Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #14. Developing Strategic Thinking with Stacy McCarthy

May 05, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 14
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #14. Developing Strategic Thinking with Stacy McCarthy
Show Notes Transcript

For some of us strategic thinking comes naturally - for others it is something we have to learn. 

In this episode Jean Balfour is joined by Stacy McCarthy. Stacy is a business advisor, executive coach and board member.

Stacy McCarthy has spent a lot of her career developing strategy for one of the world's big brands. In this podcast she and Jean Balfour talk about 

  • The importance of stepping out of your comfort zone in your career
  • The connection between purpose, values and resilience
  • How to plan time for strategic thinking
  • Ways to ‘triage’ your time and what you prioritise
  • How to link global and regional strategies and to influence both
  • Leading large teams
  • How do empower people to take risks

Stacy has over 25 years of experience across a really broad range of things. She has worked as an international executive, a military officer, and as a board director. Her career has had her living and working in nine countries where she led regional infrastructure operations for a fortune 500 company from across the Asian and India, Middle East and Africa regions.

 In the Asian region, she transformed the team into an energised high performance organisation that supported 22% growth in the region with a reduction in operating costs whilst achieving 91% employee engagement score. She's led strategic planning for a defence business helping to identify and make a large shift in product lines and capabilities. She's also been an investment banker, a professional staffer on the US Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and was a commander in the U S Navy with two command tours.

You can find Stacy at Aesara Partners and on Linkedin.

https://www.aesarapartners.com/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/stacy-mccarthy-pcc-gaicd-1ab96a5/

Cal Newport’s Work

https://www.calnewport.com

Michael Porter

https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6532
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/407999.Competitive_Strategy

Peter Schwartz - The Art of the Long View

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Long-View-Planning-Uncertain/dp/0385267320

The Economist

https://www.economist.com/

Wired Magazine

https://www.wired.com/

The Artist’s Way

https://juliacameronlive.com/

Jean:

Hi everyone. And welcome to this episode of making sense of work today. I'm really happy to be joined by my friend, Stacy McCarthy. Welcome to the podcast Stacy.

Stacy:

Thanks Jean it's great to be here.

Jean:

Great. Let me tell you a bit about Stacy. She is a business advisor, executive coach and board member, and she has over 25 years of experience across a really broad range of things. She has worked as an international executive, a military officer, and as a board director, her career has had to living and working in nine countries where she led regional infrastructure operations for a fortune 500 from across the Asian and India, middle east and Africa regions in the Asian region, she transformed the team into an energized high performance organization that supported 22% growth in the region with a reduction in operating costs whilst achieving 91% employee engagement score. She's led strategic planning for a defense business helping to identify and make a large shift in product lines and capabilities. She's also been an investment banker, a professional staffer on the US Senate defense appropriations committee, and was a commander in the U S Navy with two command tours. Well, Stacy, that some career.

Stacy:

It has been fun. I have to say.

Jean:

So. We always start the podcast with the question how's work at the moment.

Stacy:

You know, I think work is it's really good, but it's also challenging, you know, I think we're just coming out of the pandemic mode and I'm not sure we've even fully digested the big Teutonic shifts that were happening. And now we've got this war in Ukraine on top of it. And so it's really a, I think it's a challenging situation not just business-wise but I think emotionally, uh, so I think from a coaching and a business advising perspective, there's a lot of work out there, but I would also say still from a personal perspective, uh, it's a little challenging, cause I think we all want to sort of have time to just digest what has happened and understand it.

Jean:

Mm. Yeah, I'm really noticing that too. And that feeling that I think we looked to the end of the pandemic to give us some respite, but actually because of the other things happening in the world, that's that sort of emotional respite is not happening. We're still kind of living with all those upheavals and the change and, for leaders particularly, I think it's been a really tough gig over these last few years.

Stacy:

Yeah, I think so. And I think with all of the change and these situations almost being crisis modes, uh, people have just gotten almost overly busy and really, I think what we all need is a big time of just taking time out and just being quiet. And so even as leaders in the chaos, it's really, how do we find the time to sit back, breathe a little bit digest. And I think that's, that's missing right now for a lot of people.

Jean:

Yeah. Gosh, that's so important. So what about for you when you have a good day at work? What makes it a good day?

