Weekly interviews with influential leaders sharing their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, igniting your passion, and instilling discipline.

Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Meredith Oliver

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Meredith Oliver is the Creative Director of Meredith Communications, a full-service digital marketing and consulting agency that she founded in 2001. Meredith also delivers keynote speeches, runs workshops and seminars on marketing and sales related topics, and is the author of three books, including her most recent: FANtastic Selling: The 10 Undeniable Traits of Rock-Star, Top-Producing, Quota-Busting Salespeople

 

 

What inspired you to start your own business?

“I was working for a dot com company out of Silicon Valley in the early 2000s just as the internet bubble was getting ready to burst. I was at a trade show working their booth 14 hours a day on the floor trying to sell their products to people and I just got tired, so I snuck out of the booth and went and sat down in one of the seminars at the trade show to get a break. I pretended I was in the bathroom but I was really in one of the seminars. There was somebody on stage teaching people, and I just said to myself, ‘I can do that and I’m going to do that.’

“I went home that weekend and told my husband, ‘we’re starting a company; it’s Meredith Communications,’ and I quit my job and started the company. That was in 2001.

What was it about that moment in the seminar that really inspired you?

“I was watching this person speak and I really have a passion for teaching people. I love to be in front of people. I have no fear of public speaking. I knew I was good on stage.

“I also looked around and there were very few women who were speaking about marketing and sales at that time, yet I looked at the audience and most of the audience was women. I thought to myself, ‘they need a woman role model.’ So I just saw a fit with my skills with what the market needed.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“My number one internal trigger is that I am a passionate life-long learner. I cannot absorb enough information, and so when I see an opportunity, I have to know more about it – I have to learn about it.

“Number two, once I come across a piece of information and I start taking it in, I’m one of those people who has to take action on it. I have to do something. I take in information constantly and once I identify an opportunity it will haunt me until something is done about it.

“I would absolutely say that it’s my faith and that God provides these lightning bolts to me. There’s no question in my mind that it’s divine intervention; it’s Providence and I just try to stay open to those opportunities.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“Definitely seeing others succeed; seeing others perform better because we helped them. I love to see our clients grow their business because their digital marketing is on point and doing its job. That is so rewarding.

“Just the other day I got an email from someone who heard me speak on a Friday, and by Monday she had put in her notice for her job of 25 years. She had been wanting to move on and go in a different direction and had been stuck, and something I said moved her forward, so helping other people move forward and be successful – I love that!”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“Being a creative, this is something I have to really work at, because I can be all over the place with my thoughts, with my ideas. I get a lightning bolt idea and I’m off and running. I now do have successful patterns in how I manage my work routine every day in terms of how I mange my tasks, my email, my time. I’m happy to say that has improved a lot. Most of the time I do not feel nearly as panicked or overwhelmed as I once did.

“I’m very disciplined about my speaking practice – how I develop and practice each talk, the checklist of items I go through before I go on stage – my room setup. All of those things have been incredibly beneficial to me being an effective speaker. A lot of people think you just show up, dazzle the crowd, and leave. Actually, the magic often times isn’t determined by your message, but room setup, the audio-visual workings, so many more factors to it that can take a perfectly good talk… that’s definitely an area where discipline is a huge part of my work.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“Change has taught me to follow my instincts, but also, let go of the result. Whatever change is coming next, as scary as it might be, it is truly for the best. There is a bigger plan for me. I trust in that bigger plan more than I trust in myself now. I just let it unfold and try to stay open.

“I couldn’t have even planned this life that I have – personally or professionally. I couldn’t have planned it to be this amazing. I had to let it unfold.

“I have short-term goals, but long term, I’ve really given that up to my faith. This whole thing could come to an end tomorrow and something else would be in my path and it would be for the best. I trust in that completely. That’s not to say I don’t get scared, it’s not saying that I don’t get frustrated or stressed out – of course. But there’s always a voice in my head saying, ‘it’s going to be fine.’”

You can follow Meredith on Twitter at @MeredithCSP.

Mindsets on Steroids: A Converstation with Becky Sansbury

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Becky Sansbury is the author of After The Shock: Getting You Back On The Road To Resilience When Crisis Hits You Head On. She has spent decades working as a hospice chaplain and has counseled professionals in career crisis. In her personal life, Becky has experienced multiple miscarriages, two divorces and single parenthood. She has taken her experiences with grief, professional training, and her passion for helping others and turned them into a career of helping people find their resiliency. Now working as a professional speaker and consultant, Becky lives in Raleigh, NC.

 

Give us the quick rundown of your early life and career and what led up to what you’re doing now.

“I had a very idyllic 1960s growing up in small town in Western Pennsylvania – a very happy home and a very pleasant life. I headed off to college quite sure I was going to be a public school music teacher. I turned out to be a glorious failure at that after one year in the public school classroom.

