As we adapt to ongoing uncertainty, we need to regularly confront our discomfort with change. We are living in a period where we do not know all the answers or how things will evolve. Our environment is very fluid right now – both unpredictable and volatile. On top of our own uncertainties, they are all compounded by the larger global variability at hand, and if you’re anything like me, the energetics of that alone can make you feel ungrounded and a bit stressed out. I’ve worked through my own fears surrounding these “unprecedented times” by seeking career advice for the LADYGUNN community, to uncover and unveil ways we can thrive and push through the challenges we are coming up against.
LADYGUNN had a chance to sit down with Leadership Empowerment & Growth coach Lenore Kantor who works with founders, solopreneurs, and business professionals who are looking to grow, pivot or start something new. We discuss everything from approaching work through ease and flow, rather than hustle and grind, what authentic leadership actually means, and challenging the status quo. She even shares advice for womxn in and on non-traditional career paths, something the LADYGUNN community is here to champion.
Dive in and rest assured that you will walk away with a little more heart, clarity, and direction.
Hi Lenore, it’s a pleasure to meet you on the LADYGUNN space, you define your work as a Growth Warrior consultant? What’s behind the work and the name?
Well, I worked as a corporate marketing executive in the financial technology space for over 20 years in high growth companies and I have always been about launching new initiatives, scaling businesses and creating change which requires some fierce energy. When I first started my business, I actually had 2 names – Launch Warrior and Launch Goddess – and at that time since I was working mostly with men, something about the Warrior seemed to be more relevant. Since launching was too narrowly perceived as working with startups, I shifted to talking about how I help coach founders, solopreneurs, and business professionals around growth as they look to scale, pivot or start something new. People really love the name, so as a branding expert I really enjoy the way it resonates for them and for me.
As we adapt to ongoing uncertainty, we need to regularly confront our discomfort with change. We are living in a period where we do not know all the answers or how things will evolve. Our environment is very fluid right now – both unpredictable and volatile. How can we best adapt to the changing landscape?
Change is very unsettling and of course the amount of change that we have had to manage in the last few months has been both unprecedented and unpredictable. And it seems to just keep coming, so there’s something about needing to find a way to navigate all the discomfort which isn’t so easy. We’re naturally wired as humans to fight, flee or freeze, so dealing with all this uncertainty is very stressful to say the least.
I think it’s important to come at this from a place of perspective – do we know ourselves and what we want and need? The more we can connect to our values and allow ourselves to go along for the journey, the more flow we will experience. For many in our culture, there’s been a focus on results and outcomes – the end game. But that really misses the point because once we reach a certain goal, then we will often say “okay, now that’s done, what’s next?” That’s not a recipe for satisfaction because it keeps us caught up in the hamster wheel of push – or the hustle and grind.
I’m more of a fan of ease and flow – can we be present and in gratitude enough to enjoy the journey and appreciate the things we do have. This is something I firmly believe is more important than ever now. From my experience in the pressure cooker high-stakes corporate financial world (I was on call 24×7 as a public company spokesperson dealing with high profile mergers and acquisitions), I realized that didn’t reflect my true goals and values. I see the coronavirus and working from home causing many people to rethink so many aspects of their life and work so they can figure out how to create more alignment with what is most important to them.
If we can look for the opportunities (or lessons and silver lining) in whatever happens, then we have more possibility for growth. Of course losing a job can suck, but maybe moving home creates an opportunity to build a deeper connection with family or spend more time in the country. I think the better we understand what “we” truly care about (not what others project or impose on us), the more we can make decisions that are right for us. And of course, the more flexibility we have around the outcome, the easier it becomes to adapt to current circumstances and shift accordingly.
Your work brings in a spiritual meets business approach focused on personal growth and emotional wellbeing, how would our culture fare better leaning into these principles?
We are whole people – human “beings” not human “doings”I believe that those who embrace a growth mindset are interested in constantly learning. This allows us to adapt, change, and push ourselves forward. Change is a constant, so while we might like to sit still and rest on our laurels or feel we are in “control”, that may not be realistic. The opportunity now is for us to connect more with our hearts and intuition, not just our heads. We are seeing the influence of millennials and younger generations who are very motivated by living in alignment with their values and who are very sensitive to the bigger impact on the world.
