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Episode 13:

Innovation with Optimism

Rachel Anderson


On Episode 13 of The Upstream Leader, Heath Alloway talks to Rachel Anderson, director of the efactory, about innovation and the importance for leaders to embrace it. She discusses her own leadership journey, the process-driven nature of innovation, and how conquering micro-goals can lead to bigger, better developments.

About the Guest

Rachel Anderson has over fifteen years of leadership and management experience gained from working in multiple sectors. She joined Missouri State University in 2015 and currently serves as the Director of the efactory, an innovation, entrepreneurship, and business resource center. She is also the manager for Shaun Munday, a soul musician.

Rachel is the cofounder of Rosie, an organization that supports, assists, and serves as an advocate network for current and prospective female founders, business owners and leaders in the Greater Springfield area.

Previously, Rachel was the head of marketing and business development for a global consulting firm based in Los Angeles. She used extensive Lean and Six Sigma principles and results-driven processes to produce value impact for clients. Services included: executive search, human capital consulting, board placement, market intelligence and talent mapping. Clients spanned a broad range of sectors, industries, and fields from private equity to automotive.

Highlights / Transcript

Hello, and welcome to The Upstream Leader podcast. I’m Heath Alloway, your host for today’s episode, and I’m excited about our conversation. I’m not only excited, I’m maybe a little nervous as well. My first several episodes, I had people that I had a long term relationship with: some family members, some long term friends, some professionals that I worked for several years with. But today’s guest, it’s someone that I know, and I’ve interacted with some, but I’ve not spent a lot of time with her yet. And I will say after my interactions, I believe Rachel will bring a lot to the conversation; she’ll bring a lot to the table.

So I am excited to have Rachel Anderson with us today. She is a director of the efactory, and it is a business resource center that is part of Missouri State University. She is also the co-founder of Alumni Spaces, a tech startup company, and the manager of Shaun Munday, a solo musician. So Rachel has a very diverse background, which I’m excited about. And prior to that Rachel was the head of marketing for a global executive search firm based out of Los Angeles, and she also had various roles with fundraising, governmental relations, alumni relations, and recruiting. So as you can tell, Rachel does have a lot of experience in a lot of diverse areas. So Rachel, welcome to the show.

Oh, thank you so much for having me! And I’m excited to be your wildcard here today. So thanks for taking a risk on me.

I like the wild card idea. Rachel, as I was reading your bio, I’m sitting here thinking, “This sounds like a great journey.” And considering many of our guests may not know you as well, we’re going to take a couple minutes, we’re gonna do something a little different, we’re going to dig a little deeper into your background, and just provide our listeners with an opportunity to get to know you a little better. So I’m going to call this our “speed round.” That’s going to be our rapid fire question, rapid fire answers. And some may be towards professional, some maybe from things that you like. So Rachel, right out of the gates, what is your favorite hobby?

Oh, goodness, favorite hobby? Probably asking questions. Can that be a hobby, learning new things?

It can! I like that. That ties into our topic today around innovation. So I like that. What’s your favorite Netflix series?

Oh, goodness, I am really into kind of like crime, which maybe is weird. So any new kind of crime docu series, I try to watch at least for the first five to ten minutes and see if it seems interesting.

Well Rachel, I think you and my wife Emily would get along very well in that area cuz she, she leans that same way, as well. So a couple more, Rachel: What was your favorite subject in school as you were growing up?

Probably English or math? I think it kind of depended. So math earlier on, math and science, and then kind of got into high school and really went into English and debate and psychology a little bit more.

Good mix. So, Rachel, last one, I promise, and then we’ll get into our discussion: What is the number one trait you view as a strong leader?

Yeah. I really think empathy. You know, I think for a leader, they really have to understand and be able to relate to, a lot of different people and situations and walks of life. And once you truly understand and have a passion, and an understanding of what that person or situation may be, yeah, I think you can relate better, and that makes you a better leader.

Yeah. 100% empathy and perspective of being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s a pretty powerful tool, especially even tied to our topic around innovation in the community today. So Rachel, as I’ve worked with you and had some conversations, I’d like to just for our listeners, to have a little more insight. So in two minutes or less, what has really made you the leader that you are today?