Stacy:

You know what, that is really funny. I think for me, it's, uh, when I've made a really positive impact and really when I'm at my best, which oddly enough, For me when I, when I feel at my best it's sometimes when I'm at my quietest, um, what I'm able to really breathe a little bit more. I feel super connected and I can see the impact. You know, there are some times where you're, you know, you've got a lot of energy or standing up in front of a large team and you're giving a briefing or something, a speech outside and it feels good. Yeah. But it's not that deeply satisfying feeling. And to me, what I've really noticed in the last few years is it really comes from what I'm truly connected. And that's normally what I'm quieter.

Jean:

And when you talk about impact what do you mean by impact?

Stacy:

In coaching spaces, you know, we work with a lot of different things. We work with the words, we see the, the emotions in front of us. People's facial expressions and energy, but I can almost feel a shift and you can see something subtle in a human and you can see them start to shift right in front of you. And they don't have. But there's something that happens with the energy and I can feel that impact because we, we all, if we're really quiet and we focused on people in front of us, we can see when things hit them deeply. And I think for me, that's what I mean by impact. It's really a good thing. And that's probably the one that satisfies me the most. There's others where. You, you won the business advising side. I can tell a company, okay. Here's what we need to do. And you can start seeing, shifting in that direction and it's making positive impact on the business. And I have to say I'm happy for that, but it doesn't give me that deeply satisfying feeling because it's not as personally connected. So I think it's that personal connection and watching the shift.

Jean:

Um, wow. That's fantastic. I can feel that too. Yeah.

Stacy:

I figured you could.

Jean:

So all of that is where you are now in your work. Could you tell us a bit about your career and your kind of journey to being.

Stacy:

Yeah, well, I'll tell you it didn't, it didn't have a lot to do with being quiet. So, so I really started out always generally around aerospace defense. Most of my career, uh, I started out as a civilian working in the Pentagon in the finance arena. And then I decided at one particular point that I wanted to try to fly combat jets in combat. So I joined the US Navy and. At the time it looked like they were going to make a decision. Women were not flying combat jets in combat, and I thought they'd made a decision to let women do it. Uh, but they chose not to. So then I ended up switching into something else, which is now known as the expeditionary combat command. It was not known that way at the time. But then I decided to get out of the Navy full-time I've remained in the reserves and I went back to the Pentagon. And from there I ended up working at on Capital Hill in charge of a nuclear arms control and the counter-narcotics accounts, which was amazing to me cause everybody was way smarter than I was, uh, did that for a while. And then went back to the Pentagon where I was asked to lead, uh, a couple of appropriations. One of them was procurement for the Marine Corps, a national guard and reserve equipment. And again, back to strategic nuclear forces. So did that for a while and, and enjoyed it and got to know one of the assistant secretaries of the Navy for financial matters. Who, uh, recommended to a company that was trying to expand their investment banking arm, uh, to open an office in DC. They said, well, I think you should hire Stacy because she knows more about the industry than anyone. So I then went into investment banking to do mergers and acquisitions. And I actually, I love the challenge of it intellectually, but I think the underlying value systems of money was not something that really resonated with me. So after about a year of that, I left and then I ended up leading strategic planning for the McDonald Douglas defense business, where I did the merger with Boeing. And then after that I moved into Boeing and in Boeing, I did a ton of different jobs. So, uh, started with a strategic planning, did financed and communications, advertising, and branding, and then ended up, you know, finishing with the international career. So that was pretty much my primary career. And then decided a few years ago that it was time to do something different and realize that what I loved the most was coaching my team and. Helping them to avoid many of the mistakes and scars that I had managed to give myself. And I just found that that was really, uh, that brought me a lot of joy. So I just decided it was time to leave. Also, I didn't want to leave Asia, so I hung out in Singapore. So that's about it.

Jean:

Great. We are happy you continue to hang out in Singapore for that's a good decision. Um, as I'm listing to your career, one of the things that strikes me particularly about your time at Boeing is that you moved around different functions and did probably what was some sideways moves, perhaps they were moving you up in the organization, but were kind of taking you into. Broader areas. And I know for a lot of people, they're kind of curious about wanting to do that and not sure how to do it. How did you engineer that? If you're like?