“I redirected my interest in music and combined it with my lifelong involvement with church work and headed off to seminary at a time when not a whole lot of females were going to seminary. I developed a 15 year career in the area of church music. I became an ordained minister as pat of that process, married, had two children, and then experienced a very dramatic significant mental health change in my husband – non of it his fault – but very much disastrous to our family.

“I found myself as an ordained female, about to be divorced single mother, working in a Baptist denomination, and that wasn’t a real good prospect for finding a job. I went back to seminary and headed into chaplaincy, which has a much more tolerant view of both women and people who’ve been through divorce and found a very satisfying career for about 15 years in a very much traditional chaplaincy in the field of hospice.”

So what do you do now?

“I now call myself a community chaplain – I’m employed by me and my work is not always what people would see traditionally as a chaplain, but within my sense of purpose and direction it is, and the broader sense of the word.

“During the recession I worked with with professionals in career crisis. The same core tenants of resilience I saw within hospice patients and families intrigued me and I saw it again with folks whose careers, and thus their lives, had been completely disrupted by something over which they had no control.

“After about four or five years in that work I stepped back and realized that contract had come to an end because basically the recession was resolved enough so that our services weren’t needed.

“I found myself at the end of twenty year marriage and approaching my sixties with no marriage and no stated job, and it was a pretty unsettling time,” she says with a laugh.

Becky had already been doing some motivational speaking based on her experiences as a hospice professional and chaplain when she decided to hire a career coach to give her some more professional direction.

“My career coach told me ‘If you can find a process and create a product, then you have something that people can use. Otherwise you’re just giving them a lot of fancy words.’”

Becky’s career coach helped her refine a seven part model that she named ‘After The Shock’ and Becky spent the next few years testing it out.

“I realized that I had indeed landed on something that was very down to earth and very practical and usable for people either going through crisis themselves – or sometimes even more so – people walking alongside others either during or post crisis.

“In 2015 an editor who I admired wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with her. We spent 13 months further refining the process, the stories and the visual illustrations. In 2015 published the book, After the Shock: Getting You Back On The Road To Resilience When Crisis Hits You Head On.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“So often we look at those internal triggers as the negatives. I realized that the parts of life that distress us – grief was an early one for me – whether it was personal or being driven by other people’s grief. I also found that I had built into my DNA a dogged desire for making life better, so I would have to say that my internal triggers are definitely what grief does – not only to me but to others – but also that persistence within us – within me – to make life better.

“Even as a child I was drawn to be with people who were sad. For instance, a girl who had polio in my third grade class who others made fun of – but I enjoyed being her friend.

“When I was in high school, one of our classmates died in an accident and I was the one who sat with his girlfriend. I wasn’t trying to be noble; it was just like that was where I was supposed to be and something went off inside of me to be in that place.”

“When my husband and I lost those three babies pre birth, the grief was profound, but I was also struck by the fact that people were loving and well-intentioned and hadn’t the foggiest idea beyond hugs and casseroles of what to do or say. So that persistence said ‘there’s got to be another way to do this.’

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“My passion comes in discerning where hope is hiding and then finding understandable ways to help us move more simply through complex times. That feeds my soul and causes me to look at life for myself and others in new ways. The writing of the book came out of all of that because I felt that I had a sacred contract with the people that had shared their life wisdom with me.”

On her own personal struggles and finding hope:

“There’s a good reason that flowers grow up through the mud. I found it in the messy places in life and within my own self. I found it when I could start playing classical music again and big band jazz – and play them loudly. I found it when I could laugh through tears.

“I found it with friends; part of my passion is people. I’m not a good isolationist. I refuel in private, but then my passion comes through in connection with people. I formed in different times of struggle a circle of wise people around me. When I couldn’t figure things out I allowed them into my soul and then I realized other people would allow me into their souls too.

“When our own flames are dimmed so badly that they’re just about flickered out, that’s where that passion gets reignited for me.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“I realized that discipline for me comes when I remain planted in my purpose. When I get off track from that, then you can have to-do lists, you can have schedules, and you can have prompts on your phone or whatever gadgets you use. They will help you, but they don’t motivate you to want to be disciplined. They simply jog your memory. For me, discipline comes from clarity with my role and my mission in life, which for me is to accompany and support other people on a journey.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“Writing and publishing After the Shock. It’s the visible culmination of those three things. I do not consider myself to be a writer. I am a speaker. I am a chaplain and a counselor who has had the privilege of putting thoughts together and creating – with the help of a very good editor – a book. It took self-imposed discipline and it also took the external discipline of a very good editor.”