Yeah, well, first off, thanks. Thanks for calling me a leader. So that’s a nice compliment! I thought about this a little bit, you know. I’ve been asked this question quite a few times, and it’s like, you know, “What makes you who you are?” And I really think it’s the fundamental education piece, right? So both of my parents were originally teachers and educators, so grew up in a household where I was never told, you know, the way to think, but always challenged to come up with my own opinion. Went through the Springfield Public School system, you know, the largest school district in the state of Missouri. The IB program was pretty new so I was in the early years where again, they really trained you to think about how you got to your answer, what your opinion was, and then back it up with facts. And then also was really involved in speech and debate. And so for me, I look at everything through an education lens that truly can then create opportunity and experiences, and I think that’s always given me my problem solver mentality, you know?

So I never exactly knew what I wanted to do and and honestly still don’t, but as long as you can solve, you know, problems and think about the world that way, it lends itself well to optimism, in trying to make each day better than the last. Also, you know, when I answered math and science, right? I also have critical thinking skills that go along with that so you know, oftentimes I end up being a hardcore realist, but still an eternal optimist. So you know, that makes the conversations in my head pretty fun.

But you know, I think it ties back really to empathy, right? So if you can relate to more people, think about the situation they’re coming from, you can come up with a better solution to the problem that really solves what everyone’s going through.

So in a sense, you’re always focused on learning and ongoing learning, which I think is a great mindset. See, if I reflect on on our profession, sometimes people see making partner the journey, but really, that’s just part of the journey. And when the journey begins, and no matter whether it’s life or a career or relationships, I think that mindset of the curiosity, and always learning—it’s a pretty powerful tool that can really lead to strong leadership.

It’s kind of the concept of “You don’t know everything, you’re never gonna know everything, and you’re always having a continuous viewpoint on getting better and better.” So Rachel, even just in the few minutes we’ve talked today, and in our past conversations, it’s very clear to me that you have a great passion for what you do. I can, even talking about your past, I can see that—you’re smiling as you’re talking about that. And I believe in any organization, any firm, any business, whatever it may be—part of that strong culture is having an impact on others and having an impact on community. And Rachel, can you just give us a maybe a little more insight on, we talked a bit about you having a pretty diverse background, but give us a little insight on just what a typical day looks like for you in your own career.

Yeah, so they’re all different—every day is different. I am a big you know, process, calendar, schedule person. So I really like everything to be laid out. And then I’m also one of those people—I like that you say “diverse background.” I’m going to have to start using that and sort of have lots of different interests and don’t know what I want to do. So I’ll go with diverse background. But really, it’s you know, how much can I cram into a day? So you know, how do I make every minute matter but then also not overextend myself to where I don’t get anything done.

So you still have to have working or creative time, but I schedule it. And then I really live by my calendar. Now of course things change, right? So then how do I adapt to that day? So you know, somebody walks in off the street has a question that really needs some assistance that day, like how do I shift gears? But I really just try to be present in every moment of anything that I do and focus on what’s in front of me at the moment.

So Rachel, the thought of being present—if you look at today’s world, and the distractions and everything that’s going on, whether social media, media, whatever it may be, we are surrounded by constant distractions. One thing that you said that I loved was your intentionality around process and scheduling and the bigger part of that is just being present. And that is something that you know, just personally, I’ve tried to focus more on, whether you know, it’s that work-life rhythm, and whenever I’m at home being present there so any advice on just the thought of being present, and how do you keep those distractions you know, out of your day to day? Because I think that’s so important when especially in a remote world, where people are, you know, we’re focused on culture—some, you’re not in the office. Whatever it may be, I think it’s probably even more critical to be present. So any advice you have there for our listeners, and maybe just even the impact it’s had on on you personally? I love that thought.

Yeah, so I think I’m still trying to figure this out on a daily basis, right? If I had it figured it out, I would probably write a book and sell it and maybe make a lot of money, or you know, who knows what, right? So it’s a perpetual thing to me, and I look at everything like that, right? Like if I had it all figured out, then what is my you know, task for tomorrow?

So I really take the mindset or the mantra of when you say yes to something, it means you’re saying no to something else. So whether it’s you know, back to economics, and you’re learning about opportunity cost, or you only have so much time in the day, or if I am going to work later, then maybe that means, you know, I’m not spending as much time with my family or my dog, but then maybe I take time off on that Friday and go do something else differently. And so I think it’s really what I say yes to, again, means that I’m saying no to something else.

