Wendy Hanson 0:24
Welcome. It's so nice to have you all here with us today. Today's show is so important. And we just finished watching the Olympics. And we learned some big lessons from the Olympics. So we're going to talk about why can't more leaders be like Simone Biles? So I have a fantastic guest here today, who is a a friend of mine from California. We've known each other for a long time. I saw the blog on LinkedIn and said, Oh my god, this is so relevant. So let me tell you about Denise Purcell because I'm so happy she's here with us. Denise for so is the CEO of the thought leadership lab, where she works with leaders on their journey to become thought leaders. Denise has dedicated her career to advancing women leaders. She is the founding CEO of the forum for women entrepreneurs now watermark and the co founder of springboard enterprises, the woman's startup Launchpad that has led to over $10 billion in funding for women entrepreneurs. Denise is the author of the best selling book ready to be a thought leader. And her LinkedIn learning course on becoming a thought leader has been viewed by more than 200,000 learners around the world. Welcome, Denise. It's so great to have you here.
Denise Brosseau 1:44
Oh, great to hang out with you again, Wendy.
Wendy Hanson 1:47
Yes, yes. And we had some fun prep call. And we're gonna have a fun podcast for everyone. Because the relevancy of this is just amazing. So this started Denise, because you wrote such a terrific blog post on LinkedIn. Why can't more leaders be like Simone Biles, and it really caught my attention and apparently caught the attention of a lot of people? What inspired you to write that start from the beginning?
Denise Brosseau 2:14
You know, like you, this pandemic has left us with new habits. And one of my habits, interestingly, has been watching more sports, right? This is not something I used to do. But of course, I watched Naomi Osaka step away this summer from the French Open. And then we come to the Olympics, and we see Simone Biles step away from performing in the gymnastics. And it really struck me, the reaction to both of these women right here are two young women who the entire world is watching the spotlight is staring at them. And they both chose themselves over expectations. They both chose their own priorities, their own health, their own mental health, over the beliefs that you must, whatever it is, and the you know, reflecting on those experiences, really got me to thinking about settings in corporate America, where people don't do that, right, they choose to keep going, despite the fact that they're out of their depth, they choose to keep going despite the fact that they are completely losing their stuff. Right. And, and, and the incredible impact that it has on those of us who experienced that. And, you know, I'm an executive coach, I work with senior leaders. And I'm going to tell you during COVID, I've heard some terrible stories about how people are losing their stuff at work, and really impacting their employees who are my clients in negative ways. And so I kind of brought it all together by telling a story about my own experience of as a young woman working at a crazy startup where, you know, this just it was a summer internship, but the CEO was shouting and screaming at everyone from the first day I walked in the door, you know, and just kind of how I dealt with it, and how I got through it. And, and, you know, anyway, it was just fun to kind of bring all these stories together and and reflect that. I wish I had been more like Naomi, and I wish I'd been more like Simone throughout my career and hoping that others can take a lesson from their experiences.
Wendy Hanson 4:34
Yeah. And Simone and Naomi did it with such dignity and courage and, and just really stood up for themselves. It was just an amazing lesson. And grace kind of feedback. Grace, perfect word. Yeah. What kind of feedback Did you get from folks on LinkedIn and other ways? Because I know this, this really even surprised you. I think how am I How many responses you got?