While of course data and information are powerful and can provide valuable insights, numbers alone don’t tell the whole story because algorithms can be biased and miss the nuance. We’ve seen so many recent situations where focus only on performance and results without taking people into fell short. So many companies and leaders are getting called out now (think Uber, WeWork, Amazon, Everlane, even several high profile #girlbosses at womxn-oriented brands like Away, The Wing…. The list goes on and on) who were insensitive or pushed employees to hit certain metrics or produce and work without considering the individuals’ needs – which created huge pushback. Being out of touch comes across as tone-deaf, not to mention inappropriate. Sadly too many leaders make poor decisions by not recognizing or valuing the needs of their employees or treating clients with respect.
Call it simple emotional intelligence or just awareness of our impact. Behaviors focusing only on immediate outcomes are short-sighted! Companies and organizations (and on a broader scale, countries) will only be as successful as their people and processes and how they deliver value to their community. Consumers and customers are now demanding more from brands and service providers – when they say they stand for certain values, they are expected to live up to them.
For womxn in non-traditional careers, what is the best piece of advice would you offer them?
Own it! If you are doing something that’s different, good for you. It can be challenging to go against the grain, particularly when you are working in a more traditional or male-dominated environment. It’s never easy to stand out or “be different”, but it can also work to your advantage. You get to approach things with your own unique style. I think that so many multi-passionate people with multiple interests and now is a time to create new opportunities that may not have existed previously with virtual work, digital media platforms, and curated communities.
I want to support people in finding work and life that they find fulfilling. Why wouldn’t you try to live your best life? To make this happen, it’s important to be clear on why you are doing things and what you hope to create (your vision), and what you care about (your values). Aligning these with your strengths, then finding customers who value what you are offering is a formula for success. Being clear around your purpose and desired goals help you focus on what matters.
When you are looking to create something new or do things that haven’t been done before, recognizing that creation is a “journey”, not just a destination. We can get too caught up in results and outcomes and overlook the process, potentially missing opportunities to shift and adapt which makes the process less enjoyable. I suggest focusing on the energy you want to create. For me, as I mentioned, I value being in flow and ease because that makes everything so much more pleasurable. But if your thing is hustle and grind (some people are just wired that way), that’s cool too. You have to find what works for you. The most important thing is to figure out your way of doing things to make it work for you – then you can create life on your own terms which is a powerful place to be.
In our current culture more and more womxn are stepping into leadership roles, what is one piece of advice you would offer womxn to feel more confident in their leadership style?
Know your leadership style and be real. Authenticity comes when we align what we do (our actions) with what we say (our words) and mean (our intentions). When people say one thing and do something else, we notice. When people’s energy seems out of alignment with their message then we quickly register the disconnect. Getting back to the brands and corporate leaders being called out when their messages rang hollow – key stakeholders (customers and employees) won’t tolerate leaders who don’t walk their talk any longer. We can vote with our pocketbooks and buy from or choose to follow someone else.
I would also add that leadership is a skill that can be learned and cultivated, it’s not a fixed quality. While we all have natural strengths and preferences for how we like to work (which we should all be aware of), we can also develop new skills. They may not come easily or naturally at first, but with practice, we can cultivate them. I support my clients in stepping into their leadership through a lot of embodiment work – actually having them stand up and try on the new way of being so they can feel it in their bodies. Once they see they can “be” it, they feel comfortable and confident and it becomes more natural. So often we try to do things a certain way because we think that’s what we “should” do. I’m not buying it – find the way that works for you. When you treat people with respect and are authentic, you will be successful.
What does grounded leadership mean to you?
To me being grounded means standing in your power. Too often we say or do things we don’t truly believe in or are unsure of. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with faking it until you make it. But when we embody what we believe, people resonate. You can notice when a woman speaks quietly so you can’t easily hear her or her voice is squeaky and irritating – she’s not owning her message. When we speak from our core, it comes out with a deeper sound that resonates – we know when she believes it and we then trust her more.