And so again, it’s if I’m meeting with somebody it’s not that I’m distracted by you know the 5,000 other things that’s going on, or that you know my emails popping up, or you know, social media messages that are going on. And I often think back to you know, growing up, right? LLike my parents both had you know, pretty demanding things that kept them from being involved and things at the same time, but I don’t remember it that way, right? Like I remember them having dinner with me all the time I remember when they came to my soccer games and you know cheering me on and all of that too, and I think that’s intentional, right? So you pick what you go to, you pick what you attend, you pick how you’re present in conversations and relationships, you pick what, you know, outreach you do, and I think all of that just really important so that intentionality and saying yes, but then also saying no to things because you can’t do it all.

Well if you’re not present it to me at the losing game because in your work thinking about the things you need to do at home and then your your home thinking about things need to do at work and it’s just a, it’s a never ending battle. And again, I don’t think there’s a perfect answer to that. It’s situational to maybe different times in your life, and it’s I don’t think anyone has that perfect answer. But I love the thought of the intentionality and just the thought of being present whenever you do commit to doing something.

So Rachel, we’re gonna shift gears here a little bit. We’re gonna actually get into our topic of today around innovation and being an entrepreneur. And one of the things that I’ve seen whether it’s the accounting profession, other professions—innovation, it’s something that I could probably spend all day talking to you about this… or at least several hours. And I think most people, they hear the word innovation—they know it’s important, they know things are changing—but if you were to ask 10 or so different people what innovation means to them they might describe it in a whole different light.

I don’t think it’s just a buzzword. It’s something that’s always been here. Things have always been changing. So, you know, part of the hurdle whenever we’re looking at doing something new, or developing a new business, or developing a new service—part of the problem is, maybe there’s a misconception around what innovation is. Or maybe a misconception on how it happens. Innovation—it doesn’t have to be a new invention. So Rachel, from your involvement, the organizations you work with, the things that you do, how would you define—we’re gonna set the foundation—how would you define innovation for our listeners?

Yeah, so just as exciting as the word innovation is to some people, I know it’s equally scary. So innovation, to me, really is, how do you solve a problem, and how do you make improvements? And also giving that power to the people that understand the minutiae of the details and can come up with good solutions, and having them empowered and having the processes in place where they could make change. And really that’s a lot of you know, what Jack Stack talks about with open book management and, you know, playing The Great Game of Business—it’s how do you create that culture?

So Rachel, one of the things I’ve observed a lot, too—this goes several years—that a lot of times there are people, maybe they’re one or two or three years into their career, there are a lot of really good ideas sitting in the minds of you know, people in the community, people in the business, whatever it may be. Maybe they’re just holding back because they’re afraid to go to their supervisor, or their boss, or managing partner—whatever it may be. They’re a little hesitant because they’re afraid it’s gonna sound stupid or, “My idea is not gonna get any traction.” But they could be sitting there on you know, a very big idea, possibly like the million dollar thought. So what advice would you have for anyone, that they do want to make a difference either in the community or in their career? What advice would you have for them to tap into that idea and to really try to get that ball rolling?

Yeah, so this is hard, right? So a lot of times it comes down to the person. And so, you know, oftentimes, you know, in school or in your early career, depending on who you work for, and what their background is, you know, you’re either taught to learn the ropes and then this is you know, the committee you suggest things to, and then it goes through these other three committees and then it gets adopted as the strategic plan and you know, sometimes there’s processes along the way that sort of take that innovation willpower, or ideas, or suggestions, out to you. And so I think it’s it’s equally the person with the idea, but then also the leader.

So it’s not, you know, just a top-down approach, and it’s not just a bottom-up approach, but it’s both so how do you, as a manager, as a leader, create that culture where it’s okay to come up with ideas, it’s okay to not always do everything perfectly. But how do you then also create the processes so it’s not where something goes on a year and is a total failure, but you didn’t catch that early, you know? So how do you have those KPIs? And how do you have those check-ins? But how do you also have the freedom to come up with something?

And so I think for individuals, you’re going to get told “no” a lot, right? So don’t be afraid of no. But how do you keep suggesting ideas or things? You know, oftentimes, I’m told “no” all the time. And so then that means like, maybe that’s not the right person, maybe that’s not the right time, or maybe I didn’t frame that correctly. So what do I not know, in this scenario, and how can I do better or approach it differently? And so I think it really is both and and you have to keep doing it.

