like , ugh, I don’t want that, I don’t want to play their game.  What kind of life do I want? I don’t want to play a game, I want to have a life, and that was a real interesting shift for me, one that I would strongly offer to your listeners.

Yeah, play it your way! Love that!  Well, Shelley I can imagine for weeks after listening to this women are gonna be saying ‘I’m gonna play it my way,’ and they got some really amazing advice. And thank you for sharing your heart with us today as well.  Some of the things you’ve been sharing is really deep stuff, and you’ve been a great model of what it means to be a Leading Lady, so thank you for joining us. I am so excited for this podcast to go live and I can’t wait to meet some of those amazing women you spoke about.

Well I’m excited to see how far and wide you take, it’s a great message and I’m really proud of you and I’m so honored to be a guest on your podcast. So thank you so much for having me!

About Shelley

We speak about leadership and performance as if they are self-evident.  We ask our leaders and our teams to be adaptive. But what does that really mean? How do we develop them? How do we hire for them? How do we embed them in our people and organizational strategy? What do our leaders and our teams have to learn – and unlearn – to build organizations that have the capacity to adapt, lead and perform well?

Shelley Roberts and her company, StrategyClicks, helps answer these questions. Shelley is a contagious and respected business consultant with over 20 years’ experience in the people side of performance. She is known for her energy, her great questions, and her disarmingly fun approach to working with leaders and teams in Fortune 100 companies, non-profits, and government agencies like the US Department of Defense, to create environments where people can produce results that matter. 

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