Denise Brosseau 5:02
It's funny, you know, I put out regular content on LinkedIn. And of course, since my my particular area of expertise is thought leadership, I always feel it's important to walk your walk as well as talk your talk. So I, every couple of weeks I post something. And honestly, you never really sure you know, I do know that people who read it because you can see the data, but did they read it? Or do they just kind of open it right? And this time, there was no question like people called me people emailed me I would, you know, be on a zoom call, hey, I loved your post, hey, I saw your post commented, like, I really hit a nerve here. And, you know, thinking about it, you need to think about thought leadership in general, if you can tie what you're talking about to something in the moment, of course, it is going to get more attention. And if Simone Biles, you know, the world is watching this young woman who is a superstar. And so of course, it was during the Olympics that I wrote it, it was right after, so it was very timely. And I think third, it was very personal. Like I told this personal story about my own experience. And I think those together, allowed this one to break out in a way that many of my other posts now I'm sure some people reading, because I know a few. I got a few 1000 people, viewers, but this one was very different. And and I think also, given the moment that there is this experiences I'm seeing in which the stress level in this country and around the globe is so much higher. You know, Wendy, I heard about this Harvard study that hasn't even come out yet that in which they study, they've been studying COVID and stress. And one of the things that they are learning is that people of privilege, primarily white people's stress went up hugely during the during the COVID times the last 18 months. But interestingly enough people who brown and black people's color, people of color, their stress level, because it was already high did not go up significantly. And I reflect that so much of this is because often for the first time, people who have had everything at their fingertips whenever they wanted it, and you know, their kids could go to childcare, they could get their groceries, they can find their toilet paper, right? Suddenly, all of these things that were normal, you know, just were no longer normal, and that really discombobulated many of us. And I think that that stress level at work, also tied to this, like we are all experiencing an abnormal world. And it is impacting many people in the workplace in ways that are not pretty. So I think it was also talking about that, you know, holding up the mirror to some bad behaviors that are going on out there.
Wendy Hanson 7:47
Right, because some of the problems that we think we have, we always consider them first world problems, right? Yes, that's a big issue. And I and I think that study is amazing, because it does show that, you know, we've gone along pretty well. And then this really upset the applecart for what we think of as the norm and people. And other people are dealing with this on a day to day basis of color of their lives. Yes. Yeah, whether lesson Wow.
And in, I think I totally agree about your blog post that you let the personal side show about your story. And then you really made that connection between when Simone talked about the twisties, you know that she had the twisties and the twisties, in her case, not so different than in business could kill her, it could break her neck when she had the twisties and couldn't figure out where she was in the air. For anybody that wasn't closely following this, you know, she could land somewhere and really hurt herself. So it was a very, it was an important decision about self preservation. And when you think about the twisties in business, you know, you started to describe that a little bit tell me a little bit more about I think that that's going to become a word that we're going to end up using in the future.
Denise Brosseau 9:07
It's a nice shortcut, isn't it when when things are out of sorts, and you know, as her case, it was her potentially falling out our neck, breaking her back, whatever. But I find it in business that not only are we destroying potentially ourselves, but we can land like a ton of bricks on other people to when we are out of sorts when we're in our own experience of the twisties. And, and that impact can have ramifications for so many around us. So you know I mentioned in the article I have a client who she is in a big big company, very senior leader new boss came in during COVID. And this woman will literally be in a two hour meeting screaming at people for the whole two hours. And four of her colleagues her level have all quit in the last month or two and the boss is taking no responsibility for this whatsoever. And she is thinking to ourselves, like, what is some What am I doing here? Like it? Should I be staying? And and I think this is certainly an experience that I've experienced in times when thinking should I be here, like if I'm being treated this way, if this is the reality around me. And then I also reflect back on my own. You know, earlier career, I was in the technology industry for many years, you know, climbing the ladder, and I finally got to this pretty senior job running a product team running, doing international business development. And I found that for about four months, that last four months in that job, I was in the doctor's office, like every week with some pain, some problems, some all stress related, and just my body was screaming at me get the heck out of this damn place, right. And I finally quit, I went and ran this nonprofit that I had been kind of running on the side, and I ran it now full time. And I swear, within three weeks, I didn't go back to that doctor or for I was in in the doctor's office for a year or two. And I remember her saying, I barely remember your name, right? Because now I was in a place where I was happy and joyous. And, and it was exactly what I wanted to be doing with my life. And so I think, to my clients, I think to myself, now our body will tell us, when we have the twisties, our body will tell us when others in the office environments twist, these are impacting us, and we need to, we need to walk away, like we need to find something else, even if it isn't the first, you know, even if we thought this was our dream job, or even if we thought this is going to lead to something amazing, money wise, or, or opportunity wise, sometimes it's just not enough. There isn't enough money in the world to put up with the physical impact that it can have on you. And I I really want to invite people that kind of pay attention to those messages that are up and coming loud and clear.