Stacy:

Well, a lot of it really is funny. It was. I was a person who always believed in taking opportunities. And I love, I mean, you know, I'm always curious about things. And so when somebody gives me a new opportunity and a new challenge, it's just to go ahead and take it. So I'll give you an example. I was briefing the CFO of Boeing on a competitive intelligence system. And after a while she was so excited, she just kept taking, well, it has to have this and it has to have this and it, she was flipping the charts. And so I sorta just sat back and I stopped giving the briefing because she was doing a great job giving my briefing for me. And she noticed that I stopped talking. So she turns over and she looked at me and yeah. I realized I hadn't said anything in a few minutes and she just said, what? And I said to her, well, my mom had told me if he got it sold, shut up. So this is me shutting up. Cause everything you want is in there. And it was just that brief moment of lightness that, that suddenly made her super happy, I guess, because oddly enough, I had wanted that job and had talked about it to somebody else a couple of years prior and they told me you will never get this because you never grew up in Boeing finance. She wanted to expand investor relations. She's somehow liked me being a little bit of a smart mouth. And next thing I know somebody gives me a call and I'm interviewing for the job. Uh, so I think a lot of it just comes up with, um, different things where people would say, Stacy, we've got this problem. Would you be interested in trying to lead a project team? And, and I was always like, well, why not? That sounds interesting. So. I can't say that it was horribly engineered though. I will say I did have a great desire throughout my career to work outside of the U S and to have more of an international career. Uh, one of my degrees in undergraduate was Chinese studies, so it was always a passion. And so I was always sort of looking for it. And then when we decided to we Boeing decided to put 40% of their operations outside of the U S they needed a strategy to do so. And to set up the infrastructure. Somebody called me and said, would you lead it? And I said, yes. And I mean, that was, you know, something I had been waiting for.

Jean:

Brilliant. So that opportunity brought you into Asia and then into many different parts of Asia and some good experiences.

Stacy:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think the, um, w you know, we've talked about this before. It was also the openness to the opportunity, and then the I'll figure it out because so many of these things, did I know anything about the answer is no, but am I a relatively smart person? I'm your average intellect. I'm a pretty hard worker and I can get really focused and almost every problem is, you know, when somebody gives you something as what are we trying to solve for, what does it take to get them done? What are the elements? What are the risk factors? And it's just building a plan. And, and I have always found that once I do that and start moving towards. Somehow it happens. And a lot of times I really, I look at women in particular, you know, and we've talked about this before, that, that when there's a job opportunity that comes, men can be 15% qualified, said, yeah, give me the promotion, give me the job. I've got it. Women tend to sort of start self-doubting and they need to feel 80% qualified. And I think that holds a lot of them back. It's like, if you're a relatively smart person, you know that you're a hard worker and you just breathe a little and think your way through it and start working towards it, you'll be able to achieve it. And I think that would probably be the, the thing that helped me the most move around as much as. Was that I'll figure it out.

Jean:

Yeah. And living with that discomfort, when you go into those jobs where you still have to figure it out, that's quite a painful point in most careers, the new job, you don't know it all, but there's just a learning to live with that discomfort moment and think, okay, well, I will eventually figure it out and I'll come out the other side of the discomfort.

Stacy:

I would agree, the fear that you have, you, you know, you take the job and then you sort of go, oh my God, what am I doing here? This is going to be a disaster. How do I do this? I'm not the right person that's going to happen. But again, I always, I'm a person that always says throw yourself off the cliff. You'll figure it out. And to me. Having that. Okay. What's the problem. And really sitting down and working on my way through it. And I always find that when I start moving forward, even if it's not the best thing to do, and I have a plan, it starts to come and then I started gaining confidence, but it's, you know, what do I need to do to do what do I need to know to do it well, where can I get that information? Who do I need to talk to? You know, you start laying those things out. And it does start to come to you. And then I think being absolutely open to the joys of learning and not taking it as a, I don't know, that's a fear instead of taking it as a, wow, this is cool. There's something new to learn here and a whole new group of people to learn from. Yeah. beauty in the team. Absolutely. Yeah. Without team. It's no fun for me.

Jean:

One of the things that I know about you and it links in a way, what we've just been talking about about your career is that you run everything through a strategic lens including my experience of talking to you about the podcast. Um, your first questions are usually what are you trying to achieve? What's your strategy? How are you going to get there? What's the point? You know? So is in that strategic realm. I'm guessing that for you, this comes very naturally. It's a kind of natural space for you to function in, but it doesn't really come naturally for some people. It can be a bit hard. I wonder if you could share a bit about why you think strategy is important and how we can. Stretch our strategy muscle, if you like, how could we grow it for those of us for whom it doesn't come so naturally.