“In order to fulfill my passion, I had to find another significant way to accompany people when I can’t be with everybody. If they can find it on the written page and it’s a help to them, and something that they share with someone else, then it’s another way of me fulfilling the purpose that came about because of these changes in my own life and these changes I’ve experienced in other people’s lives.”

Find out more about Becky and her work at www.beckysansbury.com.

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Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy was named the 17th president of Shaw University in August of 2015. She then led an incredible turnaround to improve the university’s culture and sustain it financially. Before entering academia, she left a successful corporate career at BASF to follow her passion and start her own hair care business, Tea and Honey Blends, which is still operating today. Dr. Dubroy holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from North Carolina State University and an MBA from Rutgers University.

After a career in corporate America and running your own company, how did you get on the path to becoming president at Shaw?

“They had a chemistry position opened, and so I applied for the job and nailed it. I started at Shaw as a chemistry professor and very quickly got promoted to department chair, then to special assistant to the president for process optimization, and lastly to the position of president.

“I gained the presidency at Shaw within five years of being at the university, and I also am the second youngest president at the institution. I was 34 when I started and came into a turnaround situation. I inherited a six-year decrease in student enrollment. I also inherited a $4 million budget gap and two years of net losses on the balance sheet, so very quickly I had to lead teams to turn around the institution. So far Shaw has been extremely responsive in terms of their ability to do the work and get the job done.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“I am intrinsically motivated. My mother always said that when I was a young child she never had to tell me to study… at the end of the day, I know from within what I want to do. When I have my eyes set clearly on a goal, I work to achieve it.

“I would like to tell you that I am only passionate about one thing and that that one thing is education. I would like to say that, but if I’m being true to myself, there’s a passion that I have from within with anything that I choose to do, whether it’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s education, young people, or giving back. Everything that I take on I ensure that I commit myself to it.

“That type of internal motivation really helps me to be successful in all realms of my career and personal life. I think the evidence for that is my history of being quickly promoted in every setting I’ve been in. I always say I can’t hold on to a job because I keep getting promoted.

“If I look at the variety of positions I’ve been able to master in my career, I think there are some common skills that are shared across all of these positions, and it’s interesting for me to see the challenges that I’m facing in the college presidency setting I’ve been able to solve because of the analytical skills, organizational skills, and people skills that I’ve developed over the years in each of these roles.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“I do get a lot of energy from being around people. I’m a people person and I enjoy giving back. If there is something that entails educating young people – especially young girls – and helping them to be confident, to be successful, get rid of perceived barriers to success that they may have, or eliminate real barriers to success, those are the types of things that I’m passionate about. That’s what keeps me going.

Where does that passion come from?

“My mother is my most early influencer. I have a very strong mom. I saw her working very hard to help our family. I saw her make sacrifices even up to having to migrate out of the country while her kids were back in Jamaica. She migrated to the United States while we were in Jamaica. I think those types of things certainly resonate with me today. I have a young daughter – she’s seven years old – and the things that my mother instilled in me are the things I’m cultivating in her as well.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“I have been waking up early from a very young age. My mom used to wake us up at six o’clock in the morning for no reason at all. So we were up very early in the morning and just up to be up. She created a bunch of early risers in the family and soon it became a habit for me.

“I wake up at 4:30 every morning and that’s just part of my morning routine. I wake up ahead of the family. I’m able to do so much work and by the time they’re up I can focus on them. That type of disciple I now realize is not common. Every time I speak about it, people are shocked,” she says with a laugh. “It’s not that I don’t get sleep – I do – it’s just that to have this type of schedule I have to wake up early.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“While I was working in corporate (at BASF), I was making a very good salary, and my husband and I were very well compensated in the jobs that we had. I remember when I started Tea and Honey Blends, I learned from one of the VPs at BASF that it was a potential conflict of interest with our customers, so I was either going to have to quit my company or have to quit corporate.

“I remember going home and speaking to my husband about the impact that me leaving would have on the family, and he said he would support me in whatever decision I made. I remember thinking about him in terms of how much more of a burden he would have to take in order to help the family’s finances, and so I told my VP in corporate that I would stay. But that night when I went home I was literally sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t sleep. I knew that I had made the wrong decision.

“Usually I don’t like to renege on decisions, but I had to go back in and I had to tell her that I wanted to take the risk to leave corporate while I was young and explore entrepreneurship. It was one of the best decisions that I have made in my entire life. I got an understanding of what it was like to own my own company and be responsible for ensuring people can meet the needs of their families, as well as just understanding taking a company from an idea and then executing. I think that’s an example of how passion and making a bold decision are how I approach everything in life. I make bold decisions and I don’t make any small plans.”

You can follow Tashni-Ann Dubroy on Twitter at @PhDTash.