Rachel, I’m gonna ask a couple questions on some of your comments that really stuck out. And you kind of alluded to the thought of failure or hearing the word “no,” or maybe something doesn’t work out. What’s your view on failure? ‘Cause I think sometimes you as a business or as a professional, we’re worried that failure will define us. I guess, I’m not going to share my view on it yet. But I want to hear how you view failure?

Yeah, um, I don’t really like the word.

Me either!

Yeah. And I don’t really ever consider anything a failure, too, right? And it doesn’t bother me. So I think I’ve tried to take the meaning out of the word. So I moreso just think of it as something that we tried, it wasn’t, you know, perfect, or wasn’t the right way to do it, so what did we learn from? So maybe we didn’t have the right target audience, or maybe our pricing was wrong, or maybe the process to do it took too long. So it’s like this approach—something in that idea was probably good, right? So how do we take you know the intent of it, but package it differently, do it differently, and just reach more people and have a better impact? And so when I think you look at things like that, it creates the freedom, then, to have innovation or to have new suggestions, instead of just like “that was a failure.”

I look at it more as something I learned, because if you don’t ever try something, you’re never going to learn anything, right? And so then you’re never going to get better. And so if somebody has everything figured out, and doesn’t make mistakes, they’re probably also not doing what they should be doing, or reach the potential that they could, or make the impact that they could, either personally or professionally. And so look at the people that are willing to take risks. Of course, manage risk. I’m not saying just do anything. Good research and good market data, and all that goes into it, too. But those are the people that are truly going to be able to make an impact and be are high performers and create change

I think it goes back to your background. And what you shared early on, it was just the mindset of the concept of you’re always learning and I love that approach to an idea of you don’t view it as failure, you continue to learn from it. And then you learn and get better every step of the way.

And one other thing you said, this goes back to one of your earlier comments too, around intentionality with your time and making space. We live in a very, which, whether it’s true, or we create our own time crunch, but we’re all pressed for time. Everyone’s busy. I hate the thought of “How’s everything going?” “Well I’m busy.” I mean, I just, I’ve used that answer, and I always catch myself, and I think, “Why did I just say that?”

But what advice would you have because we experienced forced change over the past year and a half, two years. Some change was probably good, some maybe not as good. So innovation: it’s happening whether we like it or not. So I view this as an opportunity to be proactive. So going back to your comments about being intentional with your time, making space—any advice you would have to our listeners on, how do you make time, how do you make space to focus on the innovation aspect? Where you might not see immediate results, but it could have a major impact three, four or five years down the road?

Yeah. So this is something I always struggle with, and I’ve really gamified my life, which this may sound really lame to some people, or it may work for others. But you know, everything I do, I really do try to maximize every minute, right? So that’s probably a problem I have myself. But if it’s, I need to make five new phone calls to then create new leads, it’s “How do I get on and off the phone in two minutes?” Or whatever it is that I give myself. And then I use that as my parameter. Or you know, I might seem extroverted, but I’m also super intimidated to walk into a room of 500 people I don’t know, right? So that’s hard for a lot of people. So then I make it I have to meet, you know, ten people in the first fifteen minutes of networking time. And that keeps me on sort of what my task is or what my goal is for every situation.

And then I get prepared for any situation I go into right so that I don’t have the five minute conversation about “Hi, how are you doing? Oh, good. What’s new? Nothing much. Oh, what you know, oh, yeah, it’s busy or oh my gosh, it’s fall today, like look at the weather.” Not that those things aren’t important and not that you know, people can’t connect on them. But how do you get a deeper connection quicker? And so for me, it might be you know, learning about that person, or learning about people that may be there, what the topic is, and then how I can tie it into either a startup company I’m working with, that I want to make an introduction, or you know, a cause that I’m really passionate about that that I can help, you know, share or something, you know, something timely going on in our world that maybe the two of us can talk about. And then you can figure out the strategy, and you know, what’s next afterwards, but how do you create those, you know, connections quicker?

And then it really can lead to a lot of different things. And truly, I think it all goes back to relationships. So you know, that relationship you make today, five years later, when you’re going through a problem?

A hundred percent.

Yeah, it matters.

We’re in relationships, we’re all in the relationship business. There’s a quote I use about how we build our relationships, is how well we’ll build our own business. And I think that’s critical, donestly, no matter what business you’re in.

And, Rachel, you’re speaking my language, as you’re going through that, because what you talked about, in my mind, I was thinking about micro-goals, so those little things you have to do to equal something big. I think that’s very important in career development, it’s important as a leader, it’s important with innovation, is those micro-goals, or small steps over a period of time can be pretty impactful and equals something very big.