Stacy:

Yeah. Well, you know, it's funny, jean you've said this to me before that it's natural. I don't know that it was, I think I may have developed it over time. Through the jobs that I had to have, and I got a number of strategy jobs again and again. So I think it is something that that could be developed. Uh, but I always think, you know, as you know, one of my first question is what are you trying to achieve? Because I also found in my career sometimes when you want to get something done so quickly, you run too fast and you haven't really clearly. Defined, where are you going? What does it look like? What does success look like? And so to me that is absolutely critical to do. And so that's what I do. How do you get better at it? This is the weirdest thing, but it almost comes back to taking the time to think about it and really think about being crystal clear. What are you trying to achieve and getting rid of as much fuzziness as you can. Really fencing it. What does it mean then looking at what does it take to achieve that? What are the elements that need to happen and which ones truly have the biggest impact? Because we can always get mesmerized by things, but are they really the most impactful things? And so I think that is something that is really important. And then the one is, and I had gotten caught with this one before is what assumption have you made that you don't realize you've made. And that when I was, it was when I, when I did the strategic planning for the defense business of boy, I was always asking the team. I'm like, what have we made that we don't know that we've made because I was always afraid. We'd, you know, as soon as you do that, it's almost like putting certain goggles on and you have a certain view and you're not seeing things as clearly. And yet we all naturally have those assumptions. Uh, so I think that is probably one of the things that is really helpful, but like a lot of it, it starts with time to think and really think about what you're trying to achieve and where you're going. And, and lastly, you know, what's the future look like? What are you trying to get to? So you have to think ahead of yourself.

Jean:

Um, I'm thinking back to what you were saying at the beginning of our conversation today, about how. The way that our working lives have emerged. If you like during the pandemic, is that that time has gone. Actually, a lot of that pressure of back-to-back meetings has actually stopped us from having as as much time, probably less than we had before to stop and think to stop and do that. What are we doing? And one of the things that strikes me about what you've said also to think about, you know, what do we need to do? And what's the frilly stuff that we don't need to be doing, that we can be letting go off as well in that context. And just how important it is for us to find that time, to make it, to create it, to ring fence.

Stacy:

Absolutely. You know, one of the, my favorite times, and it took me a while to get here later in my career. And I tried to really, uh, help most of my managers get there is find an hour a week in your diary and it make it sacrosanct. And it's, you're thinking. It gets you to breathe a little bit and start saying, okay, what is going well, what is not going well? What is important to me? What don't I need to do? You know that Steve jobs quote, that's so critical. It's not about what you say yes to it's how many good ideas you say no to so you can focus. And so it's really helping you to create that focus because then you can move with high impact, those things you need. Quickly. Uh, so to me that that is fundamentally important. But most of us just don't do it. So we spend our days getting overwhelmed by small things. And I think you've heard me talk about my triaged, right. I used to talk to my team. And so almost like a medical triage when you're working on things and looking at your diary, are you spending your time on things like a carotid artery, which basically means it's bleeding out. If you don't Fisk fix it right now, you're dead. Are you working on things that are a broken arm that it hurts? But if you have to, it can be set maybe poorly. You'll have to rebreak it and cause yourself more pain, but it can be set or are you working on a cut finger? So you're just, you're bleeding all over your shirt. And I find with a lot of people on my team, and even as I coach senior executives, I take them through a, an, you know, a strategy, an audit of sort of their time. They are getting their time bled away on a lot of these cut fingers because it's easy and people ask them for it and they don't know how to say no. And it's all of that stuff, but you cannot define those things until you have quiet time. You just tend to act more like an amoeba and react versus think. Hm.

Jean:

Um, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a client about two years ago, um, where she said she was wanting to be available for her team. And I asked her what that meant. And she said, well, yesterday, one of my team wanted two hours of my time. And I was like, wow, that's very generous. How useful was that for you? And we spent quite a bit of time working out how she could both be available and ring fence herself because that's, that was just, you know, it was cut finger territory. It was definitely not carotid artery territory.

Stacy:

And that's where so many of us do that. And then we don't know, and of course we've had the pandemic, we've had other things, and then we just get piled these little ones on and little ones on, and they're actually bleeding our energy. So we're just putting ourselves in this depleted state getting more and more things piled up on us. And because we don't know what to say no to. So we almost get into the death spiral. It's like, how do we pause and pull ourselves out? And frankly, that means you got to spend a little bit of time thinking, breathing, and then being able to prioritize really, where should I be spending my time? And that includes your family, your friends. Giving back to yourself a little bit.

Jean:

Yeah. I've been both talking on the podcast and talking generally about Cal Newport's work. He wrote the book deep work and, uh, he's an successful academic and writer without any social media presence. So that in itself is pretty amazing, but it's helped me really look at. Both ring fencing the time, but also being very clear about how I use that time. So being very focused in that time. So if it's a strategy, then there's no distractions. I close my email, I put my phone away. So I can't see it that I'm really rang fencing that time to do that job. And I'm in that job. And it really makes a massive difference both in the feeling of the experience of that hour, but also in how much I get. In that app now doesn't seem very long, but actually if it's an undistracted hour of thinking, it's quite a long time actually.