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Mindsets on Steroids: A Conversation with Paul Meshanko

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Paul Meshanko is the founder and CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, a leadership training and organizational development firm that has served fortune 500 companies and medium sized business alike for 20 years. He is also the author of The Respect Effect. In the interview below, Paul tells us about his passions, what motivates him in his business, and shares secrets for being successful in business and life.

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“What put me on my current trajectory probably started 22 or 23 years ago when I was still in my first job. I went through a training program when I was with Allied Signal (Paul’s first employer) called ‘Increasing Human Effectiveness.’ When you’re in corporate America you go through tons of training all the time, but this one really stuck out in my mind, because it was the first training I’d ever been through that actually focused on me as an individual, and what those personal competencies were that enabled me to be effective as a part of a larger group.

“I was so infatuated with that that I actually volunteered to become a facilitator internally for that program, and it became literally almost intoxicating. That whole role of being a catalyst for helping other people learn and grow and develop their own potential was addictive. About two or three years after I went through the program and became an internal facilitator, I decided to make a vocational change and left the safety of corporate America and said ‘I’m going to do this for a living now,’ and so it was really that passion for helping others uncover their own potential.”

Why did you feel the need to leave your job to pursue this passion?

“I had so much doggone fun doing it! The day that I turned in my resignation, my boss at the time just kind of smiled and said, ‘we were wondering how long it was going to take for this to happen,’ because that was not my job. I was actually a new product development manager. He said ‘I’ve never seen somebody take such an incredible interest and really have an ability to excel in a discipline that really wasn’t related to their job.’”

Were you worried about taking a chance and leaving a secure job for an unproven venture?

“It was just me and I figured if it didn’t work out, I could always go back to a real job,” he says with a laugh. “Fortunately for me, 20 years later I’m still doing it.”

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“For me, I think one of my core personal attributes is that I am intensely curious about what makes people tick – at the individual level and the organizational level. Why do we do the things that we do, and when we’re doing things well, can we learn from it and do more of it? When we’re doing things poorly, what kind of interventions can we put in place to address it and fix it?

“I also have a technical background – I was a sales engineer when I first started with Allied Signal – so I’ve always had a technical orientation. So looking at that whole human equation through multiple lenses -psychology, anthropology, history, and most recently neuroscience – was always second nature to me. What I like to do is find a pattern and see if that pattern can be explained through multiple lenses and disciplines. For me, that’s the essence of my passion for what we do organizationally.

“The second part of that is distilling it into actionable training and consulting for our clients. It’s one thing to see a pattern, it’s another thing to be able to translate that into workshop content, or a speaking topic, or consulting or coaching that actually helps another person or organization improve their situation.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“My first thought is to laugh out loud because that’s probably the single reason I’m not a multi-millionaire already. Because I’m intensely curious, I also suffer from the ‘shiny object syndrome.’ If something catches my attention, even if it’s not 100 percent relevant to what I’m working on, I may go explore it a bit. What I have found is that my discipline comes in spurts, and it usually is around something that is new, fun, and educational for me.”

A good example of this is when Legacy won a contract from the Department of Justice to create a curriculum around unconscious bias training.

“My discipline went into high gear because I was just so absolutely fascinated by the subject myself. I was talking to researchers from Harvard, the University of Wisconsin, UNC-Chapel Hill, and really some of the foremost researchers on the subject. That kind of environment puts me in the zone where I can be focused and disciplined.”

Are there things you do every day to maintain that zone?

“One of the things I do every day is I go through the headlines and try to look at the events going on around the world through those same lenses – history, neuroscience, phycology – and try to spot patterns, and it’s that curiosity that allows me to keep our content relevant.”

Over the past 3 1/2 years, Paul has been through a lot of change and challenges in his life. His father died, he’s moved three times, divorced, and relocated business.

How do you deal with these challenges?

“I was talking with a friend and they said, ‘how in the heck are you still standing?’ and I said ‘ because I’ve got really good friends to talk to.’

“I don’t care how well-balanced you are as an individual, how resilient you are, how adaptable you are; at the end of the day human beings are social creatures. Neurologically we’re the most socially wired animal on the planet. We did not evolve to be lone rangers, and so I am as passionate as anybody about this notion that we are here to take care of each other. So when we’re going through tough times, if we don’t have a network of friends and family to fall back on, we’re in trouble, because we’re really not designed to go through hard times alone.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“There are two. I’ve been successfully running my own business for twenty years, and the number of people who start a business and are in business twenty years later as a percentage of those who try is very, very small; so I take some degree of pride in that.

“And the other thing I think is being a published author. I think having the discipline to take a concept and research that concept and then get it published through a major publishing house – that takes a little bit of all three of those also.”

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulMeshanko.