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Podcast Transcript

Everything I Ever Learned

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:09  
Welcome again to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership with Marsha Clark, where we believe there's a better way to be a woman today! With research tools, books, and our own personal experiences, join us on this journey, because in every episode we're uncovering what it actually takes to be a powerful leader in our organizations, our communities, and our lives. Marsha, welcome, and what are we going to be talking about this week?

Marsha Clark  0:44  
Well, this week, we're going to be talking about "Everything I Ever Learned." So, I'm going to be sharing some lessons that I've learned from some of my very favorite leaders along the way, and and some leadership lessons that I've developed myself as a result of all the experiences and things that that I too have had that have taught me well and served me well moving forward.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:09  
Fantastic. Well, let's just dive into all of that. So you've mentioned before, that you worked with many great leaders who taught you a lot, Who were some of the most memorable? And then also, what are some of the examples of those powerful lessons that you learned along the way?

Marsha Clark  1:29  
Well, again, the questions that we ask on these always bring me back to places that I hadn't thought about in a while and right, one of the very first leadership lessons I had was in high school. And so but at the time that I didn't realize it was going to be such a, that it would be my seminal, if you will, big leadership responsibility. I was the leader of my drill team in the Galena Park High School. And so I was in high school, this tell you how old I am, I was in high school pre Title Nine. So I, we didn't have a lot of women's sports or girl sports teams. So if you were going to be involved in a team of, you know, aspect, you were either going to be a majorette in the band, you were going to be a cheerleader, or you're going to be a drill team. So drill team was my thing. So I'll tell you, we had 75 girls on that drill team, we had a great drill team leader, who really talked to me about what it meant to be a role model, you know, in the role that I had not just in leading this group, but that for the school, and how the community would look at me, because this is kind of one of those positions that were held in, you know,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:42  
High esteem. Yes, a pecking order.

Marsha Clark  2:46  
Right. Right. And so in that I learned discipline, we had to learn routines and dances and, you know, meet schedules and be on time and do these things. I learned that practice is really what does make you know you better and that you gotta you got to do it again and again, smiling in the midst of it all, you're Yes, you may have to go perform halftime and you're getting the jeepers beaten out of you on the football field, but

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:14  
or the mascara is running down your face,

Marsha Clark  3:19  
or it's really cold. And you got to do that. And so and then the other part was supporting a team really having the team spirit and the loyalty to the team. And you know, the positivity and the optimism, and we got this and we can do this kind of thing. And so those were really important leadership lessons that I've taken with me. And then the next one, I think about as I as I worked for this small business administration for six years, and the the boss that I had, there was really a good man. And I he's the reason I'm in Dallas. So I grown up in Houston, and was at the district office of SBA there for two years. And then he asked me to come up here and transfer and work for him in the Dallas office. And that's how I got here. And of course, that set all kinds of balls in motion, right for my life. But he taught me how to be an ethical and diligent public servant. So so when I think about service to the larger good, that really got deeply ingrained in me as my first real professional job. And so I really appreciated him. And then my next wave, after six years there was going into EDS and I had many, many, many great leaders. And I'll be honest, you know, I had some that weren't so good. And I will also tell you that I learned from those what I'll call not so good leaders or bad leaders, some ways that that left a deeper impression on me than even the good leaders because I really got clear about what kind of leader I did not want to be. And, you know, it's kind of like when we're growing up, we say I'm never going to say that to my kids. And then of course, Those things come right out of my mouth. But, you know, I really took that to heart and recognize what what is it here that I find to be effective? And what is it here that I find to be not so effective? And so I was really conscious about picking up on those things. And, you know, he has put a lot of emphasis on leadership. So if I may, or will you indulge me just to talk a little bit, of course, yes, that when I think about the leaders, and what I learned from them, so that one of the deeply ingrained in leadership lessons at EDS was accept personal responsibility and required of your people. And we talk a lot about, you know, accountability, accountability, accountability, and that there's a lack of it, that people don't, are not accountable. And so learning this early that I am responsible, and that, you know, I'm not going to throw people under the bus, I'm going to accept responsibility. If I'm the leader of this team, then it's, it's on me, right? We've talked before about treating people with dignity and respect and important leadership lesson, run the company. So the best people love it, that is one of my favorites. If I spend if I'm spending all my time working with subpar employees, or employees who either don't have the attitude or the will to get things done, I'm probably not spending my time to get the greatest return on my leadership, time and focus investment. And then we talked before about conducting our business in the center of the circle of ethics. And that's a really important one. The other thing I want to say, because this is, you know, the book, and everything I'm doing is about leadership, women's leadership. And one of the most important responsibilities that we have as a leader is to hire the right people. And even if you're really good at that, you're going to get it wrong as much as you're going to get it right. Because it's hard. It's hard. Because some people interview well, and they're lousy employees. And some people enter, interview poorly, and they're great employees. It's kind of like people who are good at taking tests are not good at taking tests, right? But a couple of the leadership lessons there was hard the traits and train the skills. Ah, that's so true. Right? So do I have somebody who's a willing learner? Do I have somebody who's shows tenacity and perseverance and get her done attitude and all that kind of thing. I can teach you all the things and we all know that our skills need to be upgraded periodically anyway, because technology changes things, globalization changes things, there's there's always new stuff coming out. So you got to be a learner. So I mean, that that's the part of that, that they attitude.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:43  
Well, and that fits into and shapes the culture. So if you have any dog who are, you know, committed to having a great culture and a great working environment, that that becomes a big issue, it doesn't matter how talented they are, if that eventually becomes a detriment to the company?