Stacy:

Yeah. Yeah. And that's great. And I love the fact that you said the word feeling, how do you feel. Because we know when we're in the zone and it's working generally, there's this lightness to us, but when we start to do the other anxiety producing things, it just, it doesn't work for us. And we can, we could, if we paid attention and feel it in our bodies, absolutely.

Jean:

Just taking us on, in the strategy theme, again, one of the challenges that I hear from clients. This is the thing about working in Asia or in a country that's out of, or a long distance away from the global headquarters. And about once a month, the client will talk to me about a decision that was made in their headquarters. That's actually not landing or working here in the region for whatever reason. There's lots of reasons why that could be. How have you managed this tension between global HQ regional strategy?

Stacy:

Well, I say sometimes, well, sometimes not so well if we're, I'm going to be honest. Um, but I think when I managed it well, and I think we all need to do a little bit more of this is again, thinking ahead, using that strategic mindset and saying it, particularly as a senior executive, you've been around the company long enough by this. You sort of understand when, when people are talking about certain things that changes will be coming. So how do you sort of look ahead and see what are the things that people do not know and do not understand that before they set a strategy they need to, and, you know, an example would be in China. We do a lot of, you know, I do a lot of coaching and the financial institutions, well, the, the governance models, there are really, regional. So a lot of what has to happen from a regulatory perspective, it's done region by region. There's not this national body that says here's the answer. If you work in that environment and you don't tell people ahead of time and educate them ahead of time, somebody back in their corporate headquarters is going to set a strategy that just will not work, just cannot work unless they suddenly allow you to hire a couple of hundred people. But if you wait for, when they've made the decision to educate them, generally, they're just trying to get something through their careers on, they've got a schedule and you're a pain in the rear, but if you are thinking ahead, you could hopefully educate them. So I think there's a little bit of, and I wish I had been smarter at this. There's a little bit of, I need to educate people ahead of decisions. So they really truly understand the environment. How do I get them to understand the environment? Particularly when I know there's probably some things they are thinking about and they need to know about their strategy. So I think it's really having a very good network and regularly meeting with them to make sure you understand what they are thinking about so that you can then, okay. What do they need to know if they're going to, if they're in this space and oftentimes probably because we work so many long hours in Asia, we didn't. I think if I were to do it again, I would shift my schedule and do it differently.

Jean:

It's um, so linked to that, standing in the shoes of the people that you need to be influencing and reading into that ahead, isn't it. It's just that playing that, playing into that all time. So that you're helpful to them and also protecting the people who you're serving in your own area.

Stacy:

Absolutely. And you've also spent the time in the end. It's all about relationships, right? It's about if you've spent the timing, you've developed a relationship, you get that trust and trust almost translates into shorthand. They will trust you and they will know you're not trying to just be a blocker. Really trying to help. And so being very clear that it's not about politics and all of those things that sometimes we can say it really is about building relationships with people and figuring out how you can be of service to them. Cause nobody in headquarters, you know, is sitting there saying, how do I screw up Asia today? It's just not what they're trying to do. So how do you help them?

Jean:

I guess it's it's being that person where somebody's. About to roll something out. And they think before I do this, I'm just going to pick up the phone to Stacy and see how it will land, where she sitting and yeah.

Stacy:

And I would think even before they're ready to roll it out. I'm just thinking about this. I'll have to just be thinking, let me call Stacy, let me chat with her or Jean or whomever, but, but do they pick up the phone and call you just to sort. I think their way through something. And if you can be their thinking partner, how great is that? And I recognize that takes a lot of effort, particularly with the time zones, but that is sort of the ideal.

Jean:

Um, and it saves a lot of effort further down the line. In my experience, if you get that going, it's upfront effort rather than downstream.

Stacy:

I think it's a first work, the relationship that worry about the business, because it'll, it'll go that much more smoothly, but you have to invest upfront.

Jean:

Yeah. Yeah. I couldn't agree more. Okay. So with all of this, do you have any recommended reading around strategic thinking? If people are thinking, okay, I want to deepen my skill in this area or my knowledge, where would you say.