Wendy Hanson 11:55
Right. And I don't always think that the cause and effect of when we're feeling that terrible stress anxiety, I heard a story from somebody recently, who was feeling all that went to the doctor, they did all these tests, you know, they looked at everything, and there was nothing and it was finally, then the answer was, wow, it must be stress. And I think making that connection is really hard for folks, you know, to say, it must be something else going on, because it can't be stress. But we we really have to, to look at that so closely. Wow.
Denise Brosseau 12:28
I used to kiddingly say, you know, when I did a lot of career coaching years ago, I used to say that I could find my potential clients in doctors offices in Silicon Valley, because when it finally gets bad enough, I that can't find anything else. Like maybe I got a look at what I'm doing. nine by nine, nine to five, nine to nine every day, maybe it's time to get the heck out of dodge. And so yes, I think that is true. The doctors know before we do,
Wendy Hanson 12:55
Yeah, yeah. And when we're at work, how do we find our voice? Like Simone found her voice, you know, that we were feeling all this? We feel the pressures, we don't want to disappoint people, you know, how do we go about doing that? What advice would you give to folks?
Denise Brosseau 13:11
Well, I think that the still small voice internally is is so important to listen to, and it can get drowned out by all the expectations like on Simone around us. But you have to ask yourself, like, is this what work is meant to be? Is it meant to be physically debilitating? Is it meant to be mentally debilitating? Or is it meant to just be a job? Right? You know, do they really pay you enough for what you're being put through? And I you know, I get this as a privilege question. A lot of people don't have the opportunity to walk away from a good job of any kind. And yet, when you see the data out there that says what is it 1/3 of people are looking for a new job right now it's think you have to people are questioning is, is it okay for others to treat me like this? Is this behavior around me something I want to be in further for a longer time? And secondly, am I starting to internalize these messages? Am I starting to as I know, some of my clients have done you know, I helped one of my clients just recently get into a bigger better job and and she's I feel like she's in recovery right now. Because this last place her last boss was so mean and so dismissive. And so you know, just did not treat her with respect that she's kind of looking over her shoulder awaiting in this new place for someone to disrespect her and waiting for someone to dismiss her and, and that internalized messaging can last for a long time, that recovery can be difficult and painful. So I have a guest that you know if if there's physical or mental health challenges, and there's any other option, even if it's not as good, career wise or money wise, it might be time to say enough.
Wendy Hanson 14:58
We had to company in these in the last 24 hours reach out and ask us about doing some training on emotional intelligence. And I think it's, it's like, that is a little cue there, you know, that is that there are teams that are needing this. And we're and it's that lack of emotional intelligence that I don't understand what my you know, the impact and then for for women especially, we want to power through things, you know, mind over matter, I can get through this. And we know that this stress is bad. And when you have somebody on your team, what are some of the telltale signs, Denise that, you know, you're you're, you're thinking that something is a little bit off with somebody, what do you see, because I'm sure you've seen this a lot in your clients.
Denise Brosseau 15:45
Yeah, and, and even in my own work settings over the years, it's a little harder with COVID, right, because if you're in a work environment, a typical office, you start to see patterns, you start to see behaviors, the person, you know, whatever they do during the day, but now suddenly, that's all been disrupted, and you're seeing everybody only on zoom, and you really have no idea what their life is like, you have no idea if their kid is screaming, you know, they just, they have no place to work, I saw this wonderful picture of a woman working on a ironing board in the corner, you know, because she had no office because our kids needed that space. So you, we don't want to ask too many personal questions, because we don't want to be intrusive. So So I guess part of it is actually asking how are you doing? and stopping and listening, stopping and actually listening to what the person is saying? And not saying? And then secondly, saying, Is there anything I can do to support you? And actually meaning it right? This isn't just, Hey, how's it going? Next? Do we do we take that time on a regular basis, and not in a big group setting where everybody is gonna say, I'm fine, it's fine. Everything's fine. I used to kid I had a girlfriend, the boss, she said, everything's fine, the less fine it actually was. So I think that that's also true with your employees. Let's, let's actually think about those queues, right? Yeah. And look for those queues. Are they disheveled? Are they do they have darker and darker circles, but then don't shame them? Like I was in a setting recently, even just last year, where I was obviously very tired. And I was in I am in a setting where that was becoming known as a ball. And rather than kind of take me aside, the person I was working with just kind of called it out in front of me, hey, Denise, you're looking really tired, what's going on over there? It was like, whoa. So that doesn't give me permission to let someone in as to what's really happening. And, you know, with COVID, with all the deaths, and the isolation and all of the things, this is an even more important time to dial up the EQ over the IQ and and think about, what is it that you could be actually doing to help?
