Being in a community of incredible women leaders who can support you as you pivot, strategize, and figure out “what’s next?” in your career is a total gamechanger.
But I want to recognize that you may not have access to a community of inspiring women leaders in your day-to-day work.
And even if you do, you’re probably on the look out for even more amazing women to learn from.
Which is exactly why I invited three of my clients onto this episode of Women Changing Leadership to share how they have grown and shown up powerfully as a leader over the last year.
You’ll hear from:
Marssie Versola: Head of Global Partner Programs
Zhiyan Xu: Program Manager / IT Operations and Portfolio Management
Karen Heath: Federal Project Controller, Data & Insights Division
We’re going to dive into the strategies and mindset shifts that are having the biggest impacts on their careers…
…AND you’re going to receive a deeper understanding of how to apply these insights to your career, too.
This is an action-packed conversation with three truly inspiring women leaders, and I can’t wait for you to hear exactly what they have to say.
Let’s dive in.
Want to receive the recognition you deserve, step into a higher leadership position, get paid for your ideas instead of the hours you put in at work, and enjoy more time, freedom, energy, and joy? Then you need to get your hands on a copy of Promotions Made Easy. Get your copy here.
What You'll Learn:
- How to overcome shame when going for the role you want
- How to set boundaries and create a better work-life balance
- The surprising reality of using 15-Minute Ally Meetings to build relationships at work
- Why each of these women feel personally inspired to have a real voice at the table
- Their #1 advice for YOU to help you get unstuck from your career
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Connect with Marssie Versola on LinkedIn
- Connect with Zhiyan Xu on LinkedIn
- Connect with Karen Heath on LinkedIn
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
- Follow me on Instagram
- Join my group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time
- Get your copy of my book, Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite
- Go to StacyMayer.com/Strategies to join my email list and receive my email series, Seven Promotion Strategies that Your Boss Won’t Tell You
Stacy Mayer: Hello corporate badasses. Welcome to another episode of Women Changing Leadership. I am so excited to be here with you this week as I have brought in some of my very own corporate badasses who are going to talk about their leadership journey over the past year.
They have all been inside of Executive Ahead of Time for nine months, 12 months, some of them, and they have really just grown and shown up so much bigger as a leader as a result. And I wanted to have them on the podcast this week to share with you their journey and how they are changing their organization actions from the inside out.
I'm super excited. Let me just get diving right in because we are going to have an action packed conversation today. And I'm going to have each one of them introduce themselves and we're just going to go from there.
So to start out: Hi Marssie, this is Marssie Versola. Welcome.
Marssie Versola: Hi, Stacy. Thanks so much for having me. I'm so grateful to be here.
I just, I love you so much, Stacy. I love your laugh. I love your leadership. I love the impact that you've made on my life. And I'm so grateful to be here with you today and with all of the folks joining us. My name is Marssie Versola. I'm the Head of Global Partner Programs and I work with technology companies and nonprofits in the social good space. I have loved my experience here in Executive Ahead of Time, and I'm just excited to be here and part of this conversation today.
Stacy Mayer: Oh, Marssie, thank you so much. Sometimes I teach my leaders just to start with what's in it for them. And she just she just did that so beautifully. I love that you shared something about me. And now I feel all great and giddy as we continue with this conversation. So thank you, Marssie. I'm so delighted that you're here as well.
Karen Heath: Well, hello. And yes, Stacy, we're all very excited to be here and share how we've grown this past year with you and with each other. It's good to be together.
My name is Karen Heath and I am the Federal Project Controller for the Data & Insights Division at Tyler Technologies. I help serve the federal government with our data and insights that we provide and partner with them to help the public good, further the public good to help citizens. And I'm really passionate about that. Bringing expertise and accounting operations to companies to help them grow and mature so that they can earn more money and do more good in the world.
Stacy Mayer: Amazing. Yes. We need you. I love that so much.
And last but not least, we have Zhiyan Xu, too, here today.
Zhiyan Xu: Thank you, Stacy, for having me. I tell people the pronunciation of my name is like goodnight, Zhiyan. And that's why when they work with me, they have good night's sleep.
I'm originally from Shanghai. I work for Charles River Labs, a biotech firm as a Program Manager. And I tell people that my job is to bring people together to do great things for society, for the company, and to offer meaning to each other's life.