Stacy:

Well, I think the first thing I would, I would say, please, please get that hour, put that in your diary. And I, there are many strategy books, the ones that I read Jean, so there might be better ones. Uh, I read Michael Porter's book. He's a Harvard professor and did competition and strategy. Uh, the other one I read was Peter Schwartz, the art of a long view. So he talked to you about scenario planning and looking at the different options. And one of his critical things is what are your off ramps? Because sometimes we can make bad bets. And by the way, I had a couple of my career, but what are the off-ramps so that you really minimize the damage. And then how can you quickly get back onto a better one? And then from a daily basis, I felt it was really important that I understand what was happening in the world from an economics perspective. So I read the economist, which in a week, boy, it's amazing how much information they can go into. And it's hard and wired magazine. Because while I, myself am not a technologist technology has with Moore's law has made amazing differences in our lives, and it makes a difference in almost every single company. And then how they approach the market, their products, et cetera, et cetera. So I was always looking at, and I needed that thinking time, I'd read it and then I'd sit back and say, okay, how could this affect us? So I think that's probably what I'd look at, but it really does start first with, you need to have the time to think.

Jean:

Mm. Mm. That's really helpful though. So those are all good places to go. The surprise for me is Wired I'd actually, but it makes such good sense that for those of us who are not techie, actually, we're going to miss out if we don't stay ahead of that game.

Stacy:

Well, that was just it. I knew that was a weakness of mine and I didn't understand a lot of this stuff, honestly, so, but, but by thinking about it, I found myself a little bit more fluid with it.

Jean:

We are going to switch gears a bit. I guess people will have assumed by now that you've lived and worked in some pretty stressful situations, you've had to deal with some pretty challenging things, um, both in your executive career and in the military. I'd love to hear a bit about how you've developed resilience in yourself that the rest of us could learn from.

Stacy:

Well, I think one of the things that drives me, I, you know, did this executive assessment while I was at Boeing and, uh, what it came out, my top two drivers were caused and challenge. So it has to be hard for me to be interested, but I have to really believe in it. So I think my resilience really comes from I'm working on something that I think is important and something that I need. And I mean it more broadly because occasionally we all have to do things we don't really love, but, but on the whole, I really agree with the organization that values are in line with mine and I just want to keep going. So that helps me because I am driven by cause. So I think that is a critical thing. And even in the military, I was on the whole driven by, cause I thought this was the right thing to do. And that for me. Really helped. I will tell you though, when I look back on times when I started to lose my resilience a little bit, when I found it difficult to go to work was really when the leaders that I work for were not clear on the objectives that they hadn't done the deep work to get crystal clear on what we were trying to accomplish. And so we played this game that I like to call, bring me a rock. Because I did work for somebody very much like this and it drove me nuts, but I would try to then ask clarifying questions. We'll do you mean this? What does it look like? How big is it? You know, all of these things, I don't know, but I'll know it when I see it. So there was a number of things that were going on for me at the time one, I felt super disrespected. It was clear that person did not value my time because they would not spend the time clarifying the objectives. So they were happy to have me waste. And I'd keep coming back. Well, no, that's not it. Okay. As a bigger, smaller, I don't know, but I'll know it when I see it. And so that really just wore on me. So it started with this feeling of absolute disrespect and then naturally I want to get things done and I want to do the right thing for the company. So I also want to know how does it fit in. But if again, the person isn't clear on the objectives, you don't know how it helps move the company forward. So you're why am I doing this? The purpose is completely unclear and I think that's really where I get the most challenges is when I've sort of lost the plot on what are we doing? Why are we here? And it just, it starts to beat breed for me. When I lose my resilience, I started they'd get anxious, then you get self doubt. And then you just, you know, you start getting to this death spiral. I call it the death spiral of confidence. And sometimes in the case of that particular, uh, boss that I was referring to on bring me a rock. What I realized is this isn't me. I'm not incompetent. They're just really bad at doing this. And. Maybe it's time for me to go away and find a new job.

Jean:

This link between purpose and our feeling of, satisfaction and like we're making a difference is so fundamental and we've missed it so much. I think in. Corporate careers, particularly until recently where it's been talked about, but, um, it's still really hard for leaders to articulate it sometimes to get that clear, to get that piece clear about, I know what the purpose is. I know what we're doing. And it's also, I think hard for individuals sometimes to say, I've lost my purpose or I've lost my connection to it. I need to find. And for both of those things, we're seeing both from the example you're sharing and, and from the research that actually we need that alignment in order to be at our best. And then we will find resilience and energy and places. We didn't know we had it, but without that, it just seeps away.