So, Rachel, one of the biggest things that we see with innovation—whether that’s accounting firms, CPA firms, other businesses—it’s the thought of, “If you are successful, it’s hard to change.” And why would you change, if you’re successful? But in my mind, if you don’t have a focus on getting better, and you don’t have a focus on innovation, maybe you’re even falling behind. So what advice would you have for those that, maybe they’ve been successful, and they want to keep doing what we’re doing? Well, what’s the danger in that? What are your thoughts on that?

Yeah. So I actually think these are the people that make the best innovators. But it’s maybe a little bit hard to get out of your comfort zone. So I think true innovation and through process change, and continuous improvement, comes from the people that understand the details, understand what works. But then you gotta take that lens and just focus on what can make things better.

So oftentimes, I think innovation, or entrepreneurs might get a bad rep, right? Like it’s somebody that just like wants to create change, and cause chaos, and kind of all of this. But that’s not really what when you look at you know, who are the true innovators or entrepreneurs. A lot of times it is those people with experience that understood a problem and came up with a better solution. And so I really think, you know, you have a responsibility as a leader, and as that person that has that, you know, experience, to then think about “How can I make it better for the people that follow me,” right?

And so if you lived in a world where everything stayed the same all the time, and it worked, sure, maybe that mindset works, but that’s just not the reality of where we’re at. And I think, if anything, the past few years, and the rate of technology has shown that. So if you don’t do that, either you’re going to be out of a job, or your company is going to be out of business, at some point, no matter what industry or function that you do, because someone else is thinking about “How do I make this better?”


And so I think you owe it to yourself and your team and your organization, to challenge yourself and have that responsibility to always think about what’s next and how you can make it better.

Yeah, I think, Rachel, something very important that you hit on is I think, from an innovative standpoint, or just trying to make things better—I think when you break it down, most people, they want to make things better, they want to leave things better than when they found it. And I don’t think you can ever fault anyone for that. And sometimes, yes, it can be uncomfortable getting outside of what have you done in the past and doing something new. But as you mentioned, we experienced forced change. And I think at least in our profession, I think in others as well, I think some found out that maybe they’re better at it than what they thought they were.

I mean, you look at how many businesses went remote, or maybe they’ve been talking about that for a very long time. And they did it, they did very well. So I think that’s very important.

Rachel, another thing that I love that you’ve talked about—you’ve been very process driven, you’ve used that term multiple times in our conversation. So whether this is a community or a business—that innovation process, to me, diversity can play a big role in that. In your experiences, how have you seen different backgrounds, different experiences? What kind of role does diversity play in making things better? And in innovation?

Yeah, it’s huge, you know. You only see what you see, right? And a lot of times, even if you try not to make decisions based on your own life experiences, and you try to do research, like at the end of the day, you’re making the decision because of, you know, what, you know, and how you look at the world. And so I think it, you know, again, we owe it all to ourselves. It’s not just the right thing to do, but it’s how you’re going to move your business, your organization, forward, is, how do I bring more people into these decision making processes? And then how do I also create that culture, right?

So the past few years, made us, you know, you call it the forced change, right? Like it made us think about, “How are we going to do things differently?” So imagine if we can, you know, take the good things from that, and continue to create that environment. And so as silly as it sounds, like maybe that’s just implementing “You can’t say ‘this is the way we’ve always done things,’’’ right? So if you eliminate that wording from your organization, not to diminish experience and not to diminish, you know, lessons learned, but then to start creating this environment where any ideas can come forward.

And then I think it’s also, you know, from a process standpoint, “How do I create that opportunity where everyone feels that they can come to me with an idea?” But then also, like, if you’re the leader, it’s still scary for some people, even if it’s not, for others to come up with an idea and then be told, like, no. So then it’s “How do I create, you know, multiple pathways for people to give input or share ideas in ways that are, you know, welcoming and opening to everybody?” And then once you create those processes, it just gets easier. And it’s a cultural change.

Right. And that’s a big impact on culture. I talked about in ours, it’s tapping into the power of a firm, or the one firm approach. That goes for any business. I guarantee there are, especially larger businesses there, there are great ideas sitting in the minds of your professionals. So figuring out a way to tap into that.

