Jobs provide opportunities for us to identify our strengths, explore our potential, and develop ourselves as we interact with people to pursue a shared goal. Through your work experience, you can feel a sense of contribution to society and help make the world a better place. In this episode, writer, consultant, and coach Janet Gregory joins us to talk about work experience and organizational behavior. She is the author of Age of Freedom, a book filled with stories, ideas, and learnings about being true to oneself.
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Approaching Change in the Work World
With Janet Gregory
Welcome, Janet Gregory. Janet comes to us with seventeen years of providing strategy and business development consulting. She authored a book called Age of Freedom. Janet, would you like to tell us a little bit about the book Age of Freedom?
Thanks for having me along on your show. I appreciate it. My book, Age of Freedom, grew out of a 25-year corporate experience career as well as seventeen years in consulting, all working in the amazing Silicon Valley entrepreneur and invention world. What I was exploring in my own mind was what happens when you leave the work world.
What that did is get me to venture into this question of what is known and what is unknown. I knew what the work world was all about, but I didn't know what it would be like to leave the work world. So I reached out to women and asked the question, and 650 women answered our survey. They were all professional women, from managers to business owners, individual contributors, entrepreneurs and everything. They covered the complete spectrum of industries.
If you wanted a snapshot of the 650 women that answered our survey, that is also located in the appendix of the book. These 650 women that answered our survey became our guides, mentors and advisors and they opened our eyes. The reason I say ours is that this book is co-authored with another woman who I had worked with a number of years ago.
The book is filled with learnings and discoveries. Every woman's voice that responded to our survey is heard. One of the things that comes out of this is, first of all, I hate to say this, but there's no easy button. Each of us is unique and different. We'll be approaching the work world and the change in our work world in very unique and different ways.
When you think about approaching change in the work world, that's a general statement. What do you mean by that? What do you mean by approaching change? Is it approaching the change of leaving the corporate world or approaching the change of we're all coming back from this crazy world of the pandemic, or approaching the change of the global acceleration of the pace that we're working at or all of it?
What we learned is it’s all of those things. First of all, coming into the book was the question of retirement. How from being completely in the thick of it, in a career where it's very intense, can you step away from the work world? The big realization is that first of all, you don't ever have to. You can move in and out of the work world in many different ways. The book opens this up.
Many women may move from being intensely in the thick of it as what we call in the book. Half of the women who answered our survey are in the thick of it to working on their own terms. It could be working for yourself. I was in consulting for seventeen years. It could be even doing something radical like stepping out of the paid work world altogether.
I will avoid using the word retirement because I especially think professional women will never retire. You may not be paid by others but you never quite retire because you're too much of a go-getter, a doer and a make-things-happen kind of person. Your change can happen at any age and at any stage. You can move back and forth pretty much seamlessly in and out of the work world. You could be in the thick of it, working on your own terms. We even had some women in the early stages of their careers who stepped out of the paid work world so that they could focus on developing a family and then later stepped back in. Change can embrace a little bit of everything.
When you hear the word liberation, specifically at work. What does that mean to Janet Gregory, co-author of Age of Freedom?
It's a word you use, Magi. It’s empowerment. It means that anything is possible. First of all, empower yourself. Have a commitment, a desire, a direction and a willingness to invest in both yourself and your skillset in terms of where you want to go. The other thing in empowerment is to be empowered by others. That is to realize you're not alone. It's leveraging guides, mentors, coaches, and advisors. I don't know what you want to call them. You can call them any of those things but leverage the experience of others.
Empower yourself. Have a commitment, a desire, a direction, and a willingness to invest in yourself and your skillset in terms of where you want to go.
Part of the reason to do that, just like we did with stepping out and doing a survey, is because you cannot see yourself or your situation as clearly as others can. It gives you this 360-degree view because you are on the inside looking out, but your coaches, mentors and whatnot are on the outside looking not only at you, but also the world around you.
Maybe it's Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In if it’s us all helping each other out. I'll throw in a few other things on empowerment. Empower yourself and your own growth through celebration. Celebrate your accomplishments. Accomplishments don't need to be big. They can be movement. You're making the movements in the right direction. Recognizing that you are growing and you're growing stronger.
It's those big things and more importantly the little things that make a big difference. In today's world, when I think about empowerment, it's also understanding, standing up for, and claiming your own rights. You have to be aware of those. Empower yourself in the system itself. As you bring all this together, it's giving back. You empower others which empowers you. I see this as a very cyclical thing.
It's interesting because as you talk, probably because when something is important to you, you listen to your own filters. We have a women's leadership retreat that we do four times a year. It's called Ignite Power. It is about liberating the human spirit of woman at work and in life. What it means to me as I'm listening to you is it's about taking ownership for your own experience of life and work, and whatever that looks like.
If you don't like the work you're doing, if you don't like the people you're doing it for, if you don't feel like you're fulfilled and you can't get fulfilled in the job, and you can't make things different, then maybe liberation means hasta la vista, baby. I'm going to be part of the Great Resignation, or maybe liberation means it's time to start your own business. For you, Janet, when you took the journey of leaving corporate and moving on to be a consultant, can you share with us what that was like for you?
That happens too easily for me. I've worked for four companies. My last two companies were startups. In the first startup company, I was on the founding executive team and we took it public. My second startup was a turnaround, which we also took public. When I left those two startup companies, my network empowered and liberated me, and brought me or sucked me into the whole world of consulting.
We talk a lot about this in the book on how to start your own business and why consulting works for some but not for others, and how to find this out for yourself. There are three things that we investigate when you get to the end of the book, and it brings it all together and helps you find that right place for you at the right time.
The three things to get in touch with yourself are first of all and the most important, your core values. That is a combination of causes, basic rights, and your fundamental principles. You may be unhappy at work because perhaps the workplace that you're in does not share your same fundamental values. You need to investigate this. These things are important. That's part of the investigation, which is your personal investigation. Are you satisfied? Are you willing to take some risks?
You ask yourself those seven WH questions. The who, when, where, why, how, how much, and am I happy? Is my whole wellness structure working for me? Women are multidimensional. Finally, it’s having an action plan that is built around your inspiration for doing things. In business, if you're in a structured business environment, you probably have a development plan for your business like expanding your expertise and growing, etc. Do the same for yourself personally.
I read an article a gazillion years ago. It was in HBR, Harvard Business Review and it talked about a Master's degree. A Master's degree takes you two years. You read one book a month. You tell everyone you know in your network because you're networking with people in whatever your degree is. Why can't you be your own Master's degree? Read every book that you can find. Read one book a month. You can do that. Read a book a month.
I'm not saying one a week. One a month. Read a book on the subject and you can be an expert in photography if you want. Tell everybody you know that you want to do this. “I need to liberate myself from work or I want to be a photographer.” You will find in two years, you will tap into an amazing network and expertise in that field. You can liberate yourself with your own development plan. Those three things are your core values, your personal investigation, how you’re feeling about yourself, and a development plan for yourself. Those are critical things that put you on the leadership journey of you.
That's fabulous. It's so interesting because in the episode before this, I had a very different kind of coach. She works on neuroscience and leadership. It’s the same thing. It's all about alignment, which I don't think is an accident. The company that I run is called Keen Alignment but it's about aligning your heart, your head, and your spirit, which has nothing to do with religion or God. It's your internal light with your passion and with where you're going and how you earn your money. You mentioned something and I'm not picking on you. I'm just curious. You said women are multidimensional. Does that mean men are not?
I am not going to say men are not but our survey went out to 650 women. I've got their voices. I have had many men read the book and say, “This isn't just for women.” It's true that the fundamental principles are the same but I didn't ask 650 men to give us their input. There you go.
I was just curious about that. I have studied a great deal about the brain and leadership. I also have heard and read, who knows what the facts are, that men are mono-focused and single-focused. They can go out and go get that animal that they're hunting way back from evolution, and that the women were gathering berries and fruit and talking to the other women and networking.
Evolution has had women develop fuse awareness and have lots of other things going on, which for years and years men were, “I got to go get something. I got to protect. I got to provide. I got to procreate,” but I don't know because I'm not a man either. Let's talk about why you think so many women are leaving corporate now during this mass resignation in high numbers. It’s higher than men are.
The reason so many are leaving is that recognition, whether it’s an overt recognition or it's behind this unconscious recognition, of either what the business is doing or how the business is doing it is not aligned with their internal core value and their belief systems. There's something fundamentally that is not using keen alignment or not in alignment. That's what I think.
It’s a disintegration of what I'm doing for a living and what I believe in. I don't remember if you said physical health or well-being but it implied that well-being and health are a big part of happiness and fulfillment. Can you share with me your personal beliefs on the well-being part of this?
This is where I come back to women being so multidimensional. I can't say men aren't but I know for sure women are. Our well-being is a combination of physical health, which is important, and mental health. That's also even exercising your knowledge and your brainpower. It's emotional health and emotional well-being. It is spiritual, whether that is a structured spiritual sensation or not. It's social and it's also environmental, an environment can be something small like the household you live in. It could be the community you live in. It is the world you live in. It could be the global community that you live in. All of those things in combination create wellness for us as individuals. I think that when things are not in sync, that is where the fundamental dissatisfaction comes from and the need for change.
I remember years ago, I took a class with a well-known name, Jack Canfield. He wrote Chicken Soup for The Soul but he also wrote The Success Principles. My sales coach said, “I know you've done landmark and all these other things. Go to Success Principles. You’re going to love it and leave your phone at home.”
Anyhow, the big piece that I walked away from there with is that our life is like concentric circles. You've got me, how I feel about myself, and how aligned I am with my values, then my outer worlds like my physicality and the people I hang around with. You're the sum of the five people you spend your most time with. That has to do with mental and emotional well-being, then it's the community and the house you live in, the place you live in, and the weather that you experience. All that impacts us.
Accomplishments don't need to be big. They can be moving in the right direction or recognizing that you are growing stronger.
When you go to work, is that a reflection of who you are in the world or am I an advocate for health but I'm working at a tobacco company? That might be a mismatch. If I feel good about myself and I am mentally well, emotionally well, and physically well, then I have more to give others. I have more awareness and more insight, then I can coach and consult and give other people that feedback.
I always find it interesting when people say, “I'm going to quit my job and I'm going to become a coach,” but their life is in disarray. That's me being judgmental but I wonder how a person’s life isn't working, how they coach people. I don't know. That's where the mind and the body and the spirit are not connected. Do you have anything to say about that? Any thoughts?
I would say that a person can be internally imbalanced if they are also coaching others. It's a combination search where they are learning from who they're coaching. They're learning from their research and study they're doing as a coach and while they're coaching. Otherwise, it's very difficult to be effective as a coach if you're off balance.
In our coaching school, they talk about level one, level two and level three listening. Level one is to filter everything that Janet says, “I'm listening to her and how does it affect me? What would I do?” Now, I'm coaching Janet about what I want to do versus what Janet wants to do. Level two is me and Janet in the world. I see her, I feel her and it's give and take. Level three, Janet and I disappear. All that's there is what Janet wants to create and I'm a conduit for that, and so it’s the first three coaching in level three. I'm reading about this KickStart Alliance. Tell me about the KickStart Alliance. What do you do there? How do you help people there? What is it all about?
We're fundamentally a sales and marketing consulting group. We founded the organization several years ago. It's about aligning companies and their products and services with customers. That alignment is multidimensional. I was the leader of the sales practice there since the majority of my career has been in sales and product marketing. We also have key consultants that are doing customer success, and how do you reach out in marketing, and keep those messages consistent, powerful and very authentic so that you are not reaching beyond what your product capabilities are.
Sometimes, we share our hopes and dreams. Companies will share hopes and dreams of what their products and services are as opposed to what they do. We’re helping customers stay in alignment with that. One of the experts on our team also focuses on customer advisory boards and partner advisory boards. We’re listening to those key constituents in your overall delivery chain as you're bringing products and services into the marketplace.
I hear that with the book Age of Freedom, it's about a personal alignment with me, myself and what I do for a living, and then your business is about having people or companies have their products in alignment with what their products do.
It’s also being aligned with its customers and listening to its customers. Oftentimes, that is a key voice that's not heard around the planning table inside companies. It’s what the customers have to say or if they have a multistage delivery mechanism for bringing products and services to customers, listening to all those that are in that delivery chain. That is critical for success. It’s to listen to all of them.
Besides being in alignment, I do my work and I take care of my body, spirit and health. Now I decided I have three options. I'm going to go start my own company. I'm going to go work for another company that's already doing what I want to do or I'm going to go consult for many different companies. How does a person that wants liberation and is hungry for it and is doing their own work already decide? They've explored their values but now they have three doorways. I can start my own and be the boss. I can go join and let someone else be the boss or I can join a bunch of people and we could do it together. How do they know what is the right fit for them?
There are a couple of things. First of all, I'll come back to talk to others, lean in, and bring in the assistance of others. It's like asking a magic question. Ask someone who had been through each of those separate doors. It's probably three people if there are three doors you're evaluating going through. The magic question is after you walked through the door, what do you wish you knew before you went through that door?
It's a magic question because they can look back over the bridges they've crossed and say, “I wish I had better boots on my shoes. I wish I had a compass with me.” This is the magic question you can ask them and they'll give you magic answers to help you be prepared to walk through that particular door and also to see what works for you and what doesn't.
That would probably be my first suggestion. Some people like to just jump into the pool and walk through the door and say, “Here I am.” You can do that too but do know that you're going to probably stub your toe and scrape your knee and bump your shoulders against the wall. It won't be as smooth a transition. It may be fun but it may not be as smooth a transition as you would hope. I'm an avid skier. It would be like me deciding one day, I've never been on skis before or even watch it on television but I want to go skiing. Strapping on boots and skis and sending myself off a hill. You could do it but it won't be pretty.
It sounds like our last guest. She was saying that at a certain level, you have to engage all areas of the brain. That's what consciousness is. That's what liberation is. It's having the feeling or the inclination or the intuition, but then checking in with our right hemisphere and our left hemisphere, our logical side, and let's go jump off the cliff-side and let's see what logically works for us and meets our passions.
They said they had all done that too. The other thing is to look at yourself first. You have the three doors in front of you. Look at yourself even first. When did I just jump in and what was the outcome? Would I do that again or would I do something a little differently? Also, look at yourself when you made a more thoughtful move where you had done more planning and research and understanding before you made the move. Get the feel for yourself on which one was comfortable and which one you're ready to do today. Some days the risk is like, “I need to go for it,” and you do want to just jump off the hill. The first time I went skiing on a black diamond, you have to do it the first time.
I guess you do. I don't do black diamonds unless it's an accident. Let me ask you a question. You have had all three doors in your life because you've worked in the corporate world, you’ve done your own thing, then you've joined a group of other people. If it's easy for you to give me this answer or if it comes to top of your mind. What’s the moment of reckoning for you like your own moment of liberation? Do you remember a point in your life where you were at a fork in the road and something happened or you had the intuitive hit or you did your research, and then it came to you, “This is my clear next step?”
I'll wake up at 3:00 in the morning and have a good answer to that question. I will tell you there have been so many interesting transitions for me. Early in my career, this was when women started moving into leadership roles. There were many times when other women hadn't walked those paths before. I went into it boldly. I got my boldness behind me. I was fearless on the outside, not on the inside and just went for it. There were other times when I had done more preparation. There are other times when I got into consulting. I jumped into the consulting world. I loved it. I found out that I missed the collaboration of a business environment. I sought out other consultants. That is how we created KickStart Alliance.
I experienced the exact same thing, which is why I have people working at Keen Alignment with me. When you don't have anybody to brainstorm with and anybody to collaborate with, it also isn't as much fun for me at least because I'm a collaborator. Next question. You're a pilot. I imagined that if I was a pilot and I'm not, but if I would experience such liberation, not the climb but once the plane is at this level. I make all that up because I'm not a pilot, but give me the sense of how many women pilots are there? There's more coming but first of all, I want to know how many women in your circle that you know are pilots?
First, I'm going to ask you an overarching question. Of all the pilots that there are, what percentage would you guess are women?
My guess was 20% because, in the community that I live in and was working in, I met so many women pilots. I was guessing it was 20%. It turns out that I got my pilot's license and I've had it now for many years. I'm part of the 7%. Only 7% of all the pilots in the world are women. Most of that 7% is here in the US. Women pilots fly the same way as men pilots. It's all the same. From a liberation standpoint, I know many aerobatic pilots that also do show performances. By the way, there's an all-woman air show coming up shortly. All air traffic controllers are women. All the pilots are women. The air boss is a woman. It's a fun thing.
You could be in touch with your core values, but if you don't take action with them, they are unfulfilled.
Where is that?
I don't have the location at my fingertips but I will get that for you.
I think Vivian is googling it now, all women's air show. That's very cool.
One of our neighbors and one of my inspirations, Vicky Benzing, is one of the performers who will be at the show. She was talking about it.
I would want to put it on the show. Back to this experience.
Back to the liberation of flying. First of all, there's a tremendous amount of skill that goes into learning and becoming a pilot. In order to be free, you have to be capable. There is a certain amount of learning and understanding that comes from it. For me, the liberation is that I live in the high Sierras. Most of my work is in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is a 3 to 5-hour drive in a car but 45-minutes in an airplane where you can fly over and laugh at all the people sitting in traffic. That is freedom and liberation. By the way, I don't have to go through security. I can hop on a plane and away I go.
That's inspiring. Do you own a plane or do you rent a plane?
I will tell you that it's both. I belong to a flying club and that was where I learned how to fly. You then rent the plane when you need to use it and someone else manages it and maintains it and that kind of thing. My husband and I also do own an airplane, which I also fly.
How exciting. It's funny that you said it's not just freedom. There's a lot of discipline that goes into learning to fly. When I studied the brain and the brain on leadership, we all heard about the brain on drugs but the brain on leadership and all these people that quest for freedom. They want freedom and that comes from the right hemisphere. There is no freedom without structure because if there's no structure, then freedom turns into chaos, which I imagine is the last thing you want from your pilot.
That is true. I will tell you this interesting parallel. There's a lot that I've learned in flying that has also helped me better understand business. One of the simple things is coming in for a landing. If you have a stabilized approach when you're coming in for a landing, the landing is seamless. You and the passengers don't even notice that you've touched the ground almost. If you're not coordinated, then things can be a little bumpy and rocky. The interesting thing is the same in business as it is in an airplane. I love to see those parallels.
I would love to fly with you and get coaching during the flying because I could see all the parallels as you're talking about it. I fly a lot on commercial jets. I almost can sense the pilots' grounding or their level of mindfulness from how that plane goes. Even how the announcements go, to the acknowledgment, to what's happening because I have been in bad storms and never had the experience of being in a bad storm like you're talking about.
I've been on other very janky flights, especially during COVID, very weird behavior. You could sense the stress from the flight attendants. I can imagine that it was coming from the cockpit but who knows? In the wisdom of Janet Gregory, Age of Freedom, work liberated, what would you like to say to close this show to not just the women but the men as well? There are many men who have been charged with transforming organizational culture or fixing culture so the Great Resignation will stop. What lesson or wisdom can you share with anybody who wants to create their workplace as a space of liberation, freedom and empowerment?
I would say to take it on as a leadership journey. The leadership of you. As a professional, we're willing to take on new challenges, tough problems, and a new team and do this also for ourselves. Take yourself on the challenge of you, the problems of you, build your own team around you and by the way, teams change. Players will change in and out on your team. Know that you are going to transit from known to unknown so look for other guidance and advice.
It's a sign of strength, not a weakness, to ask for assistance and to look to others. In addition to the knowing and the known and unknown, it's the knowing and the doing. In the knowing, the way I view it is that without purpose, actions that you take are meaningless. You want to be in touch with those core values that you have. The doing side is that without action, purpose is unfulfilled. You could be in touch with your core values but if you don't take action with them, they are unfulfilled. It doesn't matter if it's a great thinker or a philosopher. If they haven't shared their thoughts with someone, they're lost. I think that is what I would have. Take on that leadership journey of you.
I love that. I'm going to ask you something that I wasn't prepared for. I have a book coming out myself. It's called Ignite Culture. The whole first part of the book, four chapters, is about the leader taking on themselves. You think you could buy culture in a box with software for $40,000 or whatever you're going to pay and do a four-hour session. “We'll get it done for you in four hours,” then there's no deep work. There's no, “Why do you want to take on culture? What's going on in the culture that you want to fix?” The quick fix of “Let's buy it in a box” doesn't work. I love that you and I are so aligned. That's why our mutual friend referred us to each other. Thank you. I'm going to ask you to read the book and give us your thoughts on it.
That’s great. I look forward to your book coming out. That's awesome. Congratulations. Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and your audience.
Thank you. You'll get the opportunity to get Janet's book. There will be a tag at the end of the show. If you want to get Age of Freedom, you can get that. Thank you for your presence and I'll wave to you next time I'm sitting on the highway going to Tahoe and you're flying over.
I’ll wave back.
The all women's air show. We have to say it now. It is the Oregon International Air Show. It's from May 20th to the 22nd, 2022. How exciting.
Thank you for researching that.
Janet Gregory – LinkedIn
About Janet Gregory
Janet A. Gregory is co-founder of KickStart Alliance, a consulting firm dedicated to connecting clients with their customers. She has been an independent consultant for 17 years providing strategy in business development and sales planning. She is now working in an advisory capacity with a few select clients. Previously, Janet spent 25 years in Silicon Valley serving in executive positions, including two successful start-ups as well at other high-growth tech firms. She is an avid skier, hiker, and pilot.
Janet is mostly out of the paid-work-world now and is authoring her future as a writer, speaker, and writing coach. She has co-written and published several books, including "Age of Freedom: Women at the CrossRoads of Career and Change" (2021, English), "Built for Global: Navigating International Business and Entering New Markets" (2017, English, Spanish & Chinese), and "Hanna's Story: Perseverance and Love Escaping Nazi Germany and Homesteading Wyoming" (2018, English and German - best seller in Germany).