Stacy:

I think so. Cause you know, I was just thinking, as you were talking about, even in the military, I've been in situations where it's been really unpleasant. Temperature, super hot temperature, super cold people doing bad things, but I didn't really see people lose their resilience. We might've whined and bitched and all, you know what we always like to do complain a little bit. People really understood what they were there to do. They really understand the purpose. So it might've been, I was in Alaska and it was one with windchill, 70 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. And I'm not, I hate cold weather. Uh, I was in, you know, in the middle east and it's 130 degrees Fahrenheit and you're in full combat gear and the food is bad. You're not sleeping in anything nice. You're dirty. Most of the time. And yet people would be joking. And I remember this one time and it actually brought a tear to my eye, but it was 2:00 AM. And this is when I was in Alaska and we hadn't slept in about 36 hours. Nobody had slept in 36 hours. It's 2:00 AM. We're back in a back of a truck, one of those ones with a flappy canvas side. So it's even colder than it is. And I remember listening in the dark to the guys on my team and they were joking. And I'm, I'm sorry. I was physically as miserable as I could possibly be and they were joking and I just thought, wow, this is cool. This is so amazing to be here. But again, they knew their purpose and they were clear on the mission. And that told me so much.

Jean:

That's fantastic. That's a very inspiring story. Okay. It feels a bit strange. Moving on to this from that wonderful story of, uh, another part of your career is that you've led really large teams, very large teams across dispersed workforce and, uh, It feels a bit daunting to many people be great. If you could just share a bit about your experience of that, how you've influenced culture across, across scale. And how, how did you get a 91% employee engagement?

Stacy:

Well, I will say I did have one manager who was like rockstar on her engagement and it all flows up hill. Um, but I think a couple of things, one. I started with probably going back to strategy. I started with, what do we have to do in the region. When I came into the region a lot had been done by the director. It hadn't been done by the leaders in the countries and that needed to change because we were about to really increase our presence here. But the team wasn't used to making decisions. So it was really thinking it through and, and taking responsibility. So I set a plan to spend a few, you know, try to, I call it the first year I had my hand a little bit on the steering wheel, you know, two hands on the steering wheel. The next year I had one on the steering wheel was letting go and teaching more. And then by year three, you know, having my hand off the steering wheel, but to do this. What's the culture we needed to have. Well, we needed to take people who were very risk averse and make it okay to take risks. So we had to start talking about what are the cultural elements and really work on them. Very, very hard. So like most large companies, we had an employee engagement surveys and we took it very seriously, but I put the engagement surveys sort of in the hands of the employees when we would get it back, we'd get employee teams to tell us what's working with. And have them tell us what we as leaders needed to do, not us, because I have found in the past when we said, oh, okay, let's, let's fix that. We'll go do this. We aimed so badly. It was unbelievable. So we let the employees sort of lead that. And then secondly, we, I had to really take a very good personal look at myself and say, if I need these guys to be risk averse than I've got to accept more mistakes and I can not show what I'm irritated about a mistake. I really had to take mistakes in stride. And there was a time where I had a really large mistake in my region that immediately at my budget and put me into the red. And I was already having a difficult time because we got some, some things from corporate. Uh, so my budget was already being taxed and that was very, very difficult, but I knew in that moment, that was probably a seminal moment for the team. And so I just sort of said, okay, well, let's just all say that that is bad. So we've, we need to do something about that. And then we just went through the, sort of the five, why analysis, why did this happen? Why did that, you know, and keep going. And in the end of it, nobody had made a mistake. It was a bad process. It was a weak process that wasn't ready for what we needed to do. And so that was the nice part about it is I could say that at the end, And I also needed to let you know managers make other decisions, even when I knew they would make the wrong one because they had to learn. And so what I told them is I'm going to make you make these decisions. I will jump in if it's catastrophic, but if it's not, you're going to make it, we're going to discuss why and you're going to learn from it. You're going to upskill. So it's being very clear. What is the culture that needs to be created? And by the way, how to you. As the leader needs to change. And then what do you demand of your other leaders? How do they lead? So I think it's really very, but you have got to be very clear on that. Yeah, it was going to notice it, it comes back to a strategy of course, because that's how you lead that you, you had a very clear strategy, but, but also you really role modeled. You were very intentional about role modeling the behavior that you were then expecting your directs to role model with theirs and so on. I was, but I will say getting to a large region, sometimes one, you can expect it since they're not sitting aside from you. You don't get to see. So we use the employee engagement survey as diagnostics. I made sure that it was, and this was something my father taught me is the larger your team. And the more broad it is, the more trip buyers you need to have. So the more warning signals that something's going wrong. And so I sort of set up my own little system of warning signals, not to hammer anybody, but just to. Then say, oh, I think I might have some questions I need to ask here and jump in. And so I really did that and I always made sure that when I went into an office, as I was traveling around the region, you always do the casual lunches with the team and those kinds of things. And no matter how casually I was asking a question, I was laser focused on listening for certain things.