Wendy Hanson 17:56
And I love how, you know, asking that question, you said, How can I support you, and then pausing, I think we rushed through things, and that pause of waiting to see somebody. And also we run into this in terms of knowing the folks that we're coaching, to know a little bit about them to know like, Who are your family members? Are you responsible for taking care of an older parent, you know, those types of things. Because when you know that you can check in and say, so how's your mom doing? You know, and sometimes you can, without being too personal. But if you don't know anything about somebody where their life is centered, and some folks that we've asked this question to be like, Oh, I wouldn't want to ask that of my team members, that would be too personal. But if we don't know people's context, especially as you said, during this time of COVID, and we're seeing everybody just on zoom, we're not going to be able to pick up some of those signs, you know, it's just, we're not going to be able to give them the help that they want, and then that they don't even maybe know they want, and then we're going to get a resignation. Because we're going to get somebody that that really, we could have helped to make their life better. And we didn't do it, because we didn't know because we didn't, we didn't stop and pause, ask the right questions and get the right information.
Denise Brosseau 19:16
And that jumped to some conclusion. You know, I see this a lot with young young people, if first job you know, the impact that had somebody has when they somebody shows up late and they immediately say this is a bad worker, versus Hey, what's going on with you? Not that hard to ask these questions, but it is harder to listen and do something about it.
Wendy Hanson 19:35
Right. Right. And how do we manage expectations at work? You know, like there's a big expectation and, and I don't want to blame Silicon Valley, but I think a lot of it's come from there. That there's a Oh, you have you have unlimited vacation policy, you know, unlimited vacation, yet you really can't take vacation. There are some unknown Written things that happen, and how do we manage these expectations at work and figure out how to take time off and how to how not to feel like we're being judged all the time.
Denise Brosseau 20:12
You know, I, I always tell this story of this young woman I met, I used to do a lot of work for one of the big four accounting firms. And I did a lot of work with a young women leaders and one woman told this story one day about what she called her wedding lesson. She said she was getting married, and she started telling people like, six, eight months before I'm going to be getting married in May, I'm going to be taking a month off, I'm getting married in May, I'm taking a month off, she said, this regularly would, you know, to let people know, let people know. And then you know, about a month before she started putting it in her email signature, she started, you know, making sure everybody knew what the backup plan, like if you're working on this, you call this person if you're working on this, like everybody knew. So she goes off on our honeymoon has a lovely time. Nobody calls her nobody bothers her. has her month off, it's great. Comes back a few months later, she heading out on vacation. It's a trip that she had in the works for a couple of weeks. But you know, maybe she remembered to tell her boss once but of course, her boss had forgotten. And that week, the end comes and she's trying to get out of the office early. And they're like, What are you talking about you I didn't know you were taking a four day weekend. And you know, I need you to work on X and how come you haven't who's going to back up and she didn't have a backup plan. She didn't have it on her calories. And she said that was really her own lesson. She's like, I need to be thoughtful, I need to be a communicative I need to be have the backup plan A, B and C, I need to have a and I need to be determined to get the heck out of there, right? That this sense that if we say I'm going on vacation, and then I don't go or if we get paid for weeks of vacation, and we don't take it. We're not allowing ourselves to be more and more stressed and overwhelmed. And, and not that interesting, because we haven't been anywhere. So we have nothing to done anything. That's another problem. Who wants to work with somebody who hasn't taken a break. So maybe you're taking a vacation for someone else. But if we don't stick to our guns, like if we don't make a plan, and we don't follow through on it and make it communicate, communicate, communicate? So I guess those are my lessons is really learning the wedding lesson from this gal. And it's been kind of how I've done it since.
Wendy Hanson 22:25
Yeah, and and learning not only to set our own boundaries, but listen to our own needs, like those kind of go hand in hand. But you know, how do we really do that at work? And it does take that thoughtfulness of the wedding lesson of you know that you did it so well the first time because it felt like a very long vacation so that you kind of let the ball drop a little bit on the next time who's covering.
Denise Brosseau 22:50
Yeah, but even as leaders, we need to be doing it. When I was reading my nonprofit years ago, I was so happy doing what I was doing. So I was working all the time. But my team, yeah, this wasn't their dream job necessarily, right. And, and at one point, I got some feedback from people like we are even afraid to ask to go to the dentist because you never stop working. And I like, oh, what I am modeling isn't what I want to be modeling either like I need to get out of here, I need to go work from somewhere else, if I'm going to keep working, go work somewhere where they don't see this. Don't keep sending emails at four in the morning, don't keep working all weekend and expecting everyone else to show up or stay late. There was no need for this kind of behavior. And this is what we do, right? If we're going 150 miles an hour, we're type A, it's bringing it down on everyone around us.
Wendy Hanson 23:44
And and we all know this, that the leader is the model. And so if we have to be so careful, I worked with this salesperson who I it was a very fast paced company, and I really admired this man. And he said, I will never send an email on the weekend, you know, he'll use something so that the emails go out on Monday morning, he said, because then everybody thinks I have to constantly be checking my phone, because the boss sends out emails on the weekend, while the boss sends out at 11 o'clock at night, we really do have a responsibility. And now I think more than ever how to take how to help people take care of themselves. And to model that that time that we step away is really going to make us a better person and a better leader to follow like I don't want to work for that person who's I don't want to be like that tax. Right. That's not my role model. And I think that's what we need. And and you know, I think as women it even gets multiplied how that how that works out, you know? Yeah, because I'm trying to compete tough out. Yeah, yeah, right. We're trying to ever matter in the game. You know, we want people to know that we're in the game, and hopefully this will change. I was just coaching someone Whoo hoo, just she's been trying to get out of her job, which has been very stressful. She finally found a new position. And she said, they have four weeks vacation, and you must take it. She says, and they're close between Christmas and New Year's. She was like, near tears of like, I can't believe this. And, and I don't think until that time, she really realized what an impact this other like that I couldn't really take vacation that everything is on my shoulders was having on her until that point where they said, No, you must take four weeks like that's it. That's a given.
Denise Brosseau 25:39
Wonder what kind of you know what kind of shift those leaders of that organization had to bake throughout their career that they got there? I bet they didn't start out there.
Wendy Hanson 25:48
Right. Right. You made another comment. I don't know if this was if this was right, in the LinkedIn profile. I think it was after you had done the initial blog. It was watching Simone when she came back and complete that final balance being exercise that was so wonderful to see her win the bronze medal. Talk about that, because that really impacted you. And it wasn't about the medal it was what was it about for you,
Denise Brosseau 26:15
it really wasn't about the medal. But boy, you know, first of all, everybody showed up, even though there was no buddy who was supposed to be in the stands, like everybody from all the other athletes showed up for that performance. And when she got off that balance beam, it was like, she lit up like a Christmas tree, it was such a joy to see her whole body, exuding happiness to feel that level of accomplishment for something. To me, that's what leadership looks like. Right? If we can have a sense of that accomplishment, a sense of, of achieving things for ourselves, not because the world is watching, not because the you know, there's this expectation, I'm going to let everybody else down. That had been before she said she wanted to be doing this for her. And, and I think that's what she when we saw her at the end, it was Yes, she modified her dismount. Yes, you know, she waited till the last very last moment before she could compete. But she did it. She got up there. And she competed. And she successfully got off safely. And, and I think to myself, that is should be what we're looking to not the person who killed themselves, not the person who, you know, went out and performed on a broken ankle or not the person who know was practically in tears because their body broke down or whatever it might be that we did see also during the Olympics, but instead, here's a person who, who found the joy of competing for the sake of of excellence for the sake of achieving a dream of her own in doing it on our own terms. I would hope that for all of us, yeah.
Wendy Hanson 27:56
Yeah. And many times, I didn't even think she was going to come back in again and compete. And that was okay to, you know, yeah, she made that decision. I was actually surprised at the end, because I thought, you know, you don't need to do this. And she figured out how to do it on her terms, which I think is what you're talking about with the twisties at work, how do we do it on our terms a little bit more? And how do we as leaders, make sure that we take care of the people and model for them? What taking care of yourself looks like? Absolutely. Oh, forward? Yeah.