Stacy Mayer: Oh, my goodness. That is so good. And Zhiyan's introduction. I really want you to listen how she claimed the ownership of the pronunciation of her name. This doesn't go without saying, like: I want all of you... A corporate badass move is to teach other people how to pronounce your name. It seems very beginner, but it matters. This is part of including ourselves in the conversation. And I've actually never heard you say the good night thing with your name and I will never forget it. It's amazing. And so that's so great. Thank you. Zhiyan.
Well, let's start with you. What do you feel like have been some of your defining moments of success over the past year?
Zhiyan Xu: Oh, I will say that Executive Ahead of Time made a very big contribution in my growth over the past several months. The most significant one is to help me getting rid of the small feeling of shame. When I go out and say that I want that position, I want a promotion, I want that role.
It might be embedded in my Asian upbringing, always to be humble and let your work speak for you. But through the exercise we did in the education and the peer groups discussion, I really realized that it's: one the game is a little different. Two, is seeing that all my peers in the group wanting to to go for that position really encouraged me to recognize that there is nothing wrong with wanting more, wanting to be recognized. I shouldn't feel shame for that. That's the first thing. That's the biggest take away, the gain.
Because once I get over the psychological, feeling awful, I'm not sure if it's a good thing to ask for promotion. Maybe I should just wait for people to notice me. Once I get over the hump, I can go full speed to come up with a strategy. How many things I need to do? How many people I need to talk to to work my way into it?
Stacy Mayer: Oh, my God. There is so much to that answer that I love. But when we look at other people and we see them and we say, of course they should go for it. Of course they should ask for the promotion. I think it gives us courage to say, oh, and of course I can, too. And so we're surrounded by what I always call poor role models. And so we either see one person who asks for the promotion and we kind of don't like the icky way that they did it. And so then we're like: Oh, I don't want to be like that. And then we have our upbringing which says that we have to be a certain way. And then when we can surround ourselves by women who are not only asking, but getting that recognition, andd we're like: Oh my God, they're amazing. Of course they deserve that. They should totally have that. And it's really incredibly empowering and impactful.
And the other thing that I wanted to offer at the at the end of your statement was, you said: then once I get over that hump. So imagine if you spent the last year trying to get up the courage to ask for the promotion, versus spending the last year working on this strategy. Working on what you're going to need to do to be available for that promotion, to be ready to be a better leader once you do receive it. That is a much better use of our time. And so I want for all of you to get over that hurdle as fast as possible. Like, let's get over that hurdle. Let's start asking, and then we can start to strategize from there. So thank you for being that example. Zhiyan, I love that so much. Karen, how would you define your success over the past year?
Karen Heath: I thought about this and I would say that the biggest success for me has been learning to know and trust myself more. And so knowing that everything I needed to be successful and make a bigger impact is already inside of me and let go of the limitations. Similar to what Zhiyan said. So let go of the limitations or things that are holding me back, feeling like I need to prove myself, knowing that I already have value and can make those higher level decisions and continue to grow in that way.
Stacy Mayer: I love that. And the other thing that we try and point to in conversation is how other people are reflecting that value. So it's one thing to kind of pump ourselves up and to be and to remind ourselves and and something that I always like to remind women like Karen is, well, what did your boss actually just say to you? And so it's not only ourselves trying to pump ourselves up, but it's what's being reflected back to us from the other people that we work with, that they really are respecting us. They understand our value. They really can see us and the contribution that we're making to the conversation.
So it goes both ways, and I think I've really seen that happen for you, Karen, too, that you're finding a lot of evidence.
Karen Heath: That's right. In fact, I found myself this week several times, pausing, wanting to ask my boss for permission to move forward on something, but knowing that he trusts my decision and that I have the autonomy to just go ahead and do it and that he will trust the outcome. And at the same time being able to go to peers and saying, This is my approach, I would like you to weigh in on it. Instead of asking for permission or seeking guidance to come to them as a peer. This is a huge thing that I've been fostering this year. Is that coming as a peer and having those higher level conversations about how we approach things and and making a decision together.
Stacy Mayer: That's so good, so important. And they're going to weigh in. They're going to add their $0.02. Like we don't have to... But in order to own that, to say, this is my opinion, this is the direction that I think we should go, offering that first, right. To really say, this is how I see things, and then they can piggyback off of that. It actually is also part of leadership, right, that we provide that guidance first and then allow other people to formulate their opinions around that leadership. It's so important. Marssie, what about you?
Marssie Versola: Thanks, Stacy. Something Karen said really rang true to me. Karen said that over the past year, she's really gotten to know herself and begun to trust herself more. And I would say that for me over the past year, really beginning, continuing, practicing, knowing and trusting my own intuition on how to lead has been so important. And the way I'm looking at defining success today is: am I following my own intuition? Am I leading from a place that feels in alignment with my own values. Not what do I think the traditional way of leadership should look like or should unfold in a certain way? But what really feels true to me and. And how am I practicing that and how I'm showing up for my team, how I'm showing up for my company, how I'm showing up for my family. And really looking at it through that lens.
Because I think we're so conditioned to expect and to attempt to walk through this leadership journey in a very particular way, in a very prescribed way, in a very defined way. And I love what we're doing here together. Women changing leadership. We're changing the face of leadership or changing how leadership feel, we're changing how leadership looks. And that, to me, has been one of the key ways that I measure success this year and how I hope and intend to continue to to define success moving forward.
Stacy Mayer: I love that. Actually. I'm going to stick with you, Marssie, for another minute, because you talked about family and really changing the definition of leadership. Actually all four of us amazing women who have children that are much shorter than us and like in a way that takes up and occupies a lot of our time, but is also brings us a tremendous amount of joy. There is nothing that compares to being a mom and having that ability to really be there for our children. And so we look at our success as being a measurement of that. I want to be a role model for my daughter. I want to be a role model for my son and show him what's possible.
But then on the flip side, if I'm burned out, if I'm stressed, if all I care about is the title is climbing the corporate ladder, like putting in those 80 hour weeks to prove myself, that is 150%, not a good role model for them at all. And so I know for each one of you, finding that that balance between striving for success and then also making sure that we can really be present for our children and our family is part of that journey. So let me continue with Marssie here for a minute and then and then we'll keep going.
Marssie Versola: Sure I believe everything that you said just now is is so deeply important and so deeply true. And in my own leadership journey, it's it's been a challenge. I absolutely am an overachiever. I am someone who gets energy and enthusiasm from my work. I have always pictured myself climbing this corporate ladder and having a seat at the table, at the executive boardroom or where decisions are made. And it felt really challenging for a long time for me and add family to the mix. You're right. It's a lot to balance, and I don't know that there's any one right way, but I know for me, this past year has absolutely been a journey of really asking myself why?
Why am I seeking to have a seat at this table or why am I struggling? Why is this so hard? Asking myself the question 'why?' as I'm making the choices that I'm making. And you're absolutely right. Showing up burnt out or stressed out or working insane hours in the middle of the night. It's not sustainable. It's not healthy. It's not the example that I want to set for my children. It's not the example that I want to set for my team. And so really thinking about how do I show up in my work and some of the practices that I've been using is starting my day intentionally with meditation.
Actually, this is a suggestion from you and another amazing thought leader that I know that you've worked closely with Rebecca Olson, who gives a suggestion at the end of the day, have just a couple of minutes to write down what impact you made during your day so that you can close your day and move on to be with your family in an intentional way. And so that's something that I've been practicing and found really helpful, because otherwise the to do list can just go on and on and on.
And the other actually really helpful practice that you've been so supportive of helping me understand is just getting out of the weeds, staying in the weeds and owning and managing and things so close to every single detail is not sustainable and not not acting as an Executive Ahead of Time and really not impactful. And so transitioning from working in the weeds to being able to lead from a higher a higher level and a more strategic level is so important on this journey.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, absolutely. I was thinking as as you were talking, in order to be present for your family, you're asking yourself why. Why do I want to be vice president? Why do I want to have that voice at the table? And that's part of your professional development journey. That's what you're asking of yourself. But really, it's part of being an executive leader. And so when we can shift that communication to our team to really share with them, why are we working on this project when we can have a conversation with our CEO that really says, why did the work that I did in particular on this project mattered to the organization. So we start by asking ourselves, why? Why do I want that voice at the table? Why do I want this title? Why do I want to be making that impact in my industry? But then it's a practice that teaches you how to be a better executive leader. It really is a more impactful leader. And when you start to communicate that way, that's when other people start to see you that way and they see you as that executive leader, as that person who asks why, as that person who questions things in a different way and doesn't just go immediately into the weeds. Like it's just so reciprocal. I love that.
Zhiyan, I know you raised your hand. You had something to add here. Of course you do.
Zhiyan Xu: Yes. I have a lovely little story to share. When Marssie was talking about family and everything, I was thinking about, Oh, this really speaks to the identity topic that I was working with myself on as women in workplace. As professional as women and as mom. These three identities all have their own properties, and sometimes our expectations for ourselves in these roles are not always aligned. But after I started to work on exactly ahead of time and listen to the podcast in the car, when I was driving my little girls around, I start to feel that sometimes these identities start to merge. One is when my daughter was asking, Why are you always listening to this? Because I don't play music in the car, I just play your podcast. And I said, That's because I want it. I want a promotion. I want to work on it.
And then other day, my younger daughter, who is only four year, four years and a half, asked, Mommy, can I have the perfume? And I said, Why? She said, Because it makes me professional. I was thinking, Oh, that's some very good influence that I want to see from my little girl, to recognize that women can be professional. It's not just a pretty dress, and good at housework or whatever that is. If women wants to go for a professional route, then you can go there. And I'm very happy to hear that comment from her.
Stacy Mayer: I love that. It's something that I really realized very early on in women's leadership is that, for women to truly dress in their power, it often involves very high heels, perfume or something. Something that actually still looks quite different than the rest of the room. And this isn't for everyone. We all have our different power suits. But when we really feel it, it does involve this idea of perfume, which I love so much because there's so many layers here, especially when we're like in the Zoom world. It's what brings you to the conversation, even on Zoom. But also sometimes what we do is we downplay, for lack of a better word, our sexuality. Like what we love about ourselves that is beautiful, that is engaging, that is powerful. Because we feel like we have to kind of fit in a little bit and kind of be the professional that the rest of the room is exhibiting.
And when we can really own that and say, This is my version of professional, this is who I am, this is who empowers me, who makes me feel strong, who makes me feel beautiful. That's how we start to change the leadership table. That's when we really show up as ourselves and whatever that might be. And I think that is so great. Actually. Karen, it's reminded me of your beautiful sweater as well that you have on today.
Karen Heath: Yes. Thank you. I was telling before the podcast that I bought this sweater with some of the award, that I got an award at work and it came with a financial portion, and I used that as a splurge to buy a sweater for myself. So that was really fun and showing up in my new sweater today.
Stacy Mayer: And what else did you do?
Karen Heath: Oh, and it felt it felt extravagant to use it all in myself. So I also used part of it for charity. So I found the new charitable organization that I could support. So that felt really good.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, it's amazing. It's like when women earn, we all win. That's a quote from the introduction to my book. But it's so true is that there's actual statistics that when women earn that, we tend to give back more of that money and and and put it back into society. Not that we have to. You're welcome to keep it all for yourself. There is no shame. But it is what we do. We are the we make the purchasing decisions. We are engaged in society. We are raising our children. When women earn, we all win. And so that's that's such a good example.
Karen Heath: I just wanted to share also another happening for me this year has been being more clear on my boundaries and not necessarily explaining why I'm leaving at 3:30, blocking off from 3:30 to 4 to welcome my kids home from school, but knowing that that's something that's really a value to me. Planning and taking my vacation and sharing with my team that I'm just totally not available and normalizing all these things so that other people on my team and in my organization start to see this is normal behavior and that emulating what I think everyone should be doing. And that's something that I want to share.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, like we're emulating that we want everybody on our team to take the time that they need versus I would like everybody on the team to tell me every single time they have a doctor's appointment, to tell me every single time they have to pick their kids up to school, to tell me about all their priorities at home. We tend to think that that is being authentic, that that is being the example. But in reality, as a leader, if you were a very powerful C-suite executive, that's actually not what you want at all. You would love your other executive leaders to take care of themselves. To organize themselves, to take the 330 to 4, if that's what they need to welcome their kids home. And then that's their priority.
And I would even offer as we continue to grow in our leadership, that we actually tell people that they don't have to apologize or they don't have to explain themselves. Because we can do that through our actions by discontinuing that that over explanation of what it is and why we're doing it and and still do it right and create those boundaries for ourselves. Because it comes also from a knowing that we're delivering. We're showing up. We're doing the work that we need to do. That is the baseline assumption when we are able to take that time for ourselves and to really own it and to and to make decisions accordingly. So I think that's huge.
So we look back on the last year and our journey and our growth, were there any surprises along the way? Like Zhiyan talked about, being willing to ask for a promotion, being willing to say the thing, being willing to engage in conversation. Was there a moment when you really said the thing that felt really hard or engaged in a conversation in a way that you had to kind of work yourself up for in order to do? And then it just felt a lot simpler than than you made it out to be in the end.
Zhiyan Xu: Definitely. There were two moments I can share. First is when I first spoke to the 15-Minute Ally Meeting for the very first time, I was very shocked to realize that this person that I booked with has been like, this is very normal for him to have someone reach out to him and say, Can we chat and can we build our relationship a little bit? I always thought it's a little awkward to go up to someone who you don't know that well and say, can we be friends? The social awkwardness.
I always let work speak for myself. Like if we get a chance to work together, you will recognize who I am and you will naturally start to like me. I never really pushed myself to other people. So when I stepped into the 15-Minute Ally Meeting and this individual was so welcoming and encouraging and was willing to share everything that I asked about with me unconditionally really surprised me and changed my perspective of how this whole thing works. And from there I felt so comfortable booking a 15-Minute Ally Meeting, and that made a very big positive impact on my growth.
Zhiyan Xu: Another dramatic moment was also a 15-Minute Ally Meeting that I really worked maybe for a good two or three months to book. For some reason, I was a little intimidated by the thought of reaching out to my skip level boss because he usually is very, how do you say this? Very firm and sharp, on point. Asking those very pointed questions. And we've never really build a relationship before. So I was nervous. And I went back and forth and back and forth. And in one of the Executive Ahead of Time meetings, everybody was rallying for me saying, You should do it, let's just walk it.
So I said, okay, I'll go for it. And after I clicked the send, within 10 seconds, he accepted the invite. We had a very good conversation from then. That totally changed my perception about how this works even more. Someone who I deemed to be maybe not so welcoming. You can give it a try. What's the worst? Worst is they say no. Nothing happens. Nothing changes. You don't have a relationship. So what? Just go ahead and do it.
Stacy Mayer: Oh, my God. Well, the first and foremost is that the executive leaders are they got there that way. So there's this. What got them there was having these types of conversations with other leaders. And so when we reach out to them, we realize this is the norm. This is what they do, this is what they think about. But then on the other side, when we when we see somebody who we are engaging with on a regular basis, who seems to cut to the chase, always get to the point, things like that, it's because we're talking to them about work.
So they've created boundaries based on the same boundaries that we've all created, Which is like: I'm leaving at 330 or I have to be with my family or I close the laptop at night. So we've created work boundaries to serve us. And so a lot of these leaders that seem like straight to the point, it's because they've developed these boundaries that really serve them at work. But it does not mean that they wouldn't love to have a conversation with you about your leadership, that they wouldn't love to talk about something other than work.
And for many of us, women included, when we can have conversations where we're being included, where we're being inspired, right, that's not the place where we're like, I have to go right now. I have to get out of this. Like, I have to set that firm boundary. It's usually the part where we want more, we want more engagement, we want to have more conversations like this. And so we have to remember that that's actually more likely what's going on in their head. And then to Zhiyan's point, what's the worst that could happen? Oh, okay, that was shorter than 15 minutes. Okay, fine. And we move on. It's great. It's so good. Thank you for those examples. I think 15-Minute Ally Meeting for sure are the biggest surprises that a lot of the women will notice. Is that how easy or how painless it actually felt, but then also how much it supported their growth afterwards. So huge.
Marssie, do you have any surprises that happened over the years?
Marssie Versola: Hmm. I had a lot of surprises this year. But to say that things didn't necessarily work out the way that I expected things to work out during my leadership adventure this year. But I guess what I would love to share is a couple of surprises and maybe just aha moments that I had over this past year. A lot of that came from the work that we're doing here together.
And one of the really specific aha moments that I had was, I was raising my hand for a promotion at work and I was doing a lot of listening to your podcast, Stacy. And one of the things that you shared was if you're a subject matter expert and no one else can do your job, you're likely not going to get promoted because no one else can do your job. And that for me was this aha moment where I had been felt like I had been holding up this area of my business for many years. And the reality was no one else really knew how to do my job. And so I think that speaks to the power of empowering your team and the power of getting out of the weeds, as I talked about earlier. And it was really this moment that I hadn't really thought about work in that way before.
The other surprise that I had this year was or Aha moment was around professional development and the fact that we I learn a lot from my company. They provide many opportunities for growth and development. And my direct manager's job is to get the most out of me in terms of my performance and productivity for the least cost, which makes sense from a business perspective. But I hadn't really put it together in this way that I need to take the lead in my own leadership journey. And there's so many things that I can do to really be intentional about my own professional development and growth and raising my hand and asking for what I believe I deserve. And what you said earlier, Stacy, is when women earn, we all win. And I so believe that that's true. And I see it happening all around me. And I believe that when when women rise, we lift each other and we see that in our communities. We see that in this community, and we need more of that. So I am really surprised by how passionate I am about this work. And I'm still looking forward to what what's ahead in this New year.
Stacy Mayer: One of the things with Executive Ahead of Time in my wish when I first created it was I was like, Guys, we need to get out of our companies professional development programs because, no fault of their own, they are created to make us better managers. Like hands down. That is what it is supposed to do.
And so when we look at the lens... And and same way, I have a lens. I have a bias, which is to get you promoted, So what am I going to do? I'm going to coach you to do the ask. I'm going to coach you to say, hey, I'm ready for the next level. And it's not always going to turn out the way that we expected. But the ask is what matters. Because the ask and even if it didn't play out the exact same way by asking, you're able to see, oh my gosh, I am the only person who can do my job. Oh my gosh, I was actually going about it maybe in this linear, this old way that I used to go about promotions, which was like title title title, but not actually changing myself and making sure that I was bringing myself to the conversation, that I was really showing up as me so that I can prioritize my family as well.
So all of these different things come out of the conversation of going for a promotion. It's just like hands down. It opens up all of these other sides of ourselves that we can really, really see.
I just did a conversation inside of The Leadership Table, which is the next level program after Executive Ahead of Time. And we were talking about all these gifts that we received in 2022, and I called them gifts because they were sort of like these redirects, these pivots, surprises, things we didn't expect that weren't always the best. But when it's not the best, and then you can show up in Marssie, I know you did this so well, show up to the very next weekly coaching call and say, Hey, guys, this didn't work out the way that I wanted it to. And we're not all going, Hey, it's okay. We're like, okay, what's next? Let's strategize. Let's talk about what went wrong right. Personally, these are the environments, this is the world that I want to live in. This is the way that I want to think about my growth in my life. So thank you for being that example.
Marssie Versola: Thank you. Yes, Thank you, Stacy. And I am so grateful for the support of the community to be able to be surrounded by women who understand, surrounded by women who are ambitious, surrounded by women who want to make a difference and want to change the face of leadership. It has been absolutely one of the biggest gifts of this year to be able to be supported in a way that I didn't know that I would need. And so, yeah. Thank you.
Stacy Mayer: Yay! Zhiyan, you had something to add.
Zhiyan Xu: I want to echo to what Marssie was saying. It's so wonderful to have a community of women leaders to be your allies really being there. I feel like you're almost like my sisters, because I am a single child. OI never had a group of sisters around me to strategize for me as if my problem were their problems. So I can think of when, for example, we were saying, Hi, what is your top value? And I said, My value is kindness. Then I said, But it feels so weak. Kindness is so soft. And really it was an Alexa. Hey, who's not here? Who? Ask her. Tell me more about it. Oh, and Karen, you were in that conversation. The three of us. You were strategizing for me to think about how to define it finer, to make it more concise and powerful. And from there, I can tell you today that I very proudly tell people that I believe in kindness. And kindness means this and this and this to me. And that's how I bring my power into my work. I show up, and because of the influence you gave to me, the power you enabled me, I'm able to do the same to pay it forward, to influence other people at my workplace. That's just a wonderful cycle.
Stacy Mayer: I love that. Karen, did you have any surprises to add?
Karen Heath: When I was reflecting on this question, I don't know that it was an aha moment, but a series of small moments this year when I would realize I'm not overthinking, I'm not spinning, I'm able to focus on what's really important, do the impactful tasks and still have time and space to think about my organization's success at a higher level. And I've been able to formulate that and share it with higher level leadership. And I don't think a year ago that's something I had the space to do.
Stacy Mayer: You look at yourself and you're like, Whoa, I'm not that person anymore. That's an amazing place to be.
Let's continue this conversation of women changing leadership. And Karen, I'll start with you. Why do you personally feel motivated to have a voice at the table and to grow your career and to make the impact that you want to be making?
Karen Heath: I just want to have more of an impact in the world and help organizations, as I said earlier, to understand that when we have good systems, good processes, and we take care of our people and have a strong community, that we can achieve more together. And that trickles down to helping the community. And I think that rising to higher levels and having that spread more broadly throughout organizations is something I aspire to.
Stacy Mayer: And in finance in particular, I can imagine that it's a solo art. And and it sounds like a lot of your leadership and your values are to bring that collaboration, to bring people together to systems, processes that create community. Can you share any more about that and maybe in your industry as well, how your vision for the industry is? We're going big here.
Karen Heath: And so in the government contracting world, we have to really rely on relationships and have those people that we can reach out to to resolve problems quickly so that we can deliver for our clients. But if you don't know who to pick up the phone and call and you don't have a strong relationship, it's a lot harder for you to be successful. So trying to help everyone understand that good relationships are good for business and leading with doing that myself and encouraging my colleagues to do that as well.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, exactly. Leading by example. It's so good.
Marssie, what about you? Why do you personally feel motivated to have a voice at the table?
Marssie Versola: I feel that it's so important to have more diversity at the leadership table. I want to have a voice at the leadership table because I want there to be more conversations like this. I want to help to bring kindness into the workplace. I've been in a lot of meetings lately where there's just not a lot of joy. We get stuff done, but there's not a lot of laughter. There's not a lot of joy. And I think we need more and more of that.
And I've known for some time in my leadership journey that there are three really important philosophies for me, I am deeply rooted in people, purpose and positivity, and I want to bring that forward and infuse that more into my own company and and into the world of business and into the lives of others, period. Whether that's at the leadership table or whether that's in my family or whether that's in the community. We need more of that. The world needs our greatness right now. There's a lot of struggle and a lot of pain and suffering out there. And I truly believe that business has a place to help to solve those problems. And we spend a lot of time as women working. And so being able to bring that level and light and type of leadership to the business place, to the workplace, is different. It's different than what I experience every day. And I think we need that diversity.
Stacy Mayer: I am very privileged to go to a school that celebrates diversity incredibly openly. So for the winter concert, my second grader sang a song called Different Is Beautiful, and they were like, It said something like:.
Wouldn't it be funny if we all look the same? Wouldn't it be funny if we all have the same smile, had the same thoughts, had the same this. And they all sang: maybe that wouldn't be funny? Maybe that would just be weird? And here I am, like my eyes are watering. I'm just like, Oh my God, this is amazing.
But then it really takes me to look in within myself. And we talk about the Executive Ahead of Time process as being the process to becoming a stronger executive leader, when we're asking why, But when you are a diverse leader, what it took for you to get to that seat at the table is incredibly different than other people. And so when we even create a room full of people who got there under different rules, we're going to lead differently. We're going to lead through collaboration, through kindness, through the willingness to add a little laughter in the conversation, the willingness to stop and be like, Oh my gosh, we've just had three meetings in a row that are a little bit too heavy. Yeah, sure, we could have a pizza, but that's not what we need right now. We need a break. We need to take a moment. We need to take a step back.
And so I love what you're sharing. And for me personally, I'm not leaving it up to my kids. I'm very blessed that they are going to be in this community. I can't wait to see what's possible for their generation. But then I'm like, no: it's possible for my generation for what we're doing literally right now. And so that's my feel.
I'll have us all at the Executive Ahead of Time holiday party. I will do karaoke different is beautiful. It's great, I might do that.
All right. Zhiyan, what do you have to add to this? Why you are motivated to have that voice at the table?
Zhiyan Xu: Oh, I think you and Marssie already said it so beautifully. But here's my version. I want to step into leadership role because life is short. There is only so many years of us are going to work. And it's up to us to create the meaning of our lives. And the product we create today may phase out in several decades. The project always has an end, but the experience and the feelings that we're creating along the way with the people that we bring together to generate those results will stay. It will stay with them. It will stay with their family, stay with people that they touch. Even in generations to come. I am very passionate about creating positive experience while bringing people together to generate results. It's a journey.
Stacy Mayer: So good. So good. As we head out today, I would love for you to give final words of advice for that woman who is challenged to get a promotion she feels stuck in her career. She's trying all the things. She's trying to figure out what's next.
Marssie, let's start with you. What what is your final words of advice for her?
Marssie Versola: My final words of advice to you are to ask yourself what's important. To ask yourself why? To remember that you're important. And to just go for it. Just go for it. And we'll be here to catch you.
Stacy Mayer: Yes. Thank you.
Karen Heath: I just wanted to share the idea that we talk about sometimes, which is do it a little bit scared. Stacy says, Do it if you feel a little bit vomiting.
Stacy Mayer: Yes.
Karen Heath: Don't wait for the right time or wait to feel like you're ready. Share your ideas now and make sure you're letting people at your organization know how they can support you and how you can grow. And that these are things that you're interested in, in being in higher level decisions or more strategic discussions or larger projects, whatever that looks like for you. If you're not telling people they can't read your mind. So make sure you're expressing that. And just to practice making decisions from from your future role. Being the Executive Ahead of Time, that's really what it's all about.
Stacy Mayer: And as a reminder, like Marssie brought this up before that they can't promote you if if you don't have anybody who can do your job when you when you're saying that. I think from a gender bias perspective, there is a bias that we actually don't want a promotion. Which is... Maybe I'm throwing something too big here at this end of this podcast. But really, I want you to know that if you don't tell people, they don't know. So they see your picture right behind your face with two small children. The assumption is that that's your priority. And so keep your picture of the two small children, 100% leave at 330 to be committed to picking them up after school. But also you need to communicate with other people about your ambition, about your desire to be included in those meetings, because the baseline assumption is that you're doing fine and we are so good at doing fine. We are so good at showing everybody how happy we are, how how contained, how together we are. But what we're what we need the support in is the support to to speak up, to encourage ourselves, to ask, to ask to be included, to let other people know that we have multiple priorities and that we're very committed to growing our careers and be ready to be surprised because they might just invite you along.
And it's a great surprise and it's amazing. So I appreciate you saying that. And then and then we can we can catch you. Like as we've shared today, it doesn't always work the way that we thought. If it was as easy as just asking, we would kind of all be asking. But I think what we're afraid of is being told no. And so having that community around us to support us, to pivot, to strategize, to say, 'okay, what's next?', is so important because we will catch you. #YouAreNotAlone. That is a hashtag that we made up inside of Executive Ahead of Time because it's so true.
Zhiyan, what do you have to add for advice for a woman who is trying to grow her career and feeling a bit stuck right now?
Zhiyan Xu: Don't wait to be perfect. You are already good enough. Just go ahead and do it. And fail fast. And get up and then do it again. Because you will find your herd. Executive Ahead of Time, this community is your herd. Actionable advice, buy Stacy's book Promotions Made Easy. Turn to page one and start to do 15-Minute Ally Meeting.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, exactly. Oh, Zhiyan, thank you so much. Thank you, Marssie. Thank you, Karen. Thank you all for being here today. I know it is so valuable for all of my listeners and I hope you really appreciate the full circle ness so that, Jan, when you're listening to this podcast episode in your car with your girls, they're going to actually hear Mommy's voice. I'm so excited.
Zhiyan Xu: Exactly. They'll feel: what? Is that you?
Stacy Mayer: Yes, it is. As a matter of fact.
Thank you all so much.
Zhiyan Xu: Thank you, Stacy. Thank you, Karen. Marssie. Bye bye.
Karen Heath: Thank you. It was so good to be together.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.
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