Jean:

So your also try to get as close to the people on the front line, as you can so that you can understand how they are. They know who you are. There's an ongoing relationship.

Stacy:

Absolutely. And you also want to know what are people struggling with? Because I firmly believe that leadership is really, you set the vision, you set the tempo and then your job is to really just get obstacles out of people's you get yourself out of the way and get obstacles out of their way. And that's what you got to do with your rank. So to speak. If I were to put that in air quotes,

Jean:

We're coming to the end of our conversation. I have a, another question for you. If you were to sit down with, uh, somebody sort of at the, not necessarily the beginning of their career, but maybe they're about 30 and they're thinking, huh? I quite like a career like yours. What advice would you give them?

Stacy:

You know what first came to my mind. And I feel rather self-serving when I say this and I don't mean to be, but I think I would, if I were to do this career again, I would probably get an executive coach because I think that time to think and having somebody who can help you. Thank your way through problems in a way that works for you, and also help you define who you are, what your brand is. So probably I do a little bit of the executive coaching. I would then spend a good deal of time on understanding your brand, your purpose, and your values would be really important because I can tell you when I had stress in my. Career was probably when I was working against my value system and hadn't taken the time to really know that. And I was probably doing things that as a leader, while I ended up as a decent leader, there were times along the way, I was not a good leader in all honesty. And I sort of knew it at the time. But I didn't know how to get out of my own way. And that's where I sort of recommend the, um, the executive coaching. And I try not to do that cause I'm not trying to sell it, but I do think I see the power of having somebody help you think your way through to your answers, not, not my answers, but to your answers of how. It works for you and who you want to be.

Jean:

Yeah. I mean, I know, I know for me, I did have various points approach careers or a career coach or somebody who would help me with that. And I, I know for sure, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now without their help and guidance along the way. And I sort of wonder what would have happened if I had had some help earlier and you know, what else would I have done? So I'm with you, I'm with you.

Stacy:

The one thing that I, um, I thought about that I didn't say we all have these little voices in our head that run around in generally that voice is a negative voice. It's a critic it's rarely telling you, you were the most awesome thing ever. It's normally, oh my God, you screwed that up. Blah, blah, blah. But I think really recognizing that that voice is not fast. And our brains are generally designed to be, they sort of are designed honestly, to tell us things more on the negative than they are on the positive, because it's trying to keep us safe from risk. And so sometimes our brains, you know, the amygdala in particular wants us to go sit in a little room. That's all padded with nobody talking. Because there's no risk there, but there's also no life. There are no joy there. There's no growth there. And so I think getting really clear on that voice and you and I have talked about this book before. Cause there was one that had a profound effect on my self thinking and talk and it's Julia, Cameron's the artist way. And it's really a book about trying to get more creativity into your, your life, your day, your work and whatever. But one of the exercises she has you do is really pay attention to that voice and then draw a picture of the voice. And so at one point in my career, I read the book, I started drawing the picture and then as I would be sitting in meetings and I'd start hearing the voice, start telling me things, I'd just start drawing the picture, and then I put the slash through it. So I think the other thing I would be like, pay attention to that. Get really clear on the voice, what's it telling you? And then what is the voice look like? Draw your own little cartoon and then put a slash through it because it's not truth.

Jean:

Yeah. I love that. I love both the process of doing that. And also at that book, it's in my top five, all time books. I can't recommend it enough. Wow, Stacy, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today on the podcast. Have a real sense of wanting to make sure for myself that I make sure that I have at least an hour a week where I'm thinking about the strategy for my business or my work or my life, um, and take that time and that stillness. So it's very much a reminder for me, that strategic thinking and taking the time and the space to do that is so important in our careers. The other thing is. Just take risks. I'm really hearing you say that lean in say yes, go for it and we'll work it out. Absolutely. I would encourage everybody. If there's something you want to do, just do it, you'll figure it out. And even if you make a mistake, you're going to learn from it. So use that growth mindset and say, well great. Now I'm, up-skilled, I'm smarter than I was just fun. We only get one life. So we might as well just. You know, take it all in. Great. Lean into it. Thank you so much, Stacy. My pleasure, Jean. Great to be with you.