Denise Brosseau 28:31
If I could wish for anything out of this Olympics experience? I think it is all of that. We spend hours watching these athletes who've spent their entire lives preparing for these moments. And are we taking away the you know, that's the lesson that you have to win? Are you taking away? That other race that I loved was the 1500 meters where here's a woman all the way in the back and somebody in front of her falls, she steps over them and falls but they get up and she goes on to surpass everyone and win the race and you're like, watching her? Like, how did that even happen? And yet, again, that was the the messages I hope we hold on to the people helping each other up the people coming from behind even after they fall in the people who overcome the twisties and get to that moment of excellence and achievement. Because it's on their terms. I hope all of us can say as leaders that we can do those things that we could do this in a way that supports others as well and isn't all about us. It isn't all about the gold medal, but it is instead about finding our own sense of personal achievement and accomplishment and taking others along with us.
Wendy Hanson 29:45
Yes, and taking others along this journey. And we are so fortunate in many ways for for many, many reasons. But compared to the Olympics, if you spent all these years for this one moment, and you put all your eggs in that basket For this one moment how tough that is, we have many opportunities all the time to say, I'm going to make a better decision today, or I'm going to do something else with my team today, or I'm going to make sure I take care of myself today. You know that that old, that old saying that we use all the time, like you have to put your oxygen mask on first, before you can help anybody else who's on the plane. And I think that's a lesson for business that we always need to remember.
Denise Brosseau 30:27
Absolutely, Wendy, and I'm so glad to hear all of what you're doing out there supporting people around the globe, this is this is the work right that as we are more experienced, that we can help the next generation and folks really find their way to becoming the leaders they want to be instead of the potentially negative lessons that they might have heard or seen along the way.
Wendy Hanson 30:48
Yeah. And we learn that as you do all the time in coaching, you know, sometimes it just takes, how do I get into this difficult conversation? Like, let's brainstorm some ways to start the conversation so that I can let somebody know that this is really a problem, or this isn't working for me, I had one of those this morning with someone. And and then when it when it clicks, it's like, Ah, yeah, now I can do it. And I think we have such a opportunity and responsibility, you know, as executive coaches, and you know, we've got hundreds all over the world that are really trying to help people make a difference. Because at work, it's really about if you can, if you're happier at work, if you feel supported, you will be more productive. We don't have to push to make people more productive, like how do I how do I get people to do something? That's not the right question, how do I support them? So they feel like they're able to move in the right direction. And I think that's, that's the gift that we can do with managers and leaders and get people on the right path, because life is too short. You got to make sure we're taking care of things.
Denise Brosseau 31:56
Absolutely true, and a few strategies and having a safe place to come and talk about these. Yeah. I really love that. You and I are both getting to do this work.
Wendy Hanson 32:05
Yes, yes. Well, I know people are gonna want to reach out to you and learn more about what you're up to. So can you give them some what's the best place to find you? Denise says, as we go forwards,
Denise Brosseau 32:18
Sure I that ThoughtLeadershipLab.com is the best place. So thought leadership lab.com. And that my LinkedIn learning course is a great place to start as well. And it's called becoming a thought leader. And I'm hoping to spread that as often and as widely as well as I can.
Wendy Hanson 32:37
Great, great. Well, we will spread this widely, too, because people need to hear these messages. And we all need to look at ourselves as How can I be a better thought leader today? You know what, wherever you're leading, whether it's a small team or whether it's a big organization, and how do I use my emotional intelligence to make the right decisions and support people that are with me.
Denise Brosseau 32:59
That's the work.
Wendy Hanson 33:00
That's the work. Yes. Well, thank you so much. Thank you for the time to be with us today. And we'll get this out in the world because this is a message and thank you Simone Biles, we honor you for the role model that you are co question.
Denise Brosseau 33:15
Thank you, Wendy. Such a pleasure to see you.
Wendy Hanson 33:18
Take care everyone, have a great day and make it fun and go support somebody. Bye bye.