And, Rachel, one of the things I’ll talk in a second on is, sometimes we see that, depending on where you’re at, in your career, sometimes a CEO or a business owner, in some ways, they may, they may want to help but in some ways, they may hinder innovation, because someone is afraid to speak up, or they’re afraid to share their ideas. ‘Cause they don’t want to sound dumb. So if you create that culture, that atmosphere, then that can be a pretty powerful thing.

So Rachel, I like to be very candid, open, you know, open dialogue with organizations.


And that idea of innovation or launching a startup, or for a firm, launching a new service line. Whatever it may be. Sometimes we see others, they’re successful, and we fall in love with the results. Maybe they don’t see all of the struggles and the pain and the hurdles that you had to jump over, going throughout that process. So for our listeners, if someone has that great idea, or if someone’s looking to start their own business, whatever it may be—what last advice do you have for them to improve and take that idea and try to improve on on what they’re already doing? It’s not easy. It’s, you see the results; the process, it’s very rarely easy. So I want to give our listeners just a little insight on what that looks like.

Yeah. So hustle and momentum are real, right? And I love a good overhaul. But it’s also breaking things up into bite-sized pieces. And a lot of these, you know, success stories that somebody finally, you know, finally hears about, really is like, at least seven years. Llike I have not found anything that hasn’t had seven years—at least—of hard work behind it. And that may not be doing the same thing for seven years, then all of a sudden it works. But it doesn’t happen overnight, right? No matter how glitzy or glamorized entrepreneurship or innovation, or these new things are—somebody has been working on it for a long time, and continuously improving.

And so I think, you know, you hit on earlier, when you said micro-goals. It isn’t, you know, we have a lot of big challenges as a society, as organizations. And oftentimes, when we look at them as big challenges, you know, not knowing where to start, or not knowing how to make, you know, real change, is keeping us from doing anything. And so I really try to break it up into like, “What can I do today?”

So I actually have a plugin on my Google Chrome browser called Momentum that I open every day. And it’s like, “Rachel, what is your focus for today?”

I like that.

Yeah! I start every day like that, right? So then I kind of go through my calendar, or I go through what I’m working on. And then it wants you to look at it and break up your goals, whether it’s, you know, a quarterly basis, an annual basis, whatever—you can really see what you’re doing, and look at it that way. So I think it’s doing something every day. Don’t let your goals become barriers. Reflect on that change, reflect on that improvement, but break it up into bite sized pieces.

And Rachel, one of the things that I would add to that, and I can tell just in our conversation is, follow your passion, as well. And sometimes that’s hard to do. Whenever you know, if you’re in a position or a role of making that time to do something that you’re very passionate about. One of my other favorite quotes is “Anything worth doing in life is worth overdoing.” And so I try to take that same kind of concept to that.

So Rachel, we have a few minutes left here and I’m going to kind of flip our view here for some of our last questions. As you know, many of our listeners may be in the accounting profession. So what advice would you give to a firm as they work with their clients—whether it’s a start up or a long-term client—what advice would you give to them on how they can be that you know, strategic advisor, that trusted advisor? How can they help their clients?

Yeah. So I think you know, those strategic advisors, advisors, trusted advisors, experts, are the ones that truly make, you know, startups and innovators great. Where I think sometimes there’s a challenge is, you know, you’re taught, right, to be risk adverse. And so, you know, these entrepreneurs or innovators are going to be, you know, innately at the other end of the spectrum. And so I think it’s not trying to talk them out of what they’re gonna do anyways, right? So that if you tell them no, and do all these things, it’s not that they’re gonna work with you and listen to you, it’s that they’re gonna find somebody else, or not find somebody else and do it anyway. And so I think it’s really, how do I meet them where they’re at with something that, you know, I can still advise them and advise them of the risk, but then also meet them, and come up with the best solution for, again, what they’re gonna do anyways.

And I think once you have that mindset, then you know, there’s more alignment, and then there’s more opportunity to actually become, you know, that relationship, right? So it’s, how do I become that phone call that they make? And that’s something that we advise everybody is, how do you connect with—

—it goes back to empathy.

Exactly. How do you connect with that person?

And being able to see their side of the… Yeah, a hundred percent. Rachel, I think that’s great advice, because sometimes I think we try to go to solutioning—I don’t even know if that’s a word—but we try to solve the problem before even kind of getting a better picture of what their ideas are, where are they trying to get to. And I love this Covey concept of “always begin with the end in mind.”