This gets tricky because there’s a lot of sensitivity confusing the message with the messenger, but both matter. Research has shown we interpret almost two-thirds of communication on “how” people speak (more specifically how we feel listening to them) more than “what” they say or the tone or “volume” they use. Getting back to authenticity – someone who is grounded will come across aligned in all aspects of their communications, actions, and behaviors. Is the leader “standing” in their truth or dancing around? We sense when someone is being real with us or when they are putting on a show.
Any advice for challenging the status quo at work? What about addressing toxic leadership?
Power dynamics at work are real – that’s just the truth. And while things are changing, employees are vulnerable and at-risk if they decide to buck the norms at their company. Not only might you get fired for speaking truth to power, but you could get blacklisted or bad mouthed or publicly shamed. Sadly it’s a difficult and polarized time right now, yet it always has been for those who question authority.
I don’t think there’s only one way to create change. It starts with asking whether you want to do this from inside or outside of the system. One successful way to change an organization from the inside is to create a base of support across a wide range of sources to build credibility who can point out the downside risks. For instance, showing the negative financial impact to inappropriate behavior makes a strong case for change. The cons have to outweigh the pros – making a case for how the status quo will hurt the organization. Sadly, entrenched power structures are difficult to dismantle, so it takes courage, persistence, and persuasion to uncover and address harmful behaviors. Too often denial and avoidance run deep, so it can take an expose, lawsuit, or other negative publicity to uncover and reveal inequities before organizations are motivated to take action and make changes.
I recommend that anyone in a bad place needs to assess their personal situation and determine whether it makes sense to stay and tolerate toxicity (for personal or financial reasons). I just had this conversation with someone recently who was 3 years away from their pension – that might be hard to leave behind. In my experience, bad cultures create so much damage and inevitably get exposed. So you can stay and catch the fall-out or be proactive and take care of yourself. Honestly, I see many (myself included) who have worked at large competitive organizations needing a period of detox to get over being in those unhealthy environments.
How do you delve into your authenticity at work? How can you tap into this authenticity in spaces and places where it might be an old paradigm?
It’s important to recognize the difference between our personal and professional brands – what we care about in our private lives may be different from how we show up for work. However, when these two aspects of ourselves are too separate, it can cause disconnection and inauthenticity. For many, how we show up at work doesn’t really reflect who we are and what we truly care about. To be authentic, we need to feel safe and confident to just be ourselves which requires us to be aware of our strengths and to stand in our leadership.
The more you bring your personal and professional selves together to be more in alignment, then your brand will come across as more powerful and resonant. It also makes it easier to consistently present yourself and your value, wherever you are, authentically. For example, if you are known as an innovator with an edgy fashion style, then if that’s what you were hired for it’s easier to dress like that on a regular basis without needing to hide or conform to other cultural standards. Finding jobs, companies, and industries that you actually want to work at and with can make a difference. It’s really great when you get to be yourself!
I’ve seen many situations where women, in particular, find their leadership style not valued by the organization. They delivered results by facilitating team collaboration which enhanced overall company performance, but they didn’t fit their company’s executive leadership criteria (ie. they weren’t “aggressive”, “assertive” or “authoritative” enough). Sadly these companies miss out because the women leave and they lose diverse perspectives. Workplaces that lack understanding and caring revert to command and control which is less appealing or attractive to people now.
LADYGUNN is a space for those who push boundaries on culture and knowledge, a place for voices who are changing the world. What does change in this current world mean to you?
While I’ve been a change agent and intrapreneur across different organizations throughout my life, I find this question particularly relevant now. I think there are so many opportunities to create change – within companies, industries, and traditional structures. Disruption is a natural part of life. It can be scary and unsettling to watch traditional structures fall down, but at the same time, we can make way for newer and better ways of operating. My preference would be to do this in thoughtful and strategic ways that place a premium on communication and sensitivity, but I know that’s not always how things work. Humans inevitably resist change because it creates fear and uncertainty when we feel out of control. With technology now, not to mention globalization and the recent experiences with all of these environmental and economic upheavals, we are going to need to be more and more comfortable with change. Can we flow, adapt, and be flexible and open or will we resist and react with rigidity? Now is a time to consider the ways that we have relied on things to be fixed (accepting the “status quo”) and now we may need to explore how we might find more resilience and adaptability to allow new ways to emerge.
CONNECT WITH LENORE KANTOR
photos / The Confetti Project
story / Lindsay Herr