Marsha Clark  8:03  
Well, it does. And I'll tell you this, this is gonna sound crazy in today's world, but literally in our recruiting process, we had a point system. So if you got interviewed, one of them was if you were an Eagle Scout, you got 50 extra points. Oh, cuz that says, I'm a service. Yeah, I'm a service oriented, and I'm going to follow through to get everything done, I need to get done. You got another set of points, if you worked your way through college, and, you know, that shows I'm industrious, that shows I know the value of the dollar, because I know I've had to work for it in order to achieve my goals. You know, so there, the receptionist in our recruiting office would have input into the hiring decision for our sales people. Because what she would do is notice how the sales people acted in the reception area. Because that's where sales people spend a lot of time, right. So was the person nice to the receptionist? Because we know that's important. If you were to, you know, get your foot in the door. were they talking loud? Were they engaging with the other people that might be in the reception area, I mean, all those kinds of things were part of the input to that. And then the other thing that ross perot did was hire Vietnam era veterans and, and that was at a time when they were not being treated very kindly in our country. And I had such respect for that. And what he what one of the things we said around that was, you know, when you've been in the jungles of Vietnam, you understand danger and crisis. And if a computer system goes down, that's not the end of the world. You know, I made you know, so I don't I don't fall apart that, uh, you know, you know, let the stress get the best of me. I just, you know, say here's what we need to do. We're gonna fix it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  9:48  
Those people also have a powerful sense of team loyalty, camaraderie.

Marsha Clark  9:55  
Yes, yeah. Yes, absolutely. And again, that was some of the best parts of it. And then the last thing on the hiring thing that I think is important is that the adage is a people hire a people, B people hire c people. And I'll tell you what I think that's so important is that I'm not afraid to hire people who are as good or better than me, because I'm not here to be the best or to be the one up or, you know, the winner in this. We're all in this together in service to our clients. And so this idea of i'm not i'm not insecure that I have to have somebody where I get to be the top dog. So I want people and the other thing that does is when I get the next opportunity, I'm more likely to be able it's gonna make it easier for me to say yes to that because I have a successor because I've got a strong people set of people working for me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:44  
Before we move on I just want to stop you right there real quick, and I know we're going to talk about it in further detail and more in depth in a later episode, but this seems an appropriate time to just kind of drop a teaser about Queen Bee Syndrome. Yeah, so if you can kind of talk about that real quick in regards to "A" people hire "A" people and "B" people hire "C" people.

Marsha Clark  10:54  
The whole queen bee syndrome is and it started with women from my generation who were working hard to advance our careers. And if we we had some hard times so let's just be honest about that. Yes, someone recently sent around a video that was from EDS from 1968 to 2008 when it was sold and no longer existed and it was I don't know a 25 minute 30 minute kind of video it was about 22 minutes in before you saw a woman on the wow yeah so we worked hard right and the Queen Bay syndrome is if I had it hard I'm going to make it hard on you right versus we've we've made progress let's do this together all boats rise you know instead of my boat to heck with your boat you know kind of thing so I that that is the short answer to what the Queen Bee Syndrome is and it is a version of B people hiring C people because it's not leadership. It's revenge.

And a couple of others just to wrap up this answer and I know it's long but and another was around communication and this is another one of my favorites bad news doesn't improve with age and and we often and worse well we often add in a cheese and it ate wine where the due process helps but this is the you know figure it out own up to it and you know we were taught to go tell the client Okay, here's something that's gone wrong here's what's happening because we all know technology has its stuff right? And here's what we're doing to work on it but we didn't wait until we got it fixed to go tell them because that eroded trust right Why didn't you come tell me that the deposit system is down and people can't get many other items you know kind of thing and so we we were taught you know go tell them with promise and tell them what you're doing to solve it and tell them that you're going to keep them informed so that's the part about it just own up to it at best and then in the other part about customers is no your business now our EDS technology business know your customer and know your customers business we had as many people who were certified in the various kinds of professional certifications in the different industries because we wanted to understand because the last piece of this is important help your customer grow their business and you'll notice it didn't say help EDS grow the business we knew we would do that but but the the the focus was help your customer grow their business and make their business better. And then the the other time is almost a byproduct of that. And not every time Look it was hard I you know we can we can spat out these one liners all we want to it's really hard to get through all of this. But I love the idea of no no your business, no your customers, your customer and your customers business and help them grow their business. And so that's what I still try to do.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:13  
So how did those lessons play out for you while you were there? What was the impact?

Marsha Clark  14:20  
Yeah. So what happened? I got tapped on the shoulder about every 18 to 24 months to go do something new or different because we were growing. When I was there at EDS, we grew from 5000 to 145,000 employees. So you know, and I think one year we literally hired 30,000 people so I mean on a global basis. It was daunting, overwhelming, and we had our days, but but what I appreciated about it from a leadership perspective is that we were the focus of our performance was based on getting results. You know, getting things done. And the other was on the relationships that we established in relationships could be with our peers, our colleagues, our boss, our team, our customers, our customers, base, professional organizations, vendors, providers, and so on. And so it wasn't on politics or credentials. You know, Wendy, I don't even know if you know this, but I don't have an undergraduate degree, I have a master's degree, but I don't have an undergraduate degree

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:25  
Really? Okay.

Marsha Clark  15:27  
So I started school that I am moved out of my house. And it was more important for me to live an independent life than it was to go through living with my parents as I got older. And so I then started going to school at night, and I was working full time. And then I got married, and I had a child and I was going to school, and I just couldn't do it all. So after I had about 100 hours of credit towards my degree, but I had stopped, I had to choose, make some choices and decide, and I never went back. And then literally in my late 40s, I had an opportunity to be involved in a the American American University in Washington, DC had a program that they would take two people a year, if you can demonstrate, you know, that you had progressed, and you could learn and you were, you know, able to handle that level of college program. And I, I was a corporate officer at a fortune 50 company. And I started as a secretary. So I demonstrated that I could learn in advance and had the opportunity to do that. And so no one, no one in EDS ever asked me if I had a college degree, of course, because that wasn't what they were measuring, was I'm making a contribution, and was I getting things done. And I know that would be hard in today's world, I'm not suggesting that. And it also wasn't, I was lucky, I worked my Fanny off, you know, to get to that end to earn that and, and yet, that's, that's, again, an important aspect of leadership that says, What am I measuring is what I do, how I do it, whether I have a, you know, letters behind my name, or whatever the case may be. So that's an important piece of it. And, you know, what happened then, is that I had the opportunity to learn a whole lot of parts and pieces of a business. So I spent about I was there 21 years, I spent about half of my time in what I'll call support roles. So I lead you know, leadership development, I lead Human Resources a couple of different times. In today's world, what would be a chief HR, the HR o role, I also was an account executive in our financial services, where I had a customer and a p&l and had to deliver and negotiate contracts. Then I became president of our healthcare business unit, where I managed about 2500 people and, you know, in today's money world, probably close to a billion dollars in revenue. And so I got a chance to both create things for the company, but then I had to go deliver things for the company. From a pure business perspective. I worked on strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions, you know, so I had an opportunity to learn so much about business and it's a part of why I think I'm still in business today is because I'm a business woman first, who happens to be in the business of teaching and helping and supporting women be better leaders, right? Because a lot of people can do that but they don't know how to make a living out of it. And so that's a part of that leadership lesson was getting tapped on the shoulder doing startups turnarounds fix, it's you know, bringing people into the organization with all these transitions and so on and so it really taught me a broad set of leadership lessons that that serve me across many different kinds of roles that I had and my goal was always leave it better than I found it and so that was you know, if I could do that it may not I may not have been able to do everything I wanted to before they tapped me on the shoulder to go do something else. But did I leave it better than I found it and if I if I did, I was ready to say yes, I can go on to the next thing.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  19:12  
So, talk to us about your relationship with your boss and if he/she at various times, whoever it was, protected you if you screwed up.

Marsha Clark  19:24  
Okay. Well, first of all, let me tell you I've never worked for a woman because there were no women. Yes, you know, I was often the the first the first or and or the only or one of you as we move through this. So and I had, as I say, had many great bosses. But one of the you know, if you know anything about it, yes, you know that it had a pretty strong military culture. And quite honestly that culture was the norm for leadership cultures throughout corporate america and business. And of course, Ross was a Navy as a Naval Academy graduate and was in the Navy. So of course, there There were that there was that. And what we call it the protect was really they called it air cover. So like when when the ground troops are fighting, you know, it's the plane to fly over and give you air cover. And so that was where the take responsibility lesson, really, I really learned that in no uncertain terms. So we were taught to admit our mistakes and come up with that plan, tell you what we're going to do, and so on and so forth. And I didn't blame anybody I didn't, you know, today's phrase is throw anybody under the bus jaico just makes me cringe when I hear that. And but, you know, I always felt like I had to step up. And, you know, you take credit, if you will. And it's a negative kind of credit when the team does something, right. And you always want to include the team in the reward of when you do something good. So that that is, you know, in stark reality or stark contrast to a lot of the ways that leaders show up today in that regard. And, you know, I'll go back to the mic on mistakes at full speed and don't make the same one twice. So that was a part of that air cover. And I have a story I want to tell you because this idea of did I ever screw up? Oh, yes, of course I did. And, and, and here's what happened. So in 1983-ish. General Motors, bought EDS, it didn't get culminated until 84. But there were some preparatory kinds of things that had to happen is that and that was a big deal. Here we were 12,000 people, our average age was 31 years old. we described ourselves as we're a speedboat, we can turn on a dime. And here's this huge It was a fortune one company at the time. average age was something like 45 or six in a very different industry, manufacturing, not services and you know, all of that. So we're having a meeting at EDS and the GM board is there. And because I was running EDS as compensation department at the time, we were having to pull together all kinds of compensation information about our executives, so that they could do the transition to become a GM executive. So in EDS was always confidential, and our compensation rather was always confidential at eds. So you know, it was a big deal, we had to have a secret. So I've got my team up there working on a Saturday while there's a board meeting going on. And we had produced this report and we could not find it. It was nowhere to be Oh, wow. And they're waiting on you know, my boss was waiting on to go deliver the material up to the board and blah, blah, blah. And I'm not kidding you. We bought some time, because it was about lunchtime when it was happening. And I knew I was gonna lose my job. And I only had about four people up there and we were all about and they were all women other than the boss and we were about we were all in tears. We were rifling through the indoor trash and my boss who was one of the top executives in the company literally went out to the dumpster in the back of the building and that was for some for slang and was climbing through the garbage and here's what I mean by that. You know what I knew I was gonna lose my job over there. I just knew it and I'd only been there about six years at the time and

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:16  
Which is a lifetime today...

Marsha Clark  23:18  
Well, but back in those days it wasn't right Right. Right and so I would have been in my early 30s and and managing compensation was my first big management job. And so what my boss did at that time he he said look, it happens we got to figure it out. We got to put the checks and balances in place to make sure this never happens again and believe me I did that double double, triple triple quadruple check every moment from that point forward. But nothing ever came of it other than that Marsha we've been working because I've been working you know 18 hour days and 17 days in a row or something like that and as had my team and so again we don't do our best work under those conditions but I remember him it was like wow you know a boss that's not going to rip you a new one are not going to be right diminish puts you in a penalty box you know blame it on you he took it and he never told me what he said and he said the board to the board to the board Okay, he said it doesn't matter Marsha it's all done. And I I learned a tremendous amount from that story in that day and we're all gonna make mistakes and it does help us to have some perspective and all that kind of stuff and so when I look back on it now I still get you know, I still started to try because it was a big big big big deal. Yeah, and it was gonna be a transaction that got a whole lot of press for the next several years and you know, I was on the line and I didn't deliver

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:51  
So how much time did you have to finish the story how much time did you get did was there happy I've got to hear the happy ending.

Marsha Clark  25:01  
Well, I never had any repercussions whatsoever. I've got promoted after that. Because, you know, to my boss, I just told him, here's where we are. And, and I, and we, here's what we've done to try and figure it out, we've done everything. And it was his idea to go out and look in the big trash in case the trash got to take it out the day before I ever and, and then he said, Just sit tight. And then he went up up there. And again, he hasn't told me what all happened. And he said, it doesn't matter all is good. And it and I mean that it was, you know, a happy ending. GM bought us 12 years later they divested. All of it happened, it didn't, you know, stop the transaction from occurring. And and, and yet, it was a huge leadership lesson.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:47  
That sounds like a very stressful leadership lesson. But they are usually they are.

Marsha Clark  25:54  
But we got a chance to recreate the report and you know, produce it and present it and you know, and we all lived after that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:03  
We all lived happily ever after. Yay. So then how did you incorporate this experience into your own leadership approach?

Marsha Clark  26:12  
Yeah. I really feel strongly that when we're making mistakes, we can either see it as the end of the world, or we can see it as learning. And that's where this don't make the same mistake twice comes into play. So I believe that if we frame some of these things in, okay, what did we learn from it and staying in that space versus You idiot, or, you know, I mean, and you see parents doing that with children, you see family members doing it with other family members. And you certainly see bosses doing it. And even customers doing it to vendors, I mean, there's a lot of that kind of stuff, and it's not useful. And so it's not leadership, right. And then I also think about fail fast and fail forward. So keep moving. And another one of the things that a boss Drew, for me one time, this is a different boss. But he said, here's how we develop people. And I think this is a part of that learning piece. He said, if you look at most projects we do in ADSL, most of them take around a year to complete their, you know, their big topics, big project items. And he said for the first 10 months, it's like we throw you into the deep end of a pool, and you're just you're just swimming up working as hard as you can to get to the surface to get a breath of fresh air, so that you can keep going and survive. So you're kind of up and down. And then for about a month, you're kind of bobbing right at the surface going, Okay, you know, a little deeper, Okay, come up for air a little deeper come up for air. And then the last month, you're kind of basking so you're on like a, you know, a float or something, and you've got your, you know, your, your cocktail and your sunglasses, and you're and you're floating, right? And then we throw you right back into the data. And that's how we learned and I looked at my own experience, and that's what happens, right? And so because we had learners and because we had people who wanted to get it right, solve the problem, you know, all of that they would bear in mind, we had a saying that says give me the dirtiest ugliest job because that's where we got to learn and you know, hone our skills and all of that kind of stuff. So there was that pace. Now what that's as I've gotten older, because I was young and impressionable, and you know, in many of my first time ever jobs back that back in those days, one of my dear friends and colleagues, Susie Vaughn gave me this, it was strive for grace, and not perfection. Hmm. And I love that. And I use it often and give her credit for it. Because this strive for grace is Come on, we're humans, we're going to make mistakes. Exactly. And we're not going to be perfect. And you know what, sometimes we don't even have to be perfect. And so let's give ourselves that grace. And then that, to me, is a result of having perspective that says, Oh, my gosh, I'm gonna lose my job to Probably not, you know, I mean, I had five years and however many weeks that I had had a really good track record. And so I had a bad week, this week, because I lost this report, right? And yet, the perspective of that, if I'm working in a good company, with a good culture with good leaders is not going to be the end of my career, if I do that, so perspective really has also and it just takes some time and some noticing to really hone in on what my perspective is.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:46  
Sure, sure. So are those concepts fail fast, fail forward, grace, not perfection, and then also to wrap that all up, just having a bigger perspective. Are those things that still ring true for you today? And in what way?

Marsha Clark  30:07  
So they do the The short answer is yes. And to me, it goes back to just, once you've got a good idea, you're clear about what you're trying to accomplish. Don't wait until it's 100 or 120%. Sure, before you take a step and move. So it goes back to your bias that you've talked about earlier, when D which is bias for action, right? I have that too. I have good ideas, and I want to see them come to life. So we got to go do something. So this idea of do your homework, Get your facts present those look at your options. And then and and my preferences to engage some smart people some good, good perspective, good intention, diversity of thought, that sort of thing. Get them together and figure it out, and then go make it happen and and learn from it. Take checkpoints along the way, three months, in six months, in a month, then whatever. How are we doing? Are we on track? Well, we've learned some new things. All right, let's shift gears and move in a slightly different direction. So just it's got to be that continuous loop of try it, learn, try it, learn and do it again. And again.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:16  
Mm hmm. So in what ways? Do you think that advice is still relevant for women today?

Marsha Clark  31:23  
Yeah, so this is what I see, again, in a bell shaped curve kind of way, the women coming into my classes. So many of us have been taught, I'll call it the good girl condition. Oh, yes. And, you know, good girls do and good girls don't, with a long list that goes with each one of those. And so this idea of, we went, we want to make good grades, right? So that's part of being a good girl, we want to color inside the lines, because if we don't, that's messy, you know, and we want to make sure that everybody else is happy and comfortable. Yeah. And, and, and we spent a lot of time doing, you know, putting our energy towards that. And so, if I'm living in that world, you know, you can't make mistakes, because that might make you make a B, instead of an A, you can't make mistakes, because it's messy outside the lines. You know, it's that same kind of thinking, because what the research shows, and what we all know is that part of the rules that we bring into the workplace are the ones we learned on the playground, so to speak, right? And so that's just ingrained in me. And so when I think about, I got to give 120%, to everything, all the, you know, 32 things on my to do list today, well, do you really know you don't. And so, which of these can you do 80%. And it'll be just fine. It'll get you through and you can save an hour. Right? Another is, I think I have to do it myself, in order for it to be right. So not failing, or not making a mistake, but I got to do it myself. And I think that's the kiss of death, there's the whole idea of what got you here won't get you there, you know, right to the next level. And if you just keep adding on Well, I have to do all the things I did as a as a manager, and now I'm a senior manager. So I just have to do 18 more things this week, and then I become a director, and then I got to do 27 more things. It's not it's not sustainable, like and so you got to learn how to delegate and use delegation with appropriate checks and balances. And we teach a lot of that in the class and talk about it in the book it with appropriate checks and balances, and allow others to develop and build some of those skills as well as yourself. And then, you know, the other thing I see women do is I have I have an employee that works for me, and I've given them an assignment, and then bring me a work product for that assignment that's maybe 70%. Done. Hmm, well, sometimes without even thinking because good girls go into default mode, just pick it up and say I'll finish the other 30%. And you know, my, about we teach people how to treat us. Yeah. So when we do that repeatedly, we're teaching people that can bring us 70% work products, and they're done. They're part of it, you know, I'm off the hook, because I know martial finish the other 30%. And we can't, we can't sustain that either. So then it goes back to that accountability, take responsibility and teach your people to do the same. So it's your responsibility, you might not bring me 100% every time but you got to you got to get a heck of a lot closer than 70. Right, when you bring me those products, and Brian and Wendy, just a couple of other things. It often takes a break down. And what I mean by that is I have to get so overwhelmed before I'm willing to consider a different alternative or a different option. And that's hard. And when we talk about in some of our future podcasts about boundaries, we're going to we're going to give you some tools and thoughts about Because when we say it's just easier to do it myself, yeah, one time, but not multiple times. And if your goal is to continue expanding your responsibility, you can't do you know, your team may be four people now, but then it's going to be 12 people, and then it's going to be 14, you know, I mean, it's just going to go, you can't do it. So you got to learn how to how to how to set those boundaries.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:25  
So tell us your thoughts about what you consider. And I'm going to use air quotes here, a "leadership mindset for women."

Marsha Clark  35:34  
Yeah. So leadership is not a job title, or box on an org chart or, you know, a title on a business card, or whatever it may be. I really think about having a leadership mindset as a way in which we choose to live our lives. And so I can be a leader, at any level in the organization, in any role in the organization, or in my family, or in my community. And so, that's a part of the leadership mindset. And you know, there's all kinds of definitions out there, there's 1000s of books that have been written on leadership. And so there's no one absolute answer. And I also think about leadership in terms of really serving something larger than myself. Yes. And so it could be my family, my clients, my business, my team, my church, my community, even in my circle of friends. And so but it's not in service, to me, it's in service to something bigger. And I also think about a leadership mindset is being holding myself accountable for both the intended and the unintended consequences of my choices. Yeah. So I can go into something with the best of intentions and say, Well, I wanted a, b and c to happen. But lo and behold, j, q and r happened, right? You know, something different. And it wasn't pretty, I gotta own up to that to to have I not do my homework, did I not consider the ripple effects? Did I not talk to the right people. And so I gotta own up to it, make my adjustments and keep keep moving forward. And I am a firm believer that there is no accountability without some consequences to my choices and actions. And I think that's another aspect that's missing, we often say we were that person is not being accountable. And then I say, Well, what are the consequences for them not being account?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  37:31  
That's right. And that's a tough one in the workforce today, with all the conversations that are happening.

Marsha Clark  37:40  
Right, right. And so and we often think about consequences as a negative thing. But I want to say it can be very positive. If I do well and do good things, there's consequences like recognition, praise, reward promotion, you know, that kind of thing. In addition to I'm going to have a tough conversation if you didn't get the right results. And let's talk about what happened. Let's talk about what you need to do differently. Tell me what you learned. How will you take that going forward?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:08  
So I'm going to prompt you very quickly because I've got a note here about Bloom's Taxonomy, how is that wrapping into everything that we've just talked about?

Marsha Clark  38:19  
Well, so I'm a big believer in developing critical thinking skills. So because every, again, you know, my saying of the answer to every leadership question is, it depends, right are the foundational elements. And so what I would offer to you here is that Bloom's taxonomy, it's bl o m, Apostrophe S, for those who want to go do some additional research. But there are six levels of critical thinking, and you have to go in order. And so the first one, the first level of critical thinking is knowledge. And what that means is you have a factor a bit of knowledge at your disposal. So I think about this as I can memorize something. So go back to your history class, what was the, you know, more of 1812 about, you had to know who the parties were at all, but you just memorize that from the history book. And, you know, the example I like to use is the E equals MC squared. All right, now you hear that? And you say, I've heard that before. So I know that, but then you get to level two of comprehension, which is to understand what it means. So if I use that same E equals MC squared, we know that it actually refers to a formula of some sort. And we know that it's the theory of relativity, so that's why we know that's important. And then the third is application. So what are the circumstances of the situations in which I want to apply this particular theory of relativity, and then step four in the six critical thinking skills Is to analyze it or break it down into the information. Why is energy a part of this? Why is mass a part of this, you know, that kind of thing, right? And then the synthesis is that I take that theory of relativity and I connect it to other things that I know about. And then six is the evaluation to know when to use the theory of relativity and how to apply it to something more than the first way I learned how to apply it. So just think about that going from memorization, to understanding it. And that's why I deconstruct things and then talk about how you use those. And that's why I say it depends. Because I have to understand the variables at play, have the clarity of what I'm trying to accomplish, and then understand, well the theory of relativity work or is there something else that would be more useful? In whatever it is I'm trying to solve for?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  40:52  
Right? What when I hear you say the the phrase, "It depends," and I'm going to let you share your own story but something that I also think about in all of that is, you you're almost I want to say tagline phrase of what else could be true. That was one of the first things that I learned from you to look at every challenge uncomfortable situation business scenario, me getting my feelings hurt by that girl, whatever, you know, whatever it is, the What else could be true question has become such a powerful lesson for me to step back, take a breath. And and truly put on an empathetic leadership perspective. To ask that question, then gives you the power to think about what are the scenarios where my instantaneous reaction of anger hurts, you know, fear, sadness, you know, whatever it is, and once I can remove those emotions from the next action step, and thinking about how I'm going to show up as a leader, in the next breath is an incredibly powerful tool for me.

Marsha Clark  42:14  
Yeah, here's what I tell people. If you get to a conclusion, so you and I may see exactly the same thing happening, we're in the same meeting, we see something happening before us. If you and I, with with no other input compared notes, after that meeting, you would have seen one thing I would have seen another, I would have assumed one thing, you would have assumed something different, we would have drawn different conclusions. And we might have taken different actions. And so this idea of I made up a story about I just observed, right, and it happens in a nanosecond. And so when we find ourselves about to take action and action can be words, it can be write that email, send it off, hit enter, it can be I'm never trusted that part. I mean, I can draw all kinds of conclusions around that. And the reality is I made up that story. I can make up a different story. Mm hmm. Right, absolutely. And so that Diana Eccles, if you're listening to this, I give you credit for that she was in the very first power self program. And she taught me that phrase, and boy, have I used it since then. Oh, yes. And it really gives us a chance to pause that slow down, go back down and say, What did I see? How did I interpret that? What assumptions Did I make around that? What conclusions did I draw? And what action Do I need to take in support of trying to achieve whatever it is we're trying to achieve? But that what else could be true? You got to stop you got it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  43:45  
It's incredibly powerful. And I know in a later episode, we're going to dive deeper into brain styles. But I'm just going to drop this little nugget right there I am one of the brain styles, where when you read and you have the name for it, so I'm gonna let you say the name for it. But when I hear something that impacts me negatively, I have to react verbally in order to clear that space in my brain. And that isn't ever the appropriate someone else ever and so if I can have that reaction, get it out of my head out of my head, but not into an email or onto a social media post or into a phone call. And then asked myself the question, What else could be true? I just show up as such a better leader.

Marsha Clark  44:38  
Well, it's like I'm going to write the email but I'm not going to hit exactly because we do need to get it out of us and yet I don't want to live there. I want to really Now think about Okay, that's one possibility when writing, right?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:52  
Yeah. So when people come to you as an executive coach, looking for THE answer to their leadership dilemmas and you tell them, it depends. How do they respond to that?

Marsha Clark  45:09  
Well, for some they're frustrated by because they think you're supposed to have the answer. And you just, you know, quote it to them. And then you know, 1-2-3, you're done, right? And we all know life or leadership or learning is not that simple. So what I do is say, Okay, well, before we can answer that, and you know, I love it when my classes by, you know, didn't take more than a couple of days, when I say, well, class, here's a question, and they all kind of in unison, say it depends. It's really a moment of goodness, because that means they're recognizing it does depend. And so what I then do is go through a series of questions. You know, what are you trying to accomplish? What would success look like? What would be the best possible outcome from this? And then this is usually when people are getting ready to make big presentations to the executive team or the board or you know, something? And so I'll say, when you're done, what are the key messages? You want them to take away? 123? What do you want them to think about you? And how do you want them to feel about you? Do you want them to think you did your homework? Do you want them to thank you, you looked at you provide incredible examples and research and so on? Do they feel they can trust you, as a leader to do your homework to think things through to do it in service to the larger good? And so until you get through those answers, it's it's not a good idea to move ahead. You know, and, and when do you said something, and again, it prompts me that I have something that I developed called the leadership maturity continuum, hmm. And it's got three points on it, and you know, kind of everything in between. But the earliest point is self awareness. And this idea of, I need to understand my patterns, my things, my defaults, my immediate, you know, how it shows up in me, right. And as I said earlier, we know that if I don't have good self awareness, that's a part of what gets me off track as an effective leader. And now, if I just stay in that place, I call it the Popeye. When he says, I am who I am, you know, yeah, right. And so if I stay in that place, and says, Well, this is just who I am, for example, I'm an extrovert, so you're just gonna have to get used to me talking all the time? Well, really. And I call that our narcissistic self, right. And it's the 16 year old and us that we think the world revolves around this, this is why I am I'm not going to change. And I say, first of all, because I hear a lot of people say, Well, you can't teach an old dog new tricks or, you know, a leopard never changes its spots, or, and I call that lazy. Because we are our brains, we have met research to show that our brain has plenty of plasticity. And you know, that it can form and change the patterns and the habits and the things. So to move from that self awareness. The next sort of the middle of the continuum is self management. So this idea of when somebody is coming at me, I'm reading an email, they're said something to me in the hallway, even nonverbals, they rolled their eyes at me, they snare it at me, whatever it may be, then how do I choose to respond in that moment? And if I'm doing reaction versus response, reaction says there are no filters I just, you know, kind of vomit? Yeah, I just say it usually at a loud volume at a loud volume with my finger pointing. That's right. Right, right. And so that's typically not useful. So I have to, again, go back to the foundational elements slow down to speed up, okay, what, how do I want to show up in this, and that's the more thoughtful response. And so again, in the class, and, you know, in the books as they as they're coming out what we're talking, we're going to talk about that and show you some tips and techniques and language to use in that regard. But self management is huge. And then the third part that I told you was three parts is self determination. And that's when I'm going to initiate so I'm not responding to something, something or someone else. It's me saying, What do I want to introduce in this interaction or in this conversation are in this presentation? And then I still have to ask myself the same questions on the It depends, right? What am I trying to accomplish? What are my key messages? How do I want to say this, what's the right timing and so on. So it's another part of that leadership mindset and an emphasis on it depends.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  49:52  
So I it also ties into good leaders know what they have in their toolkit. So talk to us about knowing what's in your toolkit and how good leaders move to great leaders.

Marsha Clark  50:06  
Yeah, the idea is leaders need to understand people who are choosing to lead a leadership based life. Need to say, tools can be frameworks, checklists, quotes, book titles, music titles, I mean, there's lots of different things, blueprints, frameworks, models, and so on. So we're always amassing those, we're go to class, and we get some good ones, or we hear someone speak and we say, Oh, I'm so inspired by that, I got to remember that. And, and so that all kind of if we, if we can think about that, going into a repository and call that our tool toolkit, that i think that's that's the the power of it, right? Because now if I know where to go find it, I can go retrieve it much easier. Because what I tell people often is that a lot of what we have put together and in the books in the programming that I've done are just the lessons we've learned, we've packaged them in a way that they're more practical and applicable, you know, we're not just telling you what you need to do, we're giving you help to figure out how to go make it real. And you know, even the idea of multisession programs is the an emphasis on adult learning theory, which is learn something, practice it, learn something, practice it, because you go to a class and you put the binder on the shelf and you open it, you never open it again. And we don't want that we want you to really learn. And so we're going to keep that continuity of that for the greater stickiness of the learning. And so the idea of knowing what tool, it first is trying to know I have that toolkit and keep adding to it. But then I got to know what tool I want to go in and use. So you know, I? Have you ever heard the Texas saying, if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail? So sometimes the hammer doesn't work, guess what, right? So I need a screwdriver, I need a pair of pliers or I need you know, a ruler or whatever it may be. So I've got to be clear, so that when I reach into that toolkit, I know that I'm getting a tool that's gonna allow me then, to do the kinds of things I need to do to achieve what I'm trying to achieve. And, you know, here's another quote that I pull into this, because I think it's been an important one for me. And it's from Stephen Covey. And he's written lots of great leadership books. But I think this is in this Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And that is seek first to understand before striving to be understood. So you know, in our last podcast we talked about, we have two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we see. But this idea of being a leader, is I want to make connection. So rather than always fussing and fighting and arguing, and debating which some people like to do, and that, that that's their style. We don't, that that often doesn't leave everybody in a good mood, or do them by us to have the best kind of relationships. So I want to seek to understand your point. What is your experience, this goes back to the it helps me then expand my thinking on what else could be true, because I'm going to learn something from you that you looked at it a certain way that I've never even considered because my life experiences haven't taken me there before. And so I want to seek to understand and listen and probe and tell me more, and what would that look like and give me an example. So that I can then say, Well, here's what I know. And I can connect it to what you know, or what we've experienced. And then oftentimes, we can create something together that neither one of us could have done on our own.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:42  
So there's another phrase that you used a lot in the Power Of Self program that I was so glad to see made it into the "Embracing Your Power" book. And that phrase is, "Isn't that fascinating?" So where did that phrase come from? And why is it such an important lesson? Because it sounds like something that Delta Burke would say on Designing Women as her nose like curls up?

Marsha Clark  54:14  
Yes, yes. So I came up with this, and I don't know where it ever really originated, it came out of my mouth, and it just stuck with me. Because here's what happens when I make up one of those stories. Right? And I get to that place where I'm ready to go jump on something, and then I go, Wait a minute, what else can be true? So what I have learned when I find myself in a place of judging, criticizing or blaming someone, I have taught myself in the self management category, to say the self talk becomes Isn't that fascinating? And here's why. It helps me. It moves me from criticism, judgment and blame to curiosity.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  55:00  
Love that curiosity. You're really taking back your innocence in the situation. Yeah. And I that's what I can say... Tell me more about that, right?

Marsha Clark  55:12  
Versus in my head. I'm thinking "What an idiot? What on earth did that?" You know, I may come back we'll go there. And and yet again that's not useful. You know it might make it may feed our ego but it doesn't necessarily help us get to what we're trying to accomplish. So again, good leaders are always trying to serve the larger good. So let's go there together, right? So tell me more. And here's what I've learned over the many years, I learned a tremendous amount with that and I go, you know what I'm the one who I should be judging, criticizing and blaming, because I was seeing this in a much smaller way than it it is. Right? I'd live out of limiting myself in that regard. So I want to be able to make sure that I'm opening up the possibilities, and hearing the other experiences because again, that then leads to our perspective, oh my gosh, and you do that enough. And you begin to understand, I don't know, I don't know much anything. Because I none of us have had this, you know, every man universal, every experience. And so that's a part of what continues to help us learn and grow.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  56:16  
Right? So talk to us about the word SHOULD because this is another of my favorite Marsha phrases.

Marsha Clark  56:24  
Yeah, so um, so I learned in my master's program when I was telling one of the younger students in the room that he should appreciate the fact that his company sponsored him to be in this program. And he came at me with I was like, Whoa, not what I expected. And the particular professor that was teaching this course, it was a great teaching moment for me, hit me right where I lived. Is that should is could with shame on it, huh? Okay, now does that just kind of punch you in the gut?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  57:00  
Man, that is so accurate. 100%

Marsha Clark  57:04  
So it helped me understand a lot of things so when anyone would say should to me about my martial you should have done this or martial you shouldn't do that. I become my five year old self This is and so it's often referred to as a trigger word. So it's a trigger word for me that does it triggers not the best of me in my interactions, so this idea of if you send should to me now that's not about you, that's about me. It's how I interpret the word should. So you don't I can't expect you to never people to never say should To me, that's just not part of the way life works. So I've got to manage myself again. So I convert when I hear the word should from you it goes to could make in my brain so Isn't that fascinating? And then you know, I can I can get curious and I can understand and stay engaged with you rather than shutting down or cutting off and because otherwise, I'm my five year old self because there's a part of me the indignant and ego driven part of me it's like Wendi, who do you think you are to tell me what I should? That's right? That's right. And I'm the five year old You're not the boss to me, you know kind of thing is what comes out which again, not not our best selves. So being able to do that and so the the part of it that I teach people is it's not just others who are using the word should with us.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  58:32  
Oh, yeah, all the time. Every day.

Marsha Clark  58:36  
I should have stayed up later and worked on their presentation... It would have been better. I should have told them no, because now look at me, I got to start pulling an all nighter. Or, I you know, should have made this very clear to the customer that we weren't gonna be able to meet Tuesday's deadline. It had to be Thursday. I mean, whatever all those things are so the shoulding on ourselves.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  58:56  
And, that's my favorite phrase right there. "Stop shoulding on yourself!"

Marsha Clark  59:01  
That's right. And and it's it's uh, you know, we all smile when we hear it because we know what it reminds us of. But that's what we've got to do is is is the don't shoot on ourselves and don't should on others, and, and be mindful words matter. You've heard me say this a gazillion times, words matter. And we can all be using the same word. And it can have very different meaning and intention. And that's why the clarity of our intentions has to be part of our leadership mindset as well.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  59:29  
So one of the things that I love about the "Embracing Your Power" book, and the work that you do, is how that shows up in the book and how you've synthesized all these lessons and pull them together for our benefit. It's It's like we're been on this journey, this learning journey with you, and you're paying it forward by sharing it with all of us via this podcast, the book, the videos, you know, all the program, all the speaking that you've done all the things that You do?

Marsha Clark  1:00:01  
Yeah. So I have said almost from the very beginning that I created the power of self program for myself, everybody else just gets to come along with the bag. So the fact that you feel like you've been on the journey with me is that's a good thing. That's a good metric, if you Yes, to say that, we've done that. Because here's what I, you know, discovered on this process. So I had two older brothers, and I was a tomboy, right, I was out there, climbing trees, and playing baseball and doing all the things that you know, boys did, I was not a one who played dolls. I did play school, because that was the learner in me,, but I didn't play a lot of house, you know, right kind of thing. And so, and then I go to work in a company that has a lot of men, and then I marry man, and then I have a son. So I laughingly say I was surrounded by testosterone. And so what that what that did for me, is to develop the masculine parts of myself, because we all know that there's feminine and masculine and every single person in the world, right. And so I had pretty well developed that masculine part of myself. And so in having lost art, quite honestly never fully discovered my feminine self, this program was giving me an opportunity to get back in touch with that, right? And so what I learned about that, is what I often say we're gonna, this program can help you discover or rediscover you. Right, because some of it, we've never ever explored some of it, we had it, and we lost it along the way. So the idea of being able to do that, I think, was really important. And, you know, I have continued to hone these skills. So what's funny is, when I was working with mostly men, I had to really ask myself, you know, how do I best interact with them and relate to them. And so I got used to that. And then after now doing women's programming for 20 years, I have to do that kind of reminding and preparation when I'm going to go talk to a man. So again, it goes back to it depends, and what tools do I need to pull out of my toolkit to be most effective, depending on his on the other side of my conversation. And so we used all of that in developing the power of self. And I will tell you, it's always been a dream, to write a book about this work. And so we were in, we were in my living room, we took the art off the walls, we had sticky notes all over the wall, as we were really preparing and planning for the work, we wanted to do some 20 at this point, it was about 22 years ago. And we had write the book and it was when Oprah and the book club were all really big. Just like, oh, Marsha, you need to write a book and you need to send it to your friend, she'll sell you millions. Well, well, what I tell them 20 plus years ago was I think we have to do something first. I can write a book about I think I kind of sorta maybe we hope, you know, kind of thing. And so here we are now 20 plus years later, and we are writing the books and and I am glad to say that the journey has been enormous, and the book will be a lot better now than it would have been 20 plus years ago. And that, you know, that that that is a part of the dream come true in this. And and I will say we didn't have podcast on one of those sticky notes, because I don't think that was no, it was...

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:03:33  
Everyone having fun. That's awesome. Yeah. So to wrap up, what has inspired you to now start sharing this on these numerous platforms that we just talked about?

Marsha Clark  1:03:49  
Well, you know, there were some quality concepts I learned back in ideas days and one of them was knowledge is power. You know, the Maya Angelou quote that represents This to me is when we know better we do better. Yeah. Right. And so when I think about, I was always struggled a little bit with the knowledge is power, because I always wanted to add on to the end when shared. Right, right. So I don't want to be, again, I'll go back to my five or six year old cell phone, I know something you don't know. That doesn't that doesn't inspire me that makes that keeps me in, you know, sort of a lesser than place. And so I just don't think that we all have to learn every single lesson ourselves by falling down and getting all The scars, right. And so if I bring you this information, it is with the best of intentions. It is it is I want to help you be your best self. I want you to do that based on your terms and your definitions of what success and best self means. And so I I just want to share not only the research because I we always make sure we do our research. I want to share my experience and anecdotal stories, not because I think it's the answer, but because can it help you kind of see yourself in this, the idea is that women really learned through stories that sharing pieces important to us. And oh, by the way, the reason we do this together as a cohort group over several sessions, is because you learn so much from each other in those. And so the stories that we share, and then we want to give you language, and we want to give you a practice. So you bring real issues to the table, and we try to help you solve for them by using these new tools that you've acquired. And so this idea of being able to share that in a way, with good intentions, and in support to and again, women supporting women, and how we can help change the world for the better. One of the questions I was asked is what would be different if women had more influence. And we need to have more of the compassion in the heart that women often bring? Not always I mean, again, everything is bell shaped curve. But I just know that there are many women with great thoughts, great possibilities, great thinking and contributions to make.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:06:17  
Well, I know that I'm grateful for all of the work that you have done and all the work that you share, have shared over these last, you know, couple of decades. And I know that our readers, those who will buy the book, the readers, and our listeners here are grateful as well. So a big, big thank you.

So to wrap up again, thank you all for joining us today on our journey of authentic, powerful leadership. Please download and subscribe, leave comments on the podcast. We love knowing who you are, and if you have questions. So please visit Marsha's website, also at for links to all the tools and other resources we talked about today. Subscribe to our email list. Stay in touch with us and with Marsha. And check out her latest book that is about to be on the shelves "Embracing Your Power."

Marsha Clark  1:07:17  
And yes, let me add my thanks to being a listener today. And we do hope that you found value in it and that you'll come back and join us again. I really appreciate it. And when I said in this in this podcast, the book would the book is a lot better today. 20 years later, if we're not done, we got a lot of we got a lot more work to do. So I want to hear from you. Your thoughts, your comments, your questions, your experiences. And I encourage you to notice what you notice and pay attention as you're learning some of these things because you go Oh, that's what was happening. And so that recognition then can help you again know what tool to go use when so we hope to hear from you come back and see us in our next one. And, as always, HERE'S TO WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN!

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