And that’s just a powerful question. Because to have someone describe to you how they view success, that’s a very powerful exercise to go through.

So, Rachel, a couple, we have time for maybe two more questions. This is always one of the hardest ones for people to answer. But what would Rachel now go back and tell Rachel, when you were just starting on your own career journey?

Yeah, um, I think two things. So I think one is, you know, “You don’t have to have it all figured out.” And I think there’s kind of this misconception in our society about, you know, like, what happiness and success looks like. And oftentimes, it’s like you said, “You do these five things, you become partner, and then you know, life’s made.” Well, all of a sudden, like making partner or whatever is also not going to bring you happiness with yourself.

So I think of it all more as like the journey is the way to happiness, and that day-to-day is actually then really what it’s about instead of sort of this, this end goal. And so I think, again, going back to what I’m gonna have to use now—diverse background, instead of, you know, trying something and deciding, like, I really like it, how do I do more of it? Or maybe this isn’t for me, but that experience helped me for whatever I’m going to do next. So I think of it that way.

And then also just the rate of change and innovation now, like, chances are even the next thing I do, hasn’t quite been invented yet, right? So like most people go through nine to twelve different actual career changes. Not jobs, career—or different responsibilities, even if it’s with the same organization.

So reinventing yourself in a way.

Yeah, totally, totally! And then I think the second is, “Do something everyday that gets you out of your comfort zone.” So one of my mentors in college, Vicki Ryebeck Wilson, really challenged me to do that. And I tried to do that every day. So sometimes that’s saying yes to things that I might want to say no to or, you know, maybe it’s that intentionality of, you know, my day looks like I already know all these people, I’ve already done that, like, can somebody else have a different experience, too? So I think it’s it’s as much as challenging myself by challenging our team to make sure that they’re growing and learning, too

A hundred percent, Rachel. It’s funny, some of the stuff you talked about, and I’ll make this known to our audience as well, it’s a lot of what you just talked about is part of our ELA or Emerging Leaders Academy. And we are so big on effective goal setting in that idea of getting you out of your comfort zone. Yeah, it’s a hundred percent hard at the time, but that is where your growth is going to happen.

And I love the other thoughts you had of just “embrace the journey.” It’s not a I don’t know if you’re familiar with The Infinite Game and Simon Sinek and some of his stuff.

Love ‘em, yep!

It’s just that thought of it’s, you know, we don’t win or lose, but you’re embracing the journey, and I love that thought.

So Rachel, one thing we love to do at the end of every episode, is just leave our guests with a resource, something that’s helped you along the way. You mentioned, I think it was Momentum, was something you mentioned earlier. Maybe something different, you know, whether it’s a podcast, book, something that’s really impacted you.

Yeah, so the book I would encourage everyone to read is called The Four Agreements. And this is something I try to live by every day, so I actually have a poster up on my wall. So the four agreements are, “Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.” So read the book. And then we actually have everyone that joins our team read it, because you know, there again, a lot of us come from different walks of life or different experiences, but if we can all agree upon these like four truths, or you know, four agreements, then we know everyone’s coming from a better place, and then true kind of teamwork and innovation can happen. So that would be one.

And then this is maybe a little bit silly, but I am a student of comedy. So I admire comedians so much because I think they really can read the room, like, know what to say, or put out you know, put on the spot. So I really admire comedians and always try to watch whether it’s on YouTube, or a Netflix series, or in person. But I try to learn from comedians.

Rachel, you are the first person we’ve had to say comedians because I’ve always said that it has to be one of the hardest professions out there. I mean, I just couldn’t even imagine.

Same, yeah.

I don’t view myself as very funny so I just can’t imagine what that would be.

But Rachel, real quick before we wrap up, read those four again. I think you know, for our listeners even maybe grab a pen and paper, let them write it down. I love that, The Four Agreements. So if you could read those for us one last time.

Of course. So, “Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.”

I’m going to buy that book today.

Do it. You’ll love it.

Well I won’t buy it but I’ll order it on Amazon.

And I have one I can loan to you. So next time I see you, I’ll give it to you.

Awesome. Well, I would appreciate that Rachel.

Well Rachel, I enjoyed our conversation, had a great time and I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule and being intentional with blocking that out on your calendar. Once again, I hope all of our listeners—they had some good key takeaways and some good advice. I teed this up on the front end, but I knew she would bring a lot to the table to our discussion. So Rachel, thank you.
Yes, thank you so much for having me.



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